Beyond the BackyardFort De Soto

Quiet Morning at Fort De Soto

I drove over to Fort De Soto on Saturday morning in hopes of finding some early migrant warblers.  There have also been a Reddish Egret in full breeding plumage and a Long-Billed Curlew hanging out at the North Beach lagoon.  I had high hopes of some good photography, but unfortunately, it was a pretty quiet morning.

When I first arrived, I was on the lookout for the eagle’s nest that’s on the Tierra Verde peninsula before the entrance to the park.  I knew I’d found it when I saw the line of photographers, most of whom were lined up on the side of the road with their 500mm and 600mm lenses.  I pulled over and joined the crowd.  The nest is beautiful in the morning light.  It’s out in the open, one of the most photographable nests I’ve ever seen.  When I arrived, the adult was sitting near the nest, and one juvenile was in the nest.  The adult flew away, leaving the baby to sit in the nest and munch on his breakfast.  Some of the other photographers stood waiting, hoping that the adult would bring in food.  I watched for a while, then left to go to the North Beach.

Eagle Nest

Eagle Nest

There were ducks in the pond in front of the nest, including Ring-Necked Ducks and Lesser Scaups.  This Pied-Billed Grebe caught my attention because his bright white bill and its black band contrasted so well with the sunlit water background.

Pied-Billed Grebe

Pied-Billed Grebe

When I arrived at the North Beach, there was a flock of about 50 Laughing Gulls at the shoreline.   As common as these birds are, it’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to photograph them in their breeding plumage.  When I see them at the Circle B Bar Reserve, they are always in their drab winter colors.  Their bright black heads are pretty.

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

There were a couple of Royal Terns (right ID?) in the flock of gulls.  A pair of two terns stood aside from the crowd, keeping to themselves.

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

The Brown Pelicans are attractive at this time of year in their breeding colors.  I didn’t have as many fly-by opportunities as I would have hoped, but I did get this one good shot:

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

A Herring Gull flew up with a huge shell in his mouth.  He dropped it and fought off the other gulls that tried to steal it from him.  It’s bigger than his head!

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

Disappointed to find the North Beach relatively empty, I drove over to the East Beach.  The light was at the wrong angle to photograph the small flock of sandpipers and little shorebirds, and it was too cold to wade into the water to position myself better.  There was a flock of Red-Breasted Mergansers fishing off the shore.  I’ll post this picture because it’s the first time I’ve photographed them.

Red-Breasted Merganser

Red-Breasted Merganser

A Great Egret was feeding off the East Beach as well.  The water was very still.  I turned up the exposure compensation and tried to catch the splash as the bird fished.

Great Egret

Great Egret

I went back to the North Beach and looked for warblers in the picnic area.  I didn’t see one.  :-p  I went up the lagoon again, hoping that the Reddish Egret might have changed his mind about being antisocial.  He hadn’t.  But I did find a pretty Tricolored Heron.  The light at the lagoon is great in the mornings, and the water is beautiful.  I can’t wait to go back for migration when there are more birds around!

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron