4 Years ago today when Hurricane Ike stirred things up at Fort De Soto

Four years ago today Hurricane Ike was out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and the waves that it generated made a strong splash at Fort De Soto County Park. Think of a rock being dropped into the water and how the ripples move out from the center until they reach the shore and bounce back towards the center from there. Then amplify that to match the strength and power of a hurricane.

Mixed flock flying in strong windsMixed flock flying in strong winds

These aren’t the typical gentle waves seen at Fort De Soto during nice weather, these are the waves caused by Hurricane Ike who was as I recall was nearly 300 miles away. The birds seemed to be constantly on the go that day and the wind certainly affected their flight patterns. That is Egmont Key in the background.

Calm Willet on a not so calm dayCalm Willet on a not so calm day

One of the first birds I photographed was this Willet (Tringa semipalmata) in what appears to be calm water. It was actually feeding in a tidal pool and even that had some waves as seen behind the bird. Looks can be deceiving.

Black Skimmer flying in the windBlack Skimmer flying in the wind

Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) can be swift fliers on a normal day but add the strong off shore winds and they become extremely difficult to track through a lens. It sure looked like fun flying that fast.

Skimmers, waves, wind and Egmont KeySkimmers, waves, wind and Egmont Key

I wish this image had the sound of the crashing waves attached to it, it was loud, wild and invigorating.

Reddish Egret dancing on the shooreline of the GulfReddish Egret dancing on the shoreline of the Gulf

I would have to say that this Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) was the Bird Star of the Day. It danced, it twirled and it put on a show that felt like it was just for me. The egret wasn’t taking a final bow here, it was just getting warmed up.

Reddish Egret huntingReddish Egret hunting

Small bait fish were being injured by the crashing waves and then pushed onto a long flat shelf of the shoreline where gulls, terns and the Reddish Egret snapped them up rapidly. It was a challenge to keep up with the running egret to keep it within the range of my lens but it was well worth it.

Reddish Egret defending its prey from a Laughing GullReddish Egret defending its prey from a Laughing Gull

The Reddish Egret had the advantage of being able to run faster than the gulls and the gulls tried many times to grab the bait fish from the egret, the egret usually won though.

Look at those the waves!"  Look at those the waves!”

It isn’t everyday you see waves this large at Fort De Soto! I’d estimate the wave in front of the egret was close to 8 foot high.

Ring-billed Gull in the windRing-billed Gull in the wind

When the gulls weren’t trying to steal food from the Reddish Egret they were flying around looking for fish themselves. There was one lone Ring-billed Gull patrolling the beach that day and although many people think gulls are common I believe they can be uncommonly beautiful. This one was very aggressive in searching out food.

The Ring-billed Gull makes off with the prizeThe Ring-billed Gull makes off with the prize

And sneaky too. Here it is making off with the fish that all the Laughing Gulls were after and they hadn’t even realized it yet.

Nonbreeding Laughing Gull with preyNonbreeding Laughing Gull with prey

This Laughing Gull caught a fish and flew in close to me, I wondered then if it did that because the other gulls might not have landed that close to a human. I’ll never know the answer to that.

Before I left to go to Fort De Soto that morning I thought seriously about staying home because I knew it was going to be windy and that there might not be many birds about. I’m glad I ignored that thought.

Mia

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