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Fort De Soto in Florida


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Planning a trip to Fort De Soto in Florida in October. I'm hoping for some input from anyone who has birded this park for the best parts of the park for Warblers, Thrushes, Cuckoos and then possible Pelagic birds that might be seen from shore. From the map it looks skinny but still covers a lot of territory. We are planning to spend a few days in the area but probably only 1 at this location. That said I'm also looking for other suggestions that might produce some of these same birds in the general area. We are staying in Sarasota. Thanks! Also if you know of any pelagic tours that would fabulous!!!

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Probably gonna be zero help, but figured I should reply as I have birded there before in March 2015.

I don’t really remember too much, as I wasn’t keeping a checklist then, but I remember being underwhelmed with the birds I saw that day. But that could have been because I wasn’t too skilled haha. Though, I definitely had more interesting birds at Sawgrass Lake park and shell key preserve. 

Looking at the map, I think I started at the North Beach. Lots of shorebirds here, and terns. Also tons of black skimmers. I don’t remember seeing any pelagic birds though. I also walked the arrowhead loop and I don’t remember seeing anything here, but this is good habitat for some of the birds on your list. It’s very dense, and very quiet. It walks by a mangrove area as well. 

Palm warblers were practically everywhere throughout the park, but those are probably boring.

The east beach area is where I had the most luck with finding non-beach birds, though none on your list! 

If you haven’t looked already, the checklist comments on eBird for most people birding here tell you where they birded in the park. Currently stalking Eric Plage, who appears to be the reviewer for that area. Might be beneficial to check out his checklists to see what he saw where. It looks like he goes there at least once a week. 

Hopefully someone else can chime in

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10 hours ago, Aaron said:

Probably gonna be zero help, but figured I should reply as I have birded there before in March 2015.

I don’t really remember too much, as I wasn’t keeping a checklist then, but I remember being underwhelmed with the birds I saw that day. But that could have been because I wasn’t too skilled haha. Though, I definitely had more interesting birds at Sawgrass Lake park and shell key preserve. 

Looking at the map, I think I started at the North Beach. Lots of shorebirds here, and terns. Also tons of black skimmers. I don’t remember seeing any pelagic birds though. I also walked the arrowhead loop and I don’t remember seeing anything here, but this is good habitat for some of the birds on your list. It’s very dense, and very quiet. It walks by a mangrove area as well. 

Palm warblers were practically everywhere throughout the park, but those are probably boring.

The east beach area is where I had the most luck with finding non-beach birds, though none on your list! 

If you haven’t looked already, the checklist comments on eBird for most people birding here tell you where they birded in the park. Currently stalking Eric Plage, who appears to be the reviewer for that area. Might be beneficial to check out his checklists to see what he saw where. It looks like he goes there at least once a week. 

Hopefully someone else can chime in

This is helpful thank you!

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I haven't been there before (I'm always further south in Florida when I visit), but from a quick five minutes of research it seems like one of the best areas is the Arrowhead picnic area trails at the north end. It seems like that's the best place for Thrushes and ground warblers. Most of the island is covered in palms, so the birds will be congregated in the non-palm trees. It seems like there are a few by all the beach entrances. Hopefully a storm rolls through before you go because that'll bring birds in. 

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My husband grew up in Pinellas, so we have visited Fort Desoto quite a lot over the past 30+ years, but, as I started birding late in life, I have only birded there once, and that was this past Summer.     There are breeding Nanday Parakeets there, so you can count them.  I did get several Lifers (Nandy, Mottled Duck, Gray Kingbird) at Ft. Desoto.  It also frequently wins Mr. Beach's Best Beach award, but we aren't really beach people. It isn't all beach, there are plenty of hiking trails and picnic areas in and around the pine palmetto.   

We also had good birds at Sawgrass Lake, Crescent Lake, Boyd Hill, & 28th St Wetlands.  We found the War Veterans Memorial Park to be a waste of time, but it might be better in migration.   Since you are staying in Sarasota are you going to the Celery Fields?   We didn't get to it this year but it appears to be a great place to bird.   

Here are my lists from June.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S90493800

https://ebird.org/checklist/S90500365
 

https://ebird.org/checklist/S90502668

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36 minutes ago, floraphile said:

Magnificient Frigatebirds (if they are considered pelagic?) are usually in abundance.

Yep! I have seen those. I was thinking more along the lines Shearwaters, Petrels and Boobys. I have seen one Brown Booby. Would like to see more and Masked Booby would be awesome.

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1 hour ago, floraphile said:

My husband grew up in Pinellas, so we have visited Fort Desoto quite a lot over the past 30+ years, but, as I started birding late in life, I have only birded there once, and that was this past Summer.     There are breeding Nanday Parakeets there, so you can count them.  I did get several Lifers (Nandy, Mottled Duck, Gray Kingbird) at Ft. Desoto.  It also frequently wins Mr. Beach's Best Beach award, but we aren't really beach people. It isn't all beach, there are plenty of hiking trails and picnic areas in and around the pine palmetto.   

We also had good birds at Sawgrass Lake, Crescent Lake, Boyd Hill, & 28th St Wetlands.  We found the War Veterans Memorial Park to be a waste of time, but it might be better in migration.   Since you are staying in Sarasota are you going to the Celery Fields?   We didn't get to it this year but it appears to be a great place to bird.   

Here are my lists from June.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S90493800

https://ebird.org/checklist/S90500365
 

https://ebird.org/checklist/S90502668

Don't forget I live in North Florida so I'm looking for birds more unique to South Florida. I have seen tons of Mottled Ducks a few Gray Kingbirds but mostly from trips to Miami Dade and Monroe Counties. One or two in my neck of the woods. Have Nanday Parakeets and several others though there are more I don't have yet. We have been to Celery Fields once on a spur of the moment trip to chase a Fork-tailed Flycatcher then we headed toward Sarasota/Celery Fields. It was a long enough drive for the flycatcher so we decided to do an overnight... Any way from what we learned there is more than what we had time to see. So we may do it again. Someone else suggested Sawgrass so it is on my list. I will check out Crescent and Boyd Hill. I'm not a big beach person either though I do like looking for shorebirds and sharks teeth things that wash up on shore... Not in surfing, sun bathing or swimming in ocean for sure. Thank you for the info. My husband thought 3 night was too much but I can already see we are going to have trouble fitting everything in. Oh hey where are the best places to eat since you have been and your husband lived there? We are not picky like all types of good food. Birders gotta refuel.

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1 hour ago, Connor Cochrane said:

I haven't been there before (I'm always further south in Florida when I visit), but from a quick five minutes of research it seems like one of the best areas is the Arrowhead picnic area trails at the north end. It seems like that's the best place for Thrushes and ground warblers. Most of the island is covered in palms, so the birds will be congregated in the non-palm trees. It seems like there are a few by all the beach entrances. Hopefully a storm rolls through before you go because that'll bring birds in. 

Where did you go to narrow it down to the Arrowhead picnic area? Yes a storm would be good. Some times storms bring in not just good birds but treasure too. I posted a sharks tooth but I also found an antique glass fishing net float that dated to 1910 after storms in the Atlantic. I posted it once in the other things you see thread. 

Thanks for the info. Arrow Picnic area for sure on the list.

153.JPG

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Just now, Clip said:

Where did you go to narrow it down to the Arrowhead picnic area? Yes a storm would be good. Some times storms bring in not just good birds but treasure too. I posted a sharks tooth but I also found an antique glass fishing net float that dated to 1910 after storms in the Atlantic. I posted it once in the other things you see thread. 

Thanks for the info. Arrow Picnic area for sure on the list.

153.JPG

Most lists with high thrush counts said they were at Arrowhead. There seemed to be a good variety of other species as well. Oaks around the beach entrances seemed to be the best for warblers.  

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7 minutes ago, Connor Cochrane said:

Most lists with high thrush counts said they were at Arrowhead. There seemed to be a good variety of other species as well. Oaks around the beach entrances seemed to be the best for warblers.  

So I did a Hotspot search of "Fort De Soto". Is that what you did and just went into individual checklists? Basically how did you narrow your search to get Arrowhead and Entrances for thrushes and Warblers?

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21 minutes ago, Clip said:

Don't forget I live in North Florida so I'm looking for birds more unique to South Florida. I have seen tons of Mottled Ducks a few Gray Kingbirds but mostly from trips to Miami Dade and Monroe Counties. One or two in my neck of the woods. Have Nanday Parakeets and several others though there are more I don't have yet. We have been to Celery Fields once on a spur of the moment trip to chase a Fork-tailed Flycatcher then we headed toward Sarasota/Celery Fields. It was a long enough drive for the flycatcher so we decided to do an overnight... Any way from what we learned there is more than what we had time to see. So we may do it again. Someone else suggested Sawgrass so it is on my list. I will check out Crescent and Boyd Hill. I'm not a big beach person either though I do like looking for shorebirds and sharks teeth things that wash up on shore... Not in surfing, sun bathing or swimming in ocean for sure. Thank you for the info. My husband thought 3 night was too much but I can already see we are going to have trouble fitting everything in. Oh hey where are the best places to eat since you have been and your husband lived there? We are not picky like all types of good food. Birders gotta refuel.

We love Mazzaro's on 22nd Ave.  Italian.

https://www.mazzarosmarket.com/

My mother-in-law always liked to go to Leverock's.  Seafood.

https://www.leverocks.com/

If you go to Clearwater or Tarpon Springs there are quite a few good Greek restaurants.  

If you can squeeze it in, visit downtown and the pier & Dahli Museum.  

https://thedali.org/

 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, floraphile said:

We love Mazzaro's on 22nd Ave.  Italian.

https://www.mazzarosmarket.com/

My mother-in-law always liked to go to Leverock's.  Seafood.

https://www.leverocks.com/

If you go to Clearwater or Tarpon Springs there are quite a few good Greek restaurants.  

If you can squeeze it in, visit downtown and the pier & Dahli Museum.  

https://thedali.org/

 

 

 

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot:  Ted Peter's.  A St. Pete tradition.  Famous smoked mullet.

http://www.tedpetersfish.com/

I would skip The Colombia at The Pier (if it's till there).  The original Colombia is in Tampa is much better.

 

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2 hours ago, floraphile said:

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot:  Ted Peter's.  A St. Pete tradition.  Famous smoked mullet.

http://www.tedpetersfish.com/

I would skip The Colombia at The Pier (if it's till there).  The original Colombia is in Tampa is much better.

 

Thank you these look like great suggestions. One of the things we miss about Colorado is knowing where all the good eateries are near our favorite birding spots. We are finding some here as time goes on. The Italian Market especially looks interesting.

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Sawgrass lake park is good, but it’s not very big. You’d probably only spend 2-3 hours max walking around.

It is a very nice park though, probably my favourite that I visited while in Florida and the only one I’ve been to twice. 
Has a huge boardwalk that goes through a maple swamp, but you also get to walk on dirt trails after a while. It has a nice big wooden lookout that over looks a lake that anhingas and herons like to pose by. Gave me my first and best ever views of a roseate spoonbill! Based on my photos, I did see a hermit thrush and a black and white warbler there. The latest checklists show lots of warblers, over ten different species in the last week. Someone also did just see a yellow-billed cuckoo there yesterday.

I’ve also been to Boyd hill and it’s nice as well. It has a mixture of different habitats, and isn’t too big either. Has some raptors in cages to look at as well. A few warbler species have been seen there in the last couple days too. 
 

You could probably go to both in the same day and still have plenty of time to go somewhere else. They’re not too far away from each other, but practically a zero chance of Pelagic birds at both locations. Guess it depends on how crazy you want to go!l

Either way, they’re both not full day areas. Fort de soto can definitely be full day and then some though.  

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6 hours ago, Aaron said:

Sawgrass lake park is good, but it’s not very big. You’d probably only spend 2-3 hours max walking around.

It is a very nice park though, probably my favourite that I visited while in Florida and the only one I’ve been to twice. 
Has a huge boardwalk that goes through a maple swamp, but you also get to walk on dirt trails after a while. It has a nice big wooden lookout that over looks a lake that anhingas and herons like to pose by. Gave me my first and best ever views of a roseate spoonbill! Based on my photos, I did see a hermit thrush and a black and white warbler there. The latest checklists show lots of warblers, over ten different species in the last week. Someone also did just see a yellow-billed cuckoo there yesterday.

I’ve also been to Boyd hill and it’s nice as well. It has a mixture of different habitats, and isn’t too big either. Has some raptors in cages to look at as well. A few warbler species have been seen there in the last couple days too. 
 

You could probably go to both in the same day and still have plenty of time to go somewhere else. They’re not too far away from each other, but practically a zero chance of Pelagic birds at both locations. Guess it depends on how crazy you want to go!l

Either way, they’re both not full day areas. Fort de soto can definitely be full day and then some though.  

Thank you! It is nice to know the two parks are close to each other.

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On 9/28/2021 at 1:54 PM, floraphile said:

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot:  Ted Peter's.  A St. Pete tradition.  Famous smoked mullet.

http://www.tedpetersfish.com/

I would skip The Colombia at The Pier (if it's till there).  The original Colombia is in Tampa is much better.

 

This was an excellent suggestion!!! Both my husband and I enjoyed the smoked salmon and the spread we had here so much! Definitely in the top ten of the places we have eaten in Florida so far. Sadly, the Italian Market was closed the day we were in the area so we didn't get to try it. Thank you so much for the restaurant and other suggestion and information. 

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28 minutes ago, Clip said:

This was an excellent suggestion!!! Both my husband and I enjoyed the smoked salmon and the spread we had here so much! Definitely in the top ten of the places we have eaten in Florida so far. Sadly, the Italian Market was closed the day we were in the area so we didn't get to try it. Thank you so much for the restaurant and other suggestion and information. 

You're welcome!  I'm glad y'all enjoyed it.  🙂 

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4 minutes ago, floraphile said:

You're welcome!  I'm glad y'all enjoyed it.  🙂 

We really did! It was my kind of place too. Not much to look at but the service was great and the food awesome! What we call a hole in the wall restaurant!

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