Another beautiful morning at the beach

A cute little black bellied plover was busy looking for food.

Standing on the pier, I could see this dog catching an orange frisbee way down at the other end of dog beach. He caught it every time. He was having a blast.

It was a good morning for the dolphin show at the gulf pier at Fort Desoto. The water was clear and calm and the dolphins were swimming close to it.

I headed up to the top of the fort to see if there were any birds hanging around the agave plants. I only saw a grackle. The little green huts cover the air vents in the fort underneath. I always expect to see little hobbits running around and living in them.

The view from the top of the fort.

Looking in the other direction, down towards the beach, you could see the people coming in for the day. This was around 10am so you know it’s going to be crowded by noon. It really is a little piece of paradise (Shhh, don’t tell anyone!).

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Things have changed.

The non-profit Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened on Clearwater Beach in 1972 in a former water treatment plant. They opened as a research and learning center and by 1980 they started rehabilitating dolphins. I don’t remember going there as a child when we use to come down to Clearwater to visit my grandparents but I do remember visiting a few times with my parents when they retired down here in the early 90’s. When Brett and I moved down here 19 years ago I got an annual pass and took my Mom there to see the dolphins a lot. She was in a retirement home and was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She lived close by and it made for a fun morning out for her. She loved just sitting and watching the dolphins and turtles swimming around. Back then you could park at the front door and walk right in. No parking decks or lines to get in, You could also get pretty close up to the dolphins.

The aquarium is home to Winter (the movie star from A Dolphin’s Tale). Winter lost his tail years ago and the aquarium was able to get a prosthetic tail to help him swim better. It’s been several years since I had been and they recently had a big addition built on (they added a 1.5 million gallon tank) so I decided to head over to the beach to see Winter on a rare Monday off. I had to pay to park in a deck, stand in a line (small one though) to get in on a Monday. I’m glad they are doing so well though. They do a lot with injured sea life here. Not just rehabilitating them here but they send teams out to rescue as well.

You walk in on the upper level and can see into the pool. I didn’t take many pictures up here since it was dark inside and the dolphins were swimming lower down in the water. This is not a dolphin show like in the old days. These are injured dolphins that are being rehabilitated that you get to see up close. Although if you hit it right at feeding time, the dolphins do perform specific behaviors as part of feeding but no jumping out of the water and flipping over.

Here’s were you want to be. There are windows all around the tank so you can walk around and see different dolphins. Winter and his girlfriend Hope are in the main tank.

Winter did not have on his prostetic tail while I was there. You can see he is missing his flipper. He came pretty close to the window.

On the other side there were several other dolphins swimming close to the window. The glare from the window did not make it easy to get pictures. The dolphins in the main tank live here full time now. They all have some type of injury including vision loss, hearing loss and other illnesses where they would not survive being released back into the wild. The main goal is to release the dolphins back out and most of them do get set free after they recover.

There are also many other types of animals here including lots of turtles. All were injured at some time. You can see in that (blurry) picture on the bottom that the turtle is missing his front feet.

The new building from the upper parking deck.

Pano across the intercoastal waterway looking towards Clearwater.

Looking toward the beach from the aquarium. I should have gone over for a quick swim but the beach was packed in April, even on a Monday. Parking on the beach is also tough and expensive so there’s that. And, I was starving so it was time to head home for lunch.

Yes, masks were still required in April here. Even though a lot of it is outside, people crowd in front of the windows. Hoping my next trip is maskless.

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The fort at Fort Desoto

There is an actual fort at Fort Desoto Park. The fort was finished in 1900 and was used until after World W 2. Pinellas county bought the fort and surrounding area later and in 1963 it opened as a park. I don’t usually spend a lot of time there but one day in late October I wasn’t quite ready to go home for lunch so I thought I would climb the path to the top of the fort to see if there were any birds around.

You can rent bikes next door and I thought the bright colors popped against all of the green and blue.

Looking around the fort area, it reminded me of a picture I had seen looking through the old family photos.

Apparently I had been there when I was just a tot running around. It must have not been opened as a park long when we went because I was born in 1963. I must have less than a year old.

After the fort, I stopped by the fishing pier to watch the dolphin show.

At this point a storm was moving in and it was starting to drizzle so I quickly headed back to my car.

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Fort Desoto in July

Skimmers cruising by trying to catch fish in their beaks.

This gull’s fish could barely fit in his beak.

Snowy egrets hovering over the light poles on the fishing pier. Different perspective which is a reminder to not stand under one of these poles if there’s a bird on top or you’ll get a bird poop shower.

Harry the hybrid looking pretty with his blue breeding face.

A few of the dolphins swimming around the pier including the Mom with her baby close by.

Looks like some construction far out in the bay.

I rarely see shrimp boats in the bay. It reminds me of vacations with my family in the panhandle. We saw them often up in north Florida.

Pretty vines growing on the sand.

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The dolphin show is back open.

I wouldn’t want to be walking around down there right now with that big stingray cruising around. It’s time to do the stingray shuffle in the water so they scoot away and you don’t step on them. Although it’s really the little ones you have to worry about because it’s hard to see those little guys half buried in the sand.

There were lots of dolphins swimming around the fishing pier in early May. It’s hard to catch a fish here when the dolphins are chasing after your catch. They usually steal it before the fishermen have had time to reel the fish in.

From the bay pier you can see dog beach. Zooming in, I could see the dogs running in the water. The dogs were probably happy to be back out at the beach again after the park being closed for 8 weeks.

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Dolphins doing zoomies.

It’s not easy getting close up shots of dolphins at the fishing pier. They pop up at random places and move so fast that they are gone before you can get your lens focused. If the light is bad and the water is dark, it’s hard to see them coming up. On a recent Saturday morning, the light was good and I could see them coming up fairly early. They were doing zoomies towards the pier since the bait fish were thick right under the pier. They were filling up on tiny appetizers.

A beautiful sunny morning, taken with my phone.

The usual birds were finding snacks.

I had stopped by the fishing pier at Fort Desoto before heading home to see if “Harry” the hybrid (great blue heron/great egret) was hanging around. He was still there in his usual spot but I got distracted by the dolphins and ended up leaving an hour later.

Dolphin day at Fort Desoto

Dolphins were swimming all around the fishing pier in late September.

This fishing boat came close to the pier to pull up some bait fish. It became clear that these guys didn’t really know what they were doing as they ended up hitting the pier and breaking several of the the fishing poles sticking up in their boat. All of the fishermen on the pier were giving them a hard time about getting stuck. They eventually got some bait pulled up and left.

Then they went out to the tower where the pelicans were peacefully sleeping. They got too close to the tower and scared all of the pelicans away. I hope they eventually got the hang of it, for the wildlife’s sake. Never a dull moment at Fort Desoto Park.

In the neighborhood

I’ve recently been seeing an eagle sitting on top of a utility pole just outside my neighborhood. I guess they are back for the winter.

Some critters in my front yard. I think that lizard lives underneath my mailbox on the wall.I only see him at night. The frog was on my garage door.

It had just stopped raining and a very wet hawk was sitting on my neighbor’s sailboat mast. You can see mold growing on the mast. In 15 years, we’ve never seen them take the sailboat out.

Dolphins were right in front of our dock. It’s rare to see them in the channels. They usually stay out in the bay or only come in the first main channel.

Sun going down in the backyard.

The sun peaked out right after a storm before setting and turned everything orange.

The September full harvest moon. Reminds me that Halloween is coming.

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“A three hour tour!”

While we were in Naples we took a boat ride around the bay and out to a spoil island. We passed the big boats and big houses near the marina.

It was a beautiful day out and there was not much traffic on the water.

 

We saw so many dolphins along the way. They were coming right up to the boat. The bottom two shots I took with my phone.

A lot of the channel markers had osprey nests on them. Most of the babies were grown up and yelled as we went by.

We cruised for almost an hour to a spoil island where there was no one else on the beach. Just us and a few other people that were on the boat. We walked around for close to an hour looking for shells.

Not many birds on the beach but far away we saw an osprey had caught a fish and had landed on the beach with it before taking off again.

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Hanging out at the beach.

A beautiful morning at Fort Desoto out on the beach.

Watching all of the big boats go by, wondering about that life at sea. I recently started following a guy who¬† pilots the big boats in and out of Tampa bay on Instagram. It’s cool to see his pictures from the boat. I bet he has some great stories to tell. You can find him at Tampabaypilot.

It’s always fun to see the dolphins swimming around the fishing pier and the little terns diving for fish.

The cactus all over the park are blooming.

Brett and I spent a Sunday morning in April just hanging out on the beach. With work, chores and family we don’t get there as much as we use to.

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