Early spring migration at Fort Desoto

It was a beautiful morning when I got to Fort Desoto Park in early April. I stopped by the East Beach turnaround to get a shot of the sun coming up over the bay. I had high hopes for seeing some migrating birds that has stopped by but it was still a little too early for spring migration. Last April we had a really slow migration with hardly any birds stopping by so I’m hoping we don’t have a repeat.

A pileated woodpecker was the first bird I saw, high up in a tree.

A hooded warbler and a black and white warbler with a snack. Normally I would be excited but I had  just seen both of these in my backyard.

There were at least 3 prothonotary warblers in a big bush in front of the water fountain being very cooperative. It was the only other migrating bird we saw that morning. There were a lot of people out looking. Again, it was still early in the month.

An opsrey was eating a fish in the tree behind the prothonotary warbler. I had to take a shot before heading to the gulf fishing pier for a quick walk before heading home.

I got to the fishing pier and saw the reddish egret that has the white wings fly by.

There were a lot of birds at the little beach next to the fishing pier. The usual gulls, terns and oystercatchers.  But there was something else that looked different.

A rare kittiwake was sitting there with the other birds. After a while I realized a ton of people were at the pier taking pictures of him as well. This is only my 2nd kittiwake sighting. Back in 2013 I was able to see the immature one at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge fishing pier. I had heard there was one seen in 2017 and this was the 3rd sighting recorded in Pinellas county ever. People were phoning and texting friends and by noon a big crowd had formed.  Everyone gave him space and stayed off the beach area. They even stopped tourists from walking through the area. Twice he took off and flew down the pier and came back on the beach.

Laughing gulls were fighting over stolen bait fish (the one on the left has one in his beak).

A boat cruises by the lighthouse on Egmont Key.

SkyWatch Friday

Dancing red and pink

I found one of the reddish egrets feeding in a small lagoon out on the beach at Fort Desoto in mid-March. It wasn’t too hard to find. There were several other photographers already there. He was dancing around looking for fish and was quite entertaining for a while. They use their wings to cast a shadow on the water so they can see the liffle fishies better. The color on their faces are brighter this time of year during mating season.

I started heading north on the beach and saw another one fishing. His beak wasn’t quite as pink as the first one but he was still beautiful.

Several red breasted mergansers were also fishing and one got too close to the egret. The egret did his best eagle imitation and the merganser scooted off.

It’s easy to spend all morning watching these guys dancing around in the water.

I eventually pulled myself away from the egrets and headed for a long walk up the beach. It was super low tide and you could walk out forever. The beach looks pink when the tide is this low (assuming from the algea in the sand).

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Osprey day at Fort Desoto Park

I was up and out the door while it was still dark, heading for Fort Desoto Park. The sun was just coming up when I got there so I stopped at the East Beach turnaround to snap a few pictures with my phone before heading to the beach to look for birds.

I was out on the beach taking pictures of the reddish egret when I noticed this osprey coming in toward the beach with some dead branches in his talons. Looks like he was heading for a nest.

There are so many osprey at the park now. They are everywhere and are either adding to the nest or sitting on eggs. The one above had a half eaten fish and was flying in circles around me. It think he was being chased by another osprey.

This one was being harassed by a mockingbird while trying to eat his fish.

There are two different nest fairly close to each other and they were both screaming non-stop.

This  nest is on top of the old smoke stack. She was constantly screaming as well.

Hopefully there will be lots of baby osprey soon.

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Fort Desoto Park in early March

I hadn’t been down to Fort Desoto Park since the middle of December so I was due for a trip in early March. The first stop at the park was North beach to look for shorebirds and reddish egrets. Most of the shorebirds were scarse this morning but I did see a cute little piping plover.

I was trying to focus on the laughing gull flying with something in his beak and realized you can see the Don Cesar Hotel far away on St. Pete beach. It’s hard to miss that big pink hotel.

This willet had a great snack and was trying to hide it from the other willets.

 

One last shot of the old bay pier and the old iconic yellow bait shop. It’s all being torn down now and replaced with a new pier.

Some of the shorebirds that were hanging around the small beach next to the big fishing pier. The willets and sanderlings were trying to sleep. At some point something spooked them and off they went before flying in a circle and landing back again. That common tern had been taking a bath and flew into the sleeping guys to catch a nap.

It was windy on the fishing pier and the usual birds were having trouble with their hair.

Someone caught a fish although it looks too small to eat.

I was out on the end of the fishing pier and could see this great egret with a big snack in his beak,

Low tide in late December

I headed down to Fort Desoto Park in late December hoping to see the huge flocks of white pelicans. No luck on North beach but I found a small flock of them way out sitting on a spoil island. The first shot is zoomed in and cropped up. Later I was walking on the beach and a lone one flew over my head.

I saw the above kingfisher flying around out in the North Beach marsh, diving for fish.

A few dunlins were feeding in the shallow end.

I love this time of year when it’s sunny and cool and the tide is really low. You can walk out forever before you get to ankle deep water.

Watching the ships go by from the fishing pier.

I stopped by Crescent Lake Park on the way home to look for otters and found a pair of white pelicans instead.

A few other birds at the lake were a wood stork and a lesser scaup with a snack in his beak. I think he had a crawfish.

SkyWatch Friday

Breakfast with the oystercatchers

In mid-December I was out on the beach at Fort Desoto and found 2 oystercatcher couples. The first couple I found was just standing around, preening. Then a few feet away I saw the 2nd couple. It was super low tide and they were digging around in the wet sand for critters to eat. Eventually the other couple started feeding as well. I just plopped down on the sand and watched them feed for a while.

They were all busy pulling little worms out of the sand. It was nice that there wasn’t anyone walking this stretch of the beach to scare them away. I’m sure people were coming through as it got later in the morning.

This ring billed gull was keeping an eye on me.

Early morning on the beach.

I got to Fort Desoto Park after the sun had come up but it was hiding behind a big cloud. I was able to catch the orange glow behind the cloud though, right over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I was hoping to find the big flock of white pelicans who had been hanging out at the park for weeks now but I could only find 2 out at the north end. 

I know I have a million pictures of the reddish egret but I can’t help stopping and snapping a few more when he’s dancing around for his fish. He was hanging out in a tide pool and was putting on a show.

A few other birds on the beach was a turkey vulture cleaning up the beach eating a dead fish and a great blue heron strutting around.

I was walking on a back trail hoping to find the white pelicans in the back lagoon and saw this eagle flying in to a tree right in front of me. He landed in a dead tree which was good since he would have been hidden in the leaves if the the tree was still alive. He stayed for a few seconds and grabbed a branch before taking off. Assuming he was heading back to the nest across the park.

Pelicans flying across the clouds.

I stopped by the fishing pier before leaving but it was quiet. I couldn’t help but snap the cormorant drying his wings and then I noticed this crow trying to eat a piece of paper. He played with it for a few minutes but finally realized he couldn’t eat it so he dropped it in the water. Ugh. More trash.

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The beach at low tide

It’s not often we see whimbrels around here. The pair at Fort Desoto have been very accommodating when you can find them. They were right when you walk out on the beach the morning I found them in late October, feeding along the grass line before the sand.

It was extreme low tide and the buoys were exposed. The ruddy turnstones were picking tiny crabs off of them for breakfast.

This willet also found some breakfast.

The little tiny shorebirds are so cute creeping around in the muck. A snowy plover and a sanderling.

Skimmers cruising by.

Something spooked the birds way out on the sandbar.

There’s something magical about being out on the beach at low tide early in the morning. There aren’t many people out and you can walk forever and feel like you are out in the middle of the gulf.

Dead Australian pine tree graveyard on the beach. The stumps have all been smoothed down by the water and have been bleached out by the sun.

My Corner of the World

A great morning for beautiful birds

I headed down to Fort Desoto at the end of August not expecting much. As I headed out to the north beach I was greeted by a few spoonbills. I rarely see them here and in fact it was probably last fall when they were in the same spot. I wonder if these are the same ones that have stopped by for a rest.

I found a few red knots hanging out with one of the resident reddish egrets.

A red knot still in breeding feathers.

The best part of the morning was seeing an uncommon avocet. It wasn’t really a surprise though. I had heard 2 were here but wasn’t counting on actually finding it so it was a bonus to walk up on it. I didn’t see the other one although it may have been hiding in the sanctuary close by. There were 3 that hung out here last fall and I was able to catch those on 2 visits.

A young skimmer fluffing up his feathers.

A dunk and a catch.

Looking over through the sea oats over to Egmont Key in the distance. If you look close in the right hand side, you can see an osprey sitting on a branch on the beach.

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Fishing on the fishing pier

One of the fun things about walking around on the fishing pier besides fishing, is watching the birds steal the bait fish. The snowy egrets get in squabbles over the tiny fish.

All lined up, waiting for someone to pull up a bait net full of fish.

This great blue heron had already eaten and was wiping his beak on the light.

Cruising by with the big boats in the background.

The guy who owned this rolling bucket was not paying attention. He had some fish already in there but left it open and walked farther down the pier to pull up another net full of bait fish. The snowy egrets and great egrets were having a feast until he came back.