Wes Biggs was kind enough to let me tag along on the Key West/Dry Tortugas Florida Nature Tours tour last weekend. It was amazing, I came back with 14 life birds. These are just a few of the more than 1,100 pictures that I took. Be sure to check out my Dee at 8 a.m. blog where, for the next few weeks I will be doing a Tortugapalooza event, immortalizing the birds and critters we saw in rhyme and photos.
As always, click to see the photos full size.
David and I stopped in Gulf Stream Shores on our way down to Key West to look for the Western Spindalis that was seen there. We didn't get it, but we did see this Red-bellied Woodpecker.
Our first stop for the official tour was at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park where were greeted with this magnificent field of Gaillardia.
Mourning Dove at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Probably of the Caribbean race.
Our second stop of the day was at Indigenous Park, also in Key West, where we saw this beautiful 6-Lined Race Runner.
There were also quite a few Iguanas around.
And a bunch of Red-eared Sliders.
And, did I mention Iguanas? This guy was all the way up in a tree top. I have no idea how the branches were supporting his weight, he was a pretty big guy!
The rare and elusive McNugget Warbler.
Our next stop was the Key West Botanical Gardens. This was a very cool mermaid there.
Another insanely cute Red-eared Slider.
There were also a bunch of Curly-tailed Lizards. That's their actual name, not just their description.
The flowers at the Key West Botanical Gardens were amazing.
This was a Great White Heron (the white version of the Great Blue Heron, it may or may not be an actual separate species, but right now ABA considers them the same.)
Our next stop was Boca Chica Beach. A lovely beach, as long as you remember to just look people directly in the eye and keep walking. Don't look down. Oh dear lord don't look down. But we did see this cool Yellow Crowned Night Heron.
This is probably the best picture of a Black-bellied Plover I've ever gotten. I haven't managed to see one in breeding plumage before.
A Fiddler Crab.
A Blue Grossbeak. He had been sitting on a fence in terrible lighting, then right as everyone else turned to walk away, he jumped down into perfect lighting just for me. I was honored.
White-rumped Sandpipers. I think this was my third life bird of the day.
We spent the night on the boat and headed out to Key West bright and early the next morning. At least I think it was bright and early. Let's change that to: After 4 Dramamine and hours curled up in the fetal position in my bunk, we arrived in the Dry Tortugas. And were greeted by Masked Boobys! And I didn't have to look them in the eye.
And a Brown Booby!
I was all excited at first to see an American Redstart. Then I saw another and another and another and another and another and another. Then this one mooned me. I tried not to take it personally.
Lots of Magnificent Frigatebirds. That's really their name, not just their description although they totally are quite magnificent.
The Dry Tortugas is all about life and death; not everyone makes it off the islands alive, in fact, many birds do not. This is some kind of heron skull.
There were a lot of Hermit Crabs. I really liked this one's shell, when he was in the grass, he just completely disappeared.
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
This was either a Bicknell's or Grey-cheeked Thrush. David wasn't quite sure.
This was a sweet find - a Summer Tanager, in an intermediate plumage. He almost looked like a Painted Bunting, so bright and gorgeous.
Weird thing about this picture - I totally do not have any memory of seeing and Eastern Kingbird, but there were about 15 pictures of him, so unless someone stole my camera and took these pictures, I guess I must have seen him.
As previously mentioned, not everyone makes it off the island alive. This is a picture of a Great Egret, snacking on a Sora.
You know how you just HAVE to look when you go by a car accident cause you are glad it isn't you? This is a Cattle Egret thinking, "Better you than me, bro."
I took about 70 pictures of this. I kept waiting for the Great Egret to try to swallow the Sora.
He kept dunking the Sora in the fountain. I read a book about competitive eaters, how they dunk hot dog rolls in water to compress them before eating them. I was wondering if the Great Egret was doing the same thing.
There were quite a few Grey Catbirds out there.
The Catbird mooned me, but I had to give him credit, he mooned me with flair. Either that or he was doing that old-guy thing where they lean over to fart.
A totally different Hermit Crab. He had a neat shell too.
A Ghost Crab on the storm. Wait, no, that was the Ghost Rider. The Ghost Crab was just on the beach.
This little Cattle Egret collapsed after we walked past him. He didn't make it.
This was the first evening, sunset over the fort. I did not photoshop this - I'm not that talented. This is really what the sky looked like.
Another shot of the sunset over the fort.
A Magnolia Warbler.
Ok, I was starting to get a little paranoid. The Magnolia Warbler mooned me too.
Two more Hermit Crabs. They were crawling around on a Sea Grape. I think they were romantically involved.
A Black and White Warbler. They are such a striking bird, it's amazing how well they can blend in with tree bark.
Our second day we got to go out to Loggerhead Key. There weren't quite as many birds there, but it was a beautiful place. Lots of interesting coral.
And cool shells.
And if you click to enlarge this picture, you will see a Grey Hairstreak butterfly. It was tiny and moved really really really really really really fast. It took me about 10 minutes to get this picture.
This was some purple stuff. Believe it or not, I am a Florida Master Naturalist, but the ocean is clearly not my strong suit.
The lighthouse on Loggerhead Key. The park service volunteer and lighthouse keeper was very sweet and joined us birding for a bit.
David and the tour group heading back towards the boat.
This is the inside of Fort Jefferson.
The architecture of the fort is pretty amazing.
I took this picture from the top of the fort. See the million tiny dots? Those are all birds.
Another shot of the fort.
This was another Thrush, either Bicknell or Grey-cheeked.
David found a Caribbean Martin, so we climbed back up to the top of the wall to try to get a picture of it. The pictures of the Martin came out awful, but this Yellow-billed Cuckoo was sitting in a tree below us, and I got this shot looking down at him, so it was worth it claiming back up there.
A Barn Swallow.
A bunch more Barn Swallows. They looked like Christmas tree decorations.
A Brown Pelican.
Another lifer for me, a Yellow Warbler. That is his name. And his description. I like birds that are what they are named.
A Merlin. He had been hanging around all weekend, and on the last day, I got this great shot of him.
My sweetheart on the boat back. Thanks to David for not only letting me tag along, but for letting me come home too!