Thursday, September 30, 2010

Skywatch Friday - Sunset at Fort Desoto

A quick trip to Fort Desoto after work recently was worth the 30 minute drive to "stop by" and see if I could catch the sunset. Even though it was hot, the sky was perfect. In another month it will dark when I leave work so I'm not looking forward to that. Hopefully I can stock up on some great sunset pictures before then, since October is one of the best months here for them.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Belted Kingfisher

I found this beautiful belted kingfisher on one of the boardwalks at John Chesnut Park in Pinellas County.  The portrait was taken from very far away and was extremely cropped. I've found that they are very skittish and will not stick around while you try and get decent pictures. Later that morning while I was walking to the other end of the boardwalk, I heard it chattering as it flew by and then stopped right in front of me and started to dive for a fish. I always feel like I don't have such luck. I missed him hitting the water since it was hidden by mangroves where I was standing but a few seconds later I saw him take off so I'm assuming he got his meal.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sundown on Gandy beach

Sandwich tern taking a bath.

How many different types of shorebirds are on this beach?

Skimmer doing what he does - skimming for food.

Industrial strength great blue heron.

Cormorant condos.

I stopped by Gandy beach on the way home one day last week. I left work late so I barely had any time before it got dark. There were still a handful of people there. The reason the skimmers in the above picture were flying over my head was because there were 2 guys there on 3 wheeler dirt bikes. They thought it was fun to drive up to the shoreline and scare the birds away. As I was headed for the end of the beach where most of the birds were, they flew past me and drove through the shorebirds trying to go to sleep. They knew I was not happy. How would they like it if I came to their house and drove a dirt bike through at 6am and woke them up?

Otherwise, it was a nice night out but clouds moved in just as the sun was going down so no sunset shots on this trip.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sawgrass Lake Park

Blue heron looking for some food.

Friends hanging out together.

The spoonbill had a lot of company.

I only saw one alligator on this trip.
Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg is known for alligators. I usually see several. I stopped by one night last week after work and found the main boardwalk closed. Not sure why or for how long. I ended up taking the boardwalk that goes away from the lake and down a trail. I did find a spoonbill with a few ibis friends and a great egret at the end of that trail. The weird thing about this park is that it's sitting right next to a major interstate (275) running through St. Pete. When you get inside you don't realize it unless you walk away from the lake and you start to hear the traffic. As I was about to leave the below flew overhead.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Zoo animals

Above are some pictures of a recent trip to the Lowry Park Zoo. I used to say I would never go there in the summer but yet I still keep going even when it's 95 degrees outside. It's a great place to walk around and get some exercise. They have a new pair of koala bears. I stopped there first and they were sleeping, then on my way out of the park I stopped by again and they were awake. The picture of the ducks (hooded mergansers, female on the left and male on the right) was taken through the manatee window which was all scratched up but thought it had a certain fogginess about it. I think Tamani, the elephant on the right, is 5 years old now but he still isn't as big as the older elephants. And the baby rhino was looking so cute with that little piece of hay hanging out of his mouth.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Skywatch Friday - Kayaking North Tampa Bay

I looked out the window last weekend and saw beautiful blue skies. Hubby wanted to watch sports on tv so I opted for a paddle around the channels in our neighborhood. I've never seen spoonbills in the mangroves near our channel so I was surprised to find the above sitting in the bushes when I paddled by.

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Great egret also sitting in the mangrove bushes.

I paddled along the mangroves across from the Courtney Campbell Causeway and the water got very shallow. Low tide moved in on me fast. The 4 spoonbills were standing in the water feeding and stopped to pose for me when I paddled by.

There was a variety of different birds hanging out at this shallow spot.

I'm thinking the one in the middle is a yellowlegs. Not sure if it's a lesser or greater. I don't see these very often. The ones on the ends are both willets. You can see how shallow the water was.

At one point I got out of my kayak and was dragging it behind me because the water was so shallow in some places. I was a little nervous because there were stingrays everywhere. I was careful and did the stingray shuffle. Even though you could see the bottom, those guys could be half hidden under the sand.

There were tons of the above crown conchs everywhere.

Coming back into the main channel, the above spoonbills were walking around. It was a very productive spoony day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wild things at the zoo

I'm probably one of the only people that goes to the zoo and looks for non-zoo animals. There's always a lot of wildlife hanging around zoos. It's a good place to steal a handout. I almost always find the above great blue heron hanging out at the pond at the cheetah exhibit. He's eating the little fish that live in that pond. Usually, I find tons of wild water birds but a recent visit only provided a few. The above yellow flowers where covered in little critters and the zoo was still full of grasshoppers eating their way through the plants.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ruddy turnstone is missing feet.

It was dark on the fishing pier at Fort Desoto. The sun had long gone and I was walking back to my car. Even in the dark I noticed this little bird was walking funny. I turned on my flash to shed some light indirectly and found the above ruddy turnstone was missing it's feet. It was still getting around pretty good. I guess the bird has adapted pretty well. I always wonder about these birds. What happened to cause this or was it born without feet? He flew off with no problem.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

North Beach Sanctuary

The famous long billed curlew walking around.

Black bellied plover still has some of his breeding black on him.

White morph Reddish egret walking away.

The bird sanctuary from behind the ropes.

There's tons of room for these birds but they seem to like to stand very close together. I guess it's the old "safety in numbers" theory.

A large part of the north beach at Fort Desoto in front of the big lagoon is roped off. It's been nicknamed the North Beach Sanctuary. The Audubon put a large wooden deck in the middle of the lagoon hoping least terns would nest on it. I don't think they had any luck this year. Maybe by next year the terns will be used to it and nest on it. The roped off area is pretty big so it's hard to get any specific bird pictures unless they wander outside the area. The above long billed curlew and black bellied plover were walking around outside the roped off area but still far away from the regular tourist. I'm glad the birds have nice beach front property away from the kids and dogs running after them. A lot of these birds are migrating and only stopping over for a couple of days so they need their rest.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Skywatch Friday - Almost dark at Fort Desoto.

I was standing on the fishing pier at Fort Desoto waiting for the sun to go down when I turned around and saw this big barge going into Tampa bay. The ships come between Fort Desoto and Egmont Key. Sometimes they seem to come so close. I always wonder where they are going and what it would be like to be on one of those big ships. I'd probably be seasick.

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Two more pictures of Fort Desoto at sunset. I think this was 2 Tuesdays ago. It looks like in the middle picture that there was almost no one on the beach. I'm going to try and get there again at least once before the time changes and then it will be dark when I get off work.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dolphins at the fishing pier.

It's very rare that I don't see at least one dolphin at the fishing pier at Fort Desoto. On a recent trip after work I got to the pier right before dark so I could get some sunset pictures. There must have been at least 10-15 dolphins swimming around the pier. They were everywhere and some where coming right up to the pier. They try and steal the fish from the fishermen. The fishermen get really mad when they think they have a big one on the line and the dolphin comes up and steals it. I can't really tell if the dolphins are grabbing the end of the fish or the whole fish and hook. If so, I would hate to think how many hooks those dolphins have in their stomachs. It's got to make them sick. I have seen the men reel in a half eaten fish before but sometimes it comes back without the hook.
I saw the documentary "The Cove" on tv recently. The Planet Green channel has been playing it. I highly recommend that everyone watch this movie. Although, be prepared with a box of kleenex. The movie shows the slaughtering of dolphins for food in Japan and capturing of dolphins for aquariums. It really makes you think, not just about dolphins but about all animals. Anyway, it makes me appreciate the dolphins we have here in the Tampa Bay area. After 8 years I still get excited when I see one while I'm driving home across the bridge.