It’s that time of year in Florida. Our severe winter weather has abated and the air and water temperatures are emitting their siren song attracting great throngs to the coasts to enjoy white sand beaches, emerald green seas and shady woods for siestas. It’s the time of crowds pushing each other out of the way to gorge themselves on whatever they can find to eat, drinking their fill and fueling that age-old “urge to merge” which is overtaking their hormonal instincts.
Yes, it’s bird migration in full swing.
Huh? What did you think I was talking about?
This will be a two-part series on our recent visit (April 15) to Fort De Soto in St. Petersburg, Florida. We have written about exploring this area before. (See the previous posts: Fort De Soto – July and Sunrise, Surf, Storms.) There will, undoubtedly, be future articles on this location. It’s one of those places which can be overwhelming for birders, photographers, tourists or just casual visitors. Located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, it boasts award-winning beaches, has one of the finest boat launching facilities in the area, woods to explore, outstanding fishing and sensational sunrises and sunsets.
This post will take you along our paths in the woods. It’s quite a wonderful sensation to be surrounded by tall trees and dense undergrowth yet still be able to hear the pounding surf as the beach is only 50 yards away. In the second part, we’ll stroll along the beach and see what we can find in the sand, water and sky.
Due to its location along a major migration route, unique position on the coast, mix of hardwood and pine woods and freshwater ponds, it is a major stopover spot for migratory birds in spring and fall. We planned to spend the day searching for warblers in the woods. I have no self-discipline. If I get that close to saltwater, I will eventually wind up in the stuff. I can’t help myself. Warm, salty water is meant to wallow in and wade along pushing your toes in the soft sand and having crabs and rays scuttle out of your way and watching the mullet jump and……but I digress. We wandered the beach and marsh areas as well as explored the woods. We spent the whole day there – and loved every second!
A popular spot to locate our migrant friends is a wooded area adjacent to a beach. There are a few mulberry trees and the park has placed a freshwater fountain here. The trees were fruiting and the birds were eating. It’s Florida, so the insect-loving crowd was also happy. At times, this little area can contain hundreds of warblers and other birds in a single tree. Today, we had to hunt a bit but were rewarded with some beautiful sights. The adjacent picnic areas have scattered oak trees which are also quite productive. It’s easy to get a case of “warbler neck” after bending your head back all day to scan the tops of trees.
Hope you enjoy our winged tourists returning from South and Central America. They will soon be building nests further north, raising their young and returning to the woods and beaches of Florida this fall.
Male Hooded Warblers were fairly abundant today. Most were busy looking for insects on the ground but I found this fellow up on a tree branch where a warbler belongs!
The Gray-headed Catbird was well represented. I counted seven in one tree. This one can’t hide the fact that he has been enjoying mulberries for breakfast. Those purple stains in his feathers will be a challenge to get clean.
Bright blue Indigo Buntings were in the trees and on the ground gorging on anything that resembled a seed. They made for a very colorful and lively walk in the woods as they never seemed to hold still.
Speaking of bright, a Yellow-throated Warbler was quite curious about me standing under his tree. That throat was like a beacon as he hopped up and down every branch sucking up insects as he went.
The Northern Mockingbird may not be a migrant, but he sure knows where to find insects. I was leaning against a tree to rest in the shade when this one flew in to gather insects from a hedge of lantana. He was about four feet away and was oblivious to my presence.
Prairie Warblers provided a yellow exclamation point to the trees and bushes. Most of these birds are so intent on fueling up for their long flights that they almost don’t notice the human stalking them with a camera.
As usual, I’m easily distracted. Giant Swallowtail butterflies were quite busy feeding at the lantana. These were as large as some of the birds we were chasing!
Sometimes, your wings just get tired of flapping and if you can find a nice paved sidewalk heading north, why not walk for awhile? This Blue Grosbeak has the appearance of a bird who won’t put up with any nonsense.
The small Common Ground Dove is another non-migratory bird enjoying a day at the beach. This species has been in decline throughout the southeast. They have a distinctive cooing much different than the longer call of the Mourning Dove.
A lizard on a tree.
After watching a Nuthatch running down a tree trunk, the Black and White Warbler tried it, liked it, and is now seen upside down more often than not.
I think this is a Mangrove Skipper but would appreciate anyone knowing differently letting me know.
White-eyed Vireos were numerous and hearing them sing is wonderful any time. This one checked me out with a serious stare and then returned to the mulberry tree for more juice.
I watched three female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks methodically work through a mulberry tree gorging on every ripe fruit they found. This one continually chased away any other bird daring to come near.
One of those birds who kept coming near to the above Grosbeak, was this female Orchard Oriole. She eventually found good eating at the top of the tree.
An Eastern Wood-Pewee found an oak tree he liked and continually swooped down to grab a bug. We checked later in the day and he was still there. Others said he’s been in that same tree for at least a week.
Well, technically, this is a warbler. But he was not in the woods. This Palm Warbler apparently saw the shorebirds feeding and thought he would check out the wrack line to see what was so good. This offers a perfect segue into our next episode involving beachcombing.
We hope you’ll return to enjoy the remainder of the day. It will be more enjoyable if you’re bare-footed.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
Linking to Stewart’s “Wild Bird Wednesday”. See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for