Fort de Soto’s North Beach is magical in the springtime. The beach has re-shaped significantly over the past few years, and there are some wonderful tide pools that attract hungry birds, like the Black Skimmers I wrote about in my last post. I spent a very happy half hour sitting on the edge of the wading pools watching birds find their breakfasts.
This Marbled Godwit was in beautiful soft light on that gorgeous cool morning. I didn’t even see the tiny fish he was pulling from the wading pool until I got home and looked at my pictures.
This little Least Sandpiper took a break from feeding to take a bath. He seemed to really enjoy throwing water droplets everywhere!
Big Red was active that morning. This is one of the dark-morph Reddish Egrets that hangs out at Fort De Soto. He dances like a drunken sailor when he’s hunting for food.
This Ruddy Turnstone is getting close to full breeding colors. He paused at the edge of the wading pool to look at the camera, then he resumed his search for breakfast.
This Dunlin will soon have a striking black chest. He was a little embarrassed to be caught mid-molt. He asked me to come back in a few weeks and see how pretty he’ll be then!
This Common Merganser was very busy with her breakfast. I never quite identified what it was, but it was big and white and apparently very hard to grasp in her beak.
Later I saw a Laughing Gull eating something similar. He seemed very proud of himself.
This Semi-Palmated Plover was in full breeding plumage. Turns out this was another Five-Plover morning, but I didn’t know it yet!
This last image is a Black-bellied Plover who made me laugh. He grabbed his breakfast and started to fly off, but he was startled and dropped it! I caught the sequence and edited it together to show the sequence.
You know it’s going to be a good morning when these images are on your card in the first half hour! I headed out to Outback Key to see what I could find…more on that in my next post!
I retuned to Fort De Soto in early May with the hopes of finding migrants. I started off at North Beach, where a group of Black Skimmers was working a tide pool. Black Skimmers are one of the few birds whose lower beak (mandible) is longer than the top. The skimmers feed by dragging their bottom beak through the water to catch a fish. It’s so much fun to try to photograph!
Look carefully at the photo above. You can see the ridge of water that he cut with his beak. Plus he has beads of water in his wing feathers. Pretty!
The skimmers make a fun little barking sound as they fly. It’s unmistakeable after you’ve spent an afternoon in a skimmer colony. These skimmers flew back and forth in the soft morning light, fishing their way up and down the beach. I knelt down and enjoyed the awesome autofocus of the R5. My favorite shot was this last one, with a juxtaposition of two skimming birds.
As the name of this post suggests, this post barely skims the surface of my morning at Fort De Soto. It was awesome!! More coming in the next post…
During my last visit to Lake Morton, I came across these little black alien-like creatures with big feet. Their bright orange beaks and blue eyes looked different than any other creatures at the lake. They communicated rapidly and repeatedly in a persistent whining tone.
The Common Gallinules knew where these aliens came from. They are Common Gallinule babies. The frazzled parents tried to keep an eye on their first broods of children while they incubated a second brood. They said it’s hard to do both, especially when the babies prefer to get food from Mom and Dad instead of finding it for themselves.
It was a beautiful morning at the lake. Swan nesting had pretty much ended. All the Mute Swan nests were empty, and a few families were held in the pens with their small cygnets. A pair of Mute Swans still seemed to be in courtship mode out in the water.
Near the shore, I saw a Common Gallinule gathering sticks to build her nest. I grabbed a few reeds and placed them near her nest to give her a hand. She gratefully accepted them.
Love was definitely in the air that morning. It’s not always a private matter, either. I felt badly for this duck…
I wandered around the lake and found another family of Common Gallinules. Mom and Dad had about a half dozen slightly older chicks. They were combing through the grass looking for bugs for breakfast. I laid down and spent about half an hour laughing at their big feet.
The parents were very attentive, keeping a very close eye on their brood. As a group of people approached, the birds returned to the water, and I headed to my car. Another great morning of birding at Lake Morton!