Spring At The Fort – Part Two

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.

 

Fort De Soto Park (From GoogleEarth)

Fort De Soto Park (From GoogleEarth)

 

(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.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

 

Two Laughing Gulls engaged in communication.  Passing the time of day?  Something more intimate?  Laughing at the two-legged animal laying in the mud?

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

 

It was apparently a bit early for these Dowitchers and Dunlins as most of them are still trying to wake up.

Resting Shorebirds

Resting Shorebirds

 

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.

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

 

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.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

 

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

 

I found an isolated mangrove pool just off the beach with a number of Dowitchers and Dunlin resting, preening and feeding.

Dowitcher, Dunlin

Dowitcher, Dunlin

 

Overhead, there was continuous flight activity.  One of the most common sights was small groups of White Ibis moving from one spot to another.

White Ibis

White Ibis

 

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.

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers, Shorebirds

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers, Shorebirds

 

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!”

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

 

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.

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

 

Dunlins are quite common here and are often seen with Sanderlings and Dowitchers.

Dunlin

Dunlin

 

A Semipalmated Plover joins a Sanderling in the never-ending search for a meal.

 

Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover

Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover

 

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.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

 

It’s interesting to see different species together.  In this case, we can compare the relative sizes of a Dowitcher and a White Ibis.

Dowitcher, White Ibis

Dowitcher, 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!

Least Tern

Least Tern

 

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!

 

 

Additional Resources

Fort De Soto Information

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “Spring At The Fort – Part Two

  1. What a interesting blog you have, and your photos is so beautiful ! I´ve liked your text very much. // Maria

    • Thank you so much for visiting and for your very nice comments! We hope you come back again.
      I just visited your blog and was very impressed!

  2. Wally, I’ve heard so much about Ft. Desoto from Mia over the last few years (and seen her photos) that this post almost made it seem like I’ve been there. I haven’t. What a great place for birds and you did it justice with your images. Great job.

    • Thank you, Ron. It’s a pretty special place and my truck has an autopilot feature which pulls in there if I’m anywhere near!

  3. Fort part 2. Wonderful Wally – all those shorebirds. Some I know some I don’t. There was a controversy here about dowitchers that call like turnstones or are not heard to call – short billed verus long billed – it’s all in the past but I know which I saw. I’ve seen Turnstones turning stones but not actually burrowing for food – so is there something special about what lurks under the Florida sand? Strange as it may seem our Grey Plover are either one or the other and rarely intermediate as your fine pictures show and they are also unapproachable – it’s the Russians with their guns. I remember seeing Maginificent Frigatebirds in Mexico – awesome beasts which terrify everything around and thanks for your picture reminding me of their powerful flight. That is a moody shot of the Egret looking thoughtful? Have birding fun this weekend.

    • Phil, thank you so much! Unless I see their behavior, I usually don’t differentiate long-billed from short-billed dowitchers. We usually see them in a mix of winter and breeding plumages which just adds to the confusion. I’ve seen Turnstones dig a little bit but nothing like the major construction effort this fellow had going. Must have something REALLY good down there! I never saw what he came up with. The Frigatebirds roost in that area and can appear quite menacing in the early morning fog as they head out to sea. The Egret was thinking about flying away, which he did as soon as I snapped that one shot!

      If the rain holds off, will have fun birding tomorrow!

  4. I love the snowy egret and the ibis…and I am waiting for those shorebirds to turn up here ….tell them to go North…Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comments. cheers.

  5. Wow, bird overload! I wouldn’t know where to start taking photos first, and I would not want to go home! Fort De Soto definitely looks like a wonderful place to visit.

    Thanks for your visit and comment on my WBW post…I didn’t want to leave our spot at the window, either! lol

    ~Lindy

  6. Loved this! We saw our first ruddy turnstone right there (I think it was the same pile of debris ;>)) in December. Thanks for IDing all the shore birds, maybe I’ll be able to do that someday. Fort DeSoto is amazing. Thanks!

    • It IS a cool place! Shorebirds are definitely a challenge, what with all that changing plumage – it’s not fair to us birders! Thank you, Sallie, for visiting!

  7. So many great shorebirds! The Black-bellied Plover in flight really gives a nice view of its beautifully patterned feathers! I like the size comparison photo also with the Ibis & Dowitcher~the Dowitcher looks so small! Thanks for sharing, Wally!

  8. It’s so interesting to see the shorebirds in your part of the world/country. There are only a few that I see down here – Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and Black-bellied Plovers which we know as Grey Plovers. Wish I could see the rest of the ones you photographed. I have the same problems down here with people and shorebirds! Too many people mean so few shorebirds to see!

    • I hear you, Mick! Hopefully, I’ll return there soon as the nesting season gets under way. There are several protected areas for the birds. Getting there at daylight helps as the tourists are usually not early risers! 🙂

  9. Thank you Wally, this post took me “home”. Got misty-eyed reading it and viewing the images. I’m going to have to make the journey back there again soon.

    Thank you again

    • You’re welcome, Mia. Hopefully, will soon get back so I can be on the North Beach before daylight. I couldn’t believe how many people were there last Monday!

  10. Such amazing shots — those in flight are spectacular! I’ve never been, but have known many who have explored this area. Looks just lovely….

  11. That black-bellied plover in flight is awesome! I’d love to have a skirt of dress patterned after those tail feathers. So striking!

  12. Lovely shorebirds.

  13. Great set of pics again, I particularly like the in flight shots, and the way the light catches the in flight Ibis.
    Enjoyed then thanks, Gordon.

  14. I love that Dowitcher puff ball standing on one leg! You are so good at getting the amazing detail shots of feather patterns and those in flight. It appears the Turnstone is aptly named. Thanks for letting us come along!

  15. Lots of terrific shots, as always, but my favorite here is the Black-bellied Plover in flight. The feathers on that short-billed dowitcher are lovely. Is he/she? really standing on one leg?

    • It seems shorebirds spend a lot of time on one leg. Resting the other one, I guess. Haven’t you seen all those pink lawn flamingoes? They’re always on one leg! 🙂

  16. pretty nice selection of shorebirds! loved seeing the snowy with it’s breeding color!

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