Dancing for breakfast

I didn’t just stumble upon the beautiful white morph reddish egret. He’s been spending a lot of time at the north end of Outback Key at Fort Desoto. He’s quite famous with the bird photographers there. I found him dancing around in front of a ton of sleeping shorebirds.

He was running back and forth in the water catching bait fish. This went on for quite a while. He was such a show off for the photographers out in the water watching him (I was not alone, there were at least 6 other photographers there early on this weekday morning). White morph reddish egrets are rare and he’s the only one I’ve heard of being in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve been taking pictures of one here since early 2012 but I’m not sure if it’s the same one. I hadn’t seen him in several years so I was excited to find him again.

Sleepy birds on the beach

I was out at Fort Desoto in late August and started the long hike to the north tip where most of the shorebirds hang out. The lagoon beach area was full of little birds sleeping including red knots.

They were all taking a morning nap.

I passed a big flock of semipalmated plovers hanging out together on the beach with a few sanderlings mixed in.

They look so cute when they are sleeping.

Marbled godwits have been common along the beach here.

A royal tern flying by with a snack.

I had waded out waist deep in the water to get far enough away to shoot the birds on the beach with the sun at least to the side. It was a little bit cooler doing this and made me realize it was beautiful being out past the sea oats.

Big boats cruising past the pier.

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On the beach in late July

Out on the beach at Fort Desoto in July, I found a few birds including a laughing gull, a semi palmated plover and a sanderling.

The marbled godwits were busy feeding.

A reddish egret flies in from across the lagoon.

Out on the fishing pier, the birds were lined up waiting for someone to drop their bait fish.

This great egret was looking a little rough. I’m thinking he’s molting.

A cormorant busy preening on the light post.

A ship heading out for a long voyage.

Breakfast with Mom and Dad

It’s not often I walk out on the beach and there are the birds I’m looking for. The oystercatcher Mom and juvenile were feeding right next to a snowy egret along the shoreline at Fort Desoto.

There were two juveniles with the parents and each one stayed close to a parent. The babies were almost as big as the parent but their feathers were not as black, their beaks were not as bright red and they didn’t have those beautiful yellow eyes yet. I sat down on the sand and watched the parents get some icky blob and feed it to the little ones over and over.

It was hard to get the entire family in one shot. I walked back on the beach a bit and was able to get both parents feeding the babies.

A couple of times the babies were able to find their own breakfast. They were watching everything Mom and Dad were doing.

They kept moving along the shoreline, staying busy eating.

At one point another bird came close and one of the parents flew off and chased it away. Here you can see that this one is banded with a red AE. She is the Mom and was banded in Georgia back in 2012. She has been a regular at Fort Desoto since then. The babies were born on Shell Key and didn’t make it over to the main beach here until they were old enough to fly over with their parents in early July.

They spent a long time feeding and I finally left. All of the above were taken with my 400mm lens and cropped up.

Those crazy green clowns

I saw the big green clowns up in a palm tree at Fort Desoto near the fishing pier. I heard them first. That loud scream can be heard across the park.The black capped (or nanday) parakeets were eating something up in the tree.

Many of them were flying down and feeding on the wildflowers growing next to the pier. It was funny to watch them holding the plant with their feet. They kept their eye on me but otherwise kept eating.

Some of them would fly back up in the tree with their snack and eat there.

Scenes from Fort Desoto

The dolphin show at Fort Desoto Park in mid-May. The water was clear so you could see them before they were coming up for air and they were swimming close to the fishing pier.

I found this calico crab on the beach early that morning. It was low tide but the water was starting to come up. At first I though maybe he was dead but then I saw bubbles coming out of his face. I was going to nudge him close to the deeper water but he stood up and started heading that way on his own. It looks like he has a critter in a shell living on top of him.

A juvenile little blue heron dunking for fish.

Scenes from the fishing pier.

I walked up to the top of the fort hoping to find some migrating birds up at the top but all I found was a cardinal on a dead snag. He had a great view.

View from the beach.

Standing near the northern end of the beach you can see the hotels on St. Pete beach, about a 20 minute drive north.

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Lots of critters at Fort Desoto

Another trip to Fort Desoto Park to look for migrating birds. The first thing I found was a squirrel being cute on the agave plant. I was hoping there would be birds on those plants but no, I find a squirrel.

Cape May warblers were still around. I found both females and males.

I also found a northern parula and a blackpoll warbler (I hadn’t seen one of those in several years).

An osprey was checking me out making sure I wasn’t going to steal his fish.

Cormorants were diving for fish around the fishing pier.

It was a slow dolphin morning but I did manage to find one.

The starlings and nanday parakeets were fighting over wire space in the parking lot.

Frisky manatees

It was late April and after walking the trails at Fort Desoto one morning looking for migrating birds with no luck, I headed to the fishing pier. It was just too nice to go home yet.

As usual pelicans were flying by.

I started looking out in the water to see if there were any dolphins swimming around the pier and found a pair of manatees instead. They were fairly far out in the shallow area so they were easy to spot. At one point it looked like they were mating. I could see one of the manatee’s flipper on top of the other manatee. After a few minutes they started swimming towards the pier.

They swam right up to the pier and luckily I had my zoom lens so these were at 80mm.

They mated several times right along the pier. At this point there was a huge crowd of people watching. Several people said they had never seen one before.

These above were taken with my phone. They eventually swam under the pier and then hung out on the other side before slowly swimming away. What a great thing to see! I had planned to do a quick walk and snap a few shots of dolphins but I stood there for an hour since they were so close to the pier and moving so slowly.

Adding two lifers to my list

Word gets around fast in the birding world when there’s a rare bird somewhere in the area. I had read on some bird sites Sunday night that there was a rare Kirkland’s warbler at Fort Desoto Park. It’s listed as one of the rarest warblers in the world. They winter in the Bahamas and spend summers in Michigan. I’ve never heard of one in Florida before. I got to the park just before 7:30 the next morning and there was already a small crowd staring at the bushes where he was seen the day before. No one had seen him yet. I was thinking this is probably going to be a needle in a haystack morning but then I saw Ed. Ed Rizer drove over from the Lakeland area and he is know for being able to find anything. I’m thinking if anyone can find this bird, Ed can. About 10 minutes later I looked around and Ed had disappeared. I’m thinking “He’s going to walk around and find that bird”. Not 5 minutes later I hear him yell “He’s over here”. The bird was in a different area but close by. Everyone ran over and we all started shooting. The bird was not skittish at all. Everyone stayed pretty far back (we all had our longest lenses with us). I spent about 15 minutes taken a ton of pictures of this bird. He stayed on the ground just outside of some bushes, feeding on bugs.

Later in the morning after walking around the park, I headed back to the area where the Kirkland’s was again. He had moved over to the mangrove bushes where we originally were looking. I left the crowds of people who had driven from all over Florida to see him.

There were a lot of other migrating birds but not a lot of variety. We found one rose breasted grossbeak. An ovenbird was on the trail and there were a lot of redstart sightings.

One bird I haven’t seen in several years was a black throated blue warbler.

There were a lot of Cape May warblers all over the park.

The 2nd bird I added to my list this morning was a black whiskered vireo. There was one seen several years ago here but I couldn’t find it. After looking for this guy all morning I was about to give up and leave and someone yelled out they found him. I snapped the above and headed home since it was way past lunch time.

This was a very productive morning in late April at the park. It still seems like there are less birds coming through every year.

A quiet morning out.

It was a gorgeous morning to be out on the beach in early April.

Far out in the water I could see a willet with a snack.

Terns were cruising by.

Laughing gulls were pairing up.

The rare kittiwake was still on the pier, a week later than when we first found him.

I still kept seeing the same warblers on the trails, a hooded and a black and white. I kept telling myself it was still early for migration here.

After a quiet morning at Fort Desoto Park I headed home but not before stopping by Possum Branch Preserve for a quick walk. Two red shoulder hawks were sitting on the big dead snag outside of the preserve. I guess the hawks are pairing up as well.

A green heron trying to hide in the marsh.

It was pretty quiet at this park as well. I started taking pictures of butterflies since they are starting to be more plentiful. At least I got a good walk in before heading home for lunch.

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