A Pelagic birding trip out of Key Largo led by Larry Manfredi on Sunday,
July 27, 2003, continued to produce a bounty of pelagic species that are
being reported all the way up the east-coast of Florida north to
Jacksonville. The cooler water temperatures (I was wondering why I was
catching Bluefish in July), reported by Bob Wallace, are probably
responsible for such uncommon species as Manx Shearwaters, Black-capped
Petrels and Band-rumped Storm Petrels showing up.

We departed from the Mandalay Marina at Mile Marker 97.5 at 8:00 a.m. and
returned at 4:00 p.m. on a 30 ft. plus catamaran hull boat with twin Yamaha
225’s (counter-rotation). Designed as a dive boat, it comfortably
accommodated  seven birders, including Alex and his dad Steve, John Boyd,
Mark Birney, Steve Siegel, Larry and yours truly. The boat’s speed allowed
us to run to birds and get great looks at most of the species seen. Three to
five foot seas made for some rocking, rolling and human chumming but the
boat’s hull threw the water outward, keeping us fairly dry.Our low proximity
to the water was ideal for scanning the horizon.

The Key Largo Hump produced Black, Bridled and Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies,
along with a Cory’s Shearwater, but the mother lode would be the 409 Hump,
where a pair of juvenile Brown Boobies, an Audubon’s Shearwater, a Wilson’s
Storm-Petrel and the prized Band-rumped Storm-Petrel all stayed around the
boat for a good hour, as we drifted with two chum bags filled with Mendhaden
and bottles of fish oil, creating a large chum slick. Larry took my advice
on using chum, based on my experience the week before and the two
storm-petrels flew in tandem within twenty feet of the boat for excellent
comparisons. The Band-rumped was noticeably larger, darker, longer winged
(pointed) and the feet did not extend beyond the tail. It glided
shearwater-like as it fed. Larry got great video of the two storm-petrels as
well as the Bridled Terns and should be posting video grabs in the near
future. I pointed out the translucence of the Bridled Terns underwing, which
is not evident on the Sooty Terns. This field mark was useful from a fairly
large distance in differentiating between the two species.

Two flocks of Glossy Ibis (where are they going?), Osprey, Least and Royal
Tern, Barn Swallow, peep species, and Magnificent Frigatebird were also
seen. A celebratory libation of Red Stripe Lager slaked our thirsts as we
reminisced about our good fortune. Life is good…………………….seeing a 14-year old
(Alex) grinning from ear-to ear with 9 pelagic lifers, one of which took me
twenty years of birding to see.

Paul Bithorn
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Virginia Gardens, Florida
Miami-Dade County

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