Migration is commencing Sooty Tern are hatching

Week of February 14th: Snipe were consistently sited in the Parade Ground. A few Killdeer were arriving as well. Masked Booby birds appeared to be nesting on Hospital Key. The first Prairie Warbler was spotted on February 16th. I saw lots of Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, especially in the Parade Ground.

Week of February 21st: Northern Parula Warblers arrived. A Yellow-throated Warbler was seen in the Sea Rocket flowers near the NE coaling dock. A Swallow Tailed Kite soared over Fort Jefferson. Heron migration was commencing – Little Blues, a few Great Whites and many Great Egrets. Cattle Egrets have frequented the Parade Ground.

The last week of February brought the first Swallow and a Purple Martin. A Cave Swallow joined many Tree and Barn Swallows. Snipes were still in the Parade Ground, especially when it was wet. Nighthawks were heard at sunset. Yellow-crowned Night Herons were roosting both inside the Parade Ground and out by the SW coaling dock.

Early March: I assisted the National Park Service in a vegetative survey and egg count on Bush Key. On the 10th, the first Sooty Tern chicks were hatching and a surprising number of Noddy’s have nested early. 84 Frigatebird nests were counted and many chicks were observed. The Frigatebird colony is amazing. The chicks are an incredible sight. It is remarkable that they don’t fall out of the small sloppy nests. Nesting numbers are down as available space is limited. The Mangrove Trees on Long Key are still falling as a result of hurricanes in 2005.

The Crocodile is still active on Long Key. Many crocodiles died as a result of the cold weather in South Florida this season.

I search for a Limpkin as this bird was observed on Garden Key in 2008 and Bush Key in 2009. I had no success. Several Savannah Sparrows, a lone Prairie Warbler, a few Palm Warblers were observed on Bush Key. Several Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a few Great Blue Herons were observed on Long Key. One Northern Harrier was sighted.

While staying at Fort Jefferson, it was decided to check the owl burrow. It measured more than 5’ deep and opened to a wider area at the end of the burrow. The owls appear to have departed Bush Key. They were last seen in late February. One small chick was found dead on January 13th. It appeared to have been attacked by rats. No other chicks were found and the female owl has not been spotted again.

Week of March 13th: I spotted an Eastern Wood Pewee and there are still lots of Little Blue Herons and Yellow-crowned Night Herons.

On March 16th I observed more Purple Martins arriving. Traveling into a strong northwest wind, many very tired Purple Martins are resting in the Dry Tortugas.

The Black and White and Northern Parula Warblers are glad to see the fountain working. There have been excellent viewing opportunities of Northern Rough Winged Swallow. Pomarine Jaegers are still being sighted near the Marquesas Islands.

On March 17th, a rainstorm in the early morning resulted in an awesome mini fallout of birds highlighted by Vireos. We observed White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos as well as several of the stunningly beautiful Yellow-throated Vireos. A Sora Rail was chased across the parade ground by a Yellow-rumped warbler. The first Eastern Kingbird of the season rested on a pipe in the parade ground. Not many warblers yet, but they included several Louisiana Waterthrush, Black & White, Prairie, Palm, Yellow Rump and Northern Parula. One Yellow-billed Cuckoo was briefly observed. Purple Martins are everywhere. The “flying cigar” bird is joined by many swallows including Cave, Cliff, Northern rough wing, Tree and Barn.

The flooded parade ground hosted 8 noisy Killdeer, a Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Semipalmated Plovers and a small unidentified peep. A Eurasian-Collared Dove arrived and upon departure on Yankee Freedom II, there was a Bonaparate’s Gull right next to the ship.

On March 18th a Robin was in the campground leaf duffle and it worked up Ruddy Turnstones who joined the Robin in sifting through the leaves.

On March 19th a Sora was in the same leaf duffle with the Robin. A Greater Yellowlegs was in the picnic area and SW coaling dock. Several Louisiana Waterthrush are around now. Numerous Swallows and Purple Martins look for bugs. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker made a welcome arrival – a stunning bird in spring plumage!

On March 21st a Merlin is spotted. Peregrine activities have been present on Bush Key. There have been few sightings of Falcons during winter and early spring – perhaps they are over on Loggerhead Key.

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