Friday, November 30, 2012

Mas Tortugas

White-eyed Vireos were one of the commoner migrants, with at least one anchoring almost every mixed flock I came across...which was frequent, considering I was *ahem* not on a birding trip.

Since I didn't go snorkeling while I was at the Dry Tortugas (land team), I mostly did loops around Garden Key for four days straight, although I did eventually end up swimming for a while on the last day. It was legit, and I didn't even get any jellyfish stings.

As you can expect, I took a lot of pictures, the best of which you will be seeing on here on and off for the next several weeks. Maybe they will compel you to make a trip out there, spring or fall. The birds on this trip left me a bit weak in the knees, which is a feeling any birder lives for. Come to think of it, they will die for it too.

Bay-breasted Warbler (year bird). I only saw 2-3, which is not enough but will have to do for now. I typically go years at a time without seeing these buffy-flanked beasts, they are not easy to come by in California. 

Another shot of the Hooded Warbler that appeared in the first Tortugan blog post. A snazzy bird, which has been documented to cause birders to stutter and foam disgustingly from the mouth.

Normal people on Garden Key would not be happy about this, but ominous skies are a good sign for birders....rain is likely to bring migrating birds down to the islands. 

The seas surrounding Garden Key have the classic hue that any island paradise should.

Mmmmmm, Palm Warbler. There was no shortage of them on Garden Key, but strangely I only saw a couple on my first day, when there were the most birds around.

Brown Boobies aren't very abundant in the Tortugas, but they are really easy to see, since they favor perching on the channel markers that are scattered around Garden Key. As is the case with their bigger, more exotic Masked relatives, the Tortugas is the best place in the continental U.S. to see this species. This is as close as I got to one on this trip.

A number of Great Blue Herons were on Garden Key and Bush Key. This one was relishing having some fresh water after a storm...getting all your water from just eating salty fish probably gets old after a while.

If herons could slurp, this one would be slurping.

See? Here is a fish. If I was birding all the time, I would not have seen this fish. This is some kind of awesome parrotfish. We saw a lot of these around Garden Key and in Key West. They get much bigger than this one. Aside from their brilliant colors that can melt a human face in the blink of an eye, they are known for eating coral and having sandy poop. Can you imagine eating a bunch of coral and then having to pass it? Ouch though.

Warblers aren't the only weary birds that need to take a mid-migration rest, raptors do too. Lots of Accipiters stopped in Garden Key, although I didn't see any Buteos. I'm not sure, but this Sharp-shinned Hawk may be the first one to make it on BB&B.

I lost count of the number of catbirds I saw meet their fate in the talons of Accipiters and Merlins while I was there. The death-squeal of a catbird is not a pleasant sound. The grassy roof of Fort Jefferson is in the background; it's a good place to watch raptors, frigatebirds, and other migrants come in off the ocean.


  1. Your making me drool again. I can see why your face melted off.

  2. Awesome shots!!! I agree with Mia:) Love the shot of the Brown Booby; he looks like he is laughing at you.I'm going to Key West in January, but only for a long weekend. Maybe I'll be able to fit a day trip to the Tortugas in...

    1. I think winter is pretty slow out there, although the Sooty Terns might be back by then. A Sooty Tern colony is pretty impressive...

  3. Very nice Seagull.

    I like how the Heron is folded up like a lawn chair, but that White-eyed Vireo is pretty stunning.

    1. I was hoping for more vireos, but White-eyed were the only plentiful ones. Much better than the Warbling and Hutton's that I see all the time at least.

  4. It sounds like one of the best places in the U.S. to not go on a birding trip.

  5. Hi again Seagull, you have to Gizoogle your blog, when I did mine I laughed myself silly(er)

    1. I Gizoogled mine already. The results were pretty damn funny!