Archive for July, 2012

Fall migration for tern colonies begins early

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Greetings everyone,

Just wanted to give y’all a quick update on the bird status out at the Park. Most importantly, Bush Key has been mostly vacated by the sooty tern and brown noddy colonies.  A few straggling brown noddy adults and juveniles are still flitting about, but I haven’t seen a sooty tern in several days. This early departure (~1 month ahead of schedule) may be a result of the especially mild winter most of the country experienced this year.

Some of the windy and stormy days we’ve experienced this summer have also brought some brief visitors to the Park, including two Forster’s terns last week. They only stopped for a few minutes, but I was able to get a few shots of them on the coaling dock ruins.

Nice shot of two Forster's terns that touched down briefly on the south coaling dock ruins last week. This was shortly after a rain storm and some strong winds that week.

The little blue heron, great blue heron, and snowy egret are still around, enjoying the regular schools of bait hanging around the Fort.

Beautiful profile shot of the juvenile little blue heron that seems to be thriving out at the Park, as well as keeping the great blue heron company.

Snowy egret and brown pelican feeding on a bait ball off the east side of Garden Key.

I’ve seen some interesting pelicans this week, including an adult with the characteristic black feathers on the top of the head that indicate the bird is feeding a chick somewhere.

Adult brown pelican with the black "chick feeding" feathers on forehead.

Sadly, I’ve also seen a young bird out there with a fair amount of fishing line in its bill and pouch. Please take a good look at this photo and realize how important it is to keep wildlife wild, which includes feeding pelicans bait and scraps from your fishing trips.

Juvenile brown pelican swimming off the coast of Garden Key. Note the monofiliment fishing line protruding from its bill. This is why it is so important to obey all fishing rules and regulations anywhere, not just in a National Park. If you see pelicans starting to come around your fishing area, do not feed the birds scraps, guts, or bait. These are wild birds and when they don't have a healthy fear of people, they become bold and will even snatch fish from poles, causing injuries like this one.

This bird had a hard time feeding, and if it can’t be caught or free itself of the line, it may very well starve to death. Please spread the word and encourage your friends and family to fish responsibly.

–Chelsea B.

Bald Eagle flies the coop, a few oddballs drop in after tropical storm Debby

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Greetings Dry Tortugas birders,

After losing several trip days to the Park in the wake of tropical storm Debby, I’m back in full force to bring you the birding news. After nearly two weeks of munching on brown noddies and sooty tern chicks, the beautiful bald eagle juvenile finally left the park. I did manage to snap a couple nice shots of the youngster before it took off.

The young bald eagle soaring over the top of Fort Jefferson.

Surveying the territory from the communications tower at the Fort.

In the few days after Debby brought her drenching rains and heavy gusts out to Fort Jefferson, a few weary birds hung out for a short time, including a white ibis (one afternoon), an adult yellow-crowned night heron (nearly a week), and a northern mockingbird (one day observed). These birds were traveling over the Gulf and were grounded to seek refuge during the inclement weather. They’ve all left by now, but I did snap a few shots before their departures. There’s also one fat and happy great blue heron that’s been living on bait fish for several weeks now, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to leave anytime soon.

White ibis perched in the parade ground after the storm.

A beautiful yellow-crowned night heron in the parade ground after Debby.

A lost northern mockingbird by the camp grounds after Debby.

The hungry, hungry great blue heron.

The sooty and noddy chicks are fully fledged, and the sooties have started heading out already for their wintering grounds, perhaps due to the unusual weather this summer.

Enjoy and I’ll check back in soon with another summer birding update for the Dry Tortugas National Park!

Happy birding,

–Chelsea B.

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