Posts Tagged ‘dry tortugas’

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.

Migration is commencing Sooty Tern are hatching

Monday, April 26th, 2010

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. (more…)

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.


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.


Summer Terns in the Dry Tortugas

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Terns are certainly one of the amazing wonders of the bird world.  Most stunning is the migration of the Arctic Tern yearly from the Arctic to Antarctic and back.  This summer while catching lots of King Salmon at a remote fish camp on the Nushagak River (this river drains to Bristol Bay – Alaska’s premier sockeye salmon fishery)  I was mesmerized by Arctic Terns.  Both eye- and ear-catching, busy, always busy guarding their young and catching fish to fatten the chicks for the long flight south.  Bills, legs and feet turn blood red during breeding season making them striking in appearance and sharp in call.

Arctic Terns

Arctic Terns

Arctic Terns

Arctic Terns

The Dry Tortugas has four species of oceanic (open ocean home) terns that utilize these remote islands for summer nesting.  (more…)

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…)

Fallout Delights Birdwatchers!!

Friday, May 8th, 2009

By: Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

Spring bird watching in the Dry Tortugas is always good but once every couple of years a major lightning storm especially during the evening hours will cause literally hundreds of migrants to search out any point of land.  This happened on Tuesday evening April 14, 2009 and the Dry Tortugas was flooded with birds.  Warblers, thrushes, buntings, cuckoos and falcons to name a few.  Good bird watching turns into a birder’s paradise and stayed so for several days. (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.


Sooty Terns Are Back
Christmas Bird Count a Success
Masked Booby to Nest on Middle Key

Monday, February 16th, 2009

By: Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

Six Sooty Terns were observed on January 17th cruising over Bush Key during the day and large numbers of Terns were heard calling at night during the Christmas Bird Count (Dec. 16-18).

The actual arrival of large numbers (several thousand) occurred around January 26th, and this is the earliest ever recorded for these Terns for their nesting season. Their arrival has coincided with several strong cold fronts which may spell disaster for the early egg laying. The Terns have been arriving earlier and earlier for nesting for about 15 years – researchers say Sooty Terns may be an indicator species for global warming. But those earlier arrivals leave the birds subject to egg predation from migrating gulls and the effects of springtime cold fronts stressing the colony.


Fall Birding at the Dry Tortugas

Monday, December 8th, 2008

by: Deb

Fall birding in the Dry Tortugas has been outstanding. More bird watchers should take advantage of the excellent sightings in the Dry Tortugas in the Fall. Just about every trip this Fall yielded a good bird or more. Not as dramatic as Spring migration, this Fall has been consistently active with rains grounding numerous unusual sightings. (more…)


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