Thursday, December 31, 2009

Estero Bay Preserve State Park in Southwest Florida

Estero River

Tuesday, December 29th, visited Estero Bay Preserve off Broadway in Estero. This tract, known as Estero Scrub River access was added in 2000 to the preserve, when the state purchased this land to forestall a developers plan to convert it into housing. This land is a much needed buffer to try and protect the water quality of Estero Bay. The trails here generally traverse upland pine, scrub oak, salt marsh, salt flats and mangroves. It is also a mitigation area for the relocation of gopher tortoises needing a new home, because of land development. The exotics are also being removed and the transformed back to natural, native Florida. Recently control burns have been used as well, as part of the land management.
Frankly, as side of the many gopher tortoises, bird life is not very abundant. There are usually kettles of vultures with hawks and eagles at times, and in the summer we have Swallow-tailed Kites. There are also many snags so that pileated, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers are present. Watch also for pineland species like doves, eastern towhees, house wrens, blue jays eastern bluebirds and bobwhites. The scrub is also home to the rare and endangered Florida Scrub Jay. The target specialties here are the Florida Scrub Jay, Northern Bobwhites Swallow-tailed Kites and a local Bald eagles’ nest.
Today I spent two hours hiking in the afternoon and found it very quit. But I was after the scrub jay, bobwhites, the eagles’ nest and I also needed to locate an Eastern Towhee. Found some of the trail to be very wet and muddy, but there were no mosquitoes. By February conditions should be even better as the trails dry out.
On my first hike her on February 14, 2008 I was lucky to locate two Scrub Jays and I have never found one since. No bobwhites today either. As for the eagles’ nest, I found the nest tree destroyed by fire. Hopefully they will rebuild nearby. Did find the towhee and had my best bird when a merlin flew and land in a nearby tree. My trip list includes -

Bald Eagles nest tree
The Orange Trail
Salt Flats

Gopher Tortoise

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