Dry Tortugas: Day 1
Spring migration has begun! This has meant many early mornings, late nights, and thousands of miles under my belt in the last two weeks. I've interviewed dozens of birders, making strong progress towards my goal of interviewing 365 birders in 2016. I'll be publishing more blog interviews in the next few days, as well as some other cool content. But this couldn't wait!
Yesterday, late in the afternoon I returned from one of my dream birding trips: Spring in the Dry Tortugas. I can't remember when my fascination began with these remote islands first began, but as soon as I saw an aerial photograph of Fort Jefferson on Garden Key surrounded by aquamarine water, it went on my bucket list of places to visit. These island serve as an important breeding ground for sea birds including Brown Noddy, Sooty Tern, and the only nesting colony of Magnificent Frigatebird in North America. It's a must-visit place for anyone doing a Big Year, and I was super excited to splurge on a catamaran ticket to get out and explore the islands.
Located 70 miles West of Key West, Florida, the Dry Tortugas are composed of 7 islets, each slightly different in flora and fauna than its neighbors. I could do a mini-biology and history lesson, but I'll spare that for now and get to the birds.
On our way out, I asked Captain Meg if we could swing by Hosptal Key, where Masked Boobies nest. she said sure, and drove the boat right up alongside the bear Island, where I got fantastic looks and some nice pictures of the birds.
Upon arrival, I went into full birding mode and scoured every part of the island for as many species as I could find. I ended up seeing 39 species by the end of the day, including finding and photographing a Black Noddy, a type of tern found only here, a couple times a year. There was a good diversity of warbler species including Blackpoll, Cape May, and a Hooded warbler who enjoyed running over my feet at my campsite.
This place is amazing! I've met and interviewed several birders for the Birding Project, and met some fantastic people around the island.
Overall, it was an amazing first day! I couldn't wait to see if any new bird showed up the next day, and have a full day to explore the island.