Bird Fountain Repaired | Sooty Chicks Hatching | Spring Migration Underway

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.

Back view of the birf bathing at the Dry Tortugas.

Back view of the bird bathing at the Dry Tortugas.

Bird fountain

Bird fountain

Members of Audobon Society repairing bird fountain.

Members of Audobon Society repairing bird fountain.

Members of Audobon Society posing for a picture by the bird fountain.

Members of Audobon Society posing for a picture by the bird fountain.

On Thursday Feb. 20th I traveled to Middle Key with N.P.S. rangers to count and observe the Masked Booby colony. A record 65 Masked Boobys were observed – and although probably nesting – no chicks were seen on the island.


On Tuesday Feb. 24th I departed Key West on the Fort Jefferson (the Dry Tortugas National Park supply vessel) for a yearly, nest and egg survey of Bush Key and the Sooty and Brown Noddy Tern colony.

Brown Noddys arrive later than Sootys and these birds are just starting nest construction. The Noddys are amazing to watch in courtship. Their name depicts their behavior – nodding and bowing to one another in greeting, nest construction and in mating.

Sooty Terns nest on the ground, laying their eggs shortly after arrival and sooty chicks were hatching over much of the western sections of Bush Key. Large numbers of Sooty Terns were setting up for egg-laying on the east end of Bush Key.

The central portions of Bush Key have limited vegetative cover and predation by migratory gulls has been intense in this area. New Sooty arrivals and renesting birds are utilizing the better cover of eastern Bush Key. Bush Key is gorgeous at this time, covered with flowering Sea Rocket plants.

Sooty Terns at the Dry Tortugas.

Sooty Terns at the Dry Tortugas.

Sooty Terns

Sooty Terns

On Wednesday Feb. 26th one hundred and fourteen Magnificent Frigatebird nests were counted on Long Key (the highest number since the hurricanes of 2005). The Frigatebirds seem to be utilizing all available tree space in the mangroves of Long Key and considerable concern remains about the health of these trees as a result of hurricane damage in recent years.

Frigrate Birds

Frigratebirds

The skies over the paradeground of Fort Jefferson have been filled with Purple Martins, Tree, Barn, Rough-winged, Cliff and Cave Swallows. A yellow-breasted Chat has been calling in the campground. Common Yellowthroat, Parula, and Orange-Crowned Warbler and Gnat Catchers have joined Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers in the campground. The cold front of Sunday March 1st brought a surprising sight to the Tortugas – a Cedar Waxwing. It was joined later by several American Redstart males. While working in the sooty colony a Least Sandpiper and Killdeer were observed along with the American Crocodile in shallow tidal pools between Long and Bush Key. More birds will be arriving daily and bird watchers will be treated to fallouts in all wind and rain events in the spring. March, April, and May outstanding times to visit Fort Jefferson.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Google

Copyright © 2016 Dry Tortugas, Bird Blog. All rights reserved.