Temporal Shift

The loose sand of the upper beach made it a challenge to walk with any semblance of a normal human gait.  As you push off of one foot to move forward, that foot sinks deeply into the fine grains and disrupts your timing.  You can feel the muscles in your lower legs strain a bit as more effort than usual must be expended in order to propel one forward.  The resulting effect gives the appearance of an inebriated turtle attempting to traverse a really large bowl of sugar.

Where the waves come ashore, the sand is more firm, having been packed by the constant motion of the water.  Walking is easier.  This is where I paused to inhale the day.

Most of our recent trips have been to the interior of Florida’s hot, steamy, still swamps and forests.  It’s beautiful and crammed with creatures and all manner of natural marvels to behold.  One develops a rhythm when an activity is repeated.  Typically, a walk consists of much stopping, listening, scanning, walking backwards, looking upwards and bemoaning the dearth of certain bird life.  (Okay, that last part is what birders do no matter what habitat they’re in.  “Millions of shorebirds in that field and not ONE Buff-breasted Sandpiper!”)

It was time for a change of pace.  Our “go-to” place for getting near salt water with a potential for a good birding day is Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg.  Those who have visited understand what a true gem it can be in Florida’s impressive bird watching jewel box.  We must periodically make a pilgrimage to the shore in order to stay healthy.  Well, maybe we don’t HAVE to – wait, yes, we do!  We were both born and raised in Florida and it may be a blood disorder or a genetic disposition or a state regulation.  Whatever it is, the invisible force of the coast has always exerted its magnetism over our beings just as surely as we have required air to breathe.

As I stood on the shore, a gentle breeze caressed my face.  A turn of my head and I could see forever.  The Gulf of Mexico stretched before me until it met the morning sky in a blurred blue line.  Scurrying Sanderlings played tag with the edges of the waves as they probed the wet sand with their slightly curved bills.  A Willet also probed the surface of the beach for breakfast but in a more stately, unhurried approach.  Squadrons of low-flying Brown Pelicans patrolled just off-shore keeping a keen eye out for tell-tale surface ripples which would signal a school of fish.

After walking leisurely through the gently breaking waves, I trudged back through the loose sand to a secluded lagoon.  Gulls, terns, plovers, sandpipers, dowitchers, egrets and herons were massed on a sandbar which protruded into the lagoon.  The rising sun signaled the start of another day of trying to survive and the diverse bunch began to scurry along the shore, wade into the shallows and lift into the air to accomplish that task.  Nearby, a Reddish Egret performed his peculiar brand of fishing – running through the water, spreading his wings, stopping, starting, reversing direction and somehow coming up with a fish or crab every few minutes.  A short distance from the frantic egret, a young Yellow-crowned Night Heron hunted the way his parents taught – stand very still and let the meal come to you.

Wooded areas abound in this park and offer resting places for exhausted migrating birds during the fall and spring as they transit to and from their breeding grounds.  We hoped to catch some early warblers but, alas, did not have much luck.  A Yellow-throated Warbler made an appearance and a few “normal” residents were active, but no unusual visitors today.  Butterflies enjoyed the blooming flowers and I consoled myself chasing them for awhile.

We shared lunch over a view of the Gulf and endless blue sky.  Entertainment was provided by a pod of porpoises herding fish and slashing through them for a lunch of their own.  One of the big mammals even gave us a jumping display, clearing the water three times and sending salt spray skyward as he crashed onto the surface.  It was a thrilling conclusion to a magnificent morning.

Please enjoy a few of the images we recorded of our visit to the beach.

Sanderling

Sanderling

Willet

Willet

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Yellow-crowned Night Heron (immature)

Yellow-crowned Night Heron (immature)

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

I think the Dowitcher below is an immature bird, based on its overall appearance (bright above, buffy looking) and the reddish-buff fringes of the upper parts feathers.  The second image shows the same bird along with birds who have transitioned into non-breeding plumage.

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

The Beach Morning Glory is also known as Bayhops or Railroad Vine.

Beach Morning Glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae)

Beach Morning Glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae)

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Sea Oats

Sea Oats

Long-tailed Skipper

Long-tailed Skipper

Low Tide

Low Tide

A scheduled routine can be a good thing and repetition can make us feel comfortable.  Once in awhile, however, try a change of pace.  You just might come away feeling refreshed, renewed and relaxed.  And if salt air is involved, it just may become a habit.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Additional Resources

Fort DeSoto Park

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

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41 thoughts on “Temporal Shift

  1. A great write up Wally in your usual highly observant and inimitable style. I must say your description of birders being always unimpressed with whatever birds they see as being very like someone i know!
    At last I see a Short-billed Dowitcher that actually has a markedly short bill. A timely reminder of the different feeding strategies of egrets too – me I tend to go looking for food rather than have it set before me.

    • Welcome home from your Greek odyssey! I’m adaptable when it comes to feeding time – I may go hunting for it but will not reject it if placed within reasonable reach.

      Phil, thank you for your continuing kind remarks! I really appreciate it.

  2. so many gorgeous birds and images of them. It´s a joy to see. 🙂

  3. m

    Hi Wally fantastic stunning shots of the waders, none of them I have seen. The butterflies are very beautiful and again very well captured so I am refreshed, renewed and relaxed now. Job well done.

  4. Great set of birds! My weekend was not all that full of birds – but we did encounter a small pink leather hippo, which was almost as good.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

  5. “You just might come away feeling refreshed, renewed and relaxed”

    I did, just from viewing your post Wally. I had a little bit of “home” and you provided it.

  6. Some many gorgeous photos you’ve captured on your fine visit to Ft. De Soto! Makes me really wish I could get back there soon:) I just love the Long-tailed Skipper! I found a bunch of them last week at the wetlands and was in awe of their beauty!

  7. I really enjoyed this post, Wally – Fort Desoto must be an incredible place (Mia’s told me so much about it). Neat shot showing the Dowitcher plumage variations and I love your “inebriated turtle” analogy!

    • Ron, thank you! It’s one of those “birder in a bird store” kind of places. One doesn’t know where to visit first and leaving is always difficult.

  8. Reddish Egret and Black Bellied Plover, wow, all of these, including your butterflies are wonderful, but for me those images of those 2 species, stunning! Sorry to be late…messed up my already injured knee on Monday, looking at a wee bit of Arthroscopic repair work this Tuesday. Happy weekend~

  9. Fantastic photos!

  10. Beautiful post Wally. I know exactly how you are drawn to the coast. We feel that pull whether we’re in Florida or Oregon….we’re not right on the ocean in either place, but close and every so often we must go. Yes it is a must. You are showing such spectacular birds and butterflies at Ft DeSoto … I am getting eager to be pulled to that Coast!!

  11. Shey

    Beautifully written, you have a way with words that I felt like I was walking with you. Gorgeous shots as always.

    • Shey, how very kind of you! Thanks! But I’m still jealous of your foray into the Canadian territories!

      • Shey

        You do write well. Thank you for sharing your morning. Yes, it was indeed an amazing experience. Next time, maybe we can visit Florida and go birding together? What would be the best time?

  12. What a grand morning. I’ve got to drag my man away from his desk and head out to Pensacola Beach early one morning soon. You’ve aroused my saltwater-seeking gene! Your words + pictures = beautiful music. Love “Big Red” too, but my favorite of the day was the snowy egret doing the hokey pokee with that yellow foot. And of course the flutterbyes . . .

    • Hard to beat a morning drinking in salty air. Recharges ones “soul-ar” batteries. Just tell Buck it may inspire the second novel…..

  13. Shore birds, I love them.
    🙂

    You have so many beautiful photos!

  14. Gosh! Wally what a wonderful piece of writing that was, at the beginning of this post, all you needed was to throw in a few romantic characters and you would have had the beginnings of a novel. Beautiful images. The lure of the ocean is strongest in late spring and summer, something we can’t stay away from. Love the butterflies. Have a wonderful weekend.

  15. Is the header shot new, or have I missed it previously? Nice photo. Haven’t heard of a Reddish Egret, great shots of a pretty bird. Love that last scene with the bridge.

  16. Wonderful description of your morning at the shore and absolutely gorgeous shots!

  17. Beautiful essay and splendid images.

  18. What a lovely post, I enjoyed reading about your day at the beach! Your photos are always beautiful. One of my favorite birds is the Reddish Egret. I am sorry I missed seeing this bird while I was in Florida! Great post! Have a happy weekend!

  19. your header shot is really amazing. reminds me of that photo of the one man against a tank…

  20. just beautiful variety of shore birds! love the reddish egret – would love to see one in person!

    • Thank you! “Big Red” is fun to watch. He has a partner in the area which is the “white morph” version of the species. Pretty interesting to see them together.

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