On Friday night before going to my bed and breakfast room in Key West at Eden House, I tried for Antillean Nighthawk behind the Key West Airport. This is accessed from Government Road off of Flaggler Avenue. One can view the west end of the airport runway from outside the fence. I have seen Antillean Nighthawk from this location in past visits to key West. A couple from California also joined me, but we did not find any nighthawks, neither Common Nighthawk nor Antillean Nighthawk. They will also be on the Yankee Freedom ferry to Fort Jefferson on Saturday.
The trip out to Fort Jefferson on the Yankee Freedom was uneventful except for a long distance view of a possible Brown Booby sitting on a platform type buoy. Several other birders thought it might be a Brown Booby, but all agreed that it was too far away to identify. We saw three Magnificent Frigatebirds on the way to the fort. There were quite a few birders on the trip, the couple from California, a group from New Brunswick, Canada and a birding tour group led by Don Wilkinson from Boston, MA. I recognized Don's name from the Massachusetts bird list serve. I asked one of the mates how close we would get to Hospital Key and put in a request to get close as I was doing a Big Year and there were other birders on-board. Later they announced that we would make a stop within a few hundred yards of Hospital Key to see the Masked Boobies. The fort has a somewhat ethereal quality as it seems to rise out of the water as one approaches. See photo.
As we approached the fort, I saw in the distance two apparent Masked Boobies flying toward Hospital Key. As we got close to Hospital Key to view the Masked Booby colony (See photo.), a closer Masked Booby (See photo on left below.) flew across the bow and was soon
attacked by a Magnificent Frigatebird. Two Brown Boobies flew across the bow fairly close. (See photo to right of one.) Before we made the turn to go around the fort and dock at the beach, both Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy flew by. Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy are four of the target species for my visit to Fort Jefferson. None of these are particularly good photos. The light was not optimum and on a boat with movement, it is tough to get good photos. However, the Masked Booby and Brown Booby photos in flight show the field marks of these birds. We docked and everyone got off. I went to the near coal dock to look at terns and found one adult Roseate Tern, showing the very long tail feathers, much longer than the Aftwings when folded. There were also a few Common Terns showing the carpal bar on the folded wings. Both of these are new birds for the year. A passenger on the ferry, perhaps a non-birder, showed me a photo on her camera of a red and black bird. I could not see it well due to the bright sun and angle of viewing but another birder told her that it was a Scarlet Tanager. That's a new bird for the year so I went to look for it and eventually found it.
Just before I had to leave for the boat, a man walked up to me and introduced himself. It was Sandy Komito, the current holder of the record for a Big Year in the ABA Area. He had heard that I was doing a Big Year and offered his help, other than financial. I met Sandy on Attu in 1988 and 1989 when I visited there and had met him after that on pelagic trips on the west coast. I di not recognize him at first when he was walking toward me, because I had not seen him in years. Thanks Sandy for your offer of help. I may take you up on that.
Earlier, I had walked out the No Entry sign on Bush Key to try for some photos of Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy. I got a photo of a male Magnificent Frigatebird as it was diving on terns and below
At the end of the trip to Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas, Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, Roseate Tern, Common Tern, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, and Swainson's Thrush make the total 374. Tonight I will try for Antillean Nighthawk again but at the Marathon Airport.