Archive for April 12th, 2011

Snorkeling at Garden Key

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Hello everyone, my name is Michael, Lead Interpreter aboard the Yankee Freedom II. This is my first installment of a weekly blog, focused on providing insight into The Dry Tortugas National Park, one of America’s most remote national parks.

We made a change in our procedures this past winter; we are now passing out snorkel gear on the National Park dock instead of underway aboard the Yankee Freedom II. The new snorkel rack is really working out well. It affords us the opportunity to talk with every passenger to determine their experience level and comfort in the water, therefore, direct them to the best snorkel spot for their skill level. Another added benefit is retrieving your gear just prior to snorkeling versus toting it around the island unnecessarily. The snorkeling has been exceptional this past week. Beautifully clear visibility and exceptional fish sightings. Including some large snook and grouper in the coaling piles along with a monster lobster in a crevice along the moat wall and our friend, Rex, the 400lb goliath grouper that resides under the National Park dock.

The Frigate birds have been an awesome sight to watch gliding effortlessly on the updrafts hitting the southeast wall of Fort Jefferson. Birding is really starting to pick up with the spring migration and the nesting of the Sooty Terns on Bush Key. Stay tuned for more updates and insight on the Dry Tortugas birding next week.

Hope to see you soon aboard the Yankee Freedom II!

-Michael

Spring at The Dry Tortugas

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

It’s been another beautiful week at the Dry Tortugas. The water has been really clear across the Quicksands (an area of shifting sandy bottom west of the Marquesas where both the Spanish galleons Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were found by Mel Fisher in the 1980’s). These conditions have made for excellent turtle watching. We even saw 3 pairs of mating turtles during our ride home on Saturday.

Spring Migration will peak in the next few weeks and the bird watching has been awesome. Masked Booby’s have nested on Hospital Key, Sooty and Noddy Terns are raising young on Bush Key. Bridled and Roseate Terns will arrive soon. We saw a variety of warblers this week including Swainson’s, Blue-winged, Hooded, Worm-eating, Parula, Black-and-white, Prairie, Prothonotary, Blackburian, Cape May, and Palm, as well as Ovenbirds, and Northern and Louisiana Waterthrush. Orchard Orioles, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Peregrins, Merlins, Kestrals, were all spotted in the 10 acre parade ground of Fort Jefferson. It’s a great time to break out the binoculars and head to the Tortugas.

Saturday was Junior Ranger Day at the Dry Tortugas and all the children on board completed their workbooks and were sworn in as Junior Rangers by the Superintendent of Everglades and The Dry Tortugas National Parks, Dan Kimball.

Hope to see you soon aboard the Yankee Freedom II!
-Michael

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