Fort De Soto is a great place to visit during the third week in April. That tends to be the best week to catch neotropical migrants on their flight north to their breeding grounds. There’s a great website that can help you time your visit. The BirdCast group, run by the Cornell Lab for Ornithology, does nightly projections of migration movements based on radar. When you see a good movement of birds, coupled with a strong weather system over Florida, there’s a good chance for fallout.
I arrive at the mulberry trees with visions of rainbow-colored birds that I’ve seen there in previous years. But the mulberry trees are empty – no fruit, few birds. A quartet of Gray Catbirds meow at me in greeting.
I make my way over to the fountain. The fresh running water attracts all sorts of birds, especially the tired migrants who have just finished flying across the Gulf of Mexico. I’m not disappointed. A Louisiana Waterthrush hops out for a drink and a quick bath.
Over my head, I hear the song of a European Starling. I think they nest in the big tree over the fountain. The bird looks straight at me and sings his heart out.
A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron flies in. He pauses by the edge of the fountain, drinking from the cool water. My 600mm lens is the perfect focal length for a head shot. He looks at me innocently and assures me that he’ll leave my nesting bird friends alone! (not)
I walk around, hoping to find a stray migrant in a treetop. I come across a Blackpoll Warbler at the very top of a tree, but he evades my camera. All I get is a quick shot of his orangish legs. The Nanday Parakeets laugh at me for missing the shot!
There is an Osprey nest in the big tree overlooking the fountain. Inside are two juvenile Ospreys. Mom (or Dad?) sits on a nearby branch to supervise them. Everybody gets excited when a fourth Osprey flies by. From their expressions, I think the babies are hoping it’s Dad bringing in food. Mom seems to know that it isn’t Dad, and she tells the intruder to stay away!
I pack up to leave, disappointed that I haven’t seen more migrants. Then a nice lady asks me if I have checked out the fig tree at the administration building. So on my way out of the park, when I see a bunch of camera lenses pointed at one tree, of course I have to stop. What do I see? You’ll find out in the next post!
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!