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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fort De Soto

Black-Hooded Parakeet
Today, Saturday May 21st, we kayaked at the Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County. Left the kids at Bush Gardens since their aunt and uncle came to visit and we agreed to join them in the afternoon. Thought about going to the Hillsborough River but we were there not so long ago. Visited Green Wave, one of the kayaking sites I use to plan my trips and checked places to paddle in South West Florida. There is also a link for this website in my preferred link list. Found two lonely reports on Fort De Soto and decided to give it a try. Have to say that this is one of the most interesting places we have put our kayak. There are choices for every taste and style and I will explain why do I say this. Better than that, check this link and you will see. Take a look at this link ( Fort De Soto ).

Laughing gull
Put In / Take Out: As we kayak we gain more experience and the more we improve. The put in selection is one of the things that we have to improve for the next Fort De Soto trip. I selected the boat ramp just after you cross the bridge over Bunces Pass. Here is the map   to use as a reference: Fort De Soto map. The boat ramp is massive, and when I say massive means MASSIVE, and it has easy access. But is it designed for boats and concrete and kayaks do not get along well. Other than a feeling of being out of place, even when we found a spot to put in our kayak in a little corner, there are no other problems with the put in but next time I am choosing a different, and easier, spot to do so. Note to myself: Next time do not rush and read the instructions at the paying machine first before use it. Ended up paying $6.00 when $2.00 were enough. Next time I am not using the boat ramp area anyway.

Rudy Turnstones

Immature Ibis
Right at the boat ramp my wife started shooting pics. A pic friendly Great Egret and a sea gulls where at the ramp so she had a quick start while I parked the minivan. As I said before the boat ramp is massive. I did not count but there is room to put in several boats at the same time. I have never seen something like that at any place. It was 10:45 when we finally put in. We headed South to one of the lagoons showed in the map between Madelaine and St Jean Key. We did not spend even 5 minutes in the water when we saw a dolphin. It surfaced at 2 feet from our kayak, went under and did not give a pic chance. Next time it came back to the surface was too far from us.That did not go well with my wife, who did regret not being ready with the camera. Sadly it was the only dolphin we saw during our paddle.

The small lagoon between Madelaine and St. Jane key proved to be rich in wildlife. Wifey spotted an immature Ibis in the mangrove and near the entrance we heard the characteristic call of an osprey. There were several of those beautiful birds in the area using man made and natural nests. There were another birds we had never seen before flying around but were too fast for an id or for a pic. The noise it was making seemed like a parrot to me and we had an opportunity to id it when one of them stopped at the top of a dead tree. It was a Black Hooded parakeet. Had some problems finding what it was until decided to search for a green bird with a black head. It is an exotic specie, which takes us to our Did You Know That? of this post.

Did You Know That?
The Black-Hooded Parakeet is also known as Nanday Parakeet or Nanday Conure. It is probably the next exotic specie that will become widely established in Florida. Looks like there are large flocks of these birds living in the St. Pete and Clearwater areas. Are considered extremely social and intelligent birds.
Black-Hooded Parakeet (a.k.a. Nanday Conure)
We circled the lagoon and saw cardinals, great, snowy and reddish egrets, a great blue heron, a red-breasted merganser, and a manatee. We were leaving the lagoon when I saw two circles in the water. Told wifey "There is a manatee here", and showed her the ripples. The manatee surfaced to breath but it was far from us. We paddled to the area where we saw it and then stayed still for several minutes. Usually it works since the manatees come to check due their natural curiosity. This time it was not working at all so we decided to leave. It was then when she saw it swimming under our kayak. It circled us but did not come close. Surfaced to breath some meters in front of us but it left and did not come back. We also left the area.
Manatee tail
After the lagoon we paddled to the South from some minutes and then crossed all the way to the other side. I wanted to explore what is called in the map Soldier's Hole. But at the time we arrived the heat was starting to take a toll on us. Wifey was uncomfortable and, other than mullets and terns, we were not seeing too much. Also we needed to go back to Bush Gardens to join our kids and my sister in law. We agreed to turn around and go back to the boat ramp and did that close to the shore, where we saw several sting rays. We took a break before starting our return trip and ate some fruits in the yak, which made my wife feel better.

More pics of what we saw...

Great Egret



Snowy Egret



Red-Breasted Merganser

Laughing Gull

Least Tern (non breeding)

Reddish Egret


Little Blue Heron

Royal Tern
Brown Pelican

Bunces Pass Bridge
Brown Pelicans
Tri-Colored Heron
We decided to come back as soon as possible. We have to put in earlier, way earlier than today, and also explore other areas of this spectacular place. We drove to the fort area to find out that is closed. Pinellas County is doing some kind of restoration work. We also tried to take a pic of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge but wifey did not realize she had changed the settings for a pic and did not come good. She wants to go back and get one pic of the bridge. It looks great from the distance.

For more pics of this trip please click on this link: Fort De Soto slideshow

Thanks for reading and see you next week for another Views From Our Kayak

St. Jane Key and Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the background.


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