A morning spent at Fort De Soto six years ago today

Juvenile Black SkimmerJuvenile Black Skimmer

Six years ago this morning I was photographing birds at Fort De Soto County Park and I wanted to share a few images and memories of that day.

I started photographing birds right after the sun came up and this juvenile Black Skimmer was among the first birds I pointed my lens at.

Sandwich TernsSandwich Terns

It wasn’t long before I found myself photographing a pair of Sandwich Terns kind of having a fight over a driftwood perch.

Wood StorkWood Stork

And then the largest wading bird on the beach that morning, a Wood Stork giving me the eye.

Juvenile American OystercatcherJuvenile American Oystercatcher

This American Oystercatcher juvenile was special to me, I had watched and photographed it since it was only two days old. It was always a delight to photograph it as it grew and flourished.

Semipalmated PloverSemipalmated Plover

Then I photographed a few little plovers foraging, walking and fluffing their feathers on the sandy beach. This Semipalmated Plover had been preening and fluffed its feathers before heading out to forage.

Piping PloverPiping Plover

The Piping Plover wasn’t too far away from the Semipalmated Plover as it foraged while heading down the beach, I like how in this image its size can be compared to the preening Sandwich Tern in the background.

It was a delightful morning with the birds I love.


Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork size comparison

Roseate Spoonbill in a lagoon

Roseate Spoonbill in a lagoon – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/750, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Roseate Spoonbills are large wading birds with distinctive pink plumage, long spoon-shaped bills, bald heads and brilliant red eyes. Their length is about 32 inches, wing span 50 inches and they weigh about 3.3 pounds. When you are up close to them; as I was when I photographed the Spoonbill above, they seem rather large.

Wood Stork walking near a lagoonWood Stork walking near a lagoon – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Wood Storks are about 40 inches in length, have a wingspan of 61 inches and weigh in at 5.3 pounds. Wood Storks are also distinctive with white plumage, bald heads and long bills that look like wood. The Stork above has not yet acquired full adult plumage, when it does its neck will be featherless, dark and have a scaly appearance. When they are close you get the impression of their large size.

Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill size comparisonWood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill size comparison – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/750, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 360mm, natural light

This photo shows a Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork on the shoreline of a tidal lagoon at Fort De Soto County Park in Florida and it shows how the Wood Stork can dwarf the Roseate Spoonbill in height.

I find both species fascinating, prehistoric looking and unique.


Landing Wood Stork

Landing Wood StorkLanding Wood Stork – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/750, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) are the largest wading bird in North America and the only stork that breeds in the U.S.. Wood Storks are considered endangered primarily due to loss of habitat. These huge wading birds can live up to 25 years.

Their diet consists of aquatic prey which includes fish, crabs and insects, they swish their bills in the water to locate prey as well as using their feet to stir up the water.

Wood Storks have been known to fly at altitudes of 6000 feet and will fly as far as 50 miles to eat.

This sub-adult Wood Stork was photographed at Fort De Soto’s north beach as the bird came in for a landing in a tidal lagoon edged by mangroves.


Wood Storks – Diffuse light

Wood StorkWalking Wood Stork  – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm at 400mm, natural light

These two images were taken after the “Golden Hour”, though as I recall there wasn’t much golden light that morning. There were high thin clouds and that worked in my favor to photograph these large white birds without blowing out the whites. White feathers in bright light can be challenging to expose properly but the clouds on this day caused a diffusion of the light.

Still Wood StorkWood Stork (Mycetaria americana) resting – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 270mm, natural light

I was either laying in the very shallow water of this lagoon or sitting down in it as low as possible to get a low angle. These are big wading birds though so I didn’t need to go as low as I would for a small shorebird like a Sanderling.

Wood Storks are the only native stork in North America and I think they are very prehistoric looking. I know quite a few people will pass up taking images of Wood Storks for more colorful and “beautiful” birds. Not me.

The diffuse light that day worked in my favor with these fascinating birds.