Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Little Estero Lagoon & Lower Keys SP - 05 Apr 2008

Forecast for today was clear skies in the morning and T-storms in the afternoon. I drove down to Ft. Myers Beach and Little Estero Lagoon to look for shorebirds. Parking at the Holiday Inn I walked down toward the beach and found the lagoons. A Black-throated Blue Warbler was singing its 'beer-beer-biiii' song in the mangroves, but I was unable to locate it. At the first lagoon (3) Eastern Willets were feeding in the shallows. A pair of Least Sandpipers were also nearby, and a Reddish Egret was on the far end of the lagoon. Otherwise, it was quiet. At 8am it was already breezy and quite hot and humid. As I approached within about 50 ft. of the Willets I set up the scope and digiscoped the nearest bird just as it was losing its breakfast! Some of the birds were still in basic plumage, while others were starting to get their breeding feathers.
After a few minutes of watching the birds, I moved on, heading south between the lagoon and the beach among the wild oats. A Common Ground Dove appeared ahead of me and stayed long enough for a quick photo w/ the D300. They are smaller than Mourning Doves and their reddish wings are only evident when they fly.

On the south side of the lagoon I spotted a Semipalmated Plover in a bit of open water, but it flew off to the south before I could get set up for a digiscoped image. As I was resting in the mud a Willet flew in from the north end of the lagoon, and I fired off a couple dozen shots as it approached and then landed a few feet away from me. I was only able to get the bird in focus as it landed, which was ok w/ me since I was able to get its trademarked black-and-white wings in full spread! As it stopped and paused for a moment I recognized it as the bird in breeding plumage. Beautiful. Meanwhile, the Reddish Egret was busy feeding in the middle of the lagoon. It was comical to watch as it peered, cocked its head to the side, then chased minnows. It would then spread its wings, creating a shadow for minnows to swim toward, then snatch one out of the water. I took dozens of shots of it as it chased and fed. It was obviously interested in my presence, since it kept approaching me until (just a few feet away) it took off and flew right past me. All I could do was watch it fly by as it was too close to photograph.
Returning to the beach I found a Willet flying along the shore. I tried looking for plovers, but had no luck seeing any! Returning to the car another Willet was feeding in the surf, totally unconcerned w/ the many beach walkers just a few feet away. I took several images of it before heading back to the car.

Continuing south I stopped at Lower Keys State Park and walked the shoreline for about an hour. As I walked the beach I spotted this 'creature with four legs!' feeding in the surf. It was only a moment later that it turned out to be a pair of Sanderlings. Whew! Only the beach portion of the state park was open. Just a few feet inland were signs warning against walking into the mangroves, as it was a sensitive area for grasses. Ospreys were flying and calling, and soon I came upon a large nest in one of the many bare trees that lined the beach. I took images of the nest using the Coolpix P5000 at 1X and 3X magnifications. I then set up the scope and digiscoped the nest, which contained an adult bird and 1 visible youngster. Another adult was perched nearby, and posed for a nice digiscoped image. Returning to the car another bird flew by with a catfish in its talons. I took this image as it passed between me and the sun.

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