Birder's Eye View

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall Break, part 2

It's Sunday afternoon, and after having gotten back home around midnight from my trip to the panhandle, I'm exhausted. But the fun has only just begun -- I'm camping for the night at Ft. Desoto State Park with some friends from school.

We spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring along the coast of the island, wading in the cool water and looking for various critters. We find crabs and fish, various worms, and other strange creatures of the bay.

Our coolest find is a skate, laying lethargically in the shallows. It is unusually docile and allows us to examine it for a few minutes before it swims gently away.

As the sun begins to set, the shorebirds begin to emerge seemingly from nowhere. A Least Sandpiper scurries across the beach, while a Great Blue Heron lands not too far away.

The view from our campsite at sunset.

As soon as the sun went down, the raccoons came out. We could see them in the shadows and hear them chortling or growling at one another just out of sight.

The next morning, I rise with the sun and take a leisurely walk down the beach. The water is like glass, the stillness broken only by a few manatees splashing and rolling lazily in the distance.

Semipalmated plovers scurry about on the mudflats that have been exposed in the low tide, and more herons, egrets, and sandpipers forage nearby.

At one point I see an odd-shaped fin cutting through the water out in the distance. I snap a picture, thinking it might be a school of fish breaking the surface, but upon later review, my friends and I conclude it's a black-tipped reef shark!

The manatees continue to laze about all morning.

[Contrary to my original thoughts, this is actually a Black-bellied Plover -- thanks Heidi and Nick! -- not a lifer anymore, but still a cool bird!]

I also find a lone Ruddy Turnstone as well as another Least Sandpiper.

After packing up our campsite, we head to the beach for a few hours before making the drive back to school. I must say it was one of the best fall breaks I have ever had. It gave me some much-needed time outside, as well as a life bird to add to my list.

Now school is back into full swing, but I'm going to try and get outside more often when things slow down a little. Between applying for summer internships, TAing, working, and classwork, this semester is crazy busy. But we're over halfway done, and I have Christmas Bird Counts to look forward to over winter break!

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  • Gotta love those manatees! Thanks for posting the photos, it's always nice to get a vicarious coastal experience when in the desert!

    Was your golden plover alone? I've only encountered them as groups in fields; Black-bellieds can be darn tricksy in winter plumage, so it might be worth double checking.

    By Blogger heidi, At October 31, 2010 at 3:49 PM  

  • Yep, surprisingly the plover was alone. I'm pretty sure it's not a Black-bellied, but I'll double check.

    Glad you liked the photos! :)

    By Blogger Andrea, At October 31, 2010 at 10:12 PM  

  • Hey Andrea, awesome post! Loved the photos of all the critters, especially the shark. The plover in that one photo is a Black-bellied; AMGP would be smaller-billed with a darker cap, brighter white supercilium, browner/golden upperparts, and typically not quite so white below at this time of year.

    By Blogger Nick Bonomo, At November 1, 2010 at 4:10 PM  

  • Alrighty then -- Black-bellied Plover it is! Thanks for the tips. I can see it now. It's so hard to tell when they're in fall/winter plumage. Thanks!! Glad you liked the pics too.

    By Blogger Andrea, At November 5, 2010 at 8:25 AM  

  • Like the pics. Can't wait to get down there to FL again this winter.

    By Blogger Larry, At November 14, 2010 at 8:57 PM  

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