Saturday, March 23, 2013

Birding in Fort Myers Florida (Part 2 of 2)

Red cockaded Woodpecker (pronounced caw-caided)

This second posting on my recent Florida Vacation birding highlights covers some of my newest lifers. One of the best birds I was able to observe was a single (endangered) Red cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) at the 80,000 acre Babcock Webb WMA [link][map]. Admittedly, there are two areas/colonies that biologists have placed artificial nestholes into the sides of large Long-key Pine trees to help these woodpeckers have easy/ideal nesting habitat.  Red cockaded Woodpeckers are endangered because their habitat is endangered. Large mature pine tree habitat, with prescibed burning-induced clearings to improve biodiversity.

On my third visit to the Babcock Webb WMA (my first visit was in March 2011), I had arrived at sunrise. While driving down the north end of Oilwell Grade road, I had seen a large raptor cross the road ahead of me. I stopped for a moment to see a Great-horned Owl perched on a pine limb. No RCW was found at the first RCW area, so myself and another pair of birders decided to join forces and move on to the other RCW area, which was on another road called Tram Grade road. Enroute to the second area, the other car took a wrong turn, so I stopped at the intersection of the two roads mentioned above and scanned three trees with white rings painted around their base to indicated that they have RCW nests. One of those three trees had a medium sized woodpecker with barring along its back and huge white cheek patches... RCW!!!

Perhaps the quick cellphone video I took in one of the other birder's scopes shows the woodpecker better than my photo. The video is not that great, as the other two ladies can be heard talking and taking photos. We were about 40 meters away from the bird and remained on the roadway while observing the bird. The bird flew eastward moments later and was not seen again.

Another highlight of my Southwest Florida birding was a morning walk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary []. This pristine 13,000 acre Audubon preserve is a breathtaking walk through several habitats, including the "largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in the world (approximately 700 acres)" ... some of the trees had signs indicating they were over 400 years old!

Crappy photo of YCNH... A hard-fought lifer!
Two lifer species for me were the Yellow-crowned Night Heron and the Barred Owl. I found the YCNH to be a difficult bird to find for some reason. I don't think I would have found it without the help of a naturalist that was walking around. Luckily, it was dry season and only two small lakes remained, concentrating most of the birds to two smaller areas.

Barred Owl... Finally!

Other birds seen at Corkscrew Swamp were Indigo Bunting, Blue grey Gnatcatcher, Yellow rumped Warbler (lots of un-identified warblers at one point), Red shouldered Hawks, Pileated Woodpecker (heard), Yellow bellied Sapsucker, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Swallow tailed Kites ( some overhead and circling in the distance). Near the parking lot, a calling bird near our picnic table turned out to be a White eyed vireo. The scrubby area near the parking lot was birdy and included Ruby crowned kinglets, Pine Warblers, Great Crested Flycather and more.


I found this bird while driving on a pretty major highway.  Pileated Woodpeckers were seen at  at Lover Key Park Beach, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and this one while driving to Lehigh Acres.

Fish Crow: Cool to hear the different call this bird makes, especially after reading about Ontario birders hearing it near Fort Erie.  It's a softer "ka".

Poor photo taken in the mid-day sun. This bittern foraged in a thicket of reeds next to a walkway I was standing on.

This female Least Bittern was seen a Lakes Park, a nice municipal park in Fort Myers. I watched this bird forage for a while. At one point, I caught a minow and just held it in its beak for a minute before eating it. A Common Moorehen and Green Heron, as well as many Boat tailed Grackels were around. At one point, a Grackel started gesturing and pecking towards the Bittern. The Bittern pecked back and held its ground, but ... it just bugged me that the Grackel was being so aggressive towards it. Kinda felt bad, but both parties went back to foraging. It was incredible to watch this forage from 10 feet away. Not a lifer but still an amazing bird!

Good birding!

Lifer recap Since Dec 31st 2012:
Purple Sandpiper- Point Pelee #314
Glaucous Gull - Lighthouse Cove #315
Iceland Gull -Wheatley #316
White winged Dove - Rondeau #317
Swallowtailed Kite -SW Florida #318
Barred Owl-SW Florida #319
Yellow Crowned Night Heron -SW Florida #320
Red Cockaded Woodpecker SW Florida #321
American Oystercatcher - SW Florida #322
Burrowing Owl - SW Florida #323
Fish Crow -SW Florida #324
Eurasian Wigeon - Point Pelee#325

Fort Myers Birding Hotspots:

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary & Blair Audubon Center
375 Sanctuary Road West
Naples, FL 34120
Phone: 239-348-9151


18201 John Morris Road Fort Myers, FL 33908

Babcock-Webb WMA
Charlotte County near Punta Gorda and Ft. Myers. From I-75, take exit 158 east 1/4 mile to the entrance;

Lovers Key State Park
8700 Estero Boulevard
Fort Myers Beach, Florida 33931
(239) 463-4588
Harns Marsh Preserve
38th Street West / Ruth Avenue North, Lehigh Acres, Florida, United States
This site, located in Lehigh Acres east of Ft Myers, has become known to birders as one of the most accessible places in Lee County to find Snail Kite, Limpkin, and other wading birds.  From 1-75, Exit 136, drive east on Colonial/Lee Blvd (CR 884) to Lehigh Acres.  Turn left on Sunshine Blvd and drive north past the Able Canal.  Just beyond the canal, the road curves and 31st St is on the left.  Turn left on 31st and make an immediate right on Ruth St.  Drive north on Ruth St to 38th St.  Turn left on 38th and drive west to the dirt parking area at the end of the road.  There are no restrooms at the site.
Reminders: Bring sunscreen, water, lunch/snacks and a scope.
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
7791 Penzance Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33966, United States

J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Address: 1 Wildlife Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957, United States


  1. Awesome job, Dwayne! I've been hoping to see a RCW for quite some time! Great shot of the Least Bittern!

  2. Quite a lifer with the Red Cockaded Woodpecker!! Congrats! I like your Pileated Woodpecker shot!

  3. We go down to Fort Myers to see our Twins spring training and I alway bird Ding Darling, Corkscrew and Lovers Key. What a great place....:) You did good!

  4. Great post. Great photos. Great birding! The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is high on my Wanted List!

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