I had heard the white pelicans had come down to south St. Petersburg for the winter. They had been recently sighted at Fort Desoto near the north beach tip. The big white pelicans only spend part of the winter in the area and leave in early spring. I headed down in mid-November to look for them and after looking everywhere for them I was about to leave. I stopped at the East beach turnaround before leaving to see if any new shorebirds were there. I noticed something white behind the tall overgrown mangroves. There in a small lagoon, hidden behind the mangroves was a small flock of them. They were busy feeding and didn’t notice me standing in the mangroves across the lagoon. I watched these big beautiful graceful birds feeding together. They would fly in and together, a small group would swim around scooping up the fish. I’m hoping I see them again before they leave.
I was walking around Fort Desoto recently and this laughing gull flew in right in front of me with a snack. It seemed like he was showing it off. It looked like a chicken bone. Someone must have left it out. He pecked at it for a while and then left it. Brings a whole new meaning to “Hot wings”.
Early one morning in November I was out at Fort Desoto and noticed a lot of big boats in the area. Fort Desoto sits at the end of Tampa Bay and the boats pass by the park on the way into Port Tampa from the gulf.
The guys on these boats must have a very strange life. Being gone long periods of time out at sea. I always think of the movie Captain Phillips and wave as they go by the fishing pier. I’m sure no one is paying attention. They are probably working in the cabins getting ready to head out or come in to port depending on which direction they are going.
Someone had staked out their spot on the spit island just off the north tip of the beach. By early November, the red tide algae bloom was mostly gone from the beach but there were still some spots that smelled of dead fish. The water looked clear but the bloom came back later for a short time after a big storm. The morning I was there was clear.
The birds on the trails were scarce with the exception of a few common ones including a northern parula and many of the state bird, the mockingbird.
The usual waterbirds were also around.
Frigatebirds were flying high overhead.
On my way out of the park I saw a bald eagle sitting on a utility tower. All of the eagles are back for the winter.
A nice clean beach after Park supervisor Jim had scooped up all of the dead fish from the red tide algae bloom that lands on the beach during high tide. This morning in late October, Jim had told me that they had just cleaned up 6 miles of beaches, trying to keep it clean so the tourist can enjoy the beach. Even in late November, we were still getting some dead sea life but not as bad as it was in October.
It was still a beautiful morning even with a slight fishy smell.
The dog beach and the fishing pier were deserted that morning since no one wanted to be in the red tide water. It was like a ghost town.
I did see some dolphins coming out of the water from far across the bay.
There were few birds out on the beach at Fort Desoto when I visited during the peak of the red tide algae bloom. The few there were busy eating breakfast. Some were eating the dead sea life that had washed up on shore. I didn’t see any birds acting sick during this trip. Volunteers were out on the beach every day looking for sick birds that could be affected by eating too much of the dead fish. I kept yelling “Don’t eat that.” but they weren’t listening.
A cormorant and osprey were fighting over a lamp-post on the pier.
Even the crows were eating the dead fish. The park rangers kept raking up the shoreline but the dead fish kept washing up on shore.
Royal terns in the air.
The sandbar spit across the channel was full of birds.
Out on the beach, it was a perfect quiet morning in late August. We get there early before it gets too hot and crowded.
The water was crystal clear but warm. This was before the red tide had brought dead sea life to the beach, the calm before the storm. I was traveling light this morning so all above were taken with my phone.