Sometimes good news and bad news can be the same thing. Such is the case with Fort Desoto in St. Petersburg, FL. The good news: it’s not very far from where we live. The bad news: it’s not very far from where we live. It is therefore fairly simple to rationalize that the grass can wait one more day to mow or that the stuff in the garage has been there about a hundred years already and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Thus it was on a recent Friday. It was scheduled to rain starting about noon so we decided to hustle over to the coast before the rain started. Weather forecasting in Florida has to be one of the easiest occupations on the planet. “Fifty percent chance of thunderstorms.” They’re right about —- fifty percent of the time. On this occasion, no rain in sight all day!
Fort Desoto is a true Florida playground. You can lay out on one of the best beaches in the country, hike in the woods, camp, fish, boat, bird watch, picnic, visit a historic site, bike, skate and go home tired but happy. The area was initially surveyed by Army engineers in 1849 and, along with nearby Egmont Key, was recommended for development of coastal defenses. One of the engineers was a Colonel Robert E. Lee who pretty soon had to worry about defenses other than just coastal. During the Civil War, the Union Army posted lookouts atop the Egmont Key lighthouse who reported any potential Confederate blockade runners. Near the turn of the 20th century, we got into a little disagreement with Spain and citizens of Tampa worried about how close Cuba was and demanded the government provide protection. Fort Desoto was eventually constructed by 1900 and a couple hundred troops stationed there to man the huge gun emplacements. The guns were never fired in combat and the U.S. abandoned the fort and used the area as a bombing range during World War II. The land was eventually sold to Pinellas County and in 1963 the current park was opened to the public. The area consists of a little over 1100 acres spread over five islands.
We have enjoyed launching a boat from the very nice boat ramp area here and fishing in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Wade fishing from several different spots within the park can also be very productive. There is always something going on in the natural world at Fort Desoto.
I hiked up the beach and found large numbers of gulls, terns and other shore birds. On the beach, there was a gentle breeze which made walking very comfortable. At least half of the time, I was sitting or prone on the cool sand trying to get a photo. I have to remember that water and digital cameras don’t mix!
Gini patiently waited for me and got in some reading time. She also discovered a couple of spots on her leg were missed when she applied insect repellant. These showed up the next day as nice red splotches and are now itching like crazy. The tourist pamphlets don’t include a description of “no-see-ums” for a reason! Bless her heart. The things she puts up with so I can play in the sand!
I also managed an injury in the line of duty. As I lay down in a grassy area near the shoreline to photograph a Sanderling, I evidently put my hand down on what I think must have been the opening to a Yellow Jacket ground nest. There was an immediate searing pain in my thumb and my arm up to the elbow became numb for a few minutes. The thumb swelled quickly and turned red. I whimpered for a while and was thankful we had brought the ice chest as some ice helped it feel better.
We survived the day and through great personal sacrifice offer a few images for y’all to gawk at.
– Reddish Egret stabbed at a fish in a tidal pool but missed.
– A Brown Thrasher found a cricket, appropriately, in a picnic area.
– Black-bellied Plovers transitioning from breeding colors (solid black belly) to non-breeding grayish underneath.
– A Ruddy Turnstone digs deep for lunch.
– Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Sandwich Tern cruise along the shoreline.
– Walkin’ and talkin’ on the beach, a pair of Willets enjoying the day.
– Sandwich Tern shaking water off its body after a plunge into the surf for a snack.
– A Yellow-crowned Night Heron almost ran into me as I was sitting still on the sand.
– Sanderling and Least Sandpiper visiting for the winter.
– Great Egret grabs a snack.
– A Little Blue Heron heads to the flats at low tide.
We had another wonderful day, together.
Check out the Gallery, “Fort Desoto – September 2012”, for more pictures.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.
Dina’s City Wildlife Adventures (A terrific place to enjoy quality images, Dina posts often from Fort Desoto.)