Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chasing (and missing) a Gull at Fort DeSoto

This will be a long post. Bear with the length to see some interesting shots and a couple cool bits of information on migrating birds.

Once Dad and I finished our looking at Redhead ducks up the road, it was time to hit the beaches of Fort DeSoto and try to find a new Life Bird. A Franklin's Gull had been reported for a couple of weeks and this was my one chance to find it. Last year, my after-Xmas present was going a bit farther South the get the Razorbills at Anna Maria Island. A new Life Bird this year would be a nice end to the year.

First, we decided to stop off at the North Beach and look for anything that might be in that area. Most of this stretch is closed for the breeding season but you can walk down much of it now. Our first bird to greet us was a foraging Reddish Egret prancing along the interior before the shoreline.

Reddish Egret

I then turned my attention to the waves and soon spotted an American Oystercatcher walking in the water. Always a striking bird.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatchers are not a new bird for me but I have had trouble getting good shots of them on my visits. This birds did not seem to mind my presence as I approached and scanned for other birds.

American Oystercatcher

Off to my left a Sanderling braved the waves and a wandering photographer (me) and probed for food under the sand.


Soon, beachcombers approached and were agitating the birds which led this Willet to fly up and land next to me. Thanks (?) beachcombers!


Time to head to the pier and search for the gull. We scanned the first flock of birds on the Bay beach but it was just a mix of local gulls and terns. Then we headed to the Gulf beach and saw a promising flock resting. Except for these two Ring-billed Gulls having a quarrel.

Ring-billed Gull

We examined all the gulls one by one. There were many Ring-billed Gulls like this juvenile.

Ring-billed Gull

Adult Ring-billed Gulls were also well represented.

Ring-billed Gull

Then we came to this dozing bird. Could this be our Franklin's Gull next to the Forster's Tern?

Laughing Gull

Alas, no. It was just a Laughing Gull trying to fool me.

Laughing Gull

Dad needed a bite to eat so we headed up to the snack bar before returning to the flock to do more searching. More birds were flying in and some were busy feeding along the waves like this Forster's Tern.

Forster's Tern

Suddenly, a small flock of Red Knots dropped into the waves next to us.

Red Knot

I soon noticed that a couple were banded! Red Knots are studied a lot as their numbers have been in decline so I made sure to get shots so I could report the band numbers later.

Red Knot

When I got home and processed the photos I reported them and discovered that both birds were originally banded in this area and have been migrating back and forth for many years.

Red Knot

I figured we had struck out on the gull we were after. All that was left to photograph was a few Ruddy Turnstones.

Ruddy Turnstone

The clouds were finally breaking as we headed out. I always like to make sure I get some sort of flower shots while I am out and the Beach Sunflower would be just fine for the records.

Beach Sunflower

On the way home we decided to make an attempt to find a Whimbrel which I was told years ago about it always being near the bridge. On the Inter-coastal side there were plenty of Red-breasted Mergansers.

Red-breasted Merganser

I noticed a white patch on one of the birds meaning it had to be more rare bird. A Bufflehead or two were diving midway out. Thanks for the photo bomb, Herring Gull!

Bufflehead and Herring Gull

Nearby, a Brown Pelican remained positioned in front of a fisherman. Hoping to snatch a meal, no doubt.

Brown Pelican and Fisherman

Way out in the waves I could just make out a black and white bird. Turned out to be a Common Loon.

Common Loon

We switched our search across the road to the Gulf side but only found a few more Loons but a pair of diving Horned Grebes was a nice way to round out the visit.

Horned Grebe

So, we headed home feeling some disappointment for striking out on the Life Birds. However, we did have a fun time. Out back, a pair of House Finches were at the feeder.

House Finch

Something spooked them into the tree and only then could I tell that the male was a seldom seen yellow variant. House Finch males are usually a purple-ish red but I have had yellow and orange variants at our house before.

House Finch

Rain is forecast for tomorrow. Not sure if I will chase another Life Bird or not.

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