Just a casual walk along the Gasparilla Island shoreline provides the rare opportunity to observe uncommon birds found in few other habitats.
Some shorebirds are rarely found near the shore but they can be seen here.
To better observe maritime birds, walk the beach, paddle a canoe or kayak, stroll along docks or hide behind blinds.
The brown pelican can be seen around Gasparilla Island at all hours of the day.
Trips to nature preserves such as Gasparilla Island State Park gives bird watchers glimpses of the personal life of these interesting birds. Move slowly and you will be rewarded. Binoculars help in viewing the more elusive birds when feeding in mud flats or shallow ponds.
Many Florida shorebirds seem unaffected by human proximity. They have grown used to it with all the beach traffic over the years.
Florida shorebirds often display distinctive behaviors.
Sandpipers, for example, bob their entire body up and down as they walk along the shoreline. Oystercatchers turn shells and stones with their bill, using it to slice into the shell for the meal inside.
On Gasparilla Island, you often will see herons such as the tricolor, great blue and little blue as well as black skimmers, least terns and ibis. Roseate spoonbills, brown pelicans, egrets, laughing gulls and ring-billed gulls are also prominent Florida shorebirds.
Shorebirds depend on the sandy shorelines and now they are nesting. Signs with temporary fencing mark shorebird nests. Give them wide berth.
Beachgoers can do their part by staying out of the posted areas and keeping their dogs at home so they will not chase the birds while they are nesting. If the birds feel threatened they often abandon the nests dooming the chicks.
Many shorebirds lay their eggs in the sand. The eggs are hard to see and must be shaded from the heat or they will cook in the shell.
Sunrise and sunset are the best times to see active shorebirds active. Piers are always great to spot pelicans all day long.
If you encounter an injured bird or animal do not try to rescue it yourself. Call a park ranger or beach patrol to handle the rescue.