I See Red

April 27, 2018

Along with the almost, but not quite entirely indefatigable Camille, I spent the day with Sarah and Bella Muro at the park, and one epic drive home.

In addition to our first Scarlet Tanagers in the Mulberry Tree Area (or “MTA”), we had a nice flock of Indigo Buntings, an Orchard Oriole or two, quite a few Gray Catbirds, and even a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

 

ruby-throated-hummingbird
I love that hummingbirds are so small that they can use a leaf edge as a perch.

The surprise of the day was seeing at least two Western Tanagers, a male and female. We may have seen and third later on in our hiking around, but it could have been the female we saw with our first group of birds when we arrived.

At the East Beach turnaround, we had a small collection of shorebirds, including Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, Least Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, and Sanderlings.

We searched in vain for a reported Blue-winged Warbler in the East Beach Woods, but did get a collection of Hooded Warblers, as well as Worm-eating, Cape May, Palm, and Prairie Warblers. In fact, Hooded Warblers were well sprinkled through the park, and one or two were pretty friendly, getting close to the picnic tables we took our lunch break at (you can see some more Hooded Warbler – and other – photos that Camille took in the eBird list for the park, linked further down)

hooded-warbler
A Male Hooded Warbler with his characteristic hood and white tail feathers.

There seemed to be more Nanday Parakeets around the park than I recall the last time I was there, and they were making quite a ruckus.

We had a few more various species through the park, but did not manage to find any Great Horned Owls or many raptor species at all.

The final action of the day came with our epic ride home. We took a slight detour to drop of a jumping spider that had stowed away in the front seat. To get back on our route home, we ended up on Gandy Bridge. Ultimately, this slight delay and change in route wound up getting us jammed in rush hour traffic out of both Tampa and Orlando. Combined with an implausible string of accidents along our route, and our trip home took nearly 5 hours!

But looking out over the water as traffic crawled along Gandy Bridge, we saw some unexpected flocks of Lesser Scaups, a few Common Loons, and even a Red-breasted Merganser. While not the rarest birds to find in April near Tampa, most of these birds would normally be well on their way north by this time. But winter has been slow to let go in parts of the Midwest and Northeast, so perhaps these birds knew to be a little patient.

Here are our eBird list of the day, staring out as we approached Ft. De Soto Park and including places along our ride home.

Duck Ponds & Tierra Verde:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44518420

Fort De Soto Park:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44532534

Pass-a-Grille:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44533063

Ibis Walk Pond (apartment complex):
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44579132

Gandy Bridge:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44579023

Gandy Park South:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44579303

All of us got at least some life or Florida birds for our personal lists, but Bella and Sarah really got some good birds for their life lists – Bella with 6 and Sarah 7!

Like most day trips out to Tampa from here, it was a long and tiring day, but Ft. De Soto is a true gem of a park, and I give a lot of credit and gratitude to Pinellas County for keeping it running so well with so many competeing uses (beach, cycling, birding, fishing, etc.). In fact, all the Pinellas County Parks are pretty well run and maintained, and you can’t go too wrong visiting any of them.

 

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