While on vacation visiting my family in Florida, my mom and I took a boat ride to Shell Key Island. This wouldn’t be like the last time I was on a boat when I got horribly seasick. This was a 10-minute quick trip from St. Pete Beach to Shell Key Island, part recreation destination, part wildlife preserve, part bird haven.
I’d never been before, but I heard a rumor that hundreds of White Pelicans nest there in the winter. My grandfather grumbled something about damn White Pelicans stealing his fish in Montana, but I was super stoked.
While waiting to board the boat, I spent the few spare moments appreciating the local Brown Pelicans hanging out by the docks.
I can’t help it. Every time I see Brown Pelicans with their long stretched out bills, it reminds me of Alec Baldwin (Adam) in Beetlejuice. Ooh, scary.
See the resemblance? No?
Anyways, we eventually boarded the boat and set off. The island has no facilities and it is pretty rugged. It’s what I imagine Florida probably looked like before all the urban development and huge condo strips. Though practically swimming distance from civilization we felt like we had arrived at our own deserted island. Complete with oranges on the shore. It was awesome.
We crossed the sandy dunes toward where the captain said the pelicans should be. Along the way, I decided that the island should be called “Spur Island” after those vicious sandspurs. In reality they’re probably a good deterrent keeping people from trekking all over the place. Except me. (To be clear, I followed all island regulations and did not trespass in the bird nesting area).
We got to the pelicans just in time for a boat to speed by in the wake zone and scare them. I managed a couple of quick shots. White Pelicans!
Since they were long gone, we went back to the beach to eat lunch, look for shells, and watch the Foster’s Terns dive-bomb fish. It was a grand time, but after a bit we thought it might be worthwhile to check back in on the pelicans.
I’m glad we did. They were back! Hundreds of them! As were many shorebirds that I couldn’t identify from a distance. (Dunlins, Sanderlings, sandpipers?)
I did manage to find an American Oystercatcher! (in between the pelicans) I was pretty excited to find one since I had seen signs posted that they nest on the island.
And a Little Blue Heron!
I got a closer look at a few (I’m pretty sure) Dunlins.
My mom and I happily watched the pelicans and shorebirds for a while, then went back to relax on the beach. Tough life. While relaxing I couldn’t help but notice a few birds in the water, like the Horned Grebe.
And another exciting sighting was a pair of Magnificent Frigatebirds (!!) that flew overhead at one point. I didn’t get the best look at them, and in fact, in the moment I knew they were something unique, but I thought maybe they were a kite of some sort. Until I looked it up. Nope, Mag Frig!! How awesome. Here’s my one quick frantic shot of one of them. Those long wings! I kept one eye on the sky after this, but didn’t see another.
I also saw an American Kestrel on the island and a Red-breasted Merganser that flew by over the water.
And, yes! We even found shells during our time on Shell Island. Though we did not take them. Instead, we filled our (provided) shell bag with garbage we picked up on the island. Leaving it better than we found it.
Back at the dock we were greeted by a Snowy Egret (black legs and yellow feet!).
And a Great Egret! (larger, black legs and feet).
And because this is Florida, and the birding never ends, here’s a Green Heron we found wading in the pool when we returned back at our condo.
Tweets and chirps,