Thursday, May 18, 2023

Fort Jefferson - Dry Tortugas National Park

 Thursday May 18th

Great White Egret

The fully booked Yankee Freedom
left its mooring in Key West around 8am for the 70-mile sail to Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas. Today was Monday May 8th and like me there were several birders aboard heading to Fort Jefferson on Garden Key to enjoy some special birding opportunities.

eBird Checklist - 8 May 2023 - Dry Tortugas NP--Garden Key - 36 species

In April and May, the Tortugas can be a magnet for migrating birds seeking respite from the long flight across the Gulf of Mexico and nearby Keys are also hosting breeding colonies for Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Masked Boobies. 

Brown Noddy

Sooty Tern

Other passengers are also finding the birdlife interesting, but we can add the fascinating history of the Civil War Era Fort Jefferson.  Then add the opportunities to do some snorkeling the waters around Garden Key. 

As the Yankee Freedom sailed west, we left Key West behind and would pass the Marquesa Islands and the waters were treasure hunter Mel Fisher had located the some of the wreak of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha and her riches.

On the sail to the Tortugas, I and several birds scanned the waters for any pelagic species. Dipped on spotted any of the expected Shearwaters. Mostly seen were frigatebirds and an unidentified jaeger. By 10:30 we had entered the boundary waters of the Dry Tortugas National Park and the boat's captain made a slow pass near to Hospital Key for the birders to get a look at and try to get photographs of the Masked Boobies nesting colony on the small sandy key. This small bit of sand is the only nesting site within the United States for the Masked Boobies. There were a few dozen present as well as around a dozen Brown Boobies. From here the air was filled with birds. Hundreds of Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies and Magnificent Frigatebirds have arrived here to nest on Bush Key.

We docked and exited the Yankee freedom to start our search for interesting birds. Had made acquaintance with some birders from Colorado, who were led by Nick Komar. Nick, I learned later was working on a Big Year and seemed to be having a great start. An interesting coincidence was that on my last visit here, I had made the acquaintance for with another pair of master birders from Colorado - John Vanderpoel and William Kaempfer, who had helped me with getting on my lifer view of a Black Noddy. 

Black Noddy

First headed toward the north coaling pilings looking for good shots of the Brown Noddies and sooty terns, plus the rare Black Noddies that rest on those pilings.  Got my tern and noddy pics but would have to go up to the top of fort to get the view needed to spot the Black Noddies. Which I was later able to do.

Bridle Tern

A trio of Bridle Terns were found near a closed off area at the concrete pad by the south pilings.  
Other sea birds seen included Rosette terns, Royal terns, Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls.

Inside the fort we found some of those interesting migrant birds. Common Nighthawk, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Kingbird, Wood Thrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a Great White Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Ovenbird, cattle Egrets, a Green Egret, Bay-breasted Warbler, Indigo Buntings, Palm Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, American redstarts, Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler and Gray Catbirds. Had a few swallows too - Barn, Cliff and Bank were present.

We wrapped up our stay when the Yankee Freedom headed back to Key West around 3pm. Lots of tired folks after a day in the sun.

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Indigo Bunting

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Common Nighthawk

Scarlet Tanager

American Redstart


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Rotary Park - Cape Coral

Tuesday May 16th

 Spring Migration.  In beautiful Southwest Florida, the default venue for finding the birds migrating north in the spring is Sanibel Lighthouse on the island of Sanibel. The numbers of birds encountered is a directly affected by weather conditions. The prevailing winds and weather fronts can either induce the birds to drop-in or be pushed onward toward their summer homes or even cause them to alter where they will enter North America.

Swainson's Thrush

The most recent years haven't had great local spring birding, but in 2023 we had some nice birding. Usually, we'd head to the barrier islands like Sanibel Island. But Hurricane Ian had been so devastating that venues like Sanibel Lighthouse and Bowditch Point on Fort Myers Beach are still closed and unavailable. In April, however, the Pond Apple Trail on Sanibel offered some exciting birding with early arriving migrants like Kentucky Warblers, Swainson's Warblers and Cerulean Warblers. I missed out on that bit of fun.  But I did make several visits to this year's best venue. Rotary Park in Cape Coral had som nice activity.

Tennessee Warbler

The star attraction was the arrival of a couple of Philadelpha Vireos. This species is a rare migrant through Florida. They usually enter the U.S. in Texas. Other sightings also included Red-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers; Baltimore and Orchid Orioles; Worm-eating, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Tennessee, American Redstarts, Ovenbirds, Northern Parulas, Blackpoll, Black-throated Blue and Bay-breasted Warblers, Veery, Gray-cheeked, Wood and Swainson's Thrushes, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks and more.

Philadelphia Vireo

Blackburnian Warbler


Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Northern Parula

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Fort DeSoto Park

 April 23rd

Nanday Parakeet

Spent the day
 looking for interesting birds at Fort DeSoto Park, which is located south of Tierra Verde in Tampa Bay. The park can be a great venue for birding during spring migration. So, a springtime visit is almost mandatory. 

eBird Checklist - 23 Apr 2023 - Fort De Soto Park - 54 species

Some of my better pics

Brown-headed Cowbird

Least Sandpiper

Cape May Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Swainson's Thrush


White Ibis

Swainson's Thrush



Laughing Gull

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Bachman's Sparrow

 Sunday March 26th

Bachman's Sparrow

my first-of-the-season Bachman's Sparrow today at Babcock-Webb. These birds are resident at Babcock but because of their skulking nature are often missed.  Except when they on territory and can be heard and seen singing. This window-of-time goes from late March till into July and sometimes later. 

Since the devastation caused by Hurrican Ian back in September, my tried-and-true locations for finding red-cockaded woodpeckers, at Babcock-Webb, are not currently viable. I stack-out a colony site at daybreak to see the birds erupt from the nest holes.  This method was taught to me many years ago in an email exchange with Jeff Bouton. It has usually been successful till the storm has disrupted the status quo. I have crossed paths with the woodpeckers occasionally but do wonder on the status of this species at Babcock. Didn't see any today and dipped on the brown-headed nuthatch as well.

eBird Checklist - 26 Mar 2023 - Babcock-Webb WMA - 45 species

Florida Soft Shelled Turtle

Today there was also a large concentration of shorebirds at the shrinking marsh area located about ten miles east of the entrance on Tucker Grade. Counted 139 Least Sandpipers and dozens of Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs and Long-billed Dowitchers.

Sandhill Crane

Wood Stork

Double Crested Cormorants

Eastern Meadowlark

Dowitchers and Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Least Sandpiper

So What's Blooming
Gopher Apple Geobalanus oblongifolius

Whorled Milkweed Asclepias verticillata

Asclepias tuberosa rolfsiiRolfs' MilkweedAsclepias tuberosa ssp. rolfsii