Rich came with me to Fort De Soto for sunrise this morning. He can’t remember the last time he watched the sun rise! We went to East Beach to see the sun come up over the Sunshine Skyway. Then we went the North Beach lagoon, then we found the famous mulberry trees. It was a slow day for migrants—we saw only an Indigo Bunting, a Black-Throated Blue Warbler, and a Cape May Warbler. I got a glimpse of the Black-Hooded Parakeets, but no pictures. But the morning photography at North Beach was awesome.
Here’s a panorama of the sunrise at East Beach, with the Sunshine Skyway as a backdrop:
When I got to North Beach, I headed towards the lagoon. I was happy to find a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron standing perfectly still along the dunes within a few feet of me. This is another common bird at De Soto, but I have little experience photographing him.
I saw my first American Oystercatcher along the shore and I positioned the Beast to photograph him. As I focused, the bird started to run off and fuss. “No! Wait for me to get a picture first!” But the bird was fussing because his mate was flying up to him. I got about three frames of the two of them greeting each other, and I really liked this one.
The Laughing Gulls flew around me constantly, and I tried to get good shots of them in flight and landing. They were fun to watch as they tried to attract a mate:
A Reddish Egret flew by me and landed farther down on the shore. I grabbed The Beast and started walking quickly to catch up to him. I can see why people call his fishing technique a “drunken sailor routine.” This crazy bird is pretty agile, and he moves that neck around quickly and then flaps his wings and does a little dance to cast shadows on the fish below.
I only got a few shots of him, because he moved off pretty quickly in his hunt for his breakfast. Later I saw another Reddish Egret fly up with a white morph Reddish Egret. That was pretty cool. The white morph poked around for fish in the water, and the red guy flew off and came back with nesting material. I saw him fly off with at least two twigs…I guess there may be baby Reddish Egrets soon? :)
The Willets kept posing for me and I kept photographing them, loving the nice portraits that they made against the blue water.
I know the Black-Bellied Plovers are pretty common at Fort De Soto, but this was the closest I’ve been to photographing one in breeding colors. I’d love to go back in a few weeks and see the all-black tummy.
I enjoyed watching the little Ruddy Turnstones as they ran along the waves. To me it looked like the surf was smooth, without a lot of little fish or other food sources, but this guy kept plucking up shells and then cracking them open with a flick of his beak to get at the shellfish inside. This is another bird who is halfway into his molt and I would love to see him in full breeding colors.
All in all, it was an awesome morning. The breeze was cool and the birds were great and I love my Beast!! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Fort De Soto?
Check out my Fort De Soto page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!