My Sweetheart and I had to update some paperwork at our local military base the other day and took the opportunity to explore a bit. It has been four years since our last visit and there have been several changes to the area.
MacDill Air Force Base is located near Tampa, Florida and is on a peninsula jutting into Tampa Bay. This base has been a vital part of the U.S. Air Force mission since officially opening in 1939. Military bases are like small cities and must be able to support the large number of people living and working there. Part of this full range of amenities at MacDill includes a very nice recreation area. There are a marina, boat launch, beach, camping area, fresh-water lake and several miles of shoreline along Tampa Bay.
—Before going any further, we acknowledge and appreciate the service of all the military personnel of America. As a veteran, I understand the dedication and sacrifice each of you makes every day. We salute you and your families.—
For more than a week, a low pressure system has been sitting to our west in the Gulf of Mexico and sending waves of rain eastward. Many areas of the state have experienced flooding as the ground has become saturated. Some of these rain events have been accompanied by strong winds and migrating birds have been “grounded” until a break occurs. On the day we visited the air base, the day dawned without rain but dark clouds were moving rapidly from west to east and the skies remained “threatening”. We completed our paperwork mission and drove to the marina and beach area to enjoy a brunch of granola bars and colas. (It’s all the marina store had available!)
There was a break in the clouds and we had a bit of actual blue sky for awhile. I popped over a sand dune to see if anything interesting might be on the beach. The entire length of the small beach was covered with birds! As I slowly moved up the shoreline, the birds seemed to pay little attention to me and were busy preening and resting. I only had 20 minutes before another rain shower moved in but during that period saw 25 species of birds and took over 200 photographs (okay, so many were multiple shots of the same birds). Highlights included: 140 Black Skimmer, 60 Marbled Godwit, 50 Sandwich Tern, 35 Royal Tern, 35 Semipalmated Plover, 30 Laughing Gull, 20 Forster’s Tern, 15 Dowitcher, 15 Brown Pelican, 10 Willet, 10 Western Sandpiper, 4 American Oystercatcher and 2 Roseate Spoonbill. What a nice brunch that turned out to be!
I think we won’t let four more years pass before we visit the air base again!
Hope you enjoy a few of the sights we found.
A Roseate Spoonbill cruises just off of the beach on his way to a lagoon for a little fishing.
Just a couple of weeks ago, these Marbled Godwits were likely munching bugs in grasslands a couple of thousand miles northwest of here.
The next three images provide perspective on the Marbled Godwit’s size.
A Semipalmated Plover looks pretty small and has to take a lot of little steps to keep up with his larger cousin.
Dowitchers might appear large next to a Least Sandpiper, but seem miniature next to the Godwit.
With the larger Godwit in the background, Royal and Sandwich Terns preen.
Small “peeps”, Western Sandpipers, gather on the lee side of a small dune as more foul weather approaches.
The American Oystercatcher is quite striking with its relatively large size and coloration.
These Black Terns probably should be further south by now but have been delayed by the weather. It’s interesting to see them feed by “plucking” prey from the water as opposed to the headlong dives of other terns.
A Common Tern rests on the beach. Despite their name, I don’t see very many of them.
A pair of Black Skimmers dwarf the Black Tern flying along with them.
The Black Skimmer often lays his large bill on the sand when resting, giving the appearance of a bird in distress.
The normally drab-looking Willet is stunning when it displays the black and white of its wings.
Birds take refuge on the protected side of a tree on an inlet as the next storm approaches. I took refuge in the truck!
If one must take care of administrative errands, including a romp on the beach helps make the task more enjoyable. If the romp includes an unexpected gathering of a couple hundred birds, so much the better!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
See more birds at: Paying Ready Attention (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)