I read a magazine article about birding on the Dry Tortugas many years ago and have dreamed about visiting ever since. This was the year. I invited several people but only Lori could make it this year. We planned to camp overnight but those plans were dashed when we learned that reservations needed to be made a year in advance. We opted for the day trip aboard the Yankee Freedom Ferry. The ferry leaves Key West daily at 8 AM. You arrive at Fort Jefferson by 10:30, spend 4 hours on the island birding, learning about the fort and/or snorkeling and arrive back in Key west by 5:30 PM. The ferry provides breakfast and lunch, snorkel gear and cash bar on the ride back all for $175. Not bad.
The Tortugas are known stopovers for migrating birds in spring as the birds island hop from South America across the Caribbean to get to North America. Remember, the birds migrate at night and refuel during the day which is great for birders.
Before we even arrived at the island, we saw hundreds of birds. The captain made sure to swing by "Hospital Key" so that we could see the only Masked Booby colony in the US.
|Brown Noddies and Sooty Terns|
|Me and the Ruddy Turnstones|
|Lori and her little friends|
Once we were settled, we tried to optimize our time and headed inside the fort for birds. There are some trees and about 10 acres of open space that attract the birds.
|Cape May Warbler|
|Hooded Warbler - female|
Others birds that we find at the Dry Tortugas are specialty birds that we will not see in our area or anywhere else for that matter - including the Boobies, Noddies and Terns mentioned already but also birds like this Antillean Nighthawk which only comes as far north as the Tortugas and Florida Keys.
|Barracuda in the Moat|
|Brown Noddies - Coaling Dock|
|Seaplane at Garden Key|