My trip to Bonita Beach, Lee County Florida has come to an end. It was my most productive trip to the county that I have ever had. Two years ago I realized that I have been watching birds in the county since 1975 and my list in ebird didn’t really reflect what I had seen. When I added all the birds I had seen, it totaled about 170 species. I decided it was time to work on my list there. The last two trips were good, but this one was off the charts. Due to periodic but frequent northwest winds, several fallouts occurred along the coast. The best I ever experienced here took place on 4/16/18. You probably have read the results. The thing is, when I came down I had a goal of reaching 200 for the county (started trip with 188). In no time flat I passed that goal. Then when the fallout occurred, the next five days were amazing. By the end of my trip, I had reached 214 species for the county (that’s 26 new county birds). Additionally, I added 8 new state birds, bringing my total state list to 287 species! Can 300 be far off? It was great making many new birding friends on this trip and catching up with several old friends that hadn’t been there when I had been recently. Now, back to New York to play catch up with all the good stuff that came in while I was gone. See you out there soon!
This morning I headed up county to see what I might get at Six Mile Cypress Slough. This is another great birding spot and I saw some of the birds I was hoping for on the trip have been being reported there regularly. A couple of others have been sporadic, so I thought I might pick them up as well. I got the BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS and TUFTED TITMICE, but the other two were no shows. Surprisingly, I had an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL in a box right off the main parking area. I wasn’t expecting that bird. Interestingly enough, while I have no where to specifically look for this bird, I run into it on about every other trip to Florida. There were many waders and a few cooperative warblers here as well. A duo of Prothonotary Warblers worked the leaves right over the boardwalk, and many birders were snapping photos only two or three feet from these birds. Once I was done there, I headed down to Pine Lake Preserve. I had missed a few species there on my last visit and hoped to pick them up today. Well I got one of them at least, a family of four BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCHES! Another great morning!
A juvenile Brown-headed Nuthatch awaits a meal from its parents.
This morning I spent two hours at Point Ybel and then an hour at Little Estero Lagoon on Ft. Meyers Beach. Birds were way down at the lighthouse park, but it was still a productive visit. The best birds of the morning were a small group (3-4) PAINTED BUNTINGS! These birds have been reported every day that I have birded there, but I just hadn’t connected until today. Always great to see these birds. From there I went to the lagoon. This stretch of Ft. Meyers Beach is always great for terns, gulls and shorebirds. I had the colony of LEAST TERNS there with at least forty birds seen. Along the lagoon, I had many shorebirds including SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHES, SNOWY PLOVER, Wilson’s Plover, SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER and many more of the common species. Gulls were in short supply there today with only Laughing Gulls present. It was a great morning again, with six new trip birds seen!
A pair of Least Terns courting at Little Estero Lagoon.
This morning I had planned to bird Bunche Beach for shorebirds, terns and gulls. Low tide was supposed to be at 8:30 am. When Eddie and I arrived, once again no low tide. I have looked this up so many times and been disappointed upon arrival. I spoke with a man at the kayak rental place, explaining what had happened to me once again. He went right into the site on his phone and explained it all. Apparently there are low tides known as “zero” tides, when the tide reaches its lowest point and regular low tide when the tide only goes down part way. That has been what has been happening during my trip, all the zero tides have been occurring at night, that’s why I’ve been unable to find good mud flats. (long story) At any rate, we decided to go back to Point Ybel to see what was happening. I ran into a group of my birding friends just off the parking lot. Shortly I spotted my FOS CAPE MAY WARBLER. As we all oooed and ahhed over the bird, someone got an alert that Upland Sandpipers were in Cape Coral. This is an extreme rarity for southwest Florida, so Eddie and I headed there. It ended up being a great morning! Not only did we find 9 UPLAND SANDPIPERS, but had two FLORIDA SCRUB JAY, 12 EASTERN MEADOWLARK, 3 LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE and 3 BURROWING OWLS! All of which were new for the trip, the Sandpipers being a new state bird for me! This is only the fourth record of this species in Lee County! You just never know what might happen when you go out to bird!
Birding Point Ybel Lighthouse Point this morning was still very productive. Tennessee Warblers continue to be the most abundant species, my having seen at least 22 of these birds. Prothonotary Warblers were in good number, I had at least half a dozen of them. Black-throated Green, Black and White, Palm and Yellow Warblers were all in good number. Warblers I only saw singles of included Kentucky, Hooded, BLACKPOLL, Common Yellowthroat, Blackburnian, Ovenbird and NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH. This brought my daily total of warblers to 13 and my trip total now to 20 species! Both Orioles were seen as were a few Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I personally saw no Tanagers or Blue Grosbeak this morning. Our winds have again shifted and are now out of the south. That should halt the arrival of birds for the next several days. I will be shifting my birding over that period to shorebirds and gulls/terns. Great birding!
Rose-breasted Grosbeak was not only a new county bird, but a new state bird as well!
With ongoing though slightly less intense northwest winds overnight, a good movement of birds continued! This morning I arrived at the parking lot at Point Ybel at 7:45 to find Gary Lee (New York State Guide) waiting in the parking lot. He informed me that the trees were dripping with birds! I had connected with Gary yesterday, after we figured out I had birded with him in the past. I couldn’t even get away from the car to pay for parking. The Sea Grape along the parking lot had 4 Orchard Orioles, 1 Baltimore Oriole, 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 1 Scarlet Tanager and 4 Tennessee Warblers feeding in it! Both the Baltimore Oriole and Rose-breasted Grosbeak were new county birds and the later a new state bird. Tennessee Warbler would be the most abundant bird of the day with 12 in view at one time along the beach. Indigo Bunting was even more abundant with 30 seen in the seeding grasses along the beach! Blue Grosbeak, Red-eyed Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, Summer Tanager and others were in good number as well. I had two Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Black and White, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided, Yellow, Blue-winged and Worm-eating Warblers were all seen as well as Ovenbird and Common Yellowthroat. This brought my daily total to 12 species of Warbler and my total for this location over the last week to 18! The total for the point overall was 24 species of warbler. Once again this morning for the third day in a row, the Western Tanager was found right after sun up and disappeared shortly thereafter. It has been a lot of fun the last week birding this spot, giving me my highest numbers of warblers ever in this county. My first Baltimore Oriole for Lee County is shown below.
My first Summer Tanager for Lee County!
Yesterday, I birded Sanibel Island with terrible results. I had nothing anywhere. It was my first poor birding day of the trip. While there I spoke with several other birders, all who held the same belief. Today would be a major fallout on Sanibel. The winds yesterday were steady at 25 – 30 mph out of the southwest. It was predicted that between 5 and 7 pm a major storm would hit coming out of the northwest. The birders felt that when those two factors collided, the fallout would occur. The storm hit, and winds immediately switched to intense northwest winds. This morning I headed over to Point Ybel, hoping they were right. They were! There were eventually at least 50 birders present and it was a wonderful spree for all! Nineteen species of warblers, three species of Tanager, Vireos, Buntings, Orioles and thrush were all seen! As for me, I had thirteen species of warbler, highlighted by KENTUCKY, HOODED, PROTHONOTARY, TENNESSEE, WORM-EATING, CHESTNUT-SIDED and BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS! We also had two Yellow Warblers, which are uncommon in western Florida. Other highlights of the morning for me included SUMMER TANAGER, BLUE GROSBEAK and Orchard Orioles! Warblers I missed included Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Prairie and Swainson’s. Also missed by me were Gray-cheeked, Swainson’s and Wood Thrush. The big miss for most people (including me) was a beautiful adult male Western Tanager, seen an photographed by a few early birders this morning. I had 35 species for the morning that included 10 new Lee County Birds (208) and 3 new Florida State birds (285)! What a morning! The resident birders are pretty sure that with intense northwest winds predicted to continue another 48 hours that Tuesday and Wednesday will be as good as today! I’ll be out there!
My first Blue Grosbeak for Lee County!
One of the big gatherings of birders at one of the special birds of the morning!