Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ft. De Soto - Redux! 22 Nov 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!  Baby sister Michelle and I decided to spend the morning birding before our Thanksgiving feast.  Robin stayed behind to get some work done, so we put the top down on the convertible and headed back to Fort De Soto Park.

If you read Bill Pranty's "A Birder's Guide to Florida", it mentions that Black-hooded Parakeets can be found in a couple of locations right in St. Petersburg, FL.  They were a nemesis bird for me on this trip, so we drove down to Boca Ciega Bay to see if we could find some.  We dipped.

Continuing on to Fort De Soto we pulled into the boat launch area and picked up Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Laughing Gull, Willet, American Golden Plover, and Osprey.  Turkey Vultures were in the area, so a couple of close fly-overs were a nice treat. A Great Blue Heron hiding in the shadows provided some nice portrait shots from inside the car.

Just beyond the boat launch a lovely American Kestrel was perched in a snag next to the road and begging to be photographed.  I grabbed the scope and sneaked behind a large evergreen and digiscoped the bird from about 100' away.

The next light pole ahead had an Osprey that was finishing its lunch.  We pulled up and got some images of it from the car, then watched as it launched itself (and lunch) into the air and off for open water.

Loggerhead Shrikes were common all along the road, including the parking lots and rest areas.  I had several pairs of birds sitting just feet away from each other. We also picked up Northern Mockingbird and several Eastern Phoebes.

Before heading back to the North Beach we stopped at the fisherman's pier to see if any pelagic birds were about.  Shorebirds were tightly packed along the beach while Forster's Terns and Brown Pelicans cruised and dove near the pier.  A couple of birders pointed me in the direction of a female Black Scoter about 50 yds out from shore.  Nice!  We would pick up a Common Loon off the far end of the pier a few minutes later.

While walking back a Laughing Gull had gotten snagged in a fisherman's line, so I helped free the tangle from its wing.  Ruddy Turnstones were common on the pier in front of us, as were a couple of Great Egrets perched on the roofs of the small sheds.  A Snowy Egret foraging on the rocks made for a nice challenge in the early morning wind.

As we were walking back to the car a flock of parakeets flew in and landed in the trees overhead. Nanday Parakeets (formerly Black-headed Parakeets)!  Score!  We got some stunning looks at the pretty green birds with their brown/black hoods and red feet feathers.  They were high overhead, so I was practically laying on my back while digiscoping them.

And even better news? The ABA has officially recognized the Nanday Parakeet as a countable bird!  The population has spread sufficiently to be sustainable.

We then headed to the south end of the North Beach where a quiet lagoon was tagged as a good location for possible Clapper Rails.  The place was quiet, except for a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes that  provided some stunning looks and photo opps from just 20 - 50' away.

A small flock of Brown Pelicans were roosting on the sand spit, along with dozens of American Golden Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers and Willets.  A Belted Kingfisher was foraging nearby, but too far away to photograph.

As we wandered back a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes appeared just a few feet away, and provided some great digiscoping opportunities. I was able to get some nice portraits in the early morning sunlight.

From there we headed to the North Beach with the hopes of picking up more Black Skimmers and Piping Plovers.  In the trees next to the parking lot a small flock of Palm Warblers was moving through, giving us great looks from just a few feet away.  Among the flock were a couple of Black-and-White Warblers, a Blackpoll Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. This (presumed) Pine Warbler was particularly difficult to ID, but the bright eye-crescents, and white undertail with brown vent feathers helped distinguish it from other similar-looking birds like Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Green or Bay-breasted Warblers.

As we approached the ocean a pair of American Oystercatchers were resting next to the surf, while farther up a pair of Willet were doing the same. An American Golden Plover was also enjoying the surf.

As I pointed out the Willets and Dunlin feeding near a small pond we spotted a Red Knot foraging nearby.  I was able to digiscope the bird from about 20' in near-perfect light, getting some great portraits and feeding shots.

From almost 100 yds. away I spotted a brown blog near the skimmer roost and had Michelle put her binoculars on the bird to describe it.  Long, decurved bill on a tall bird.  Long-billed Curlew!  We headed over to the bird and were able to get wonderful looks (and images) as it gracefully walked the shoreline past us.

Not to be outdone, a flock of Marbled Godwits were foraging in shallow waters to our left.  It was a great opportunity to compare the strikingly-similar plumages of the godwits w/ the curlew.

Another photographer was there w/ us getting some nice shots of the birds until a young teenager and his girlfriend walked right past us w/ their lawn chairs and fishing poles and plopped themselves down right in the very spot where all the birds were roosting.  Needless to say they were all flushed and flew across the lagoon to another secluded spit.  We were flipping a coin to see who would beat the little *%^?# to death...

Walking back along the beach we spotted a Piping Plover (possibly the same one from yesterday) and a  Semipalmated Plover feeding near the lagoon.  A Little Blue Heron then flew in but was too close to digiscope. I had to settle for the trusty 300/2.8 VRII.

With a great morning of birding behind us we headed back to the apartment and enjoyed a WONDERFUL dinner of roast duck, cooked onions and wild cherries and the Avengers!  Thanks for an amazing Thanksgiving Holiday, Shell.  We Love You!


Julie G. said...

Sounds like you had a glorious day of birding. I oohed and ahhed scrolling through all of you marvelous digiscoped images. Next time I'm on the west coast of Florida I must take a trip to Fort De Soto. Spectacular captures of very beautiful birds!

Debbie Miller @HooootOwl said...

You sure make Fort De Soto look like paradise! Wonderful post packed with incredible images.

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