Sunday, December 7, 2014

St. Petersburg, FL - 20-25 Nov 2014

Royal Tern
Robin and I flew from Detroit to Orlando for a weekend visit w/ my baby sister, Dr. Michelle Jourdan. Robin and Shell had signed up for a Women's Run 5K/half-marathon, but the event was cancelled. Timing wasn't the best for either of us; DA Home Improvement was still a day from finishing the bathroom remodel when we left, and work has been extremely busy. But, as we prepare to head home after the weekend here in St. Petersburg, we can both say that the trip was needed and well worth it.

We spent Thursday night in Orlando, then drove south to St Pete's on Friday morning. Turkey Vultures filled the skies, while Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawks, Loggerhead Shrikes, and White Ibis were seen along the roadsides. Once in St. Petersburg we checked into the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel. Talk about ritzy; everywhere we look there are black or silver BMW, Audi, Lexus, Cadillac. And we arrive in a bright red POS Chevy Cruze... We were early for check-in, so we headed to the pool to relax before lunch.

Fish Crow
I grabbed the camera when dozens of Fish Crows filled the skies overhead. They'd been roosting atop one of the nearby high-rises and flew over en mass. Lunch at Al Fresco's, a nap, then a visit w/ Shell, before dinner at Moon Under Water just up the street from the hotel.

Saturday morning began with a run down to the pier. White Ibis were foraging in the park to our right while small flocks of Boat-tailed Grackles, Laughing Gulls, and Brown Pelicans worked the shoreline and bay to our left. While running along the pier I spotted a Common Loon just a few yards out. It was cool and humid so the roadway was very slippery, which made it easier to scan for birds while we ran.

Great Egret
Michelle arrived shortly before 9 am so we headed south to Fort De Soto Park. The marina was our first stop where we spent a few minutes digiscoping  Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Forster's Terns, and more Fish Crows. Ruddy Turnstones, Spotted Sandpipers, and Snowy Egrets also competed for our attention.

Laughing Gull and Snowy Egret doing a quick-step

Royal Tern

Fish Crow

We then drove to the South Beach where a flock of Short-billed Dowitchers, Sanderlings, Least Sandpipers, Willets, and an American Golden Plover foraged just feet away. Digiscoping was a challenge given the backlighting. A Tricolored Heron then appeared momentarily before flying out over the water.

American Golden Plover


Tricolored Heron

Semipalmated Plover

Several Loggerhead Shrikes were scattered along the power lines along the roadside as we drove toward the North Beach, so I pulled over to get some digiscoped images from about 60' away.

A flock of ~8 Palm Warblers moved through the mangroves lining the parking lot, so I spent a few minutes chasing them before Shell and I headed out onto the North Beach. Several White Peacock butterflies were flitting around on the grass, as well.

We spotted more Willets,  Green Heron, White Ibis, and Snowy Egrets in the lagoon, but bypassed them for a bigger prize: Black Skimmers!

Black Skimmer
A large flock of skimmers were roosting at the tip of the lagoon, so we headed toward them for some photo opps. They rose up a few times, but quickly settled down after circling overhead. It was windy, so we unfortunately had to settle for a lot of rump shots.

American Oystercatcher
When I wasn't trying to photograph the skimmers I turned my attention to the half-dozen American Oystercatchers along their perimeter. A single Short-billed Dowitcher, six Willet, a Least Sandpiper, Little Blue Heron, and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron were also seen; the latter two across the lagoon in the mangroves. The highlight (not) of our walk back to the car was seeing a 70-yr old, extremely white, overweight man  wearing a yellow-string thong bikini. Must. Never. Close. Eyes. Again!

An American Kestrel was perched on the overhead wires while we drove back toward the main entrance, so I pulled over and got some nice digiscoped images from 30' away.

We were happily surprised to see a pair of Magnificent Frigatebirds (adult male and female) soaring overhead as we drove out of the park, but I was unable to pull over due to traffic. Ughhh!

Great Egret
Billy's Seafood Restaurant was our lunch destination, which was wonderful! We sat on the balcony and had unobstructed views of the lagoon below, so I spent lunch photographing the dozen Snowy Egrets, several Great Egrets, Anhinga, Turkey Vultures, American White Pelican, White Ibis, Osprey, and a Cooper's Hawk while enjoying Angry Orchard, blackened Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos, and great company. Well done, Sis!

Snowy Egret

Laughing Gull



White Ibis

Monk Parakeet
We then headed back to see her house while a neighbor's feeder was being ravaged by a flock of Monk Parakeets, Turtle Doves, and Rock Pigeons! Nanday Parakeets appear regularly, but not this day. Durn!

Nanday Parakeet
Sunday morning brought higher temps and winds. Robin and I walked the town of St. Pete's, enjoying breakfast, then a coffee, and some nice conversation with some local gentlemen. We had some time afterward, so Robin and I drove back to Shell's house where Nanday Parakeets were now occupying the feeders, and then to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve to do some birding and address my Sony RX-100 issue.

Common Gallinule
I had taken over 1200 pics with the Nikon 1 V3 yesterday, but only 34 with the Sony? And all were blurry? Something was wrong. I spent some time with the Sony's menu and found that the camera was somehow switched to 10-second self-timer. Unbelievable... I made sure to check the diopter and focus-mag settings before retrying.  Meanwhile I missed a flyby Red-shouldered Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and several Turkey Vultures. Common Gallinules and American Coot were nearby subjects but lighting and vegetation limited photo opps, so we headed back to town to meet Shell at The Avenue to watch the Lions get embarrassed by the Patriots.

Monday morning brought heavy fog and extreme humidity to St. Petersburgh. Robin and I went for an early morning run along the pier, passing Great Blue Herons and Brown Pelicans quietly standing next to a fisherman waiting for scraps. A Tricolored Heron was among several Snowy Egrets and a Green Heron on the beach. White Ibis littered the park; they were everywhere this morning. We were soaked. We cleaned up afterward and checked out of the Vinoy early enough to drive north to the town of Dunedain, FL for a visit. From there we drove to Lakeland for lunch, then to the Circle B Bar Reserve for some afternoon birding. 

Little Blue Heron
We arrived at the reserve just in time to see a small Armadillo in the middle of the road. I took a few photos from inside the car, then got out and digiscoped it from only 20' away. The little guy had its nose in the ground the whole time and stumbled toward me until it was literally at my feet! I had to use the point and shoot to photograph it from ground level.


I then headed out to look for a Purple Gallinule but several locals reported none seen today. I consoled myself with photographing Common Gallinules, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and Sandhill Cranes. Several Limpkin were in the area but a challenge to photograph given their cover.

Little Blue Heron - Sony RX100 III

Green Heron - Sony RX100 III


Little Blue Heron - Nikon 1 V3

Green Heron - Nikon 1 V3

Common Gallinule
I happened upon a small flock of gallinules out in the marsh and was surprised to find one young bird using a turtle as a perch. The poor guy was pinned in such a way that it couldn't push off with its arms or legs, so the gallinule stayed put until chased off by one of its own trying to be "King of the Mountain". The lost shot of the day was a tossup between the Red-shouldered Hawk scared off by a low-flying helicopter and a Red-headed Woodpecker flushed from an open snag in broad daylight (didn't see it until it flew across the dike in front of me). Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were congregating far out in the marsh, so I had to settle for some flight shots as they hopped from puddle to open puddle. Likewise, several Glossy Ibis made only short, temporary appearances.

Glossy Ibis

The Short-tailed Hawk that flew over the car as we left the reserve was a great ending to a nice birding weekend. Robin and I headed back to Orlando for an overbite stay before flying home on Tuesday. Can't wait to see Buffy and Asia, and the new bathroom!


david boon said...

That quickstepping Egret is Priceless!!!

Cathy Carroll said...

Jerry, I think you saw nearly every Florida specialty. Amazing. I think my favorite is the armadillo. I would love to see a live Armadillo.

Glad you had such a good trip.

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