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Sheri’s Fabulous Flamingo Encounter at Fort DeSoto Park

| Sheri Nadelman |

Sarasota and the surrounding areas attract people to vacation and oftentimes move here from all over the world.  This past holiday weekend proved to be especially busy with our beautiful beaches crowded with tourists covered in oil.  If you have been living under a rock, off social media, or not watching the news lately, you probably have no clue that the Tampa Bay area has been treated to a most unusual bunch of visitors.


Due to the direct result of the recent Hurricane Idalia, a flock of wild American Flamingos from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico were blown onto our beaches.  Contrary to popular belief, they are no longer native to Southwest Florida, and it is very rare to see them here in the wild.

Awestruck locals and tourists lucky enough to be here on holiday witnessed rare sightings of these magical birds prancing around our local beaches.  There were sightings from Clearwater, Siesta Key to Sanibel and North Port.  There are reports of sightings up in Ohio and North Carolina.  Word quickly spread about these fabulous birds and hundreds of people flocked to see them in their pink splendor as they sashayed and flapped around the Gulf Coast waters.


My partner-in-crime and avid birder, My Artie, invited me to join him and another photographer friend for a trip to Fort Desoto Park in Pinellas County where there had been sightings of a flock.  At that time, there were about seven.  I knew it would be crowded and unusually hot.  Admittedly, I am not a fan of the beach and so dealing with the crowd and the record heat we have been experiencing, it was not enticing.  I declined.

He wound up going two days in a row.  When he came back each day with stunning photographs, the photographer in me could no longer resist.

I decided to brave the heat and join the throngs of the frenzied onlookers to catch a glimpse of the flamboyant, fabulous Flamingos whose numbers were slowly diminishing each day as they move on.  We checked the various birder websites and found there were still sightings of five Flamingos at Fort Desoto Park.  My Artie and I decided to go before sunrise on Monday, Labor Day.  However, something in me made me change the plans and I made what turned out to be a brilliant executive decision to go late Sunday afternoon instead.


We got to the beach, strapped on our gear and followed the path to the lagoon where Artie had been the previous day.  The tide, however, had risen and we found ourselves trudging through knee-deep water and avoiding jelly fish.  I was so out of my comfort zone!  Getting stuck in the muck several times while hanging on to my gear was not helping my situation.  But I braved on like a soldier!  We saw a bunch of people already out by the lagoon yet no sign of the birds.  A young woman with her son were leaving and told me that the Flamingos had flown away.

My heart sank.

I looked at my Artie who was ahead of me and could see around the bend and with a big grin said, “Come on.  You’ll see them in a second.  They came back.”

I fought with the muck which kept trying to grab my sandals from my feet.  I rounded the corner and lo and behold, there in all their glory were three fantastic Flamingos.  The sight of these majestic art deco looking creatures almost took my breath away and in true Streisand fashion, I felt myself getting verklempt.


We positioned ourselves near a group of photographers who had been there awhile.  We all watched out for jelly fish which kept getting too close for comfort.  I took thousands of shots of the birds who put on quite a show, dancing like ballerinas on the water.  A flock of Roseate Spoonbills joined them.  They stayed long enough for me to get some Barbie-worthy, Pretty In Pink pictures.  Then one by one, they took off to parts unknown.

Had we waited until the next day as originally planned, we would have seen only one lone remaining Flamingo.  Sometimes you’ve got to trust your instincts.  I’m so glad I did.

No one knows if these splendid creatures will stick around.  I sure hope so.  Right now, I know there is one in Pinellas County being rehabbed, as well as one that was found injured on Siesta beach that is also being rehabbed.

A word of caution: it is important to mention that we must respect our wildlife and their environment.  It is crucial to keep a healthy distance so as not to disturb a creature in its habitat.  As a wildlife and nature photographer, I have witnessed bad behavior which is detrimental to the well-being of our wildlife.  Please be mindful so that they continue to grace us with their presence. 

For more fabulous Flamingo photos, you can visit HERE

Sheri Nadelman Photos

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