Hi there Dry Tortugas birders! It’s been a long time, but it seems that for now, the wind and the waves have subsided. The Yankee stayed docked for two days last week due to high winds and dangerous storms, which dampened the Fort a little but also paid off big for birders. While it had seemed that spring migration was coming to a close across the Dry Tortugas, it seemed that the wind and rain dropped down one last hurrah of migrants.
There was a slew of new warblers, other passerines, raptors, and shorebirds. On the shoreline, right next to the NPS docks mostly, lesser yellowlegs, semipalmated sandpipers, least sandpipers, and even a Baird’s sandpiper have been seen for several days straight. There was even a constant sighting of a leucistic male hooded warbler (seen and confirmed by many seasoned birders) hopping around under the two bridges connecting the dock to the beach.
I was also pleased to hear from some of our birding campers that a black noddy was sighted two evenings in a row. This bird was not sighted during the day when the boat was there, but later on in the evening, after all of our passengers departed; sighted once on the north coaling dock ruins, and once on the tip of Bush Key near the land bridge.
Inside the Fort, we had a handful of peregrine falcons and merlins, which have been dining on the migrating passerines with relish; we even had a merlin take a fully-grown sora last week! Our smaller, resident kestrel seems to have finally moved on.
Baltimore and orchard orioles, scarlet and summer tanagers, bobolinks, dickcissels, and blue and rose-breasted grosbeaks made up the majority of the larger passerines, although male and female indigo and painted buntings were a colorful addition to the mix as well.
Notice the Tennessee warbler and gray catbird that were also hanging around the fountain.
There’s been a swarm of ruby-throated hummingbirds move into the parade ground, and they have been observed feeding from the sea grape blossoms.
In terms of warblers, the pickings have been great:
palm, prairie, blackpoll, hooded, common yellowthroat, Cape May, northern parula, worm-eating, Swainson’s, ovenbird, yellow, Tennessee, black and white, northern waterthrush, prothonotary, and american redstart, to name a few.
In other news, the brown boobies have been sighted pretty regularly on Iowa Rock (green channel marker #3) for the last week, so keep your eyes open on the ride into the park.
I’m sure as the days progress, these migrants will slowly make their way to their respective breeding grounds, but while they’re here, happy birding!