Another morning at Fort Desoto

It was a beautiful morning in early September. I was at Fort Desoto looking for the flamingoes again. I had made 2 trips out already and had only seen 1 each time. I had heard there were several here the day before.

Again, I found one at the north beach tip and it took me a while to hike out near it.  I snapped a few shots and it took off over the trees. They don’t stay long in the lagoon here.

I headed over to the fishing pier before leaving and caught the boat rush hour traffic.

A manatee made a brief appearance near the pier with only his snout coming up for air.

I found some of these cool sea creatures in the shallow water.

Pictures from around the park taken with my phone.

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Lots of teenage birds on the beach.

When I was at Fort Desoto in early September looking for the flamingoes I couldn’t help but notice the reddish egret adult and the juvenile (in all gray) that was learning to catch the fish from his parent. There was a handful of photographers standing along the water line waiting for the lone flamingo (that was far out in the water) to move around and feed. The reddish egrets walked right in front of us and started showing off. The juvenile appeared to have caught on quick and was catching as many fish as the parent.  They really put on a show and would not be ignored.

The juvenile sandwich terns were still screaming at the parents to bring them some fish.

This royal tern brought his young one a fish. The juvenile was probably old enough to get his own but won’t until the parent stops feeding him.

A lone lesser yellowlegs strutting around.

Terns flying high.

All the usual birds

I made a trip down to Fort Desoto Park in August to look for a bird. Not just any bird but one I had not seen before. A Wilson’s phalarope had been reported there for several days. I made my usual stop on the bridge going into the park and snapped the above with my phone.

I headed out to North beach and figured that even if I didn’t find the new bird it would be a great morning out.

The new bird looked a lot like the above but no, these were plain ole willets. They are common here along the beaches.

A great egret flies by.

After looking around for the new bird I walked north on the beach and found the white morph reddish egret. He’s a regular here if you can find him along the beach. He was dancing around looking for fish so even though I have a ton of pictures of him I took more (because you know, you can never have too many pictures of the same bird).

A cargo ship goes by.

Some black skimmers came flying by and one went skimming along checking out his reflection.

A cute little piping plover was walking around. He had quite a bit of bling on his legs.

A tricolored heron posed for me.

Snowy egrets lined up on the fishing pier. They were waiting for a fisherman to pull up bait fish.

A shot of the Sunshine Skyway bridge taken right into the sun.

Before leaving I stopped at the East Beach turnaround and shot the above with my phone. And no, I didn’t find that Wilson’s phalarope. There were several others there also looking for it and no one could find it again. I was right though, it was still a great morning out.

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Flamingo frenzy

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.

A lot of old birds and a new one

In early May I headed down to Fort Desoto Park for one last trip to look for migrating birds. I had heard there were some new birds there. The first bird I find is a hermit thrush, not a new bird for me since I had one in my backyard all winter.

I did find a new bird. This gray-cheeked thrush looked a little like the hermit thrush but was a little bigger. It looks like there were 2 of them at the park, one near the ranger’s house and one at the east beach turnaround.

The bay breasted warblers above are not new but I haven’t seen one since 2018. They were staying deep in the bushes and were hard to get.

I have only seen a golden wing warbler once before in 2016. This one was hanging out at the east beach turnaround and was pretty skittish. We (meaning me and about 20 other birders) were standing far away on the other side of the road waiting for him to show up.

There’s been a lot of scarlet tanagers (above is a female) and indigo buntings at the park this spring.

While we were waiting for the golden winged warbler to show up this female ruby throated hummingbird put on show for us. It was feeding on the dandelions and I was sitting on the ground so it was fairly easy to get a shot but we were still far away.

I walked quickly past this osprey sitting on the trail. I didn’t want to get pooped on.

It was a beautiful morning looking for birds. Spring migration was winding down but there was still a lot of birds there this morning.

SkyWatch Friday

Cloudy with a chance of rain


I made another trip to Fort Desoto Park in late April. I was hoping there would still be some migrating birds stopping by. There was a small chance of rain even though it looked like it would pour at any time.

The only migrating bird I found was a Cape May warbler. There were several of these cuties in the woods near the ranger’s house.

Heading to the gulf fishing pier.


The usual birds were at the fishing pier including a ruddy turnstone showing me his missing foot and great egrets.

The laughing gulls were putting on a show on top of the shelter on the pier.

I thought maybe the sun would break through but it stayed cloudy.

Pelicans hanging out on the jetti next to the pier.

A quick shot of a red breasted merganser that was still there. They spend the winter here but usually leave in March.

It was still a nice morning out even though it wasn’t very birdy or sunny.

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Old birds and a new one

It was still late April, just a few days after my trip to Fort Desoto to look for migrating birds. I had heard there were some different birds there so I headed back down to the park. The sun was just coming up and I stopped on the bridge going into the park to snap the above with my phone.  I knew even if I didn’t find any good birds it would still be a great day out.

The first thing I saw by the ranger’s house was lots of rose breasted grosbeaks.

There were also a lot of indigo buntings, both female and males.

A nice surprise was seeing the Louisiana waterthrush. It was only my 2nd time seeing one and the first time was in 2017, right here at the fountain.

This was my first Nashville warbler. I spent a good bit of time looking for him along with a lot of other people. He was found deep in the mangroves and would not come out. At first I got a picture of his feet, then his wing. Finally I was able to at least get a shot of his face.

An osprey flies by with something to cushion the nest.

Kiteboarders out on this beautiful breezy morning.

So far this year I had seen a handful of first sightings which was pretty good considering I was limping around all of this time with a terrible case of plantar fasciitis. In January I got the black scoter and greater scaup, both were easy “get out of the car and snap” pictures. In February I got the Pacific loon and the vesper sparrow. April was the great tailed grackle and the Nashville warbler. In May I got 4 new birds but more to come on those later.

SkyWatch Friday

Color in the bushes

It was a perfect morning to be at Fort Desoto Park. I had not been down to the park since early February and that was a quick trip to the pier to look for the Pacific loon. It was time for spring migration and I heard some birds had stopped by the park on their way north for the summer.

A quick sunrise stop at the East Beach turnaround is a must. I snapped these with my phone before heading to woods to look for some birds.

My foot was still bothering me in late April but I was determined to see some colorful birds. It’s a short walk from the parking lot to the mangrove bushes and trees behind the ranger’s house. I first saw both a female and male rose breasted grosbeak. They were both up high in the fig tree feasting on the tiny berries.

Baltimore orioles were abundant. It was easy to spot that bright orange bird.

I also found several Orchard orioles including a female (in yellow) and males (in brown). These guys were feeding on the mangroves along the road through the park. Everyone was pulling their car off the road and standing or sitting (me) on the ground watching the birds bounce around the huge mangrove bushes.

I only saw one blue grosbeak this spring migration season and he was hiding.

Of course northern parulas are easy to find.

There were several scarlet tanagers feeding in the fig tree by the flag pole.

This Cape May was posing for me.

There were a lot of indigo buntings this morning. I took a ton of pictures of them but it was hard not to say “Oh yeah, I see those in my backyard”.

It was a fun morning and felt good to be out with my fellow birders. There’s always a big crowd during spring migration here, even on the weekdays if there’s good fall out. That’s okay because there were more eyes to help look for things. I still didn’t find the Nashville warbler which would have been a first for me but my foot gave out after 2 hours so I headed home. I was back 2 days later though. More on that to come.

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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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