Saturday, March 16, 2013

Birding in Fort Myers Florida (Part 1 of 2)

I just got back from one week in beautiful Florida. My trip was not mainly a birding trip, as it was more of a family trip, but I still did get in a fair amount of birding. To get some birding in without disrupting the family too much,  I would wake up before sunrise on several morning and drive out to to places like Babcock Web WMA  or Little Estero Lagoon and be back at the hotel for 9am. This posting only covers my last day in Florida... it was that good!

Little Estero Lagoon on Fort Myers Beach

During our Florida trip, we had a hotel more 'inland' but I had booked one night right on Fort Myers Beach. I chose the famous "Holiday Inn" [map] with the nature preserve behind it. I had attempted to bird this area once or twice in the past, but found it birdless (or just the most obvious birds) and did not understand what the big deal was. A birder told me that I need to go in the morning, and to check out the second small lake, more to the southwest of the hotel. This second lake was a little better! I had about 7 plovers, one was a black-bellied, the 1 was a Piping Plover (unbanded) and the other 5 were Semi-palmated Plovers (I think). Most readers of this blog already know that the Piping Plover is endangered due to its habitat requirements --- Wide sandy beaches. This gorgeous little shorebird simply makes a small cup in the sand (a scrape) and lays sand-coloured eggs right in the middle of the beach. If people are walking on the beach, driving on a beach (think Sauble Beach or Daytona Beach), dogs, cats, gulls, snakes, crows, racoons etc... any of these natural or mademade interruptions... the nest fails and the population plummets towards extinction. Luckily we see some attempt to have areas of beaches flagged off for piping plover nests.
Piping Plover - Endangered Species!!!
I took note of the area, and scanned for anything I could see. Several White Ibis, Tricoloured Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Least Sandpipers, Black-crowned night Heron, Osprey, Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Great Blue Heron, Great Egrets.

Then, as I was walking back to my hotel room, I saw two photographers with tripods walking briskly towards the beach. I was not expecting to see this next bird, which was huge (literally and figuratively)... An American Oystercatcher, just strolling slowly along the beach, completely ignoring the morning joggers and shell-collectors!

Burrowing Owls of Cape Coral Florida

This was my last day in Florida, and we needed to catch a plane at 2pm, so later on, at lunch, I had asked our waitress (who was from Cape Coral) if she knew of the famous Burrowing Owls of Cape Coral Florida. She suggested a park (Jaycee Park) in Cape Coral that was not far off our path to the airport. Nobody at this park new of any Burrowing Owls... I must have asked 5 locals and hardly anyone knew of them or their locations. One lady said to look in vacant lots and look for PVC pipes sticking out of the ground.

Out of time, I had to drive back to the airport. I was not going to see these owls on this trip. I was explaining to my wife about "Thats how  birding goes... You try your best but sometimes you're not going to find what you're looking for"... Just then I see a vacant lot  with PVC markers...Pulled over, binoculars... Bamm! Burrowing Owls!!!

Here is a street-level map of where I found these owls!

Jim Mccormac has a good writeup on Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral [here] .
The City of Cape Coral has an official page about Burrowing Owls [here].

Finally, as we arrived at the airport (on Terminal Access Road), two Swallow-tailed Kites flew right above my car. I pulled over on the shoulder and snapped a few photos. Perhaps these two are setting up a nest near the airport? This Kite has nesting materials!

This was just the last day of my trip, I will try to pack in the remainder of the week in my next posting!

Good birding!

PS: Here is a list of target birds I had for this trip (ambitious list!). I had  a humble 7 life birds and 5 or so life butterflies on this trip.

Target Birds:
Black whiskered vireo
Mangrove Cuckoo
Swallowtailed Kite
Snail Kite
Brown headed Nuthatch
Barred Owl
Yellow Crowned Night Heron
Bachman's Sparrow
Red Cockaded Woodpecker
Western Sandpiper
Snowy Plover
Wilson's Plover
Least Tern
Prairie Warbler
Black legged Stilt
American Oystercatcher
Long billed Curlew

Target Butterflies:
Mangrove Skipper [link]


  1. Sounds like a great trip! I am hoping to do a lot of birding during my upcoming Florida trip . The Burrowing Owls are a must see. Great post and photos.

  2. So that is where you were!
    Some very nice birds....

  3. What Blake said.
    You lucky so & so ... lots of great birds there, Dwayne!
    It's crazy how close that Burrowing Owl is to the road.

  4. Hope you had a great vaca! I like how you kept the family/birding priorities! Glad you just tucked your owl find in at the last minute... I don't know that the wives and family see it that way: "Ahh, we almost go to _____ (fill in the blank) and then he saw *one more bird*!" :) Looking forward to "the rest of the story".



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