I headed over to the Dunedin causeway to look for the elusive black scoter. I had recently driven down to south St. Pete to look for him without any luck. Then a few days later I hear there is one right at the causeway nearby. The first thing I saw was this turkey vulture eating a fish that must have washed up on shore.
The dark clouds had started to move in so it was hard to tell what was floating around out there. The two above were a pair of cormorants.
Was this it? No, I realized as I cropped it up on my camera. Just a common loon but still a cool find.
There she was. The black scoter that I could finally add to my list. She was pretty far out and these are extremely cropped up but she counts! Not a pretty duck by any means. I would have probably thought it was a female lesser scaup if I wasn’t paying attention. She’s a fairly rare duck but there were two sightings in two weeks. Unless, she’s the same one that was down south that ended up here.
The rocky beach on the north side of the causeway was littered with these fish. This was at the end of December when red tide was creeping north up the beaches. Luckily it didn’t hang around too long and is gone.
I stopped at nearby Possum Branch Preserve for a quick walk since I hadn’t been since May. It’s too hot and void of birds in the summer and I missed fall migration due to my shoulder surgery. I was meeting Brett for lunch so I didn’t stay long but it was good to get out there and walk the trails.
The tiny beach at North Shore Park, near downtown St. Petersburg was not as welcoming as these pictures look. They had just raked the beach of the dead fish from red tide but the fish were still floating up on the beach. At least the smell wasn’t bad and it was such a beautiful Saturday morning. The storms were coming in a little early since this was right before lunch.
The resident hybrid great egret/great blue heron was lurking around, trying to find a live fish to eat. Most of the birds don’t eat the dead fish but a few do and they get sick. The bird rescues are all full of sick fish from the red tide.
I stopped at Crescent Lake Park on the way home for a quick walk to look for otters. No luck on the otters but I did see the above in the vegetation in the lake. A juvenile little blue heron, a great blue heron, a blue jay, a snowy egret and a green heron.
Red tide has hit the Tampa bay area like a freight train. The beaches are full of dead fish and sea life. This is the worse red tide episode that anyone can remember. We’ve had it bad twice since we’ve lived here, back in 2005 and 2018. The smell can be really bad so we stay away from the beaches as most locals do. The beaches near the hotels get cleaned up daily during this time in hopes that the tourists can get out on the beaches. So far the area has picked up over 3 million pounds of dead sea life. These pictures were taken on 2 separate trips to a small beach near downtown St. Pete. The first trip was in early July and had just spotty fish on the beach. The 2nd trip was later in mid-July and they had raked the beach the day before but it was already getting full of fish.
This is nothing compared to what the news is showing. This year it’s not just dead bait fish. It’s also dolphins, manatees, stingrays, goliath groupers and the birds get sick if they eat the dead fish. The seabird rescues are full of sick birds.
Red tide is an algae bloom that is a natural phenomenon with records dating back to the 1800’s but both pollution and climate change appear to be making them worse. My dad had pictures of the dead fish when it happened back in the early 50’s. After leaks were detected this spring from a major wastewater reservoir at Piney Point, south of Tampa, people think that’s what is making this year’s red tide so much worse.
This little beach is usually packed with people on a Saturday morning. The winds were blowing from the west, towards the bay so the smell wasn’t bad but there were few people hanging around. The water looked dark and icky so there won’t be anyone swimming in that for a while.
Florida Fish and Wildlife keep a chart that is updated daily. This was the most recent one. Luckily we live up in the north Tampa channels where the gray circles are and it hasn’t hit us. At least not yet.
A nice clean beach after Park supervisor Jim had scooped up all of the dead fish from the red tide algae bloom that lands on the beach during high tide. This morning in late October, Jim had told me that they had just cleaned up 6 miles of beaches, trying to keep it clean so the tourist can enjoy the beach. Even in late November, we were still getting some dead sea life but not as bad as it was in October.
It was still a beautiful morning even with a slight fishy smell.
The dog beach and the fishing pier were deserted that morning since no one wanted to be in the red tide water. It was like a ghost town.
I did see some dolphins coming out of the water from far across the bay.
There were few birds out on the beach at Fort Desoto when I visited during the peak of the red tide algae bloom. The few there were busy eating breakfast. Some were eating the dead sea life that had washed up on shore. I didn’t see any birds acting sick during this trip. Volunteers were out on the beach every day looking for sick birds that could be affected by eating too much of the dead fish. I kept yelling “Don’t eat that.” but they weren’t listening.
A cormorant and osprey were fighting over a lamp-post on the pier.
Even the crows were eating the dead fish. The park rangers kept raking up the shoreline but the dead fish kept washing up on shore.
Royal terns in the air.
The sandbar spit across the channel was full of birds.
Walking out on the beach this past Saturday morning seemed like any other Saturday morning. There wasn’t a smell (since the wind was coming from the east or other side of the park). At first glance the beach seemed clean but weirdly void of any people. As I got closer to the water, that’s when I saw the signs of red tide. Red tide is a naturally occurring thing that happens in the gulf when the algae blooms and releases toxins that kill the sea life. The last big red tide event happened here in 2005. It was devastating to the sea life that year. Beaches south of us in Sarasota and Fort Myers have had red tide issues since early this year. It just reached my beach in the last few weeks. I had heard mixed reviews on how bad the dead fish were at the beach so I headed out to see what was going on. The day before, the park rangers had cleaned up 6 miles of beaches full of dead fish but fish keep coming flowing back on the beach with the waves.
This was the first time I had seen so many different crabs on the beach along the water. These camouflage crabs will eventually make their way back into the water. The ranger told me that crabs in general are not as affected by the red tide but it was weird to see them on the beach.
Lots of different ones on the beach including this crab that had a barnacle living on it.
While our beach has had a mild case of red tide so far, many of the beaches south of us had record numbers of dead dolphins and manatees turning up this summer.