Posts Tagged With: reddish egret

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – II

The day continued to be near perfect. Sunshine all day, not hot, a light breeze and a few clouds now and then. Spring was in the air. We spent the afternoon with the birds of the refuge. They rested, chased away trespassers, bathed, preened, flew to and fro and always hunted. The ducks, especially, were almost in constant motion as they must gather enough energy for returning north in the coming weeks.

With the sun dropping toward the horizon, we reluctantly headed in the same direction. Stopping at the bridge connecting the refuge to the mainland, we enjoyed a Florida sunset and agreed, once again, that we are two of the most blessed individuals on the planet.

 

Images of our afternoon.

Watching a Reddish Egret chase a meal would make Baryshnikov blush with envy. I had to literally run along the shoreline to keep up with this racer. He would stop suddenly only to burst out running again. Finally, he stabbed the shallow water and came up with a minnow which seemed too small to even consider as a meal for this large wader. It’s gonna take a lot of those to fill up Big Red!

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Lesser Scaup were plentiful in the marshes and this one found a piece of quiet beach to enjoy a nap in the Florida sun. Just as soon as the pesky paparazzi leave.

Merritt Island NWR

 

As breeding season approaches, the plumage of the Roseate Spoonbill begins to brighten. Watching these large birds sweep their namesake bill back and forth in the shallow water is fascinating! Gini spotted an enterprising female Blue-winged Teal taking advantage of some shade provided by a tall pink tree.

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Blue-winged Teal were the most numerous duck species at the refuge today. This male finished bathing and preening with a wing flap showing how it got its name.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Late afternoon and the salt marsh stretches in all directions.

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Strong sunlight about an hour before sunset puts a spotlight on a freshwater hammock.

Merritt Island NWR

 

This Bald Eagle takes on a golden glow from the setting sun.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A pause at the bridge to the mainland as we reflect on our very special day and sigh heavily as the sun sinks beyond the St. Johns River.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The beginning and end of our journey today were in darkness. In between, we were in the full light of Nature as she shared a small bit of beauty with us. Come visit this special place if you have an opportunity. It is worth the time.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: