Sturm und Drang

Last month was pretty wet, even by Florida standards. I gave up on “water resistant” boots and just wear what are marketed as “all-terrain running shoes”. Not that I am likely ever to be caught running. Even in bear country, I’m sure to go with someone likely to be slower than me. (No, not my Gini! No critter would ever challenge her!) This type shoe at least dries fairly quickly. The “water resistant” footwear gives up resisting sooner than later and never dries out as long it’s on your foot. So you walk around with your feet encased in little air-tight hothouses. Fun.

As native Floridians, we are required by law to visit the coast often. Usually, for us, this means salt marshes, river mouths, mud flats – you know, the good spots! We avoid most sandy beaches as they are littered with bodies greased up and turning over regularly until well-toasted on all sides. This trip, however, we specifically targeted an area described as one of “America’s Most Beautiful Beaches!!”, Fort DeSoto Park in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Why would we be so insane as to go to a popular beach, on purpose? Storms. There had been three days of large, rolling thunderstorms moving across the state from the Atlantic Ocean and marching westward out into the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes, such weather confuses birds and one can spot some unusual species on this piece of land jutting into the gulf. Such sightings are much more common during migration, but even in summer, we have been surprised.

Alas, no surprise species today. We did find a few shorebirds busily probing the tide and wrack lines as ominous clouds formed, dissipated, re-formed and thunder rolled. It was nice to see the beach with nothing but breakers and birds!

Fort DeSoto is located on Mullet Key, an island at the entrance to Tampa Bay.

(From an unofficial website about the fort. See Additional Information.)

 

Much has happened on this tiny island:

 

  • during the Civil War, Union troops had a detachment on both Egmont and Mullet Keys. Union ships were looking for blockade runners
  • during WWII the island was used for bombing practice by the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima;

 

 

Fort DeSoto is a premier birding spot during spring and fall migration. Its location serves as an important rest and refueling point for a very diverse group of birds. To appreciate how significant this park is, show up any day during the height of migration and try to find a parking spot!

Also, the park has terrific fishing from shore or from two long piers as well as a very large and well maintained boat ramp. Boaters can easily access the Gulf of Mexico for deep water species, Tamp Bay for excellent flats fishing or simply enjoy probing myriad small islands, sand bars or cruise along the beaches. Camping is available (reservations recommended) and there are several nature trails for those who just want to hike. Use the park’s official website (see Additional Information) to check the calendar for special events (runs, biking, tournaments, etc.) as the park will fill quickly at these times and there are likely to be road closures.

We accomplished exactly what we had hoped on our short evening visit. Saw a few birds, enjoyed the salt water environment, watched stormy weather from an empty beach and can’t wait to do it all again.

 

Red Knots are in transition from breeding to non-breeding plumage.

Fort DeSoto Park

 

The Least Sandpiper is North America’s smallest shorebird (5 inches/13 centimeters).

Fort DeSoto Park

 

With its substantial black bill, a Wilson’s Plover stands out in a group, or in this case, all by herself enjoying a stretch by a rain puddle.

Fort DeSoto Park

Fort DeSoto Park

 

One of our larger shorebirds, a Willet, is in hot pursuit of a small crab. He caught it, crunched it to disable it and swallowed it whole – without any garlic lemon butter!

Fort DeSoto Park

 

“You look f a b u l o u s!” A Snowy Egret admires the handsome creature staring back at him from one of nature’s mirrors.

Fort DeSoto Park

 

Large Gray Kingbirds breed along many of Florida’s coasts then retreat to warmer climes for the winter.

Fort DeSoto Park

 

Fort DeSoto is a fairly reliable location to find Reddish Egrets. Watching them hunt is an amazing experience as they engage in what seems at times to be a very choreographed dance. Incredible birds!

Fort DeSoto Park

 

Thunderstorm activity is prevalent in August and this evening’s sunset was mostly obscured as clouds moved along the horizon and along the beach. The large stone slabs in this image used to be a support for a gun emplacement, from what I understand.

Fort DeSoto Park

 

Weather can change quickly along the coast and the pastel reflection from the setting sun belies the black stormy sky which just preceded this photograph. Across the channel is Egmont Key and its lighthouse marking the entrance to Tampa Bay for ships arriving from and departing for the Gulf of Mexico.

Fort DeSoto Park

 

Beaches are for more than sizzling your skin! Storms, shorebirds and sunsets are for all of us!

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Fort DeSoto Park (Unofficial Website)

Fort DeSoto County Park (Official Website)

Categories: Birds, Florida, History, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Sturm und Drang

  1. Phil Slade

    Hi Wally. No, I hadn’t forgotten you or Florida. Can’r work WordPress from my cheap MotoG phone. It sounds like Skiathos was both sunnier and drier than your home stretch.

    I liked those wader shots’ especially the perfectly camouflaged Wilson’s Plover and the Knot . Notice how we don’t use the “Red” because we rarely if ever see the species in any colour than grey (gray). So confusing all these colours/colors don’t ya think?

    I’m looking to be out ringing/birding as soon as Sue has unpacked all my camera gear. Keeps her out of mischief.

    • Happy you made it back to your patch before you became addicted to all that blue sky and sunshine!

      I enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph shorebirds but the challenge of identifying some can be very close to labor(labour) which I normally eschew. Yes, the colors (colours) can be very confusing as the silly birds insist on one plumage for breeding and another for non-breeding. And don’t get me started on molting (moulting)!

      Gini had a comment regarding Sue unpacking your gear but there have occasionally been children (or childlike adults) caught peeking at these pages so I shall not be able to print the full text of her opinion.

      All the best to you both!

  2. Hi Wally and Gini. Just catching up after being away for a few days on the North Yorkshire Moors with Lindsay. We too have witnessed, this year, the pure magic of vast beaches in pristine condition with the only footprints being those of birds. Amazingly, however, our experience was in beautiful warm sunny weather, and not stormy conditions like yours.

    As always, a truly delightful post from yourself full of wonderful images, but I have to single-out some as being my favourites – the Snowy Egret (for the reasons you highlight), the Reddish Egret (for being a great image of an utterly fabulous looking bird), and that first storm scene (for its artistic and dramatic perfection). Not sure where the ‘stress’ of your title comes in (if my translation of German is correct).

    With my very best wishes to you and Gini. Have a great weekend (usually the most difficult time to avoid the crowds!) – – – Richard

    • Thank you, Richard! Sounds as if you and Lindsay enjoyed your time on the Moors. I appreciate your kind words on the images.

      While chasing around the beach area for possible photo opportunities and with fast moving storms all around, I was reminded of a painting I once saw with that title (do not recall the artist).

      The “stress” came from the wind forcing the waves ever higher and finally cresting and crashing down on the surface of the sea. Dramatic stuff.

      We have just returned from Georgia (USA) where we saw unending fields of white surrounded by borders of green. It’s almost time to harvest cotton from huge fields bordered by pine trees. Great trip!

      A new week is here! Have fun and fill your days with love and hugs.

  3. You got some great shots! Especially of the red knots. Don’t see them often there anymore. If you ever head back there on a weekend, let me know. We should do a meet up. Although, just this week, they’ve been hit bad with red tide.

    • Thanks, Dina! Seems like we seldom get over to the fort any more as we seek out new (read: isolated) places. If we plan a visit, will let you know.

  4. The snowy egret was right of course – it is absolutely fabulous. As are the other birds.
    Your beach walk was a delight. Thank you. And I really enjoyed the replacement for baking people.

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