I am back in Key West for the night after 3 days on the Dry Tortugas with Wildside Nature Tours. The Dry Tortugas are a small chain of 7 coral islands, 70 miles off Key West, Florida. Just after Florida was purchased from Spain in 1824 and through the Civil War, the United States, and then the Union, attempted to build a fort, Fort Jefferson, there as a base to guard the sea lanes and shipping routes from the Mississippi River and the Gulf to the Atlantic seaboard. The Fort was never finished. Conditions proved too difficult. It went through several incarnations: as a prison during the Civil War, as a coaling station and then a quarantine center after. It’s 243 heavy canons were never fired in combat. It was, and still is, the largest brick masonry structure in the western hemisphere. The surrounding islands have been a bird sanctuary since 1908, and Fort Jefferson is now a National Park…the only one accessible only by boat and seaplane.
Besides being home to the only nesting colonies of several Caribbean sea birds, during spring and fall migration, the islands can, deepening on the winds, serve as a rest stopover on the journey across the Caribbean for warblers, orioles, tanagers, flycatchers, etc. Therefore they are popular destination for birders.
What we have here is a pair of Bridled Terns, a pelagic tern that nests further south in the Caribbean, and in small numbers on the islands, and ranges in summer along the inland edge of the gulf stream sometimes as far north as Connecticut.
Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
We had already pretty well done the Everglades for this trip, so yesterday we took a Sunday drive down the Keys. My first visit there, and I was certainly impressed by the scenery. Birds…not so much. It was a slow day for birds. Mid-December is evidently not high season on the Keys. Still, we looked, without success, for Key Deer, and we spent a pleasant few hours chasing passerines, dragonflies, and butterflies at the Key West Botanical Garden. This is my life Mangrove Skipper…a great bug at any time and on any day, thank you very much!
Sony HX400V at 1150mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 800 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.