Honeymoon Island beach before the tourists get here.

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After walking the nature trail at Honeymoon Island State Park, I headed over to the beach to see if there were any shorebirds hanging around.

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The usual birds were there: marbled godwits, royal terns and dowitchers.

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The waves were splashing over the jetties. It was fun to be out in one of the last cool windy days before the heat sets in (and the tourists).

SkyWatch Friday

A beach in downtown St. Pete?

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A few monk parakeets were flying around the parking lot.

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It was low tide on the beach and very few people were there so the shorebirds were napping.  Although, something kept spooking them and they would all take off flying in a circle and then come land in the same spot.

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There were two white pelicans floating around in the area around the beach. They were hanging out with a bunch of cormorants. They stayed pretty far out in the water so these were all extremely cropped.

I rarely go the tiny beach next to downtown St. Pete. It’s usually pretty busy and there’s a big public swimming pool in the parking lot.  I was in the area so I stopped and talk a quick walk in the sand.  It was fairly early in the morning so there wasn’t anyone on the beach. The paved trail along the side of it was packed with people walking, jogging, biking and walking their dogs. It was a normal weekend rush hour traffic on the trails.

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Skimmer babies growing up

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How comfortable does this look? He was trying to sleep in this soft sand.

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This one was still getting protection from the parent.

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Do you think they realize those wooden decoys are not real?

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“Hey, a parent’s gotta eat too.”

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The baby above was hiding under the Gatorade bottle.

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“Hey lady, can you open this bottle? I’m thirsty.”

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“No? Then I’ll just hide behind it.”

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Scrawny bottom. This little one was so cute standing like that.

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“Someone turn the light out. I’m sleepy.”

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“I caught one this big.”

No, I did not pick up trash. I was not going to cross the ropes even for trash. It will get picked once the birds are all gone. Someone might have left it sitting on their blanket and the wind blew it over. There were a few trash items in the roped off area. These were a few of the older babies that were born first. They are probably about 3-4 weeks old when I took these in mid July. Soon they’ll be walking over to the water and practicing skimming. I’m going to try to get over there when they are all much older.

Camera Critters

A variety of flying things in downtown Lakeland

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I quickly found the mandarin duck couple at Lake Mirror in downtown Lakeland. I had heard the city had received two mandarin couples for the lake. I only found one of the couples but did not know there were two until later after my visit.

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They were napping while I was there but something up in the sky caused them to look up for a few minutes. Hawks and eagles sometimes cruise through there so they might have seen something high up in the sky.

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Lake Mirror has a small floating deck in the middle of the lake which is probably used for seasonal decorations. The two fake owls are there to keep the real birds off the deck but you can see how much the real birds pay attention.

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I headed over to Lake Morton, a couple of blocks away to see if any of the swans or geese were nesting yet. I found this funny looking mallard. I know he’s saying “Stop staring at my funny feathers on my head.”

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There were two swan couples building nests.

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The usual “limpkin with a snail” shot.

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The black swans were posing for me.

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And staying busy preening since mating season was starting.

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Snowy egret in the early morning.

Camera Critters

Shorebirds on a yucky morning

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The light birds are sanderlings. I think the darker birds are dunlins. They were all sleeping on the sand.

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The little beach was full of shorebirds sleeping.

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A car drove up and spooked them.

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Marbled godwits trying to sleep. The one in front is yawning.

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For the most part, these birds were not moving. They were taking advantage of the dark cloudy morning to sleep in.

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A handful of skimmers came by looking for a spot to land.

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Ring-billed gull towering over a few common terns.

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Black bellied plovers watching me.

This tiny little beach at the end of the causeway on the Clearwater side of the bay is a catch 22. If it’s sunny and warm outside then the beach is full of people and the shorebirds are pretty scarce. They go further down the water in front of the water treatment plant. If it’s a cloudy day, then not many people are on the beach and the shorebirds take it over. But the light is bad so it’s harder to get decent pictures. You can drive on this little beach so people like to launch their wave runners here. The early morning I stopped, there were only two other cars around so the beach was full of shorebirds sleeping. Tons of ruddy turnstones, semipalmated plovers, sanderlings and dunlins covered the beach. There were a few ring-billed gulls, godwits and dowitcherss mixed in as well. I didn’t see anything really rare there. I was hoping to find a few horned grebes which hung out there last winter but it’s still early.

Beach birds at Fort Desoto

These birds were doing what I should have been doing, sleeping in instead of getting up early to take pictures of birds sleeping.

This little black bellied plover had the right idea. At least he was trying to sleep. But too many photographers kept walking by taking his picture, including me.

Even the oystercatcher was snoozing. Although, it must be tough trying to sleep with one eye open. In all fairness, they were sleeping in a high traffic area of the beach.

As I’m standing there watching the oystercatcher, a great blue heron flies in right in front of me.

This snowy egret looked sleepy as well. He was actually scratching an itch at this point.

As I’m snapping the snowy above, an oystercatcher flies right by.

It was a beautiful morning near the end of October. Still pretty warm. I headed down to Fort Desoto and there were plenty of other photographers around. Most of the birds were trying sleep early in the morning so I didn’t stay long at the north beach. Instead, I headed to the woods to try to find some little birds. I think all I found were pine warblers. For all of you northern bloggers who are already getting snow, you should think about a trip to the beach soon. Sunny and 70 degrees here.

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Also, check out more birds at Paying Ready Attention for

Sunset on the Courtney Campbell Causeway – Skywatch Friday

Lots of shorebirds on the causeway. I think these are dunlins (in the middle), sandpipers (smaller lighter ones close to the front) and a least sandpiper (on the left with yellow legs).

That’s a semipalmated plover standing at attention, staring at me.

Black bellied plover on a rock.

Off they go.

The sun going down on Tampa bay. Taken with my new Sigma 10-20mm lens.

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Sunsets in January can be perfect. The air is cool and clear. No heat or haze to mess up the picture. I have recently purchased a new lens, Sigma 10-20mm, as a Christmas present to myself. Whenever I’m out in the woods or beach, I keep thinking to myself “I wish I had a wide angle lens to capture this.” Finally, after my trip to South Dakota without one, I bought it. Now I guess I’ll have to head back up for another visit to my sister. I was out running errands on a recent weekend and stopped along the Courtney Campbell Causeway to get some sunset pictures. Actually, I think this was New Year’s eve.  The rocks along the causeway were filled with shorebirds getting ready for bed. Those pictures I took with my 500mm. I didn’t want to disturb them. Then I headed for the little beach to get the sun going down. It was filled with tourists getting their family pictures with the sunset in the background. I guess I’m pretty lucky, I live 10 minutes from this spot.

Check out more pictures at Skywatch Friday