Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

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krisbell
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Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by krisbell » February 25th, 2013, 9:46 am

Dear all,

I'm UK based but have a 7 day holiday to Florida booked for mid-April and want to get some informed thoughts on whether the Dry Tortugas is worth a visit at this time of year?

I've heard that due to migration you can see a lot of decent species here. However, I should add that I am by no means a hard-core birder. As such, I am not primarily interested in tiny brown birds that happen to be extremely rare (though I will not turn my nose up at anything!), more the big, obvious handsome birds that all novice birders are interested in and make for good photos. I have my own transport and camping stuff so am just weighing up whether I should spend a day or two of my precious 7 days here or give it a miss in favor of the more mainstream, easily accessible destinations.

Many thanks for any advice,

Kris

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Andy Avram
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Re: Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by Andy Avram » February 25th, 2013, 10:20 am

I have never been to the Dry Tortugas, but unless you care about things like dark terns and a couple of boobies (the birds), I would pass on that trip and just focus on the mainland of Florida and you will find all the spectacular mega-ave-fauna you can manage. Although, I hear the Dry Tortugas can be spectacular for the colorful neotropical migrants, there is no reason you won't be able to find them on the mainland too.

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krisbell
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Re: Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by krisbell » February 25th, 2013, 12:25 pm

Thanks for the reply Andy - I'm surprised, I thought it would be a tough call! I would actually be pretty happy seeing black terns and masked booby but if that is all I am likely to see then I will prob give it a miss.

Also, I think I should explain my situation a little better too, as re-reading my post it makes me sound like I would be thrilled to see a pelican! I am fairly familiar with Florida so have seen and photographed many of the 'iconic' species such as burrowing, barred and great horned owls, reddish egret, bald eagle, osprey, roseatte spoonbills, bobwhite, cara cara, kestrel, cranes etc etc so I guess I should classify myself as an 'improver' birder. While I would be delighted to see any of the above species again it does mean I am looking for species very slightly beyond the absolute mainstream. I dont really have targets as such but screech owl, barn owl, snail kite and flamingo immediately spring to mind as ones I would love to get a decent shot of. I realize all these are actually found on the mainland and not in the tortugas, but I will still have 5 days or so to explore the mainland.

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Andy Avram
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Re: Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by Andy Avram » February 25th, 2013, 12:52 pm

Not Black Terns, but Sooty Terns, and possilbly a few others. The draw for the Tortugas for US/Canada (known as the ABA) birders is a few tropical species that breed nowhere else in the ABA region. I have also heard nothing but good reports for neotropical migrants, but like I said they are also on the mainland. Personally, I would love to visit the islands one day, but for a foreigner interested in what you are interested in, I would focus on the mainland. I think it is a minimum of 3 days to make the trip out there and back. That is a lot of wasted time for someone not trying to just pad their life list, although I think you would still have a good time going there.

Flamingo's are NOT going to be easy anywhere in Florida. Snail Kits can be seen just north of the Everglades along Alligator Alley. You can also focus on what my next birding trip to Florida will be - Gray Kingbird, Mangrove Cuckoo, White-crowned Pigeon, Black-whiskered Vireo, Florida Scrub-Jay...

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Curtis Hart
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Re: Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by Curtis Hart » February 25th, 2013, 1:30 pm

I've never been to the Tortugas, but I know you can do it as a day trip out of Key West. I does not require 3 days. If you are into snorkeling, I hear it is great.


Curtis

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Andy Avram
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Re: Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by Andy Avram » February 26th, 2013, 1:26 pm

I sort of thought more people would say opposite of me to be honest.

Curtis, I was working off some old info on the 3 day trip. I do now see you can do a day excursion. Maybe I WILL have to add a trip out there next time I am in Florida!

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nightdriver
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Re: Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by nightdriver » February 26th, 2013, 11:15 pm

I did the day trip(really more of a half day if I remember right) a number of years ago. I was the only serious birder on the boat carrying mostly snorkerlers. The great part is that if you time it right, you might be able to get great photos due to the lack of cover. I was able to pick up my lifer Swainson's warbler. Still the only one I've seen. Plus you never know what may show up. Lot's of other stuff to see in the Keys as well on the way down to and back from Key West. I would reccommend the trip. I can't wait to get back.

-nightdriver

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chrish
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Re: Mid-April in Dry Tortugas

Post by chrish » February 28th, 2013, 9:12 am

I have done the Dry Tortugas trip in May during the tail end of migration. Most of the people on the boat were snorkelers, but we did get some good birds. There is a little "fountain" there that is the only supply of fresh water and we sat on the bench next to it and saw a good variety of neotropical migrants. The masses of Brown Noddy's and Sooty Terns were pretty impressive, but frankly those are widespread species capable of being seen lots of places in the world.

We saw Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Great Egret, Ruddy Turnstone, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Brown Noddy, Sooty Tern, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Mangrove Cuckoo, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler

The trip to the Tortugas only takes half a day, but you do have to get to Key West first. The drive down to the keys is probably as good if not better birding than the Dry Tortugas.

If I was going to Florida from overseas and wanted to do some birding at that time of year, I might be inclined to look for migrants on the mainland hotspots, Florida Scrub Jay, Snail Kite, Limpkin, and maybe something cool like Red-cockaded Woodpecker. (Of course, Snail Kites and Limpkins are a lot easier to see in other parts of their range as well.)
I would suggest staying on the mainland, birding the everglades and then birding some of the more northern inland sites like the Ocala National Forest. If you want to do a Keys run, it is worth it, but I might give the Dry Tortugas a miss unless I was interested in snorkeling.

Chris

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