Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Visit to the Conch Republic and Vicinities - Part 3

Sunday May 24th
Ft Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park

Now Sunday was the cornerstone for this trip the sailing aboard the Yankee Freedom from Key West out to the Dry Tortugas National Park for a four hour visit.
Magnificent Frigatebird

As Bob Pelkey drove us southward through the Keys in the pre-dawn darkness back toward Key West, several Antillean Nighthawks could be heard. And as day broke, Gray Kingbirds, Eurasian Collard Doves, White-crowned Pigeons  and feral keys chickens were also greeting the day.

Arrived at the Key West terminal just as the crew were preparing to board today's passengers. The ride was a bit choppy and the sky was clear.  The Captain gave us a close pass by Hospital Key, were more than sixty Masked Boobies had a breeding colony.

A few minutes later we landed at Bush Key and historic Ft Jefferson. A flotilla of Magnificent Frigatebird sat hovering in the wind above the fort.  They, along with many hundreds of Brown Noddies and Sooty Terns nest on adjoining Garden Key. The Noddies, Terns and any (very late) spring migrants were the reason we traveled here.

There a few migrants to be seen. A lone Cliff Swallow and a lone Bank Swallow were hawking outside the fort.  While a lone Yellow-billed Cuckoo, several American Redstarts, a lone Common Yellowthroat and Bob had a female Blackpoll.
Interior of the Fort

The vast majority of the passengers took advantage of the wonderful snorkeling in the waters around the fort. Understood the one couple had a close encounter with an American Crocodile.  One of the mates on the boat confirmed that a crocodile named Cletus has been calling the Tortugas home for a for some time now.  He's seen it before himself.  A video found on youtube
Brown Noddy

Sooty Tern

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Back at Key West at bit after 5 PM, with that long drive to Florida City. But first we make a couple of stops. First were to find the accommodating and diminutive Keys Deer at the Florida Key Deer NWR on Big Pine Key.
This an endangered sub-species of White-tailed Deer seen only in the Keys.
A young American Redstart

Secondly was a stop at the Marathon Airport set before sundown to look for Antillean Nighthawks. We were joined by a couple of birders from Nashville, Tennessee. They had a lifer when the nighthawk made its appearance and shared with us a sighting of a Bobolink a couple a hundred yards down the airport fence line.  A nice ending for the day's birding.

Sunday's Bird List -- 
Bobolink at Marathon Airport
Magnificent Frigatebird
Masked Booby
Brown Booby
Double-crested Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Cattle Egret
Laughing Gull
Brown Noddy
Sooty Tern
Royal Tern
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Antillean Nighthawk
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Gray Kingbird
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Northern Mockingbird
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart

Key Deer buck in velvet

Bob concentrating on a great shot of the Key Deer. Note the small size of the deer to Bob's right

1 comment:

  1. A very fruitful birding trip, Tom -- lovely shot of the cuckoo!