Early morning at Fort Desoto

Terns, willets and laughing gulls out on the beach.

A lone prairie warbler on the trail.

Someone caught a creepy crab while fishing on the pier.

A common sight around the fishing pier, a snowy egret hitching a ride.

The morning started off cloudy, looking like it was going to rain but the sun came out before noon.

SkyWatch Friday

The electric company

IMG_4538 DSC_8711 DSC_8719 DSC_8734

Why would anyone go hang out next to a power plant? Because they use the water in the bay to cool the towers.  The warm water comes out in the channel and keeps the manatees warm during the winter. Hundreds of manatees spend their winters in this channel.  The power plant built a dock for people to stand on and watch the manatees come up for air.

DSC_8709

One of the manatees near the dock.

DSC_8725

DSC_8727

For extra enjoyment, they hire sharks to jump out of the water and entertain us. (Just kidding, this was the first time we had seen this here before).

DSC_8742

DSC_8743

Little fiddler crabs and willets hang out on the shoreline under the dock.

DSC_8745

Overhead, an osprey was gathering sticks for a nest.

DSC_8740

Little fishies.

We made our annual winter trip to the Tampa Electric Plant to see the manatees in late February. Even thought it’s been a warm winter, the water in the bay has been cold enough for the manatees to congregate in the warmer waters next to the plant. There were tons of manatees in the water but I think this time there were more people than manatees.

SkyWatch Friday

After the storm

DSC_7836

We had a big storm come through the area on Friday and then next morning I headed out to Fort Desoto. It was low tide and the beach was full of things we don’t see that often. Lots of live shells. We mostly see broken ones.

DSC_7840

I think this crab took over this empty conch shell.

DSC_7885

This starfish was missing a few limbs.

DSC_7901

The beach was full of these.  They were all empty though.

DSC_7904

Horseshoe crabs were on the beach.

DSC_7907

Another critter taking up residence in an empty shell.

DSC_7914

DSC_7875

The beach was full of the above.  Some kind of sea plant?  Looks like corn on the cob husks to me.

DSC_7984

A beautiful cool morning at Fort Desoto Park.

Shine the Divine

Different things at Honeymoon Island Park

DSC_1522

When I first got to the park I had a beautiful view of the moon.

DSC_1551

This is a butterfly I don’t see very often.

DSC_1574

Backside of a fiddler crab. You can really see the colors on his back.

DSC_1657

I saw a big tortoise on the side of the trail.

DSC_1660

He didn’t move when I walked by so I stopped and got a front view. Is he smiling?

DSC_1681

Another butterfly.

DSC_1673

View from behind the nature center. It was a quiet morning on my weekend walk down the nature trail.

Camera Critters

Hanging with a crabby curlew

DSC_7740

I was standing on the beach taking pictures of a ruddy turnstone when the long-billed curlew flew right in front of me.

DSC_7744

I never get this lucky. He was looking at me like “I’m ready for my photo shoot.”

DSC_7776

He already had sand all the way up his beak so he’s been feeding.

DSC_7780

I sat down on the sand and watched him dig.

DSC_7793

Success.  A little sandy crab came out of the hole.

DSC_7800

After swallowing that one, he continued to dig.

DSC_7802

This one he flipped up in the air like popcorn shrimp.

DSC_7804

Still digging. What a pig!

DSC_7806

He seemed to want to show me this one up close. He started walking toward me with it in his beak.

DSC_7808

He flipped it up to swallow it. After this crab, he started wandering off down the beach so I left him to his feeding.

DSC_7811

This ruddy turnstone wanted to get in on the crab action as well. He walked right in front of me showing off his prize.

Another Saturday morning on Fort Desoto beach.

Fun things at Fort Desoto – Skywatch Friday

DSC_0429

One of my first shots with my new lens, a Nikon 300mm f/4. I’m going to be struggling in the beginning to get use to not zooming in. My old lens was a 80mm – 400mm lens but I used the 400mm end of it most of the time. I added a 1.4 teleconverter to the new lens which gives me more length.  I’m excited about using this for birds in flight but have to get use to the distance thing. As I walked out on the pier the first thing I see is a pelican coming right at me. It took me a few seconds to focus and by then he was right above me. I cropped his wing but his face is pretty sharp.

DSC_0467

I saw an osprey flying by far away thinking he had a fish but after I took the picture and cropped it up I realized it was nesting material he was getting. It’s that time of the year. I saw a few osprey hanging out on nests on this day.

DSC_0511

Royal tern flying by.

DSC_0521

These guys were hanging around the pier getting bait fish with a net. The gulls were terrorizing them.

DSC_0471

Tricolored heron looking for food.

DSC_0479

Another shot where I couldn’t zoom in and I couldn’t back up any farther. This juvenile ring-billed herring gull was cleaning up the trash. He practically handed it to me with his beak. I stuck it in the garbage can on the way out.

DSC_0495

I stopped by the owl nest before I left. She was half asleep this morning. It’s still a little early for the egg to hatch. I don’t know if anyone has seen how many is there yet. Last year two were born and one died early after a bad storm came through. The park has the area fenced off much farther out than last year so people don’t walk close by the tree. You probably won’t even notice her if you didn’t know she was there. – Update on the baby: I was there this past Saturday and a little white fuzzy cotton ball looking thing was peeking out. I’ll post pictures later.

DSC_0490

Tiny fiddler crabs on the beach.

Just a handful of stuff on the beach in  early January. Today is the last day of January. Where did the month go??? We’ve had fairly warm weather for the winter down here in central Florida. Some days it between 70 and 80 degrees and then some days it’s in the low 60’s. I haven’t heard of many manatees landing in the manatee hospital from cold stress so I guess it will be a mild one this year. Nesting season is up and running with many birds on time or early. I’m just going to tell hubby to play a lot of golf on the weekends so I can get in as much hiking and birding as possible until it gets too hot. I’m sure he won’t mind. I mean, what wife says to the hubby “Honey, play golf every weekend for a few months. I don’t mind.”

Check out more sky pictures at Skywatch Friday

Willet with a crab

“I’m going over here to eat my crab in peace.”

“Ouch! Don’t bite me crab!”

“Hey lady, don’t try to steal my tiny morsel.”

“Why are you being so difficult, crab?”

“Here lady, you can have it if you want it. I’m tired of it pinching me.”

Right before the sun went down on one of my trips to Fort Desoto in October, I ran into a few shorebirds feeding before it got dark. I saw the willet running away with the crab. He played with it for a while but I never saw him eat it. It was a tiny little thing. Maybe he wasn’t that hungry after all.