|Hotspot map courtesy of eBird.org and Google (maps). Fort de Soto Park is the lower red marker.|
Some recent bird reports from the area had also been promising, including several waders that I either had not seen before because of sheer unluckiness or had never been in the range of to begin with. The most notable was the rather petite piping plover, a bird that is also endangered and rather rare.
The first impression of the location was perhaps not the best. What little there was of a beach for waders was packed full of people, despite it being a weekday. Half of the lower beach was closed off with heavy construction vehicles and metal fences, certainly not immediately promising!
I had walked for over an hour before seeing anything but a scattering of gulls, terns, palm warblers and ospreys. No sign of any shorebirds anywhere along this massive stretch of beach. Fortunately there were less and less people the further north I walked but there were still enough seashell collectors passing through to disturb any bird foraging here. After much walking I finally encountered the first shorebird of the day, a single sanderling on the edge of the water. Though a nice looking wader it is not uncommon for hundreds of these white birds packed tightly together on sun-speckled winter sands back in California.
I did see some horseshoe crabs though, albeit dead.
Finally I found something. The next spark of hope, or perhaps shadow of hope, were a pair of well-sized dark birds: American oystercatchers. Finally, a good start to the trip!
|They certainly have interesting eyes. Unlike the European species, the eyes are pale yellow and not red.|
Before I reached the main wader flocks I found some small rather sandy coloured plovers bunched together with sanderling and dunlin. Piping plovers. Success!
|Piping plover, with dunlin (foreground).|
|Piping plovers (above) and 2 dunlin (far left and bottom).|
|Wilson's plover. The bird on the far left is a sanderling.|
The second half was mostly shorebirds, which was more quantity rather than quality:
|Turnstone (left) and least sandpiper.|
|Least sandpiper strutting around the sandy dunes.|
Nearby one of the Forster's terns was trying to start arguments. Not sure why.
|Perhaps it was some territorialism that came with the imminency of breeding plumage.|
In the car park was a unusually tame common ground-dove. These tiny doves are generally very hard to approach.
I'd also like to point out this bizarre moth.
|A moth: Melanochroia chephise|