Thursday, March 13, 2014

Birding Bunche Beach in Fort Myers Florida

Long Billed Curlew at Bunche Beach

I spent the last week vacationing in Fort Myers Florida. The first few hours of my trip to Florida started with an early morning visit to Bunche Beach in Fort Myers. This little municipal preserve hosts 718 acres of natural tidal wetlands and beach [link]. I knew Bunche Beach was good, but I did not anticipate getting 3 lifers in the upcoming hour!
Great Southern White

Mangrove Buckeye - Distinguished by the orange bordering of the forewing eye

Upon arrival, I  had stopped along the road and photographed a few butterfly species. Mangrove Buckeye and Great Southern White were seen. At the beach I noted many many shorebirds particularily as you walk a 100m from the main beach access point. Mainly, shorebirds seen were:

100 Dunlin
70 Western Sandpipers (lifer!)
10 Piping Plovers
2 Black Bellied Plover
7 Semipalmated Plover
25 Willets
150 Sanderlings
1 Long billed Curlew (lifer!)

[2 Marbled Godwits *Second walk]
[2 American Oystercatchers *Second walk]

1 Redish Egret
1 Snowy Egret
1 Little Blue Heron
1 Tricoloured Heron

50 Black Skimmers
50 Royal Terns
15 Laughing Gulls
2 Brown Pelicans

1 Prairie Warbler (Life bird!)
3 Palm Warbler
1 Yellow Rumped Warbler
X Fish Crow

Western Sandpiper - Not the best photo, but I had only taken my 55-250mm lens. Not my 400mm!!!

I had read on a local birding listserve that Mangrove Cuckoo's were present but I did not hear or see any. I had met a few birders on the beach and asked them if Western Sandpipers were present, and they were like - Yes, they are the most abundant shorebird out there! I was all too happy to lifer that species!  I started talking to another man about Bunche Beach and he mentioned some other highlights from the beach such as an overwintering Long Billed Curlew! He mentioned it was on the other end of the beach, perhaps 1km from where we were standing. Just as was about to leave, I heard the ascending call of a warbler I missed last summer in the Georgian Bay Islands.... Prairie Warbler! I pished for a minute only to realize the bird was right above me in a tree along the beach's edge!

Prairie Warbler at Bunche Beach
Finding this Prairie Warbler was particularly exciting because honest to goodness, I heard it singing and recognized its song. I knew its song because it was one of my target birds last summer at Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Readers may remember that I never made it to the North end of the island, and only got to 'hear' them as the ferry driver drove by the north dock but did not have time to dock and explore.

A surprise find at Bunche Beach - A small trail from the beach edge lead me to this small pond full of Fiddler Crabs!

Black Skimmers & Royal Terns

So, three life birds in the first hour of my trip. The birding gods were good to me on my first morning, but my luck would not be so great as the rest of the week continued.

Another visit later in the week to Bunche Beach resulted in views of two Marbled Godwits and two American Oystercatchers! I also had an amazing walk with my son in the low tide waters of Bunche Beach...

Marbled Godwits
American Oystercatchers
Willets - attempting to mate

I will try to limit the remainder of my trip to one more posting. Stay tuned for part two.
Good birding!

Lifer summary:
Western Sandpiper 339
Prairie Warbler 340
Long billed Curlew 341

Ebird Checklist


  1. So that's where you were hiding!
    Congrats on the lifers and being in a warm climate while the rest of us are suffering through this frigid winter! lol

  2. Some excellent sightings Dwayne! Of course I am envious of some of them!

  3. Congrats on the lifers! That wintering Curlew has evaded me twice but I'm glad you got it.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. Kory, I probably would not have seen the Curlew if I had not started talking to a local birder. He suggested that I check the south end of the beach. It was dumb luck!



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