Colorful Migrants at Fort De Soto’s Mulberry Trees

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After Monday’s magical morning at the East Beach at Fort De Soto, I headed to the mulberry trees to look for more migrant birds. The first bird I saw was one I had missed earlier in the morning, a bright red Scarlet Tanager.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager

For years I drove by the mulberry trees without giving them a second glance. They’re just the trees around the ranger’s house. But during a week or two in April, they are a magical place filled with colorful songbirds passing through Florida on their migratory route north.

A pair of Indigo Buntings was hanging out in some low bushes. The beautiful male flashed his bright blue colors and the female’s brown feathers glistened in the sun.

Indigo Bunting (Male)
Indigo Bunting (Male)
Indigo Bunting (Female)
Indigo Bunting (Female)

The oak tree next to the ranger’s house is a great place to watch for warblers. Like this Black-and-white Warbler, who paused briefly in his bug hunt to stop and look at my camera.

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

There were several Black-throated Green Warblers hopping around. First they stayed high in the tree, then they headed down into some branches right overhead. At times I could have reached out to touch them. Definitely a case of “too much lens” but that’s not a hard problem to solve – you just have to zoom with your feet! ;-)

Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler

Off in the distance, I spotted a small bird with spots of yellow. I followed him for about half an hour as he came, went, and got closer. First I got an ID picture. Then I got a closer picture. Then I got a photo that I actually like! Say hello to the Yellow-throated Vireo…

Yellow-throated Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and the occasional oriole flitted in the trees overhead. There were more females than males. This one didn’t have mulberry stains on her chin.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Female)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Female)

I moved over to the fountain area and stood watching as the colorful feathers went by. The light was really bad but how often do you get to photograph these birds in FL? This Tennessee Warbler paused in a mulberry tree before hopping over to the fountain for a drink.

Tennessee Warbler
Tennessee Warbler

A Yellow Warbler flew by the fountain but didn’t like the branches that people had placed near the fountain. He circled around the fountain a few times and then took cover in some nearby palm trees. He’s not a fan of photographer-placed perches near his favorite water hole!

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

A few minutes later, a Painted Bunting hopped over to the fountain. He’s a “greenie,” either a female or a juvenile male. In my yard, the males all disappeared around mid-April (just in time for Tax Day!) The males migrate first, followed by the greenies about 10 days later.

Painted Bunting (Greenie)
Painted Bunting (Greenie)

Sometimes it pays to just stand and watch. After a Northern Parula and a Cape May Warbler flew in front of me, I spotted a small dark warbler in the palms. She’s a Blackpoll Warbler, a bird with one of the longest migration routes known.

Blackpoll Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler

My last bird of the day was this female American Redstart. These small warblers are best identified by their fan-like tails and their propensity to hop quickly through the branches, which makes them quite a challenge to photograph. I must have taken 50 shots where the bird was blurry or just plain missing from the image. So you can imagine my happy dance when I saw a frame that was in focus! ;-)

American Redstart (Female)
American Redstart (Female)

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!

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