Beyond the Backyard

Pleasant Morning at Fort De Soto

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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 make an important decision.  Going left takes you to the East Beach, where you can view the sunrise as the sun peeks up over the Sunshine Skyway bridge.  Or you can go right, which takes you to North Beach, one of the best places I know for nature photography.  I’d been opting for pre-dawn bird portraits on North Beach as I made the long drive from Orlando, but as the first glimmers of daylight showed me some gorgeous clouds, I opted to turn left and shoot the sunrise.  I’m so glad I did.  I think this is my first Fort De Soto sunrise with any sort of clouds in the sky! Fort De Soto in April can be spectacular during migration.  For the millions of neotropical songbirds that cross the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Escape to Fort De Soto

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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 was the East Beach, which I love in the golden afternoon light.  The little shorebirds are so tame.  They don’t mind too much when they are followed by The Beast!  I was hoping to find some shorebirds in pretty breeding plumage, and they did not disappoint.  This little Semipalmated Plover’s black stripes are striking. At one point I looked up to see that an American Oystercatcher had landed in the surf and started to take a bath.  After the birds bathe for a while, they shake out their feathers, giving you great action shot opportunities.  The East Beach turnaround area is great for birdie baths, since the the water is so shallow.  Look at those wings! After I had photographed every single bird on East Beach at least a dozen […]

Beyond the Backyard

"Sunrise" Skyway and Fort De Soto Birds

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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 70-200 lenses, trying to figure out which focal length I liked best.  I also bracketed for HDR. The sun angles are changing quickly lately, and right now, you can catch the sun rising over the Sunshine Skyway bridge if you position yourself on the East Beach.  Friends Michael and Dan joined me as the sun peeked out over the bridge.  With no clouds in the sky, the sun was blinding and bright as it rose.  I used Live View so that I could adjust the framing without looking at the sun. It was a great morning to be out with friends.  The temperatures were nice and cool, and I was glad I had grabbed a sweatshirt on my way out!  After the sun was up, we headed to North Beach […]

Beyond the Backyard

Early Fall Migrants at Fort De Soto

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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 of the most common birds, including the Marbled Godwits.  But I did today! It’s a little weird to think that fall migration has already started.  It’s only July!  It’s still really hot out!  But a variety of shorebird species leave Florida in late spring, lay their nests and raise their young in the tundra of Alaska and northern Canada, then immediately turn around and fly back down to Florida.  It’s a really long trip for these little birds. I arrived at North Beach at Fort De Soto just after sunrise, around 7:00 in the morning.  The area around the concession stands was simply covered in Laughing Gulls.  They feed around the picnic tables, where people share their picnic lunches (some willingly, others  not!)  The gulls are starting the molt into […]

Beyond the Backyard

Beautiful Morning at Fort De Soto

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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 we stood on the North Beach wondering why we’d driven for two hours to photograph an empty beach. The sun was just rising and the light was beautiful. I think this is a Least Tern. I have trouble identifying all the different terns, especially in their varying plumages. I kept missing the Brown Pelican fly-bys, and I was getting a little annoyed, because the light was awesome and it made their feathers sparkle with iridescence. Finally I caught a bird flying in the right direction. Of the three or four pictures I took, this was the only sharp one. At first I was confused as to why the Brown Pelicans have white heads. But then I read that they have white heads in the winter when they are in their […]