Beyond the BackyardFort De Soto

Shorebirds Leaving Florida for the Summer

A few weekends ago, I had the best time photographing shorebirds in breeding colors at Fort De Soto.  When I returned last weekend with my dad, we saw very few of them.  It’s amazing how quickly they molt into their breeding colors and fly off to raise their families.  It’s even more amazing to realize that they’ll be back in Florida in just a few short months!  Time flies when you’re having fun…

Sanderling
Sanderling

Sanderlings are small shorebirds that often run along the edges of the waves.  In the wintertime their backs are a pale gray, but in May they burst into a bright red-brown.  It’s very pretty, especially if one will stand still long enough to take his picture!

Juvenile Male Red-Breasted Merganser
Juvenile Male Red-Breasted Merganser

It’s been a good spring for Red-breasted Mergansers at Fort De Soto.  I’ve been amazed at how tame these birds as, swimming right past the groups of crazy photographers with our tripods in the water.  In April there were several dozen birds, almost all females (or juveniles).  Some of my friends got shots of a male, but I missed him.  So on the morning that I photographed the Least Terns, I was very happy to see this juvenile male sunning himself at the edge of the water.  See, sometimes it pays to get wet and see the good birds!  I’d love to see a male in full breeding colors.  For this year I’ll have to be content with this guy, whose head is starting to turn dark black.

Dunlin in Sweet Morning Light
Dunlin in Sweet Morning Light

The Dunlin is another small shorebird who winters here in Florida.  Throughout the winter he sports a white tummy.  In the spring, it turns pitch black (kinda like the Black-bellied Plovers).  I photographed this one while lying on a mud flat at North Beach.  It sounds gross, but it was fun. :)

Aaa-cho! Marbled Godwit in a Great Pose
Aaa-cho! Marbled Godwit in a Great Pose

The Long-billed Curlew left Fort De Soto a while back, and I haven’t seen or heard about the Whimbrel since I saw him on Easter weekend.  But the Marbled Godwits were still hanging around in mid-May.  They like to sleep on one leg with their heads tucked under their wings, so they are often rather boring subjects.  This one was preening (on one leg, of course!)  I caught him in the best pose, looking as if he was in the middle of a sneeze.  God bless you!

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover

The Semipalmated Plovers really start to look good in the spring.  Their chest and head bands deepen to a dark black, and their little orange patches on the nose make them look pretty cute!  They are not to be confused with the Wilson’s Plovers (below).  Both types of plovers were running around North Beach on this morning.  They are fast and hard to catch!

Wilson's Plover on Nest
Wilson’s Plover on Nest

As the shorebirds fly away, our attention turns to the nesting birds that stay behind, like the Wilson’s Plover above.  She was sitting on a nest at North Beach.  When I returned last weekend, the nest was gone.  High waters had destroyed several nests along the beach the week before, and I’m guessing they got to her nest as well.  It’s a shame.  It’s not easy to nest on busy beaches in Florida. :(

4 thoughts on “Shorebirds Leaving Florida for the Summer

    1. Hehe, yes, Wally, you do understand! I try to give the birds lessons on head angles. “Look over here”, “no, too far”, etc. But they don’t seem to take direction ;-)

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