Saturday, June 21, 2014

Birding the Florida Keys and Miami - Day Two

Tuesday June 10th
Dry Tortugas National Park
Yankee Freedom at Bush Key

The Yankee Freedom left its dock in Key West around eight o'clock for the two hour, seventy mile trip out to the Dry Tortugas National Park with a full compliment of passengers.  Most of the visitors to the park were there to sight see the remains of Ft Jefferson on Garden Key and to snorkel the waters surrounding the key,  Seems Bob and I were the only passengers looking for birds.
Loggerhead Key and Lighthouse

As spring migration has concluded, the attraction for taking all the trouble to reach this remote location for us is the active seabird rookeries. That is why we are here to see the thousands of  Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Noddy and Sooty Terns nesting on Bush Key, and the Masked Boobies on Hospital Key. This is the only location within the United States were these birds nest.

As we neared the Tortugas, the various keys could be seen and as we passed Hospital Key a very distant look at the Masked Boobies roosting there could be seen. And the air is now filling with terns and noddy.

As we are approaching the landing our sightseeing guide tells us that the Coast Guard Cutter Sawfish was probable here to collect refuges. This did seem to be the case. As the Coast Guard was leaving with their refuges, seaplanes were arriving with more visitors to the park.

Coast Guard Cutter Sawfish receiving refuges

Refuges being loaded aboard Coast Guard Cutter

Sea Plane arriving from Key West

Bob stayed busy photographing birds the entire five hour stay and was thrilled with this opportunity and is making plans to return soon.  He would wade out into the water with his camera to try for that right shot.                                                                       I left him to his work as I explored the site.Walking the moat I marveled at the sea life like the reef fish, jellyfish, sea fans etc that could be seen.  I envied the folks snorkeling as they were enjoying these sights up close. The fort was once converted to a military prison and one famous prisoner was Dr Mudd, who was convicted of treason for treating the broken leg of the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth.

Bob and Friend

Magnificent Frigatebird

Sooty Tern

Brown Noddy

The only land birds I could find were a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves and about two dozen Cattle Egrets. Other birds seen were a lone Laughing Gull, a lone Royal Tern and a Brown Booby seen resting on a buoy just off shore.

The moat surrounding the fort

Interior view of Ft Jefferson

Yours Truly - Photo courtesy of Bob Pelkey

The tired and sun-burned passengers disembarked from the Yankee Freedom back at Key West about five o'clock. For us it was time to head back the motel in Marathon to rest up from the long day. But we made an additional stop at the Sombrero Beach Country Club golf course in Marathon, because of reports of Shiny Cowbirds and Burrowing Owls. So to top off the day we were successful in seeing a pair of Shiny Cowbirds and a brief sighting of a Burrowing Owl as well as a flew-over of a noisy Nanday Parakeet. This completed a successful day of birding the Keys.

Yankee Freedom

Dry Tortugas National Park

Fort Jefferson

Dr Samuel Mudd

Bob's Blog

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