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.
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.
Willet, laughing gull, oystercatcher, young blue heron and cormorants can all be found along the water at Davis Islands, a small island next to downtown Tampa.
Loggerhead shrikes are most prevalent there. They were in the bushes next to the boat ramp, in the trees that lined the yacht basin and on the fence that lined the airport. The ones on the fence were a parent and young one that was still being feed.
Mangroves line the yacht basin and the sea grapes in were in full bloom.
At first glance, there aren’t a lot of birds at the south end of Davis Islands where the small private airport and yacht basin meet up. There are lots of bicycles, joggers, walkers, and dog walkers along the road, most are not paying attention to the birds. People look at me like “Why is that girl staring up in the tree?” When you look along the shore line and up in the trees you see lots of things.
Sanibel Island has a reputation for having a lot of shells on the beach. People come to visit to go shell hunting. We must have been there during a down time because all of the beach looked like the above. Mostly small broken shells. I guess all of the good ones get taken during the summer or you have to be there very early in the morning right after a storm. I did manage to find a few small ones though. The sanderlings and black bellied plovers spent a lot of time digging through the shells for tiny critters to eat.
The willet wants to know who left their shoes on the beach. I told him they weren’t mine. I don’t think he believed me.
Why would anyone go hang out next to a power plant? Because they use the water in the bay to cool the towers. The warm water comes out in the channel and keeps the manatees warm during the winter. Hundreds of manatees spend their winters in this channel. The power plant built a dock for people to stand on and watch the manatees come up for air.
One of the manatees near the dock.
For extra enjoyment, they hire sharks to jump out of the water and entertain us. (Just kidding, this was the first time we had seen this here before).
Little fiddler crabs and willets hang out on the shoreline under the dock.
Overhead, an osprey was gathering sticks for a nest.
We made our annual winter trip to the Tampa Electric Plant to see the manatees in late February. Even thought it’s been a warm winter, the water in the bay has been cold enough for the manatees to congregate in the warmer waters next to the plant. There were tons of manatees in the water but I think this time there were more people than manatees.
Most of the marbled godwits were napping when I got to Fort Desoto early on a Saturday morning. I did see one still feeding across the marsh. I watched him for a while. Popping tiny crabs in his beak. After about 10 minutes, he stopped digging around for crabs and started preening his feathers. It was time to move on.