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A Report from

FLORIDA April/May 1999 ,

Alec Chaney

A Birdwatching Diary

Sanibel Island base: Sanibel Inn

Tues 20th Apr:  First impressions of Sanibel beach, white sands, fishing Ospreys, Pelicans, air full of birds, Royal terns etc, Dolphins & Sting Rays fishing close to shore, people walking with heads down (shell-seeking) oblivious to the wonders above, warm sunshine, blue skies, fish jumping out of the water. All these things made us realize that we had come to a very special place

Mottled duck / Northern Cardinal / Red-bellied Woodpecker/ Great Egret / Snowy Egret / Brown Pelican / Royal Tern / Semi-palmated Sandpiper / Osprey / Ring-billed Gull / Laughing Gull / Willet / Sanderling / Ruddy Turnstones / Black-bellied Plover / Great crested Flycatcher / Double-crested Cormorant / Eastern Mockingbird / Anhinga / boat -tailed Grackle / Ground Dove / Snowy Plover / Green Heron / Tri-coloured Heron / Grey kingbird / Hundreds of Red Knot many in full breeding plumage

Not a bad first day!!

Wed 21st:   Pre-breakfast walk:  Red-winged Blackbird / Moorhen / Pileated Woodpecker

Ding Darling reserve:   Pied-billed Grebe / Fish Crow / White Pelican / Red-shouldered Hawk / Reddish Egret / Little Blue Heron / Belted Kingfisher / Turkey Vulture / White Ibis / Black Skimmer / Red-breasted Merganser / Western Sandpiper / Dunlin / Lesser Yellowlegs / Short-billed Dowitcher / Roseate Spoonbill / Great blue Heron / Yellow-crowned Night Heron /

Thurs 22 Apr; Sanibel:  Grey Catbird / White-winged Dove / Mourning Dove / European starling / Blue Jay / Least Tern / Magnificent Frigatebird / Spotted Sandpiper / Tree Swallow / Common Nighthawk / There were Ospreys everywhere!

Fri 23 Apr a.m. Bailey Tract (part of Ding Darling):  Black-necked Stilt / Killdeer / Blue-winged Teal / Common Yellow Throat / Huge Alligator over 12ft long roaring in breeding display. / Red- Shouldered Hawk / Anhinga (fishing) / Savannah Sparrow

Sat 24th South Seas Resort- Captiva Island:  Bird walk with Vincent C. McGrath

25+ Magnificent Frigatebird / Brown Pelican / Anhinga / Great blue Heron / Little blue Heron / Black-crowned Night Heron / Great blue Heron / Snowy Egret / White Ibis / 10+ Osprey / Ruddy Turnstone / Sanderling / Laughing Gull / Royal Tern / Mourning Dove / Common Ground Dove / Eurasian Collard Dove / Chuck-wills-widow / Chimney Swift / Belted Kingfisher / Red-bellied Woodpecker / Pileated Woodpecker / Grey Kingbird / Great crested Flycatcher / Barn Swallow / Blue Jay / Fish Crow / Carolina Wren / Northern Mocking bird / Grey Catbird / Yellow-Throated Vireo / Black & White Warbler / Prothonotary Warbler / Tennessee Warbler /  Prairie Warbler / Northern Parula / Cape May Warbler /Palm Warbler / Blackpoll Warbler / Hooded Warbler / Yellow -Throated Warbler /  Northern Cardinal / Red-winged  Blackbird / Brown-headed Cowbird / Common Grackle .

Sunday 25th April Sanibel Lighthouse:  with local birders.

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron / Great-Crested Flycatcher/ Common Whitethroat / Yellow Warbler / Cape May Warbler / Northern Parula / Palm warbler / Blackpoll Warbler/ Black-throated Blue Warbler / Black & White Warbler/ Indigo Bunting/ Carolina Wren / American Redstart / Eastern Phoebe / Chimney Swift / Tree Swallow / Sandwich Tern / Common Tern

Monday 26th Corkscrew Swamp Nature Reserve:

Red-Shouldered Hawk / Barred Owl (with chick) / Sandhill Crane (flyover) / Purple Gallinule / Wood Stork / Cattle Egret / Blue-grey Gnatcatcher / Tufted Titmouse / Catbird / Tri-coloured Heron / Great Egret / Snowy Egret / Reddish Egret / Little Blue Heron / Turkey Vulture /

Bunche beach (Shore end of John Morris Drive, Fort Myers):

Large flocks of waders: Short-billed Dowitcher (many in full breeding plumage) / Willet / Black-bellied Plover / Sanderling / Dunlin / Least & Spotted Sandpipers / Wilson's & Semi-palmated Plovers / White Ibis / Little blue Heron / Reddish Egret / Black Skimmer / Lesser Yellowlegs / Osprey / Great Egret

Tues 27th Ding Darling Refuge (This is the American word for Reserve): Still Hot & Humid! Bugs bad early on despite liberal amounts of bog spray!

Flocks of Roseate Spoonbill (one of the specialties of Sanibel) very well seen / also large flock of Short -billed Dowitchers & Willet  / Reddish Egret / Little Blue Heron / Great Egret / White Ibis / Tri-coloured Heron / Red breasted Merganser / Double crested Cormorant / Anhinga / Turkey Vultures in the sky 

Wed 28th am Sanibel Lighthouse:   Not many small birds about compared to Sun but plenty of Brown Pelicans / Osprey and Egrets like in the UK the migration pattern can change greatly from day to day. In the afternoon we went to the bridge linking Captiva to Sanibel. Again large flocks of all species of Egret. Large flock of Black Skimmers on the beach together with large numbers of Royal Terns and at least one Caspian! Large flock of Least Terns starting to nest behind the beach in marked off areas. Close view of a male Frigate Bird (wonderful flying creature)

Thurs 29tham Bailey Tract (this is part of Ding Darling Refuge but separate.):   In the afternoon we went to the Fort Myers beach at the far end towards Naples in front of the Holiday Inn complex. Here we saw Marbled Godwits (at last) also first Whimbrel flock of Red Knot breeding plumage) / Many Dowitchers (always Short -billed) in breeding plumage .On the way home we again visited Bunche Beach. 

Anhinga / Frigatebird / Blue Winged Teal / Killdeer / Black-winged Stilt / Eastern Towhee / Blue-headed Vireo / Spotted Sandpiper / White Ibis / Great Egret / Snowy Egret / Little Blue Heron / Red-winged Blackbird / Green Heron / American Crow / Fish Crow / European House Sparrow/ Common Grackle / Boat -tailed Grackle. 

Fri 30th:   We could not resist another visit to the wonderful Baileys Tract although the weather was very hot and sticky. This time we met by accident a local volunteer guide Bill Saunders who twice a week works here and Ding Darling giving free advice (fortunately for us his speciality was birds!) There are lots of these retired people doing guiding on all of the nature reserves and their help is very much appreciated. With Bill's help we saw:

White-eyed Vireo / Prairie Warbler / Killdeer / Blue-winged Teal / Magnificent Frigatebird / Osprey / Spotted Sandpiper / Rufous-sided Towhee / Red-winged Blackbird / Northern Mockingbird / Grey Kingbird / Barn swallow / Tree Swallow / 

Later we visited Dayton Preserve (yet another American word for reserve) This is next to Baileys but funded privately and still under development. Here we found Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Four birds in the same tree!) Northern Flicker (our first view of this member of the Woodpecker family). A Red-Shouldered Hawk perched quite close. 

Sat 1st May:   Bill had kindly offered to meet us at the Ding Darling at 7.30 am to search for the Mangrove Cuckoo. Although he had a tape of its song we had no success despite two drive-throughs in Bills car!! We later met him at the Lighthouse but despite favourable north winds (which should have brought birds down) we found only a few birds. Later in a tree nr Beachview Golf course we saw our first Hermit Thrush.

Sun 2nd:  Our final day for birding as we return to UK tomorrow .We start outside the hotel on Sanibel beach. An osprey is catching fish a few yards out and Bottle -nosed Dolphins are swimming just offshore .On the beach as everyday there are flocks of Red Knot, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstones, Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, Least Terns, Great -crested Flycatchers, Mottled Ducks, Grackles, Pileated Woodpecker (nesting in Hotel grounds) Cattle Egret. After lunch acting on info provided by Bill we go to Fort Myers, Cypress Lakes, (Panther Drive nr Baseball park) and find our first Burrowing Owl, which was perched on a post and also at the entrance to its burrow. We also saw our first Loggerhead Shrike & Brown Thrasher. Later we went to Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve and saw an Alligator with small gator, Turkey Vultures and our first Swallow-tailed Kite (a beautiful bird to finish any birding trip) On the way back we saw Glossy Ibis and several Hawks at the road side .as we left the area a Turkey Vulture was perched on top a lamppost on Six mile cypress road! All of this area of Florida had been unusually hot and dry for April and this preserve and Corkscrew were very dry. For us this was good in one sense because it tended to concentrate the birds into smaller areas and thus made them easier to see. However the downside was that it made visit tiring and there were fewer birds than normal.

It will be very difficult to get back to normal "birding" after this experience but we can always look forward to our next visit to this bird rich part of the World The help and friendship shown by local birders and volunteer guides contributed a lot to our enjoyment of this holiday.

Alec Cheney

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