Archive for August, 2012

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Hi there everyone,

Just wanted to post a few new photos for y’all, including some new arrivals, long-term residents, and long-term guests. First, we’ve got a small group of turkey vultures that’s lingered out at the Tortugas for over a month now. They must have enough fish and bird carrion on the beaches to sustain them for this length of time. Several of them can usually be seen kettling over the Fort when the wind or thermals are just right.

Group of turkey vultures perched on the tower at Fort Jefferson.

As far as our resident colony of magnificent frigatebirds is concerned, keep an eye out for the occasional banded bird. Because of their impressive wingspan, these adult birds sport wing bands, one on each wing, at the wrist joint. The bands are usually bright yellow with black letter/number codes to identify each banded individual. Take a look at the photo below to get an idea of what to look for on a banded frigatebird.

Two female magnificent frigatebirds, the one on the left is banded.

As summer comes to a close to make way for our mild fall, the birds are more indicative of the season change than the deceptive temperatures. In the photo below, you can see four very different birds, each representing a different aspect of a year at the Dry Tortugas. The laughing gulls are present all year round, the brown noddies a spring and summer nesting resident, the Forster’s tern a brief visitor after bad weather, and the recently arrived sandwich terns (and not pictured: royal terns) are indicative of the approaching fall months.

From left to right: laughing gull, brown noddy, Forster's tern, and sandwich tern.

Keep an eye out for more fall arrivals in the coming weeks, especially as the last of the brown noddies depart and the sandwich terns, royal terns, and black skimmers begin to make their presence known.

Happy birding,

–Chelsea B.

Brown Boobies visible daily, Masked booby colony out of sorts

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

An interesting turn of events has occurred out at the Dry Tortugas recently: Hospital Key, the location of the small nesting colony of masked boobies, has now become two separate islands. The current and summer rains have washed a channel right through the middle of the small island, disorienting the birds. For now, the colony seems to be huddling on the west-Hospital Key, and I don’t think it’s a drastic enough change to cause them to vacate the colony. This is the first time many NPS rangers and Yankee Freedom II crew have seen the small island split in two.

Fortunately, the small resident population of brown boobies haven’t gone anywhere, and they don’t seem to mind the boat’s close passes to their hangout on Iowa Rock on a daily basis.

Four quizzical brown boobies and two brown noddies perched happily on Iowa Rock (Channel Marker #3).

Another shot of the brown boobies on Iowa Rock. Note the white bellies, which contrast nicely with the brown body feathers and yellow bills and feet.

More to come soon.

Happy birding,

–Chelsea B.

Shorebirds a-plenty have begun to arrive!

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Hi there fellow birders,

Just wanted to drop a line on a few species of shore birds and terns that I’ve spotted in the last week out at the Park.

A new species at Fort Jefferson for me was this great white heron that stuck around for a whole afternoon last week.

Great white heron browsing the wrack on the seaplane beach.

I’ve also seen this nice-looking lesser yellowlegs around the boat dock for several days in a row. Keep an eye out for some semipalmated sandpipers and ruddy turnstones as well.

Lesser yellowlegs standing in the surf near the NPS dock.

Finally, I do believe our resident willet has returned, but this time he’s traded his whimbrel buddy for a black-bellied plover!

Black-bellied plover (foreground) and willet (background).

Enjoy and happy birding!

–Chelsea B.

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