Beyond the BackyardFort De Soto

Sunset at Fort De Soto

Rich and I visited Fort De Soto for sunset this evening.  It was fun to share the park with Rich, who’s never shared my early-morning zeal for sunrises and golden-light bird photography.  It was also the first time I’d been to Fort De Soto in the afternoon.  We headed to East Beach first, where the light was finally right to photograph the shorebirds at the turnaround.  Then we went up to North Beach for the sunset.  The mosquitos weren’t bad and we had a great evening!

At the East Beach turnaround, we found a small flock of shorebirds, including plovers, sandpipers, and dowitchers.  Some of the birds have started to molt into their breeding plumages.  Others are still in their alternate plumages.  I’m not all that good at shorebird identification, and the varying plumages and half-stages make it even more difficult. :-p  (If I’ve mis-identified one of these birds, please post a comment or e-mail me.)

Sanderling

Sanderling

A couple of Red-Breasted Mergansers came up onto shore.  I’ve never seen one of these guys up close, as they don’t come often to the Circle B Bar Reserve or any of the other places where I regularly go to photograph.  I thought it was fun to see one out of the water.  Look at those bright orange feet that match the beak!

Red-Breasted Merganser

Red-Breasted Merganser

The bird swam around for a bit, then started to bathe in the tide.  I love how The Beast captures each individual water droplet in such sharp focus.  This guy reminds me of our backyard Brown Thrasher as he splashed around in our birdbath several times a day…

Red-Breasted Merganser

Red-Breasted Merganser

There was a small flock of Short-Billed Dowitchers that flew in which I watched.  Half of them have started to get their breeding blush.  They moved en masse, and I thought this shot of the group with everybody’s head turned in the same direction was fun:

Short-Billed Dowitcher Flock

Short-Billed Dowitcher Flock

I didn’t want to miss the sunset at North Beach, so after 20 minutes or so we packed up and headed over there.  Dyeyo, here’s the proof that there really are birds at North Beach.   (When he came with me last, the beach was deserted and I think he had no idea why I was so excited about De Soto!)

North Beach Conservation Area panorama

North Beach Conservation Area panorama

The North Beach was covered in Laughing Gulls, who gathered around the beachgoers and picnickers to beg for their night’s supper.  There were lots of courtship behaviors, too, and we found a couple of birds mating.  Rich was concerned that those activities might not be appropriate for a family beach!

Laughing Gulls mating

Laughing Gulls mating

I was ecstatic to find the Long-Billed Curlew at the edge of the conservation area.  The light worked in my favor as I positioned myself close to the ropes and aimed the camera at the long bill.  Can you imagine going through life with such a long narrow mouth?

Long-Billed Curlew

Long-Billed Curlew

As we walked along the shore we came across several Willets.  I liked to photograph them, as they almost always hung around by themselves, making bird portraits quite easy.  I chuckled to myself as other photographers passed me; I don’t get over to Fort De Soto often enough to pass by the “regulars”.

Willet

Willet

A pair of Laughing Gulls amused us as they fought over a chicken bone left over from somebody’s picnic.  One bird paraded around with the bone for quite a while.  I think he didn’t quite know what to do with it.

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

As the sun lowered on the horizon, I switched to a smaller lens and started photographing the sunset over the water.  The glow of the setting sun was gorgeous!  My favorite shots were when I knelt down in the sand and tried to include sand, waves, and sun in the scene.

Sunset at North Beach

Sunset at North Beach

And so ended a beautiful evening at Fort De Soto.  The ship literally sailed right off into the sunset…

Sailing into the Sunset

Sailing into the Sunset