Fall migration for tern colonies begins early

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.

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