A huge thanks to the woman at Fort De Soto who told me there were grosbeaks and tanagers at the administration building! There is a fig tree at the end of the parking lot with lots of fruit. That’s where the hungry migrants are! They are pigging out on figs. I spend a good half hour staring up into the branches. I end up with a Cape May Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male and female), Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Gray Catbirds, and Indigo Bunting. Not bad!
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!
I had a really good morning at Fort De Soto, in case you couldn’t tell from my last three posts! Here’s some more fun from North Beach.
This Osprey was perched in a tree at the parking lot as I headed out to the beach. He was enjoying his fish breakfast. He didn’t offer to share!
A couple of Common Mergansers were swimming around the sandbar. One of them gave me a wing-flap.
This Marbled Godwit was hanging out in the shallow waters around the sandbar. I love the light on him. I can’t image having a beak that big!
You could hear the bark of Black Skimmers as they skimmed along the shore. A small flock of them built up on the sandbar. Then I heard a familiar noise and spotted some funny business going on. It would be so cool if a flock of skimmers nested at North Beach this year!
The Least Terns are back! These are the smallest terns in North America. They return to Florida in late March to nest on our beaches. On this particular morning, I saw them pulling lots of tiny fish from the waves. I hope their nesting colony this year has better luck than last year.
A flock of Red Knots was bathing in the shallow water. This one was starting to come into his breeding colors. With all their feet in the water, it was hard to tell if any of them were banded. A lot of them are.
A Reddish Egret flew up and started to dance in the waves. He was pulling out fish after fish after fish! The gulls hovered overheard, ready to steal the fish at the first opportunity. Lazy birds!
I found a pair of Snowy Plovers running around in the white sand. The banded one is a male called “Kenobi” who was born on Outback Key two years ago. It looks like he’s found a girlfriend…
I came across another flock of terns. This one had some Sandwich Terns in it, and finally! after many years, I finally found them “making sandwiches.” :)
One of my last birds of the morning was one of the best. A pair of American Oystercatchers are nesting on North Beach! One of them was banded in Georgia. I’ve never seen baby American Oystercatchers, so I can’t wait to go back!!