Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Famous baby oystercatcher at Fort Desoto

"I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky!"

" Wait for me!"

"This shell looks yummy!"

"Mom, get this gunk off my foot!"

"I swear mom, I don't see it."

"It's time for a nap."
Full disclosure - I did not just happen to stumble on the above. It's probably one of the most photographed babies this month in the Tampa Bay area. There have been other pictures of it on Flickr and I got up early on Sunday and headed out to find the family of oystercatchers that everyone was talking about. I have never seen a baby oystercatcher in person. You don't see many adults around that often as well. There are two babies but they were never even close to each other the whole time I was there. The parents had a tough time keeping them together and close to the adults. They were running around crazy (like little human kids do). They were so cute and animated. I must have taken 150 pictures in 20 minutes. I just plopped down on the beach and watched them run around. It was early enough in the morning that there weren't a lot of people around, just a few fisherman who barely glanced at them. I'm sure later when the beach gets crowded they head back into the roped off area to rest.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Are the eggs done yet?

If you look close just to the top left of the green sprigs you can see a baby skimmer under the mom's right wing.

This mom's eggs aren't done yet.

This mom had 2 little babies, probably only 2 or 3 days old.

Another mom shading her babies. She also had one egg that hadn't hatched yet.
I've heard there are over 300 skimmers nesting in the roped off area at Redington Shores beach. It's quite the site to see and very loud. There were only a few babies there so far but still tons of unhatched eggs. I'm going back again this week to see if there are more babies and if any of them are out roaming around yet. The ones in the above pictures were only a few days old and all were hiding under a parent. Last week I had my 300mm lens but this week I'm going to bring my 500mm. I was standing a good 25 feet away from the rope and the skimmers were dive bombing my head. They did not want anyone stopping and looking into their area. They are very aggressive at protecting their space.

On a sad note about skimmers, a nesting ground for black skimmers was destroyed by crews shooting Sea-Doo watercraft advertisements last Wednesday. They had permits from the county to shoot the commercial but no one was there to supervise. The helicopter pilot admits he flew down too low and too close to the preserve where the skimmers were nesting. These birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A link to the entire article is below.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Drive home from work

Great blue heron taking a break.

Roseate spoonbills getting ready for bed in the mangroves.

Pinellas County waste plant is near my office. Birds love the bugs that hang out at the waste plant. A nasty storm was moving in behind it.

I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier. No birds around but there was a manatee swimming around. I could see the snout coming up every once in a while.

A bad storm was heading my way so I headed home after the fishing pier.

I had my camera with me one day last week so I decided to make a few quick stops on the way home from work. I drive by the Pinellas County waste plant and there are usually a few birds in the ditches digging for bugs. There was a large group of spoonbills sleeping in the mangroves that night. (I stopped by the next night and they were gone.) I took a slight detour and stopped at the Safety Harbor fishing pier. There are usually pelicans and gulls there but I didn't see a single bird (maybe they headed out of town since storms were coming). I wanted to stop along the Courtney Campbell causeway to look for shorebirds but when I got on the bridge there was a storm coming behind me so I headed for home.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Skywatch Friday - Went kayaking

I went kayaking in the upper Tampa Bay channels (my backyard) last weekend. When I paddle out to the end of our channel this is where I end up. There were storms across the bay but it took a couple of hours for it to reach me. I kayaked for 2 hours before I could hear the thunder and then paddled quickly back to my house. Of course the storms fooled me and never made it to my house that afternoon.

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Least tern sitting on a crab trap.

Osprey sitting on a channel marker.

There's always cormorants sitting on the channel markers.

Last weekend was a quiet trip. Again, I didn't see any dolphins or manatees. This is my 2nd trip out in a couple of weeks without seeing either. Last summer I didn't see manatees until August. They hung around until mid-November, then headed for warmer waters for the winter.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Feeding time at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary

This wild great blue heron found a snack to eat. I think it was a piece of crab that was dropped on the ground.

A permanent resident at the sanctuary. This pelican had no problem swallowing the fish he was fed by hand. I'm sure he wouldn't be able to scoop up the fish on his own.

Snowy egrets were getting a handout as well.
Lots of good eats at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. Even the wild birds come in for a handout. Occasionally they are able to get a bite when someone drops something. When I was there one of the volunteers were feeding the pelicans in the aviary and I noticed the above had his pouch unattached. It must have been caught on a hook. He seemed to be getting along pretty well there.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fort Desoto fishing pier

Snowy egret looking over my head.

One legged snowy egret. He was getting around pretty good.

These snowy egrets were looking for a handout.

He finally got one.

Laughing gull flying by.

Keeping guard of the bait fish.
Great blue heron taking off.
You can always find interesting characters hanging around the fishing pier at Ft. Desoto. When it's too hot to walk in the parks, the best place to catch a breeze is the pier. The tiny snowy egrets are aggressive birds. They wait for the fishermen to bring up their bait fish nets and will walk up to them and steal their fish. The strange thing about my trip there last weekend was there were very few pelicans around. Usually, there are tons of them diving and swimming around the pier. I've always seen the below there swimming around.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Birds at Honeymoon Island (and a crab too).

Two baby opsrey letting me know it's their trail I'm walking on. (It is called Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island for a reason.)

One of the parents looking around.


Cormorant going for a swim.

Loney least tern on the beach.
Last weekend I went to Honeymoon Island to walk the Opsrey Trail. I hadn't been there in several months. It was so hot, even early in the morning. There's not much going on there except for ospreys. Lots of them still hanging around the nests. I didn't see many other birds until I got out on the beach. There was a controlled burn done recently on the first part of the trail, so that may have scared off some of the birds for a while. The northern beach did not have much bird traffic as well. I think my next trip out to the trail will not be until the eagles come back, hopefully December. I did see the below crab on shoreline.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wild birds at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary

Great blue herons have a nest.

American oystercatcher out on the beach with a snack.

Great egret.

Baby wild pelican that is growing up at the sanctuary. Mom was probably an offspring of a permanent resident that was set free and comes back to have her babies on the property.

Wild pelican on the beach. He kept holding up his wing but he looked alright.

A lot of wild birds seem to hang out at the sanctuary. I guess they come to visit their injured friends. I just read on Facebook that the sanctuary had now sent people to help out with the oiled birds in the panhandle. They are going to be very busy there and here. Check them out if you are on Facebook.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Skywatch Friday - storm's a comin!

Summer storms are starting to come in. Above is the view coming home from work the last 2 days. I love it when it rains and cools off, but I hate sitting in traffic twice as long because it rains so it's a love/hate thing. My goal this summer though is to get more storm pictures. We'll see if I enough sense to come in from the rain!

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Wild night herons at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary

Baby night heron siblings sticking together high up in tree.

This baby was looking in the pelican aviary thinking "I want to go play with them!"

Upclose of a baby night heron, only a couple of months old.

One of the parents.

Adult night heron creeping around the travel cages that the sanctuary has been collecting.
The above birds are black crowned night herons. There's a large wild group of them breeding high up in the trees over the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. Right now every branch is full of them. I guess they come for a free handout and they know it's pretty safe from natural predators. It's funny how different the babies look from the parents. You would think they are completely different birds. Those bright red eyes are so amazing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Skimmers nesting on the beach.

Nice trash!

The skimmers are getting down to the nesting business. There are hundreds of them nesting near St. Petersburg beach. In the next couple of weeks, we should have teeny, tiny baby skimmers running around. Just in time for the 4th of July fireworks and tourists to scare them to death. The skimmer nesting site is currently roped off but the tiny babies tend to wander outside of the ropes. If you are on any of the beaches in the Tampa bay area, please watch out for babies. And please take your trash with you! Hopefully, I'll be back with baby skimmer pictures in the next couple of weeks.