"Sunrise" Skyway and Fort De Soto Birds


The best colors of sunrise are often about half an hour before sunrise, and this morning the colors were totally worth the early wake-up call and two-hour drive to Fort De Soto!  I arrived around 6:45 and made my way to East Beach, where the sun was just starting to show itself on the horizon.  The orange colors in the sky were amazing.  I played with my 24-70 and my 70-200 lenses, trying to figure out which focal length I liked best.  I also bracketed for HDR.

The sun angles are changing quickly lately, and right now, you can catch the sun rising over the Sunshine Skyway bridge if you position yourself on the East Beach.  Friends Michael and Dan joined me as the sun peeked out over the bridge.  With no clouds in the sky, the sun was blinding and bright as it rose.  I used Live View so that I could adjust the framing without looking at the sun.

It was a great morning to be out with friends.  The temperatures were nice and cool, and I was glad I had grabbed a sweatshirt on my way out!  After the sun was up, we headed to North Beach to check out the birds.  Unfortunately there weren’t too many there.  But I get to the beach so rarely that even the common shorebirds are exciting for me.  This Ruddy Turnstone, recently arrived from his summer grounds in northern Canada, went fishing in the surf and emerged victorious.

We went looking for the White Morph Reddish Egret, but all we found were Snowy Egrets (tiny dancers!)  A couple of Wilson’s Plovers posed for us by the lagoon, and then we found some Yellow-Crowned Night Herons by the marsh.  I was surprised that the roped-off areas for the Wilson’s Plovers nests are still roped off this far past the nesting season.  I wasn’t too happy with the light in my night heron shots, but I did like this Semipalmated Plover:

We ran into Dina as we headed back towards the bird sanctuary.  There were tons of terns in there, but far away from the ropes.  I guess that’s where I’d be if I was a bird living at that beach!  It was fun to see friends, but disappointing that we weren’t seeing more birds.  So I shot the birds that were there – the Brown Pelicans.  They are kind of pretty, and fun to photograph as they dive into the water.

I heard birds at the North Beach parking lot area as we headed towards the water, but I wanted to photograph shorebirds in the morning light.  By the time we got back, I didn’t hear warblers.  :(  So we headed to the mulberry trees to look for migrants.  We found a couple of American Redstarts.  They didn’t sit still for very long, but I managed to get one shot of a female.

So I hear that you can regularly see dolphins on the Gulf Pier.  I’ve never gone there on my De Soto visits, and this morning the light was pretty harsh by the time I left the mulberry trees. So now I have something to look forward to on my next visit! :)

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!

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