Our Visit to Florida (Part 1)

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If you read my last post, you know that Jim and I recently went to my high school reunion. It was held at the Sirata Beach Resort on St. Petersburg Beach. This previous post was about the reunion. This post is about the setting.

Sirata Beach Resort


The Sirata Beach Resort is and older resort. The amenities (wonderful beach, pools, beach bars, water activities, café, etc.) are quite nice. We found the food in the café to be good and reasonable, the bars were a bit pricey, but that’s not abnormal for a resort town. (I guess it shows that we don’t go clubbing, it’s expensive!) The hotel room itself was a bit odd. We had a king suite. The layout was backwards to our way of thinking. The door from the hall opened immediately into the bedroom, and the living/entertainment area were in the back. The television in the bedroom didn’t work, and the shower came on immediately when the water was turned on. Those negatives aside, the room was clean and the staff did a wonderful job of making the bed and assuring that the towels were replaced. To a person, every staff member we met was friendly, welcoming, and helpful. With that kind of environment, it was easy to overlook a couple of glitches.


As you know, Jim and I are birders. I guess I’ve been a passive birder all my life, but only got into really being interested in knowing the different species for the past 15 years or so. We were visiting one of the very best birding spots (although it’s better known for birding in the winter), so we took the opportunity to go out to Ft. Desoto Park.


Adult Ibis
Juvenile Ibis

Having grown up in the area, the actual Fort was not something we wanted to go see again. It’s interesting, but the birding was on the beach. We went to the east end of the island first. This is an area where we had seen large numbers of migrating birds (including warblers) the last time we visited. Again, the last time we visited was in the winter and this time we were between migrations. However, we did find some Ibis (the white ones are adult; the darker colored one is a juvenile). We also found a Great Egret.

Sanderling (thanks, Allen C)

Above is a photo of one of the many Sanderling (thanks, Allen C),

Willett (Allen C, confirmed)

and several Willet on the beach. In the trees around the picnic area, we found an active Palm Warbler (sorry, no photo) and several Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers (also, no photo).

White Peacock (thanks Cathy)

There were several beautiful butterflies, as well. Unfortunately, the wind was fierce, so our opportunities to find and photograph were hampered.


Gulf Fritillary (thanks Cathy)

This is a great spot to see and photograph the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

This is a photo of one of the freighters that regularly travels under the bridge. Many years back, one of the pilot-boat captains made a terrible error in piloting a huge barge under the Skyway. Unfortunately, the barge hit the bridge and sent a huge part of the span tumbling into the water. Sadly, several people lost their lives when cars went over the edge. This is the new Bridge. Only remnants of the old bridge remain as fishing piers on both the north and south side of the waterway.


Egmont Key

We also got excellent views of Egmont Key with its working lighthouse.


We then went down to the pier across from the Fort. As we were walking out toward the pier there was a great hubbub! Several dolphin (bottlenose) were playing under the pier. They were also eating the leavings of the fish that were being cleaned on the pier. We hustled out to see and, sure enough, there were dolphin swimming around the pier. Wish we’d gotten photos, but it’s virtually impossible to guess when and where a dolphin would surface. It was thrilling to see how well they are thriving in my “home” waters.


Ruddy Turnstone

Out at the end of the pier there were several “cleaning stations.” We found out that dolphin aren’t the only animals happy to clean up after the fishermen. These photos are of a Ruddy Turnstone (very confiding) that was enjoying the bounty left on the cleaning table. There were several other turnstones clambering around on the rip-rap jetty just to the side of the pier.


Turnstone on Rip Rap

We left the long pier, but stopped again at the shorter, more easterly pier on our way back to the resort. This pier had a small refreshment stand and we were parched from the blowing sand. Along the beach were lots of gulls and several terns. I have to admit it, I really need to bone-up on my shorebirds. I would really appreciate knowing what the different species are that are in these photos.

Common Tern? Sandwich Tern? Laughing Gulls

Sandwich Terns, Common Terns? Willet, and Laughing Gulls (thanks Jacco)

On the Bayway (the road back to the resort) I made Jim pull over because I saw a large group of Wood Storks and there was a Roseate Spoonbill with them. Hope you can see it in the photo.


Roseate Spoonbill/Wood Stork

Considering the weather and the time of year, we didn’t do too badly. Of course, all it did was serve to reinforce that we need to make another trip at a different time of year and (hopefully) when the weather is more cooperative.


Up Next: Our Visit to Florida (Part 2)


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4 thoughts on “Our Visit to Florida (Part 1)

  1. Melissa,

    Your first butterfly is one of my favorites, a beautiful White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) and the second is a rather worn Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae). I can’t get close enough to the terns to be helpful. Nice post.

    • Fabulous! Thank you, Cathy. I’m pretty sure the large terns are Sandwich. The smaller probably Common, but wasn’t sure. Also, pretty good bet that the gulls are Laughing as they are the most common. So glad to know about the butterflies! The white one was just stunning! So glad I could get a photo.

    • I’m anxious to get back down to Florida (a winter trip would be a nice respite). I will definitely study my winter plumaged shore birds before I go!

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