Monday, April 30, 2018

Final Florida Fort

The last fort that I visited was by myself. Lori flew back home on Wed and I headed up to St. Petersburg to visit Fort De Soto State Park. This park is on a spit of land that juts out into Tampa Bay and was constructed to protect that port. The area hosts a lot of migrating shorebirds, terns and Skimmers. I hit the photographic jackpot here thanks to a couple that directed me to the right locations. You already saw the Reddish Egret photos which were taken here. There were 2 other birds that I was hoping to photograph - Wilson's Plover and Marbled Godwit. I never imagined that I would get this close. The images that follow are barely cropped or edited.

Wilson's Plover
Wilson's Plover rarely shows up in New Jersey. I love the big bill and dopey look of these birds. This one literally walked up to me as I crouched on the beach photographing another bird. She was like "Hey, take a picture of me too", so I did. In fact, I took dozens of them.

Wilson's Plover
Here is another Wilson's Plover who was much more shy but I was able to get this shot. Look at how much darker he is.

Wilson's Plover
That other bird that I was photographing when the Wilson's Plover walked up is Short-billed Dowitcher. This bird was surrounded by photographers and still managed to pluck a clam out of the sand. We see plenty of these in New Jersey but it is always great to get up close.

Short-billed Dowitcher with Clam
I haven't moved yet. I'm crouched in the sand at the water's edge and here comes Black-bellied Plover.

Black-bellied Plover
I finally moved a few feet further down the lagoon and found another Black-bellied Plover. You can see that this bird was equally not impressed with the paparazzi.

Black-bellied Plover
I looked up and saw my other target bird flying across the lagoon so I headed over to the other side to see if I could get a photo. One of the other photographers said "you'll never get close to that bird" - a challenge if I ever heard one. The fact is that the bird couldn't care less about me. I crouched there and it walked on by!
Marbled Godwit
The obvious field mark on Godwits is the long bill. Marbled Godwit bills are really long and slightly upturned which you can see on the above photograph. The bird eventually flew to the other side of the lagoon and I found it again later.
Marbled Godwit
Another bird with an unusual bill is the Whimbrel. We see these birds in New Jersey but they are always way out in the marsh. This one foraged in the weeds and then came to the lagoon for a quick drink. 
Whimbrel
On the way out of the park, I watched this Great Blue Heron fishing. She couldn't miss. Every time she put her bill in the water, another fish. Incredible.

Great Blue Heron
She would flip the fish in her bill before swallowing it whole.

Flippin' Fish
What a great day at Fort De Soto. That's the last of the forts for this trip. I recommend that you visit all of them is possible.
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