I had a rare Friday off in mid-April and headed to Fort Desoto to see if there were any birds migrating through. I was really too early since a storm was just starting to move through. It was drizzling on and off most of the morning but it was still fun to be out at the beach, even in bad weather.
Birds were diving in the water to catch the tiny fish near the pier.
The usual great blue herons and pelicans were flying close to the pier.
A lone frigatebird was hovering right over the pier. They usually stay high up in the sky but this one was right over my head. She just kept hovering in the wind. The above are not cropped at all. I felt like I could almost reach out and grab her.
Before leaving I hit the back trail and caught this nanday parakeet peeking out of a hole in a dead palm tree. I think they nest back here but I rarely go back this far in the summer since the bugs will attack no matter how much bug spray you use.
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.
I hadn’t been out on the beach for a long walk all summer. In late July, I headed out for a walk to get some fresh air and hopefully a cool breeze coming off the gulf. My main reason for going though was to look for skimmer babies. I hadn’t been out to see them in 2 years. I saw the above as I started my walk.
After a while I saw some skimmers soaring over the beach and finally made it to the skimmer nesting area.
The black skimmers nest right on the beach and there were a lot of babies at all different ages.
The baby skimmers have a tough time growing up. Besides sibling rivalry, there are so many other dangers. Gulls and crows will fly in and snatch the tiny ones if the parents aren’t guarding them. The beaches are full of tourist and the baby skimmers blend into the sand. They could get stepped on. Kids like to chase the birds and make them fly off which leaves the babies exposed. A really bad storm could flood the beach and the babies can’t fly off or swim yet. So many hurdles.
The view from the water. There are a group of volunteer bird stewards that rope off the nesting areas to keep people from stepping on the babies. They guard the area during the busy times and answer any questions that curious tourists may have about the skimmers. And yes, those are volleyball nets in the back so the babies could also get knocked out by a stray volleyball. I took a ton of pictures in the hour I was there so more to come on these cuties.
The rare hybrid great blue heron/great egret was sporting his breeding colors back in early April. I did not change or enhance the color in his face, only cropped the pictures up. He looks more like a great egret now but they have bright green around the beak during breeding season. Great blue herons get a little blue around the eyes. He or she looks like he’s ready for a mate. I didn’t see him the last 2 times I was at the pier so maybe he’s on a nest.
Snowy egrets were stealing bait fish from the fishermen. The cormorant scored a big one for lunch.
Showing off on the light post.
Pelicans and frigatebirds were flying by.
Out past the fishing pier, the utility tower had broken off during Hurricane Irma. The broken tower is still laying below the water. People started swimming out to it and the lifeguards had to swim out and yell for them to come back to shore. Not knowing if they were strong swimmers, the lifeguards wouldn’t want them to get out too far into the shipping channels where the big boats come in.
My first masked boobies. We were far away on a boat headed for the Dry Tortugas. They nest on this small sand bar out in the middle of nowhere. The sandbar is protected so we could not get to close. Lucky I had my 200mm lens with me and ready to shoot as we went by. These are extremely cropped.
Another first sighting was the sooty terns. These birds were flying in between a sandbar and the Dry Tortugas. Several flew close to the boat.
Not a first but still cool to see. Frigatebirds were circling overhead as we docked at the Tortugas. A juvenile on the left and a female on the right.
Then the entire family with dad on the left with the red chest flew by.
Thousands of birds were on one end of the island. That section was closed off since many of the birds were nesting.
Another first, a chuck-will’s-widow on the ground. I have to give credit to several other birders who had found him right before I walked up. They were looking for the Kentucky warbler and found him instead.
He was hiding under some bushes. I could just make out his face through the branches.
I did find the Kentucky warbler, another first for me. They told me to look for a bird that looks like a hooded warbler but doesn’t have as much black on the head.
Heading back onto the boat for lunch, the frigatebirds were still cruising close to the boat.
Several blue grosbeaks were flying around inside the fort but they were very skittish.
My 5th new bird of the day was the brown noddies. There were a lot of these flying in between the closed off end of the island and old pilings next to the fort. They are part of the tern family.
More noddies flying in.
A male frigatebird flies close by as the boat was leaving the island.
I’m going to bore you with my tons of vacation pictures. Brett and I recently spent a week in Key West. It was our first time on the island. We had a great time and I lugged my camera stuff everywhere. We took the all day boat trip out to the Dry Tortugas on the first day of our trip. It was a 2 and a half hour boat ride each way. The boat felt a little crowded with close to 200 people on it. Once we got to the island and everyone was spread out on that big island, it felt like we almost had the place to ourselves. Lots more pictures to come.
An oystercatcher couple were feeding along the shoreline right when I walked out on the beach.
Upclose. He was digging pretty deep.
A dowitcher also digging for food.
It was dig deep day at the beach. Even the ibis were doing it.
A snowy egret cruising for tiny fish.
Turtle nests were everywhere at the park. I’ve never seen so many nests there before. The rangers keep them roped off and has even relocated a nest if the turtle lays the eggs right in the middle of a main tourist area. Taken with my Iphone. Update – on 7/20, the park reported having 86 turtle nests there. This is a record!
A busy day for some photographers. I think they were shooting a great blue heron. When you fly down from across the country, you’re out there concentrating and getting the most for your day. Kind of like what I did when I was in Arizona for vacation. Every day was packed. It’s nice to know I can stop by here for a leisure stroll and get pictures if I happen to see something fun. The guy in the bright blue shirt is the famous photographer, Moose Peterson. I have his book Captured and love it. I stayed away from his group since I knew they were busy but I have chatted with him before in the parking lot a few years ago.
Before I left the park, I stopped by the fishing pier to see if anything interesting was going on. There’s always snowy egrets chasing after dropped bait fish.
A great blue heron staring down at me from the shelter.
Someone had asked me how I had gotten the close up pictures of the bird’s face looking down at me. I took the above with my Iphone. There are several rain shelters on the pier and the birds hang out on the roof. You can walk right up to the edge of the roof and they stare down at you. They want to know if you’re going to throw them some food or fish.
Crazy cormorant on the light post was giving me a big yawn.
Overhead, a frigatebird flies by.
“Sailing takes me away…”
Off into the wild blue yonder! The view from the end of the pier.
Another perfect hot sunny morning at Fort Desoto park.