Beyond the Backyard

Migrant Birds at Fort De Soto

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Summer Tanager (male)

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 United States and Canada.  Many cross the Gulf of Mexico, flying nonstop across the ocean in an incredible journey.  They take advantage of the winds to make their flight easier.  But when they encounter a front, their tail winds suddenly become headwinds, which can be deadly for the birds if they are still over water.  They land as soon as they can in what is called a “fallout.”  Fort De Soto is a place where such fallouts sometimes occur.  It offers the birds land, trees, fresh water, and a food source – mulberries. If you’re like me, you may have visited Fort De Soto several times and never known where the famous “mulberry trees” are.  Well, they are by the ranger’s house.  When you pull into the park, turn right […]

Beyond the Backyard

A Rainbow of Color at Fort De Soto

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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 East Beach turnaround, then couldn’t resist the morning light at North Beach for an hour (more on that in another post).  By 9:00 I had made my way to the East Beach woods, where most of the migrants this week have been reported.  I got out the car and immediately saw a small bird hopping around in the oak tree near my car.  That Black-and-White Warbler was the first of a bunch of fun finds.  Thrushes abounded, and within minutes I had collected two lifers: a Gray-Cheeked Thrush and a Veery. This female Summer Tanager was in the oak tree at the start of the Privet Trail.  Her bright yellow caught my attention, and then she was such a good acrobat that I spent at least twenty minutes watching her. […]