Wading Pools at Fort De Soto’s North Beach

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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.

Marbled Godwit
Marbled Godwit

This little Least Sandpiper took a break from feeding to take a bath. He seemed to really enjoy throwing water droplets everywhere!

Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper

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.

Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret

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.

Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone

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!

Dunlin
Dunlin

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.

Common Merganser
Common Merganser

Later I saw a Laughing Gull eating something similar. He seemed very proud of himself.

Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull

This Semi-Palmated Plover was in full breeding plumage. Turns out this was another Five-Plover morning, but I didn’t know it yet!

Semi-palmated Plover
Semi-palmated Plover

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.

Black-bellied Plover Drops His Breakfast
Black-bellied Plover Drops His Breakfast

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!

Skimming the Surface

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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!

Black Skimmer Skimming
Black Skimmer Skimming

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!

Black Skimmer Skimming
Black Skimmer Skimming

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.

Black Skimmer Skimming
Black Skimmer Skimming

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…

Aliens Invade at Lake Morton

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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.

Common Gallinule Babies
Alien? or Common Gallinule baby

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.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule Adult and Baby

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.

Swans in Love
Swans in Love

The Lesser Scaup that I found on my last visit was still at the lake. She swam up to the edge of the water and gave me a wing-flap.

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup

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.

Common Gallinule with Nest Material
Common Gallinule with Nest Material

Love was definitely in the air that morning. It’s not always a private matter, either. I felt badly for this duck…

Three's a Crowd
Three’s a Crowd

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.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule Baby

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!

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule