The best spot in the Tampa bay area to look for shells is Honeymoon Island, out past the Dunedin causeway. Thanksgiving morning we heading over for a quick walk before the cooking began. It started off cold but warmed up quickly as the sun kept rising. The tide was super low and you could walk out pretty far in ankle deep water. I love mornings like this. Sunny and cool, low tide and very few people out.
Out on the nature trail at Honeymoon Island, there had been a prescribed burn recently. I didn’t see a date on the sign but green was already starting to sprout.
There are a lot of dead trees all along the trail now. The pine trees seem to dying quickly. This trail use to be shady but now it’s mostly in the sun (although there wasn’t much sun the morning I was there).
I saw very few osprey. Years ago I would walk down the trail and see 20 to 30 osprey. Most of the nests were gone as well. They should change the name of the trail from Osprey trail to Dead Tree trail.
There was still a lot of color though. It was a quiet day. No sign of the eagles or owls. Only the 3 osprey I saw and a few catbirds. Maybe I just hit it on a tough day.
A lone ring billed gull braving the wind on the beach.
A few things on the beach including a large sea sponge in the first shot. The horseshoe crab and starfish were still alive and the tide was coming in fast so they would be gone soon.
A few people were out trying to surf but there really wasn’t any big waves. For a while I watched them sit on their boards. This guy tried once but didn’t stay up long. There just wasn’t enough wind in the gulf.
I came out to Honeymoon Island to walk on the nature trail in the woods but stopped by the beach before leaving. It was drizzling on and off so there were very few people there except for the ones bobbing up and down on their surfboards. Even on a cold windy day it was fun to be out on the beach.
There was a Hudsonian Godwit reported at Honeymoon Island in early fall. Since I had never seen one before, I headed out hoping for the best. I was totally prepared to spend the morning looking and coming up empty-handed since that is what usually happens. This morning was different. There he was, strutting around in front of a handful of photographers. He was feeding right along the shoreline. They are very similar to the common marbled godwit but are slightly smaller and have a slightly different coloration. The beak looks the same though.
Other birds close by were a swallow on a sea oat and a killdeer in the parking lot.
True to its name, the Osprey Trail on Honeymoon Island is known for having a lot of Osprey along the trail. There are many nests along the trail and when I was there in late January, the osprey were working on refreshing the old ones.
Both eagles were sitting in a tree near the nest which was a bad sign. They were sitting on eggs earlier so something must have happened to cause them to abandon the nest. They might try again. It was still early.
Towhees, catbirds and yellow rumped warblers were all along the trail.
Lots of vultures here.
New growth in some of the prescribed burn areas.
This guy walked right in front of me on the trail.
I hadn’t been to Honeymoon Island since last spring. I wanted to see if the osprey were nesting yet. Honeymoon Island is a barrier island north of Clearwater Beach. In the 1940’s the island was a place known for people to spend their honeymoon in the cottages on the island. Once World War 2 started people stopped coming to the island and later the cottages were torn down.
Over the years Honeymoon Island state park has had many controlled burns on the trail. It keeps the area from over growing and keeps uncontrolled fires from getting out of hand such as a lightning strike. Most of the trees grow back but a few of them along the trail are dead. They leave the trees up to keep the park in a natural state. Many of the dead trees have osprey, owl or woodpecker nests. It gives the park a different eery feel.
At the same park is a beautiful beach. The morning I was there in late January it was cloudy and windy. The beach was almost empty except for a few shell collectors. It was fun to see the beach in a different light.
It was too windy and choppy to kayak. They were all stacked up waiting for a sunny day.
Even a dark, cloudy, windy, cold morning at the beach is still a great morning.
And this eastern towhee. I don’t see these very often.
Catbirds are very common here.
It’s common to see a kestrel high up in a tree.
The eagle is on the nest. I’ve heard that the rangers have reported there are eggs. I could just barely see her head sticking up. I did not see the other parent that morning.
A downy woodpecker hanging around.
I saw this juvenile bald eagle way out in the lagoon across from the nature center. The tide was very low and the oyster beds were exposed.
It’s not fun to go on a hike in early December and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I had two coats of bug repellant on with high DEET content. I still came home with 15 bug bites. They were biting my hands, my ears, my face. I stopped and sprayed my hair since they were dive bombing my head. Usually if I keep moving they don’t bother me too much but they were chasing after me as I walked very quickly down the trail. We need a good cold spell to get rid of these guys (like days with a high under 50). It was 85 degrees.