I’m jumping ahead to a recent phenomenon that has taken place in the Tampa Bay area. We were lucky again when Hurricane Idalia was heading for us. I found this quote when Hurricane Ian happened last year “It’s possible to be heartbroken and thankful at the same time.” It applies again when Idalia came roaring past us and directly hit some small towns in the big bend of Florida. So many of us sat and watched the tv wondering if our electricity would go out when it started to storm. We watched in horror as towns north of us got slammed. Although there was a lot of flooding in our area from the storm surge and homes along the beach areas got a lot of damage, in general most of the Tampa area was spared.
Besides the flooding, the storms brought a lost visitor to our area. American flamingos were being sighted all over the Tampa Bay area. Until the hurricane, the only place you could see wild flamingos were in the Everglades and the Keys (there was a lone flamingo living in the panhandle at St. Marks Refuge that was lost there during Hurricane Michael in 2018). Someone saw 16 flamingos at a park nearby but the park was closed and I was not able to get up there the day after the hurricane (to sneak in and see them along with other birders). The next day they were seen on Treasure Island beach. I went a day later and they were gone. Then some were seen at Fort Desoto Park. Seven were seen early Saturday morning but I did not make there until that afternoon.
I got to the park around 3:30 and walked out on the beach and saw one lone flamingo up at the northern end of the lagoon. I snapped the above before hiking along the beach just in case he flew off before I got there. He’s a tiny speck of pink to the left of the umbrellas.
He stayed in the same spot for 2 hours and fed.
There were tons of shorebirds and other water birds feeding but none got too close to the flamingo.
Zooming out I could barely see a guy across the lagoon also taking pictures. I wasn’t alone on the beach side. There were tons of people that had come to see them.
Standing out in ankle deep water you could see how far away we were from the shorebirds and the flamingo was just as far so the above are all cropped up.
Two days later there were 3 seen at the park so I got up in the dark and drove down to the park. When I got out to the beach there was still only one flamingo and he was even farther north.
I was debating whether to start the long walk up to the north end of the beach or just go home and the flamingo flew across the lagoon and over to the marsh behind the mangroves. He was so far away.
The big crowd started heading toward the marsh. I followed, still trying to decide if I should head home or at least go look for other birds. The flamingo was taking a nap right up against the mangroves. I didn’t make it over as far as the above people did. I turned around in the muck and left. People had driven all across the state to see them and they were just glad to catch a glimpse of him sleeping. I was glad I had seen the one a few days before.
A few days later the flamingos were gone from the park. But, some had been seen at different areas all over the state. We’re hoping they are safe and all end up back home at some point but it was great to see even one wild one nearby.