Archive for the ‘Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas Birding’ Category

Spring Migration is Here!

Friday, March 8th, 2013

 

Greetings Dry Tortugas birders!

I know it’s been a while, but after working out some technical difficulties, out bird blog is up and running again at full force, just in time for spring migration at the Dry Tortugas.

For birders new to this remote and beautiful national park, if you’re planning your spring trip, here are the Dry Tortugas specialties you’re guaranteed to see:

Masked Booby

Brown booby

Magnificent frigatebird

Brown noddy

Sooty tern

There has also been one confirmed sighting of a bridled tern mixed in with the sooty colony, but no black noddy sightings have been made as of yet.

I’ve posted below some photos of spring migrants from the last week, and hopefully there are many more to come.

Barn swallow flying over parade ground.

Barn swallow flying over parade ground.

Young male bunting sitting in first-tier casemate.

Young male bunting sitting in first-tier casemate.

Close-up of young male blue bunting, midway between juvenile and adult plumage.

Close-up of young male blue bunting, midway between juvenile and adult plumage.

Bonaparte's gull seen for several days in moat, eating bugs from between the bricks.

Bonaparte’s gull seen for several days in moat, eating bugs from between the bricks.

Close-up of winter Bonaparte's gull.

Close-up of winter Bonaparte’s gull.

Burrowing owl perched in first-tier case mate.

Burrowing owl perched in first-tier case mate.

Forster's tern in winter plumage, perched on south coal piling with two sandwich terns.

Forster’s tern in winter plumage, perched on south coal piling with two sandwich terns.

Northern parula perched on button wood in parade ground.

Northern parula perched on button wood in parade ground.

Adult peregrine falcon seen perching on Bush Key and flushing tern colony.

Adult peregrine falcon seen perching on Bush Key and flushing tern colony.

Beautiful royal tern on far left in full breeding plumage (full black cap).

Beautiful royal tern on far left in full breeding plumage (full black cap).

I hope these photos were both helpful and exciting for any birders planning to come visit the Dry Tortugas National Park. Happy birding and see you at Fort Jefferson!

–Chelsea B.

The Brown Noddies have Arrived

Friday, February 17th, 2012

The last week has been quite exciting as the sooty terns continue to swarm over Bush Key, in numbers now well into the thousands.  They have recently been joined by their less-vocal breeding ground neighbors, the brown noddies.  These elegant terns are covered in uniform chocolate-brown feathers, only interrupted by a small white “cap” on the tops of their heads. The noddies and sooties both nest on Bush Key during breeding season, so they aren’t always easy to tell apart at a distance, given their similar size and build.

Bush Key may be closed to visitors, but it's just opening for business for these guys!

Keep in mind that the noddy is more comfortable on the ground at this point than the sooty, either on the shoreline or in the vegetation; most of the sooties still spend the majority of the day vocalizing and flying over the island.  In flight, the sooty has a stark white underside that contrasts dramatically with its “sooty” back, making it easy to distinguish from the dark brown underbelly of the noddy.

A couple of interesting yet brief visitors to Fort Jefferson this week were a pair of northern rough-winged swallows that made one pass in front of the sally port and were not seen again; a belted kingfisher also flew by the dock just as the boat was heading back to Key West one afternoon as well.

The brown boobies are still very reliably perched on Iowa Rock (green channel marker #3) almost every morning and afternoon, and the masked boobies are in the full-swing of breeding season over on Hospital Key—two great lifers for many avid birders.

Several other species seen on an almost daily basis at Garden Key:

  • Magnificent frigatebird
  • Laughing gull
  • Herring gull
  • Royal tern
  • Sandwich tern

I just liked the nice size comparison here of a sandwich tern (foreground) to the two behemoth royal terns in the background. The "mustard-dipped" tip of the sandwich's bill is nicely visible in this shot as well.

  • Black skimmer
  • Ruddy turnstone
  • Willet
  • Whimbrel
  • Eurasian collared dove

Eurasian collared dove stopping for a drink at the bird fountain in the Parade Ground. These birds are much larger than their mourning dove cousins, and are actually an invasive species in the United States (hence the name).

  • Palm warbler (winter phase)

Palm warbler in winter plumage showing distinctive yellow undertail coverts and white eye stripe. Keep an ear out for their chipping in the parade ground, and watch for the constant tail "bobbing."

  • American kestrel

That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Hope to see you out at the Tortugas!

Happy birding.

–Chelsea B.

May Bird Blog

Monday, July 19th, 2010

By: Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

This Brown Noddy built the largest nest I have ever seen with lots of seaweed and sticks Masked Booby birds with eggs on Hospital Key

May Bird Blog

May is a month I normally spend in Alaska, but this summer I elected to stay on the Yankee Freedom II as a naturalist until Mid-July, returning in early September. I am excited to see the Masked Booby chicks grow and to see the Roseate and Bridled terns nest, but probably most excited to watch the Sooty terns prepare their chicks for departure to the waters off Africa where these young birds will live over the open ocean eating fish and drinking seawater for three to five years.

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Spring Migration Peaks in Dry Tortugas

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

April birding is always a thrill in the Dry Tortugas and this April was no exception. Late March and early April were good, but the arrival of a large number of Merlins in early and mid April did result in death for many migrants. Late April was awesome – 92 species in 3 days (23 were warblers).

Week of March 22nd

First adult Northern Gannets observed on ferry ride to Dry Tortugas heading north to the breeding grounds. Peregrine and Merlin are being seen in the paradeground. An Upland Sandpiper is feeding on the septic drainfield in the paradeground and joined later in the week by Pectoral Sandpipers.


Upland Sandpiper

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Sooty Terns have Arrived

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Burrowing Owls have Babies

After two owls were found at Dry Tortugas National Park, speculation was made about possible nesting. A burrow was located but the second owl seemed to have disappeared. We searched hard during the Christmas bird count but it could not be located. On Jan 13th, we discovered the owl that roosts daily in the powder magazine is “Dad”. “Mom” is in the burrow – which is too deep for us to see any chicks. One chick was found dead, probably attacked by a rat at the mouth of the burrow. I listen regularly for activity and the Park Rangers are watching, but the female and chicks have yet to be seen.

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Burrowing Owls in Parade Ground at Fort Jefferson

Friday, January 1st, 2010

By: Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

Fall migration landed a big surprise for Fort Jefferson guests. First, a single Burrowing Owl was observed sleeping every day in the main powder magazine inside Fort Jefferson. A burrow was observed and the search began for a second owl. It’s presence has been verified and now the wait begins to see if the owls will mate and lay eggs, and perhaps raise chicks in the parade ground. It could be a very exciting event for winter and spring visitors this season.

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Northbound – The Birds Are Still Coming

Thursday, June 11th, 2009
Birdwatchers at fountain in parade ground of Ft. Jefferson – a great place to spot warblers and more.

Birdwatchers at fountain in parade ground of Ft. Jefferson – a great place to spot warblers and more.

A spring surprise Black-Necked Stilt

A spring surprise Black-Necked Stilt

By: Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

Spring birdwatching at the Dry Tortugas National Park remains excellent and as summer approaches snorkeling reaches its peak.  Late spring trips on Yankee Freedom II offer excellent opportunities for both snorkeling and birdwatching on a single day trip.  (more…)

Bird Fountain Repaired | Sooty Chicks Hatching | Spring Migration Underway

Friday, March 6th, 2009
Bird bathing at the Dry Torugas National Park.

Bird bathing at the Dry Torugas National Park.

By: Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

Alert to all birdwatchers: Spring Migration is underway in Dry Tortugas National Park. Three members of the Audobon Society (Elizabeth Ignoffo, Ellen Westbrook, and Dan Saus) have repaired the bird fountain in the paradeground of Fort Jefferson just in time for migratory warblers and more. The birds are rejoicing by bathing and drinking. Although the repairs are probably temporary – the fountain should function through the spring migratory season of 2009, delighting thousands of visitors to the Park especially bird watchers. The fountain provides an easy place to observe multiple species of warblers and other birds as well.

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Loggerhead Kingbird at Dry Tortugas National Park

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Loggerhead Kingbird

The second official sighting in the United States of the Loggerhead Kingbird was made in the Dry Tortugas March 22, 2008!

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The Amazing Birds of the Dry Tortugas

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

One of the many natural wonders of the Dry Tortugas is the unusual nesting birds and the numerous migratory visitors. The proximity of these islands to the Yucatan, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Antilles, Central and South America, combined with wind, rain and storm events, make the Dry Tortugas a refuge for migrating birds. (more…)

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