Fort Myers, Florida, March 7–15 (Part 4 of 4)

I promise that this is the last post about my 2019 Florida trip. Nobody cares anymore, I know. After this, we are back to birding in the PNW (until I go to Utah, then watch out).

This post is a handful of mini-posts. I’ll keep the text “short,” and I’ll be generous with the photos. Here we go.

March 11, 2019: After my trip to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, I headed north to find Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. En-route, I found another target bird—the Roseate Spoonbill! The spoonbills were in a wet field with an assortment of egrets, etc. If Florida had an egret-heron punch card, I would have all spots punched except for one at this point. eBird checklist here.

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A medley of waders; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Roseate Spoonbill; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Roseate Spoonbill (judging you) and a Snowy Egret; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Roseate Spoonbills; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Great Egret and Snowy Egrets; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Great Egret; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Snowy Egret; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Cattle Egret (hey I’m different!); Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork; Immokalee Road; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

After enjoying this wader medley, I went straight to my flycatcher spot, scared an alligator into a canal (splash!), and then a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew into view! How perfect. It stayed long enough for me to get a really terrible photo. I’m including it here because it’s a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher! My goal next year is to get better photos of this bird. It’s a gorgeous bird. I also saw Swallow-tailed Kites here and continued to see them (always while driving) for the remainder of my trip. eBird checklist here.

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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher; Church Road; Hendry County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

March 13, 2019: My dad and I spent the day at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It was really hot. We didn’t find any Mangrove Cuckoos, but we did find another one of my target birds—the Reddish Egret. My Florida egret-heron punch card is complete!  Florida has a total of 6 heron species and 4 egret species, and I saw them all on this trip. eBird checklists here and here and here.

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My birding partner, my dad, Tom; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Tricolored Heron; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Osprey; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Little Blue Heron; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Mangrove Swamps (with some Blue-winged Teals); J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Coolest Birders; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Mangrove Swamp (Mangrove Cuckoo I’ll find you next time!); J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Mangrove Swamp; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Along Wildlife Drive; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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White Pelicans; Mangrove Swamp; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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White Pelicans and a Reddish Egret; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Reddish Egret; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

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Reddish Egret; J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; March 13, 2019.

March 14, 2019: My last day in Florida, and I’m off to return my rental car to the airport. But wait! Was there not a reliable spot to find Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks? Yes, there was/is, and it’s just north of the airport. Off to get the whistling ducks (piles of them!), then to the airport for a very long day of travelling.

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Gateway Boulevard; Lee County, Florida; north of the airport; March 14, 2019. This was my view of the whistling-ducks. This is a gated community and I had to be discrete and quick! I parked at some type of mega-church across the street, ran across the street, enjoyed the whistling quackers for a few minutes, took a few zoomed-in shots, and absconded.

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Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (very nervous looking); Gateway Boulevard; Lee County, Florida; north of the airport; March 14, 2019.

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Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks; Gateway Boulevard; Lee County, Florida; north of the airport; March 14, 2019.

Florida, I will see you in exactly 1 year.

With love, Linda

 

 

Fort Myers, Florida, March 7–15, 2019 (Part 3 of 4)

Florida has its own species of scrub-jay. It’s endemic to Florida, federally threatened, and appropriately named the Florida Scrub-Jay, Aphelocoma coerulescensFlorida also has its own subspecies of Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia floridana. Both species have some overlapping habitat preferences: open sandy areas with low-growing scrub-shrubs. Fortunately for me, this habitat is in the Fort Myers area in nearby Cape Coral. Before I drove out to the site, I reviewed this beautiful map of the Cape Coral area.

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A computer motherboard or Cape Coral, Florida?

Welcome to Cape Coral, Florida, where you get your own canal. You also get your own alligator, but they don’t advertise that part. This area went through a complete landscape transformation in the 1960s. Not surprisingly, the area was “swampy” and uninhabitable by human standards. Mangrove swamps and palmetto scrublands dominated the area. Out-of-state dreamers were convinced they could turn this place into a real estate paradise. The main developer at the time “… passed off inaccessible mush as prime real estate, sold the same swampy lots to multiple buyers, and used listening devices to spy on its customers” (Grunwald 2017).

Back to the Burrowing Owls and Florida Scrub-Jays, because that’s why we’re here and because they live here, in this motherboard.

On March 10, 2019, both species were within walking distance from each other in the red circle on the image below. You can even go onto eBird and search for the scrub-jay, and you’ll see a whole cluster of points at this very spot. When I was there, so were other birders.

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Cape Coral area, Florida;  Imagery 2018 Google, Map data 2018 Google.

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Florida Scrub-Jay; Cape Coral, Florida; March 10, 2019. Seeing this species was pretty special for me. I now look at my own local scrub-jays (California) with more admiration.

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Burrowing Owl; Cape Coral, Florida; March 10, 2019. This was a bit of a surprise. I thought I would have to drive to the other side of the motherboard to see the Florida Burrowing Owl, but apparently there are burrows throughout the motherboard. And, Florida Burrowing Owls will sometimes dig their own burrows!

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Florida Burrowing Owl; Cape Coral, Florida; March 10, 2019.

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Eastern Meadowlark; Cape Coral, Florida; March 10, 2019.

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Loggerhead Shrike; Cape Coral, Florida; March 10, 2019.

And that, my readers who made it this far, is all I have to say right now. I thought I could fit my last few Florida posts into one post. Nope. There’s more to come. Maybe I need to move there and do a Florida big year? I’m realizing now that this blog needs a new name, too.

Next up: SPOONBILLS!

Literature Cited

Grunwald, M. 2017. The Boomtown That Shouldn’t Exist. Politico Magazine.  November/December 2017

 

 

Fort Myers, Florida, March 7–15, 2019 (Part 2 of 4)

And we’re back!

Before my trip, I did a literature review of the area, searching Florida birding websites, eBird, etc. I started a list of target birds and target areas near Fort Myers and also purchased A Birder’s Guide to Florida from the Book Bin in Salem*. The book was basically written for birders from (or travelling to) Florida and who want to know exactly where to go to bird. It’s a great book.

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While reading this book, searching online, and dreaming of Painted Buntings and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, I happened upon a Fort Myers–area birding club, the Caloosa Bird Club. Formed in 1958 as a mostly seasonal club for birding “snowbirds” (aka future Linda), the club hosts field trips in the Fort Myers area in the winter, and they were holding a field trip to the Corkscrew Swamp during my stay in Florida. I quickly signed up a guest.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

On fieldtrip day, Monday, March 11, I left Fort Myers before sunrise and drove down to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, arrived just after sunrise, found a parking spot, and met with at least 20 other birders and our Audubon tour guide.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

The sanctuary is owned by the National Audubon Society. From their website,

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary occupies approximately 13,000 acres in the heart of the Corkscrew Watershed in Southwest Florida, part of the Western Everglades. It is primarily composed of wetlands. These include the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in the world (approximately 700 acres), which is the site of the largest nesting colony of Federally Endangered Wood Storks in the nation. (Audubon 2019)

This place is an oasis. We birded all morning along the boardwalk trail that travels through cypress swamps, pine flatwoods, and wet prairies. The birding club members were also very gracious; because I was an out-of-state guest, they did their best to make sure I saw nearly every bird. At first, before they remembered my name, I’d hear “Where’s the guest?!” “We’ve got the bittern!” They also have club hats and nametags that they wear. Of course I wanted both.   

In all, the group collectively saw 61 species that morning! Highlights or lifers for me were Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager (the trip bird!), Anhinga, Indigo Bunting, White-eyed Vireo, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Tufted Titmouse.

Ok, time for photos—some good, and some for the sake of simply seeing a particular bird. Enjoy!

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Slash pine habitat; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Brown-Headed Nuthatch; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Caloosa Birding Club; slash pine habitat; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Pileated Woodpecker; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Indigo Bunting; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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American Bittern; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Giant bald cypress; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Giant bald cypress; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Giant bald cypress; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Purple Gallinule; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Anhinga; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Mama alligator; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Baby alligators; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Purple Gallinule; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Anhingas; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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New Florida friends and a alligator; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Caloosa Birding Club; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Green Heron; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Florida cottonmouth; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Barred Owl; Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Collier County, Florida; March 11, 2019.

I love that this trip to Florida included not only new birds, but also new birding friends/contacts. I can’t wait to bird with this group again next year. 

My eBird checklist from the fieldtrip is here

Literature Cited

National Audubon Society. 2019. The Sanctuary. Available at: http://corkscrew.audubon.org/about/sanctuary.

Footnotes

* The Book Bin in Salem has become a sort of book-version of the Room of Requirements for me. If I have a book in mind (or really a topic I hope is covered in a book), I simply need to walk in there with intent, and within 15 minutes in the store, I find the exact book I need. I don’t even need a wand for this (even though I have one). This Florida birding book is one example, but another time, I went in looking for a book on telemark skiing, and they had such a book.