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Of Drunken Sailors and Crab Legs (Fort De Soto)

After a long week at work, I was itching for a photography adventure.  So I got up at 4 on Saturday morning and drove to Fort De Soto for sunrise.  But I did have a great morning at North Beach, enjoying especially the antics of the Reddish Egrets.  They are too funny!

I arrived just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.  I resisted the temptation to photograph the orange fireball in the eastern sky, and instead I hurried to North Beach.  The tidal pools in front of the concession stand were still and as yet unlit by the rising sun.  A couple of Great Egrets were feeding there, and their reflections in the purply-pink water were quite nice.  Especially when one reached down and grabbed a minnow for me!

Great Egret

Great Egret

It wasn’t long before I ran into a Reddish Egret.  I saw several of them over the course of the morning, most of them stalking their breakfast by doing their “drunken sailor dance” (see below).  My favorite shot of the morning was this portrait of the Reddish Egret, in the clear water of the Gulf.

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Brown Pelicans flew up and down the beach.  I know these are common birds, and often overlooked, but I find them pretty.  I had fun watching them fly in, float for a few minutes, then grab a fish and fly off.  One was quite nice and flew towards the camera…why can’t more birds do that? :)

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

I went up on the dunes to search for the baby Wilson’s Plovers.  I didn’t find them, but I did run into several Willets who were hanging out in the beachy grasses.  I thought the soft grasses made a nice background for a portrait:

Willet

Willet

At the far end of the beach, past the tree that extends into the water, were the two American Oystercatchers that I found last time.  They were walking up the shoreline, pulling small shells from the water and extracting the meat from inside.  I lowered my tripod as much as possible, enjoying the Gitzo quick release that allowed me to get it almost horizontal in just a few seconds. The camera was almost at ground level, allowing me to get a nice “birds-eye” view (which also makes for a great background.)

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

I’m not too good at identify shorebirds, especially in their varied plumages.  But I’m pretty sure this is a Sanderling in his breeding colors.  I was surprised by the bright brown feathers, such a contrast to his white winter coat.  While I was still crouched down with my camera low to the ground, this obliging bird ran towards me.

Sanderling

Sanderling

I saw several Yellow-Crowned Night Herons in flight around the beach.  At the Circle B Bar Reserve, where I normally do most of my photography, these birds are pretty rare.  At De Soto they are quite common.  I knew that they often could be seen at the North Beach dunes snacking on fiddler crabs, but I still did a little dance (figuratively) when I came across one with his prey.  I got a video of him as he played with his food.  Then when I got home, I realized I had a still of the bird tossing back a crab leg to catch in his beak.  What a delicacy!  After he ate, he went down to the water to wash out his mouth.  He stood there for a long time, and I stood waiting, hoping he would reward me with a flight shot.  But I guess that was asking a bit too much! :)

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron – Crab Leg snack

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron – Crab Leg snack

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

After the light got too harsh, I headed over to the Mulberry Trees.  Several migrants had been reported on Friday at the mulberry trees, including a Scarlet Tanager and several warblers.  Unfortunately the mulberry tree area was pretty uneventful when I got there on Saturday.  But I did have the pleasure of meeting a fellow Birdbrain, Jim.  He was very knowledgeable about where to find odd migrants around the state.  Thanks again for the info! :)

So to close this post, here are more shots of my favorite clown, the “drunken sailor” Reddish Egret.  He does the most amusing dance as he searches for food!  I really enjoyed trying to capture stills of his antics.  Watch the little video first, to better appreciate the stills. :)

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

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Want to know more about photographing 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. Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!
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