Hanging with a crabby curlew

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I was standing on the beach taking pictures of a ruddy turnstone when the long-billed curlew flew right in front of me.

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I never get this lucky. He was looking at me like “I’m ready for my photo shoot.”

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He already had sand all the way up his beak so he’s been feeding.

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I sat down on the sand and watched him dig.

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Success.  A little sandy crab came out of the hole.

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After swallowing that one, he continued to dig.

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This one he flipped up in the air like popcorn shrimp.

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Still digging. What a pig!

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He seemed to want to show me this one up close. He started walking toward me with it in his beak.

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He flipped it up to swallow it. After this crab, he started wandering off down the beach so I left him to his feeding.

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This ruddy turnstone wanted to get in on the crab action as well. He walked right in front of me showing off his prize.

Another Saturday morning on Fort Desoto beach.

Shorebirds at Fort Desoto

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Willet in the early morning sun.

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Willet (in breeding feathers) eating what looks like is a shrimp.

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The long billed curlew has been out every morning making the rounds for a couple of months now. I followed him for a half an hour hoping he would dig up a crab but no luck.

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Black bellied plover hopping off to somewhere.

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Marbled godwits stopping their feeding to give me a glance.

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Laughing gull flying in to join the crowd.

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“Hey, where is everybody going?”

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A bald eagle flying around spooked the shorebirds.

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No one out at the beach this early in the morning.

Just a few shorebirds hanging around Fort Desoto on an early Saturday morning.

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Fort Desoto on a sunny weekend in January

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Common tern, I think. It’s a forster’s tern (Big thanks to Seagull Steve for ID). His beak is in between summer and winter color and I think that’s what confused me. Forsters are fairly rare in my neighborhood so this is even better.

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A few willets trying to sleep.

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How do they sleep balancing on one leg? You would think they would sit down on the sand.  They try to sleep right on the shoreline and there’s always people walking up and down disturbing them.

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Long billed curlew with a crab. I haven’t seen him in a long time. He was behind the sanctuary ropes so this is highly cropped.

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Another trip to Fort Desoto to check on Mom owl. The photogs call her Winky since she always has one eye half closed.

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Trying to catch the big stingray swimming around the pier. It was pretty close to shore. That’s why they tell you to do the “stingray shuffle”. So the stingrays will scoot away when you shuffle your feet in the water. They don’t stick around when there is movement in the water. After seeing two grown men turn blue and tear up from the pain of being stabbed by one, I really do the shuffle when I’m walking in the water.

Mid January and it was beautiful and sunny outside. Can’t beat living in Florida in the winter. Although, I think I had a lightweight jacket on that morning. It’s nice to wear a long sleeve tshirt every once in a while.  Just a few things I saw on my morning walk around Fort Desoto.

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Birds and birders at Fort Desoto

The resident long billed curlew was prancing around in front of a large group of birders. He’s almost too tame. He was walking so close to people that they were backing up to take pictures of him

Piping plover staring at something.

An osprey flew close to this huge flock of birds and spooked them into flying around. It was mostly laughing gulls, skimmers, royal terns and sandwich terns. I know these birds need their rest but it was a nice sight to see.

A small sampling of the large flocks of birds resting on beach. I didn’t notice until I got home and cropped the shot that I caught a fish jumping up in the back of the picture.

Just a few of the birders that were there on a recent Saturday morning. They were enjoying the big group of birds resting on the low tide spit in the north beach lagoon.

The above could be: a) male yellow warbler (common here lately and has the brown stripes on the chest.), b) Cape May warbler (one was sighted minutes earlier, adult male winter has the same colors) or c)something totally different.  Several seasoned birders there had different opinions on what this was.

I was told this was a first year male common yellowthroat warbler.

This was another one that was with the one above. I think both are same.

I almost didn’t go. I had been to Fort Desoto several weeks in a row with little luck. I decided to try one last time for that jaeger and I had several friends that would be there on an audubon walk. I headed first to the gulf fishing pier and found the jeager pretty quick. After taking a few hundred shots of it, I headed to the woods to catch up with the group.  The woods didn’t have a large assortment of little birds. Just the few above. Then we headed up to the north beach marsh where tons of birds were resting. It turned out to be a beautiful morning even though I didn’t get too many migrating birds.

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Eating crabs

“Here comes some more photographers. I guess I should put on a show for them. I am a little hungry anyway.”

“Wait, don’t take the shot. I’m choking here.”

“Got another one. This is way too easy.”

“I feel like an owl twisting my head this way.”

“Yummy, I wish I had some butter for these crab legs.”

“Down the hatch”

“Hey, what about me? I got a crab too.” says the tiny Wilson’s plover.

The long billed curlews at the North Beach sanctuary at Fort Desoto have a reputation for being very accommodating if they’re out in front of the ropes. A large part of this section of the beach is roped off to allow the shorebirds to rest and nest. Sometimes they wander out of the roped off area to feed in the lagoon area and you can see them a little closer. We all sat down on the sand and spent a half hour watching this curlew dig for crabs right in front of us. He wandered pretty close to where we sitting for a while.  He must have pulled up 10 crabs while we sat there. Eventually, he headed over to the other side of the lagoon. I wonder if the crabs pinch the inside of the curlew as it goes down. Those shorebirds must have some tough insides.