When we set out to explore a natural area, we generally have a plan in mind. Granted, it’s usually a very rudimentary plan (“Go there. See Birds.”), but it gives us a starting point. As mentioned in our last post (Spring At The Fort – Part One), our plan for the day was to try and locate migrating warblers. As we also mentioned, we didn’t adhere strictly to our plan (which is pretty normal for our trips).
Fort De Soto is just one of those places with so much to offer, it’s difficult to avoid distractions. As you can see from the image below, Fort De Soto Park is located on an arrowhead shaped island. Along the “edges” of the arrowhead are beaches. The interior of the island consists of a variety of habitat, including stands of pine and hardwood, freshwater ponds, bays, inlets, marshes and mangroves. To the west is the Gulf of Mexico. East places you in Tampa Bay, an estuary of over 400 square miles (1036 square kilometers). The area is a magnet for water loving birds of all types.
(Alas, we did not visit one of the most productive areas for shorebirds, the North Beach. By the time we visited other areas, this popular beach was packed with humans attempting to turn white skin red. We’ll save this area for another day and arrive on scene by daylight.)
We ended Part One with an image of a Palm Warbler out of his normal element, exploring the shoreline of the beach. It therefore seems only fair we open this segment with a water bird behaving like a warbler. This Snowy Egret took note of all the attention the warblers were receiving and decided to perch on a tree limb and do his best warbler imitation. It worked.
Two Laughing Gulls engaged in communication. Passing the time of day? Something more intimate? Laughing at the two-legged animal laying in the mud?
It was apparently a bit early for these Dowitchers and Dunlins as most of them are still trying to wake up.
The Ruddy Turnstone not only turns over stones in search of breakfast, but shells, grains of sand and a good chunk of the beach as well.
Black-bellied Plovers at this time of year are in transition from their winter to breeding plumage. Hard to miss this large plover with the very stout bill. In flight, their beautifully patterned tail is distinctive.
I found an isolated mangrove pool just off the beach with a number of Dowitchers and Dunlin resting, preening and feeding.
Overhead, there was continuous flight activity. One of the most common sights was small groups of White Ibis moving from one spot to another.
A relatively small sandbar was apparently THE place to be! Packed onto the bar were gulls, terns, skimmers, sandpipers, plovers, dowitchers and maybe even a curlew. Unfortunately, a jet ski broke up the party, but I’m sure most will return.
Dowitchers were abundant in the park. Their long bills are well suited for probing the soft mud and sand. Once they’ve eaten for a bit, time to fly to that favorite spot on the beach for a nap. “Now, go away while I sleep!”
With plumage which blends nicely with the broken shells and sand of the beach, the diminutive Least Sandpiper is easy to overlook. These are energetic feeders and ‘run-stop-feed-run’ almost constantly.
Dunlins are quite common here and are often seen with Sanderlings and Dowitchers.
A Semipalmated Plover joins a Sanderling in the never-ending search for a meal.
An unwelcome sight for most birds, the Magnificent Frigatebird is a master at aerobatics. This female caused quite a stir as she flew over an Osprey nest with young. The Osprey were loud and relentless in driving her away.
It’s interesting to see different species together. In this case, we can compare the relative sizes of a Dowitcher and a White Ibis.
As we ended our day, a Least Tern stood guard over the beach. These small birds are fearless and as they’re beginning to build nests on the beach, no potential threat will be safe from their screeching attacks. Now, if we could only teach them to read the signs indicating the protected areas set aside for them!
We had a great day at The Fort. We’ll be back soon and often. Thanks for letting us share it with you.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!