We landed on Garden Key and explored Fort Jefferson but eventually we were distracted again by our particular interests. My colleague went off to snorkel in the beautiful tropical waters and I looked for the bird bath. Yes, September is the fall migration and the Dry Tortugas are a refuge for birds migrating from North to Central and South America. In an ocean of salty water the fresh water fountain is a magnet for small birds (and Glossy Ibis, White Ibis and Cattle Egret too on this visit) and as I sat and watched the procession of wood-warbler, tanagers and orioles coming to drink I was almost in a dream-like state. Sure, I’d seen many of these species in Florida, Arizona, Maine and New York but it was the ease of observing them here in the open. No patiently waiting for views of them in their breeding habitat – they were flying out into the open and revealing themselves as perfectly as they appear in the classic North American field guides. At least 17 species of wood-warbler were seen. When I was young I used to have vivid dreams about birds like Hoopoes and Northern Cardinals… and wake up so disappointed.
This was a dream come true. Over 55 species were seen exceptionally well on a tiny island in less than four hours. Other highlights included a Black Skimmer, Least Bittern, around 120 Magnificent Frigatebirds, Dickcissel, Bobolink and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (get it in my scope, a birder once said!).
|Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, Dry Tortugas National Park|
|South Coaling Docks ruins - location of Black Noddy|
|Interior of Fort Jefferson|
|Water fountain attracting many migrant birds|