Day 18 – 13 March – Hawkfest on No Name Key

After the rain yesterday a fine day was promised – heaven knows why but we watch the Weather Channel all the time in the States – and we woke to clear skies and sunshine. The wind was predicted to change from westerly to easterly so I went down to No Name Key early, out to the west of Big Pine, to see if the change in weather made any difference to the birding. It did; the air was filled with migrants taking advantage of the change and I spent a very enjoyable few hours looking up.

The haul included Purple Martins and a Bank Swallow but it was the raptors that counted. Bald Eagles, Sharp-shinned Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Broad-winged Hawks and a dark-phase Short-tailed Hawk. There were also Red-shouldered Hawks getting excited about all the activity and the Turkey Vultures overhead were joined by a single Black Vulture, which was the first I’d seen in the Keys and is an uncommon bird here. The wind was too strong for much else so looking for warblers and LBJs was a washout. I heard an early Black-whiskered Vireo singing and possibly saw a Mangrove Cuckoo disappearing into the depths of the undergrowth.

It remained windy and there was a chill so we decided that something warm was required. After driving out to Big Torch Key to watch the sun go down through the mangroves [with a cold Key West Sunset Ale, of course] we went over to Boondocks for dinner. As so often happens in the Keys it was a special evening, with the Teenie Weenie Wednesday hotdog eating contest taking place and my favourite internet radio station, 1FM, in attendance. The steak specials were good and the evening really enjoyable. The bar was invaded by pirates; they were a bunch of fundraisers who were authentically dressed, kept saying ‘arghhhh!’ and one of them eventually won the hotdog eating contest. The favourite, a skinny Spring Breaker, threw up early on much to everyone’s amusement and loud cheering. But most entertaining were two local guys, replete in Keys attire comprising cap, ponytail, tee-shirt and denims who were so drunk they were wandering about with no clue what was happening, what the noise was, what all these people were doing here and what it all meant.

The wind had dropped a fair bit when we went back to Little Torch [thankfully next door and just about driveable after such a ‘social’ evening] and the sky was black, with pin-sharp stars. A very distant thunderstorm was highlighting clouds with silent flashes of lightning on the horizon and fish were splashing out on the water. The mosquitoes were out in force, too.


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