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Fort De Soto

Fort De Soto is incredible for bird photography! My favorite time to go is in the spring, when the birds are in their breeding colors, and around September, when the terns congregate prior to migrating. The entire park is good for birding, but my favorite places are North Beach, the East Beach Turnaround, and the Mulberry bush area and East Beach woods (for migrating birds).

Photography advice: Take every lens you can carry! I use my long lens for bird portraits and far-off rarities, my intermediate telephoto for flight shots, and my wide-angle for landscapes. Fort De Soto is one of those rare places where you can photograph both sunrise and sunset over the ocean!

Visit the Fort De Soto website.

Check for road closures before you go!


April Showers Bring…May Migrants!

April Showers Bring…May Migrants! - May 2017

A cold front blew in migrant birds to Fort De Soto yesterday - lots of Bay-breasted Warblers, Indigo Buntings, tanagers, grosbeaks, and more!Read More


Nanday Parakeets and Yellow Flowers

Nanday Parakeets and Yellow Flowers - April 2017

Why would two photographers hop out on the side of the road? To photograph Nanday Parakeets in yellow flowers, of course!Read More


Migrant-Hunting at Fort De Soto with my Dad

Migrant-Hunting at Fort De Soto with my Dad - April 2017

A search for Fort De Soto migrants yielded Summer Tanager, Hermit Thrush, Orchard Oriole, and my one of my favorite birds: Roseate Spoonbill!Read More


Fort de Soto Photography in Early April

Fort de Soto Photography in Early April - April 2017

April is a great time to visit Fort De Soto for shorebird photography and the possibility of migrantsRead More


Seahorse Surprise at Fort De Soto

Seahorse Surprise at Fort De Soto - January 2017

Fort de Soto's North Beach never disappoints. This time, it turned up a Ring-billed Gull with a seahorse surprise!Read More


Say Goodbye to the Shorebirds

Say Goodbye to the Shorebirds - May 2015

I headed to Fort De Soto in early May to say goodbye to the shorebirds as they leave for their breeding grounds. I saw two Snowy Plovers!Read More


Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at Fort De Soto!

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at Fort De Soto! - May 2015

A tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Fort De Soto let me photograph him as he re-fueled on his long migration journey. Read More


Vacation Beginnings at Fort De Soto

Vacation Beginnings at Fort De Soto - April 2015

My first photo outing in almost two months, on the wonderful beaches of Fort De Soto! My first Red Knot in breeding plumage... :)Read More


Banded Piping Plover Information

Banded Piping Plover Information - October 2014

The USGS Bird Banding Lab replied to me about the banded Piping Plovers that I saw at Fort De Soto back in September. Read More


Crazy Photographer Alert

Crazy Photographer Alert - September 2014

Rich captured some fun images of me from Fort De Soto. He had his first-of-fall crazy photographer sighting!Read More


Fall Getaway to Fort De Soto

Fall Getaway to Fort De Soto - September 2014

Rich and I escaped for a fall getaway to Fort De Soto, where we photographed migrating shorebirds and pretty Roseate SpoonbillsRead More


Lifer Snowy Plover at Fort De Soto!

Lifer Snowy Plover at Fort De Soto! - August 2014

I scored my lifer Snowy Plover last week at Fort De Soto, along with several Piping Plovers. It was a four-plover trip! Not bad!Read More


Magnificent Frigatebirds with my Dad

Magnificent Frigatebirds with my Dad - June 2014

My dad and I had a great time photographing some Magnificent Frigatebirds at Fort De Soto. A great way to celebrate his birthday!Read More


Shorebirds Leaving Florida for the Summer

Shorebirds Leaving Florida for the Summer - May 2014

The shorebirds are leaving Florida for their nesting grounds. I photographed some of them in breeding colors at Fort De Soto a few weeks agoRead More


The Quest for a Black Belly Concludes?

The Quest for a Black Belly Concludes? - May 2014

My ongoing quest for black belly! Black-bellied Plovers often leave Florida before completing their molt. Did I finally get one?Read More


Least Tern Fish Exchanges and Courtship

Least Tern Fish Exchanges and Courtship - May 2014

Two weeks ago at Fort De Soto I got to photograph Least Tern fish exchanges and courtship rituals on North Beach. It was so much fun!Read More


Beach Bird Heuristics for Rich

Beach Bird Heuristics for Rich - May 2014

When my non-photographer hubby accompanied me to Fort De Soto, I gave him tips on finding good beach birds, like my very first Whimbrel!Read More


Least Tern Fish Exchanges

Least Tern Fish Exchanges - May 2014

On my last trip to Fort De Soto I photographed several Least Tern fish exchanges as these tiny birds performed their courtship rituals.Read More


More Migrant Songbirds at Fort De Soto

More Migrant Songbirds at Fort De Soto - May 2014

More shots of migrant songbirds at Fort De Soto, including a lifer Bay-breasted Warbler and some great American Redstarts. Read More


Royal Tern Courtship

Royal Tern Courtship - May 2014

I finally got to photograph Royal Tern courtship. The Royal Terns exchanged fish and crabs before mating on North Beach. What a fun morning!Read More


Photographing Scarlet Tanagers Eating Insects

Photographing Scarlet Tanagers Eating Insects - May 2014

I had such a great weekend at Fort De Soto with the migrant birds not too long ago, and one of the best parts was photographing the Scarlet Tanagers.  The bright red feathers and black wings of the males are very striking.  At the East Beach, I found about ten tanagers that were feeding near the entrance to the Privet Trail.  They didn't seem to mind all the crowds and …Read More


Migrant Birds at Fort De Soto

Migrant Birds at Fort De Soto - April 2014

Two weekends ago I had the most amazing morning photographing the migrant birds at Fort De Soto.  The trees were literally dropping with colorful birds.  Red tanagers, orange orioles, blue buntings and grosbeaks, and warblers everywhere.  It was a birder's paradise. Good birding isn't always good for the birds.  Most of these birds spend the winters in South America.  In April, they fly north to their breeding grounds in the …Read More


Springtime Bird Photography at Fort De Soto

Springtime Bird Photography at Fort De Soto - April 2014

April is my favorite time to visit Fort De Soto in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The sandy beaches are beautiful, the spring winds are cool, and my toes get to wiggle in the ocean water as I photograph the birds molting into their breeding plumage.  An April visit always has the possibility of a fallout, where migratory birds are caught by rainstorms as they cross the Gulf of Mexico, so they …Read More


Great Horned Owl Nest at Fort De Soto

Great Horned Owl Nest at Fort De Soto - March 2014

Two weeks ago, my dad and I drove over to Fort De Soto to photograph the Great Horned Owl nest.  At the time, the owlets were two weeks old.  Ever since I saw Marina Scarr's highly honored image in the Windland Smith Rice photo contest, I've wanted to see a similar scene - the mother owl with her owlet tucked under her wing, with only his face visible, nestled in …Read More


The Chase

The Chase - September 2013

While at Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend, I captured a fun sequence of images.  The Sandwich Terns were in a feeding frenzy over the ocean.  I tried to photograph them as they grabbed their fish from the ocean.   One grabbed a huge fish, dropped it in mid-air, then dove and caught it again.  It was a very exciting chase, and I was very happy when I checked …Read More


Feeding Frenzy at Fort De Soto

Feeding Frenzy at Fort De Soto - September 2013

I had such a good time photographing the terns and gulls in their feeding frenzy at Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend.  I got to North Beach just after sunrise.  The feeding frenzy from the night before continued as hundreds of birds dove into the waves and pulled out their breakfasts.  There were so many birds!!  It was hard to know what to shoot first.  There wasn't a lot …Read More


Sunrise at Fort De Soto

Sunrise at Fort De Soto - September 2013

We stayed the night at the beach over Labor Day weekend, and I enjoyed the opportunity to shoot sunrise at Fort De Soto without having to drive for two hours! Except I was dismayed to arrive and find that the park is more strictly enforcing its hours. There was a "do not enter" sign that blocked the road until just before 7:00. That left me only about ten minutes before …Read More


Shorebirds Returning to Florida’s Beaches

Shorebirds Returning to Florida’s Beaches - September 2013

Although it's still really hot outside, fall migration is underway, and the shorebirds are returning to Florida's beaches.  Most of our shorebirds fly to places like Alaska and northern Canada to breed.  They leave in May looking all spiffy in their breeding plumage, fly to their breeding grounds, raise their kids, and return to Florida in late August.  Hard to believe, huh? Rich and I spent some time at the …Read More


Sunset at Fort De Soto’s North Beach

Sunset at Fort De Soto’s North Beach - September 2013

Rich and I did an overnight trip to Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend.   I got to do one of my favorite things: photograph sunset at Fort De Soto's North Beach.  It's so beautiful there.  I love the white beach and the unspoiled coastline.  Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought it was great.  We came across this writing in the sand: We had our off-Friday before …Read More


Fort De Soto with My Dad

Fort De Soto with My Dad - June 2013

After visiting the Black Skimmer colony with my dad on Father's Day, we decided to head to Fort De Soto to explore.  It was mid-day, and we knew we'd see more people than birds.  Still, it's hard to be half an hour away from Bird Photography Paradise and not at least stop by!  I'm glad we did, because we had a great time.  I think I got some decent pictures, …Read More


Pleasant Morning at Fort De Soto

Pleasant Morning at Fort De Soto - May 2013

For the past three weekends in a row, I've planned a visit to Fort De Soto.  I even planned to go and stay overnight so that I'd have more time with golden light.  Then there were thunderstorms.  And rain.  And clouds.  Two weekends in a row!  So this past weekend I finally made it there. When you drive into Fort De Soto and come to the flagpole, you have to …Read More


Windy and Cold at Fort De Soto

Windy and Cold at Fort De Soto - April 2013

Somebody needs to tell the groundhog that he really mis-predicted the weather this year.  Instead of his projected early spring, we got freezing cold temperatures well into April!  Still, Fort De Soto is an awesome place for springtime bird photography, even if there's wind and cold.  I spent a very pleasant evening and morning at the North Beach lagoon and saw all sorts of birds in their gorgeous breeding colors. …Read More


Peaceful Blue…

Peaceful Blue… - November 2012

After 13 hours of work today, I needed a reminder of one of my favorite places to relax: Fort De Soto in Tierra Verde, FL.  I photographed this juvenile almost-turned-adult plumage Little Blue Heron at Fort D back in early September.  I've been itching to go back ever since.  Look at that blue water…isn't it relaxing?


Fishing Buddies

Fishing Buddies - September 2012

I had such a good time watching the gulls and the pelicans at Fort De Soto on my last visit. Those gulls are smart - they hang around the pelicans, and when the pelicans grab a big mouthful of fish, the gulls swoop in and steal a bite. I watched them do it over and over. This was my best shot of the behavior. What lazy gulls!


Alone in the Crowd

Alone in the Crowd - September 2012

The Sandwich Terns at North Beach made me laugh. I'm not sure if they were trying for courtship behaviors, or if they were just being silly. I watched several bring in nice fish, then just stand there trying to get attention from everybody else. Why didn't they just eat their fish? Sometimes the crowd would catch on and start up a chase, but a couple of times the tern finally …Read More


Cue the Yawn!

Cue the Yawn! - September 2012

It's Friday…thank goodness! This Royal Tern seems to understand how I feel at the end of the week. Time for a weekend of photography and rest!


Time to Grow Up!

Time to Grow Up! - September 2012

While photographing the terns at Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend, I heard the incessant fussing of a hungry juvenile. It didn't take me long to spot the fusser, who looked all spiffy in his fresh juvenal plumage. (Adult shorebirds at this time of year have worn feathers, and are easily distinguished from their recently-molted offspring.) This juvenile was so insistent that Mom give him a nice breakfast. The …Read More


North Beach Sunset

North Beach Sunset - September 2012

This was the same sunset as the close-up Great Blue Heron sunset shot from a few nights ago. This wide-angle shot is a very different perspective! I was a little sad to see the changes in North Beach since the tropical storms re-shaped the beach. The terns practically had their own little beach with the way the water pools are formed. I was there at low tide. Daniel said that …Read More


Flying Sandwiches

Flying Sandwiches - September 2012

I really enjoyed my Labor Day morning at Fort De Soto this past weekend. When I arrived at North Beach just after sunrise, I found the beach covered in terns. It was funny how the photographers walked right past Big Red to instead focus on the masses of terns. I practiced a lot of panning that morning, trying to quickly lock focus on the fly-bys and pan with them to …Read More


Orange and Black

Orange and Black - September 2012

Last Sunday at Fort De Soto, I walked onto North Beach and wondered what kinds of pictures I could take. The beach was crowded with people, the birds had all retreated into the bird sanctuary (smart birds!), and the sun was hiding behind the clouds. But as the sun got lower in the sky, it glowed a beautiful orange, and I found a lone Great Blue Heron who became my …Read More


Sunset Blast-Off

Sunset Blast-Off - September 2012

Rich and I spent a happy couple of days at Fort De Soto over the Labor Day weekend. I know the shorebirds have been congregating there as they prepare for their fall migratory trip to South America. North Beach in the early mornings is a bird photographer's paradise with hundreds of subjects in incredible light. I was really hoping to get some blast-off shots of the large flocks, but I …Read More


Springtime Bath

Springtime Bath - September 2012

This is a Laughing Gull shot from this spring that I finally got around to processing. I love this shot because it reminds me of what a happy morning it was when I took it. The breeze was cool, the sun felt good on my face, I was out on the beach for the first time in months, the sand between my toes, and this happy gull in fresh plumage …Read More


They’re Ba-ack!

They’re Ba-ack! - August 2012

While I haven't been out to see them myself, reports from Birdbrains indicate that the shorebirds are starting to arrive back in Florida for the winter. Yes, winter. It's July! These birds are incredible. They get all spiffy-looking in their breeding colors in May, fly to the Arctic, have their babies, and arrive back in late July with those spiffy feathers well-worn from their long trip. Amazing, huh? We're happy …Read More


A Quest for a Black Belly

A Quest for a Black Belly - May 2012

I was on a quest this spring to photograph a Black-Bellied Plover in full breeding plumage.  As I visited Fort De Soto periodically throughout their molting time, I was able to catch them at various stages of color.  I got close to catching a fully molted bird, but not quite…maybe next year!


Long-Billed Curlew

Long-Billed Curlew - May 2012

I wanted to go to Fort De Soto this morning, to try for a Black-Bellied Plover in full breeding plumage.  But it was a long week, and I opted to relax instead.  So here's an image from several weeks ago…  


East Beach Sunrise

East Beach Sunrise - May 2012

I had fun photographing the sunrise on the morning that I went to Fort De Soto to look for migrants.  When I arrived at the East Beach turnaround, the sun was just beginning to peek out from over the horizon.  I spotted a Great Blue Heron near me, so I tried to position him for a nice silhouette. There were TONS of gulls in the distance.  It was incredible just …Read More


Piggy-Back Rides – Fort De Soto Laughing Gulls

Piggy-Back Rides – Fort De Soto Laughing Gulls - May 2012

I've enjoyed the opportunity to photograph Laughing Gull courtship behaviors over the past two weekends at Fort De Soto.  My mom asked me, "what's with your recent interesting in photographing…that?"  Well, it's fun!  Birds can be such clowns when it comes to flirting.  And what photographer can resist a good action shot? The courtship begins with fussing.  Lots and lots of fussing. The female runs around begging the male for …Read More


A Rainbow of Color at Fort De Soto

A Rainbow of Color at Fort De Soto - April 2012

After last weekend's fallout of migratory birds at Fort De Soto, I so wanted to take a vacation day on Monday to go birding there.  But I was good and responsible…and I went over on my next off-Friday.  Wow!  It was my first migration experience and it was just incredible.  I had a total of 9 lifers for the day. I started out the morning with the sunrise at the …Read More


Preview of Coming Attractions…

Preview of Coming Attractions… - April 2012

I had the most incredible day today!  I went to Fort De Soto to check out the migrants, and I finally got my first Scarlet Tanager male, along with a ton of orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, and a few warblers.  Birders kept telling me that today was a "slow" day in comparison to last weekend's fallout…but to me, it was awesome!  I stopped at Lake Morton to check on the swan …Read More


A Stop at the Fort De Soto Pier

A Stop at the Fort De Soto Pier - April 2012

While we were at Fort De Soto last weekend, I told Rich that we needed to stop at the Gulf Pier to look for dolphins, and maybe sea turtles.  Rich went along, but didn't expect to see much.  When we arrived, we were seeing dolphins every five seconds!  They are hard to photograph, though, because they dive so quickly.  You barely have time to focus on them before they go …Read More


Three Hours Sitting in One Spot at Fort De Soto

Three Hours Sitting in One Spot at Fort De Soto - April 2012

Rich and I returned to North Beach at Fort De Soto on Friday morning.  It was great – he dropped me off, went to get breakfast, and brought me breakfast on the beach!  What a great hubby.  In the meantime, I had found a couple of Laughing Gulls demonstrating courtship behaviors at the tidal pool by the concession stand.  I plopped down in the sand with The Beast.  Three hours …Read More


Escape to Fort De Soto

Escape to Fort De Soto - April 2012

Rich and I took a much-needed day off from work last Friday and escaped to Fort De Soto for a weekend photography adventure.  We were glad we went Thursday night, which allowed us to get in one day of photography before the rains came.  And of course, we missed the terrific migrant activity that the storms brought later in the weekend.  Oh well! Our first stop at Fort De Soto …Read More


More from the North Beach Shores at Fort De Soto…

More from the North Beach Shores at Fort De Soto… - March 2012

I had such a good morning at Fort De Soto a few weekends ago, and it's taken me that long to finish going through my images!  I had four lifers that day: Common Loon, Red Knot, Lark Sparrow, and my first non-captive Great Horned Owls, with baby!  Combine that opportunity with the awesome light at North Beach, and you get a happy photographer with a full memory card. :) The …Read More


Long-Billed Curlew

Long-Billed Curlew - March 2012

Can you imagine going through life with a bill as long as your foot?  I watch the Long-Billed Curlew at Fort De Soto preening, and he amazes me.  That long bill is great for digging up crabs from deep in the sand, but it's pretty awkward to use to scratch an itch!  I was rewarded with several great opportunities to photograph the curlew last weekend.  I hope to make it …Read More


Shades of Red

Shades of Red - March 2012

The White Ibises at Fort De Soto last weekend were sporting some very brilliant breeding colors.  A group of them fed for me in the little pool near the concession stand on the North Beach.  When bright white birds with great red beaks stand there patiently pulling crab after crab out of the water, it makes this photographer very happy… :)


Looney Tunes

Looney Tunes - March 2012

I saw my first-ever loon yesterday at Fort De Soto.  I'm pretty sure he's a Common Loon.  He was swimming not too far from shore along the North Beach.  I had been thinking how neat it would be to see a loon, then I looked up, and there one was!  Not many mornings give you that kind of luck, and this wasn't my only lifer of the morning.  More on …Read More


My Turn!

My Turn! - March 2012

Two years ago, Dyeyo found a Great Horned Owl nest at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  He showed me his pictures, and I went with him the next weekend to see the babies, but they had already fledged.  Ever since then, I've been itching to have "my turn" with Great Horned owlets.  Today my turn finally came at Fort De Soto, where there is a Great Horned Owl nest in …Read More


Eyes on You

Eyes on You - October 2011

I photographed this Osprey at Fort De Soto park two weeks ago. I thought it was cool how he flew directly at the camera, with both eyes looking straight ahead. He dove several times for fish, but he went away empty-taloned.


"Sunrise" Skyway and Fort De Soto Birds

"Sunrise" Skyway and Fort De Soto Birds - October 2011

The best colors of sunrise are often about half an hour before sunrise, and this morning the colors were totally worth the early wake-up call and two-hour drive to Fort De Soto!  I arrived around 6:45 and made my way to East Beach, where the sun was just starting to show itself on the horizon.  The orange colors in the sky were amazing.  I played with my 24-70 and my …Read More


Early Fall Migrants at Fort De Soto

Early Fall Migrants at Fort De Soto - July 2011

Rich says I must have lost my marbles.  I got up at 4:45 this morning and drove to St. Pete in order to search for Marbled Godwits.  It's been a few months since I've gone to the beach, and I was in the mood for some nice shorebird photography.  It's funny that after photographing lots of birds around the state for the past few years, I still haven't seen some …Read More


Of Drunken Sailors and Crab Legs (Fort De Soto)

Of Drunken Sailors and Crab Legs (Fort De Soto) - May 2011

After a long week at work, I was itching for a photography adventure.  So I got up at 4 on Saturday morning and drove to Fort De Soto for sunrise.  But I did have a great morning at North Beach, enjoying especially the antics of the Reddish Egrets.  They are too funny! I arrived just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.  I resisted the temptation to photograph the …Read More


Sunrise at Fort De Soto

Sunrise at Fort De Soto - April 2011

Rich came with me to Fort De Soto for sunrise this morning.  He can't remember the last time he watched the sun rise!  We went to East Beach to see the sun come up over the Sunshine Skyway.  Then we went the North Beach lagoon, then we found the famous mulberry trees.  It was a slow day for migrants—we saw only an Indigo Bunting, a Black-Throated Blue Warbler, and a …Read More


Sunset at Fort De Soto

Sunset at Fort De Soto - April 2011

Rich and I visited Fort De Soto for sunset this evening.  It was fun to share the park with Rich, who's never shared my early-morning zeal for sunrises and golden-light bird photography.  It was also the first time I'd been to Fort De Soto in the afternoon.  We headed to East Beach first, where the light was finally right to photograph the shorebirds at the turnaround.  Then we went up …Read More


Quiet Morning at Fort De Soto

Quiet Morning at Fort De Soto - March 2011

I drove over to Fort De Soto on Saturday morning in hopes of finding some early migrant warblers.  There have also been a Reddish Egret in full breeding plumage and a Long-Billed Curlew hanging out at the North Beach lagoon.  I had high hopes of some good photography, but unfortunately, it was a pretty quiet morning. When I first arrived, I was on the lookout for the eagle's nest that's …Read More


Beautiful Morning at Fort De Soto

Beautiful Morning at Fort De Soto - November 2010

Dyeyo and I visited Fort De Soto this morning. After my last trip there in September, I was looking forward to beaches covered in birds. But the North Beach was almost totally empty! We ran into a nice couple from England who have been vacationing at De Soto for the last month. They said that they had never seen the beaches so empty. The occasional bird would fly by as …Read More


Fort De Soto Panorama

Fort De Soto Panorama - September 2010

I stitched together some pictures from yesterday's trip to Fort De Soto and made a panorama: I also took a little video of the biggest flock of gulls and sandpipers. It's fun to hear the waves and the calls of the birds.


My First Trip to Fort De Soto

My First Trip to Fort De Soto - September 2010

After hearing about Fort De Soto from birders all over the state, I finally drove over there to check it out. It was everything that people said, and better! I'm not all that familiar with the shorebirds. Before I went today, I couldn't tell a sandpiper from a plover — and hopefully some of the identities I looked up today will stick for more than a day! I think all …Read More