Beyond the BackyardFort De Soto

Migrant-Hunting at Fort De Soto with my Dad

My dad has never seen a fallout at Fort De Soto, and he’s anxious to add some neotropical migrants to his life list.  So when we had a front in the first week of April and the birdcast confirmed that there were fallout conditions, we headed to Fort de Soto.  Sure, it was a bit early for the migrants, but you never know.  Besides, a day out with my dad is a good day, migrants or not!

North Beach

You know it’s going to be a good morning when it starts out with a Roseate Spoonbill at the North Beach lagoon!

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

There were not a ton of birds at the North Beach lagoon, but there were enough to spend a happy hour or so in the beautiful morning light.  There were Laughing Gulls, a bunch of White Ibises (in brilliant breeding reds!), a couple of Marbled Godwits, a Reddish Egret, and the Roseate Spoonbill.  At first the ibises were just feeding in the water quietly.  Then two of them decided to do some courtship moves, something I’d never seem before.  Both birds rose into the air and showed off their aerial skills.  I think they impressed each other.

White Ibis Courtship
White Ibis Courtship

A lone Snowy Egret flew in and started showing off his lacy breeding plumage.  He walked slowly in the water, wiggling his feet and trying to find his breakfast.  Then suddenly he reached out his long neck and plucked a fish from the water.

Snowy Egret on the Attack
Snowy Egret on the Attack

One of my dad’s favorite birds at the beach is the Brown Pelican, and at this time of year, they are especially pretty in their breeding colors.  This one flew in across the lagoon and grabbed a mouthful of fish.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican

After their courtship dance, the White Ibises continued feeding.  Look at that bright red face and legs!  They too were searching for crabs for breakfast.  This one scored!

White Ibis with Crab
White Ibis with Crab

The Roseate Spoonbill made her way up and down the lagoon, then took flight.  Look at the mud on the tips of her wings!  She needs to take a good bath.

Roseate Spoonbill in Flight
Roseate Spoonbill in Flight

As my dad and I left the lagoon, this Red-winged Blackbird flew in and started to sing.  I knelt down and angled myself so that he’d have a pretty background.  Then I waited for him to throw back his head and call.  Which of course he did…

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

North Beach Parking Lot

I don’t often spent much time in the North Beach parking lot, and perhaps that’s a mistake.  I noticed a small puddle in the parking lot and all the birds were flocking to it for a drink and a quick bath.  Like this Nanday Parakeet…

Nanday Parakeet
Nanday Parakeet

There were a bunch of Fish Crows in the trees by the picnic tables.  One was proudly holding a Cheeto.  Then suddenly one grabbed a twig and started flying off with it.  I don’t think he had permission to take that stick.  In fact, I think he might have stolen it from a mockingbird nest.  Why?  Well, the mockingbird proceeded to chase him in circles…

Mockingbird Chasing Crow with Nesting Material
Mockingbird Chasing Crow with Nesting Material

Orange! Migrant spotting!  A male Orchard Oriole was hanging out in a tree at the end of the parking lot.  My dad was so excited. Unfortunately the bird didn’t stay long, but he did pose for my dad’s camera as my dad’s lifer Orchard Oriole!

Orchard Oriole
Orchard Oriole

Mulberry Trees

Next we headed to the mulberry tree area by the ranger’s house.  The first bird we saw was another lifer for my dad – a Common Ground Dove, who obligingly hopped up into a tree to pose for the camera.

Common Ground Dove
Common Ground Dove

We sat by the foundation for a little while without seeing much.  Terns flew overhead, an Ibis came in to drink.  Then a Hermit Thrush popped out on a branch right in front of us.  Cool!

Hermit Thrush
Hermit Thrush

People passed us saying they had seen a Summer Tanager and an Orchard Oriole.   We walked around and then my dad saw the red bird that wasn’t a cardinal…and he had a huge wasp in his mouth!

Summer Tanager with Bug
Summer Tanager with Wasp

East Beach

The wind was starting to pick up, so we headed to East Beach hoping that the bay side would be more protected from the winds from the gulf.  As we walked through the parking lot, we spotted a Black-and-white Warbler in the oak trees.

Black-and-White Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler

We took a nice long walk down the beach and laughed at all the pelicans diving in the water.  Unfortunately there were no more migrants, though.  That’s OK – my dad had 6 new lifers that morning!  Such a great morning! :)