Tierra Verde Duck Ponds
Most birders stop at the two ponds on the island of Tierra Verde on their way out to Fort De Soto Park. There are two ponds, both on the west side of the Pinellas Bayway (679) right after you’ve passed the fire station and the ball field if you’re heading towards Fort De Soto. The first pond has a small pull off where as many as three cars can park. The second pond, the largest of the two, has no such convenience. So, a short ways after passing the first pond turn right on W. Shores Blvd, drive to the stop sign, turn around, and then pull up on the grass off to the right 50 yards before reaching the Pinellas Bayway. You can get out and walk up to the lake to scan for ducks. You may have seen another residential lake off to your right (north) after turning onto W. Shores Blvd. Sometimes a few ducks and Roseate Spoonbills can be seen in the backyards of the couple of homes there.
FALL: East of the large pond, and out of sight from the road, is Jackass Key, an April-Oct roosting site for hundreds of roosting Magnificent Frigatebirds. On any given day you may see many of them flying low over the pond and occasionally dipping for a drink. Sometimes the number reaches 100+. Usually by late October the first Ring-necked Ducks of the year arrive. Ringers and Lesser Scaup are the two species you may see mixed in with the Redheads by the end of November. Expected are Pied-billed Grebe, Common Gallinule and Anhinga. The smaller pond, mentioned previously, may hold Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup, too.
WINTER: In the old days it was not at all uncommon to see 500+ Redheads at the large pond. But recently the duck numbers have dwindled and though there may be some days when a large flock has flown in and settled, they are constantly on guard for overhead Bald Eagles ( a species now nesting at Fort De Soto Park ). The ducks must also grow weary of the constant gun shots-sounding hammers as construction workers build yet another new home nearby. Other ducks to look for, particularly along the shoreline, include Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Mottled/Mallard hybrids and the occasional American Wigeon. There may also be a few American Coots present.
SPRING: Usually by mid-April all of the cucks have left the large pond, but local birders still check it for the few that may remain. Listen carefully if you’re there early in the day and you might hear the soft call of a Least Bittern, a species that nests within the cattails surrounding the large pond.
SUMMER: The best time to visit the large pond in summer is late in the day. It is at this time when you might see a few frigatebirds up close as they stop for a drink before going to roost. Just before dark you may witness the dozens of Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons flying from their day roosts (on private property just north of the large pond) as they head out to feed.
INSIDER TIPS: There are no restrooms here, of course, and please respect the property owners and their land.