Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sea Watch

Sunday June 24th
Tropical Storm Debbie

 Herring Gull in transition to Second-cycle molt in comparison to a Laughing Gull
Photo is courtesy of Bob Pelkey

Reports have been coming in
from the Atlantic side of Florida off pelagic species being observed on-shore due to prevailing winds. Well, even though we see far fewer pelagic species, the potential for finding pelagic species on-shore on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida are increased due the presence of Tropical Storm Debbie sitting off-shore. We have experienced lots of rain, heavy winds, flooding and beach erosion due to T. S. Debbie and a few scattered reports of pelagic have been coming in. Primarily north of us. Reported were jaegers, a brown noddy and several sooty terns.

So on Sunday I headed out in the rain for Bunche Beach. Arriving about 9:30 the rains had subsided for now, but the winds and waves were still quite high. Not much beach was visible and only a few shore birds were present including a Willet, a Black-bellied Plover, a couple of Ruddy Turnstones, a pair of Least Terns, a very wet Red-shouldered Hawk and a Laughing Gull. Then waves of Magnificent Frigatebirds appeared from the north and very slowly floating on the winds along the shore, heading southerly. Had several soaring, almost hovering on the winds just three feet above my head. Alas my camera is broken so I missed on some great photo opportunities. I had counted thirty-three plus Frigatebirds and after an hour and a half I left to met up with Bob Pelkey on Sanible Island.

Before Going to Sanible I stopped at Bowditch Point Park on Ft Myers Beach, were I found a trio of Red Knots, Black Skimmers, Wilson's Plovers, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Willets, Pelicans, Least Terns, Laughing Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Royal Terns, Sanderlings and a Gray Kingbird laying low from the winds.

We made stops at Sanible Lighthouse and Bowman's Beach were all we could really see were heavy surfs and few birds. At Blind Pass the best birds were a Sandwich Tern, a trio of Chimney Swifts and a family of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. We dipped on any real pelagics. One interesting observation were some para-sailing adventurers at Blind Pass, who, I my mind, were risking serious harm in such powerful surf and winds, Several times we noticed the para-sailors totally lifted off the surf by five to ten feet, very close to a rock jetty.

On the Sanibel Causeway we encountered more Frigatebirds, more laughing Gulls and an out-of-place Herring Gull.

Tuesday June 26th

Sea Watch Part 2

I had not planned on doing any birding today, but late on this Tuesday afternoon I had dropped my daughter off in Bonita Springs, but did bird nearby Ft Myers Beach. Radio news reports had described severe damage on Ft Myers Beach due to T. S. Debbie including Little Estero Island were the Least Tern colony was nesting. So as an after thought I did drive over and found that much of the nesting colony site at the south end of the beach was flooded. No doubt the storm conditions would have been detrimental to any eggs or young of the least terns, snowy plovers or wilson's plovers still nesting here. Did see many more Magnificent Frigatebirds including a female who was harassing the gulls and terns laying-low on the sands. Other birds seen included Least Terns, Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, Black Skimmers, an American Oystercatcher, Wilson's Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones.

Next I rechecked Bowditch Point Park at the other end of the Ft Myers Beach. Even with the winds still blowing hard there was a seaside wedding taking place on the beach. Other sightings here were a lone Snowy Plover, several Wilson's Plovers, several Laughing Gulls, Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Least Terns, Sandwich Terns, a lone Common Tern, a lone Forster's Tern, and a very out-of-place Ring-billed Gull.

On these two days I didn't find any pelagic species, but did have some good birds just the same.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Birding in June

Birding in June in Southwest Florida
Wilson's Plovers Chicks

The summer months are not the best time to bird in southwest Florida. The migrants have passed on through, the winter visitors are gone  and several shore bird species disappear, as they return to the Far North for breeding. So with the reduced number of species and the heat of summer, birding can be a bit frustrating for next couple of months.

Snowy Plover
But interesting birds are still around.  Last week I headed over to Little Estero Lagoon on Ft Myers Beach to visit the Least Tern nesting area. We have hundreds of nesting least terns on hand and I also located almost a dozen Snowy Plovers with several chicks and far more nesting Wilson's Plovers.  One surprise was a dozen resting Red Knots, plus Royal and Sandwich Terns, and a soaring Magnificent Frigatebird. Also had a few non-migrating Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers.  The wires along Estero Boulevard also hosted four Gray Kingbirds.

Least Tern
On recent visits to Bunche Beach in June I had a late and LIFER White-rumped Sandpiper, a Whimbrel, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Least Terns, a pair of Gull-billed Terns, American Oystercatchers, some late Dunlins, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and several Short-billed Dowitchers. Plus Ospreys, Bald Eagle, Willets, a Lesser Yellowlegs, Roseate Spoonbills, Brown Pelicans, both Night-herons, Reddish Egrets, Black Skimmers, Purple Martins, Mottled Ducks, White-eyed Vireos, and Prairie Warblers. Out on  Cayo Costa Island,  Charlie Ewell also had the Gull-billed Terns and a Black Tern.

Snowy Plover Chick
A visit to Babcock-Webb in Charlotte County, I easily located nesting Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, a couple of, still singing, Bachman's Sparrows and several Brown-headed Nuthatchs.  Plus Anhingas, Common Nighthawks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Mockingbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Towhees and Pine Warblers. Also a bobcat.
White-tailed deer at OK Slough

At Hicky's Creek Park I added Red-headed Woodpecker and Chimney Swifts. In Cape Coral we had Florida Scrub Jays, Burrowing Owls, Monk Parakeets and Eurasian Collarded-doves. At Okaloacoochee Slough  we added Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, Swallow-tailed Kites, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Red-shoulder Hawk, Great Crested Flycatcher, American Crow and more nighthawks. Barred Owls are regular visitors at my work place and White-winged Doves and Brown Thrashers are seen around my home. Snail Kites and Limpkins are still easily found at Harn's Marsh.
Snail Kite with Sandhill Crane family in the background
Gray Kingbird on Ft Myers Beach