Archive for December, 2012

Razorbill Sightings Pepper Coast of Florida, Including Dry Tortugas

Monday, December 17th, 2012

It’s been exciting week in Florida for the birding world: scientists think that late aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy have caused record numbers of a large auk called a razorbill to be spotted along the East coast of Florida. Dozens of sightings in the last week have gotten birders excited, especially since there were only a handful of sightings of razorbills for the state of Florida since records started being kept.

Friday, I spotted and photographed a razorbill off S. Roosevelt in Key West, what I believe is the first-ever sighting in the city. Saturday, a razorbill was also spotted off the bow of the Yankee Freedom III when we pulled up to the dock at the Dry Tortugas! I did not photograph the bird at the Park, but the photos posted below are of the bird I saw in Key West, and represent part of this unique movement of north Atlantic seabirds to south Florida.

Wonderful profile of the large black-and-white auk; note the white line at the edge of the secondary feathers, as well as the thick bill.

White underwings visible in this shot. Keep in mind that this bird is also in winter plumage.

These birds dive for fish and other food items, so they will frequently paddle around on the surface with their faces in the water to locate prey.

Did not see the bird at the DRTO on Sunday, but who knows if another sighting may happen while the birds are still down south.

Happy birding and have a safe and happy holidays!

–Chelsea B.

Red-breasted merganser stops by for a visit

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Latest in birding news at the Dry Tortugas,

A female red-breasted merganser has spent the last 48 hours paddling around on the northeast side of the island, between Garden Key and Bush Key. She’s been swimming and feeding in very visible areas, and is quite a beautiful bird. I’ve posted several photos of the hen below.

Beautiful profile of the female red-breasted merganser.

Typical foraging behavior of mergansers, scanning beneath the water for small fish and crustaceans.

Great shot of the merg hen, just as a wave rolled by, obscuring everything but her head.

Lots of royal and sandwich terns are still around for the winter, and today, I saw one very big royal tern chick (indistinguishable from the adults) incessantly begging off of one of its parents. The poor adult was trying its best to ignore the chick, which it had no intention of feeding, but the chick continued to make pathetic chirps for minutes. Quite a sight!

Very big baby royal tern, begging (unsuccessfully) to a parent on the South helipad.

Royal tern parent is not impressed.

One lone American kestrel also remains at the Park, seen regularly flying within and outside Fort Jefferson.

Lone American kestrel hanging out around the camp grounds.

That’s all to report for now.

Happy birding,

–Chelsea B.

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