Monday, March 30, 2009

Our Last Day in Fort Myers

Today was our last full day at Parker Lakes in Fort Myers this season before we head back to the cold and snow in Colorado. Most of my day was spent cleaning and packing. Bill spent his last morning at the flying field - for one last flight and one last visit with his new friends until we return in October.

This afternoon we went to the pool where our group of friends held a "no rules" day. It seems we have a self-appointed pool monitor who has aggravated some people so today was their day to make a statement by breaking all the rules. They brought a beach ball, pool rafts, cans of soda and margaritas to the pool. When the pool monitor arrived, three people jumped into the pool. Everyone splashed, bounced the ball, hooted and hollered and basically had a great time. We acted like naughty children. Our pool monitor was not amused but maybe he will treat people with a little more kindness in the future. We all appreciate his efforts to make the pool a safer place for all the residents to enjoy - we just don't like all his methods, especially when dealing with people that he believes do not belong.

This evening, Bill and I went over to Cape Coral for a delicious fish dinner. On the way we saw this family of Burrowing Owls.

Look at these five adorable chicks! They were curious about our presence. Momma owl sat close by either trying to ignore us or giving us the evil eye - all the while keeping her chicks close by.

Tomorrow at o'dark thirty, Bill and I will head north. We are stopping in to visit my sister in Kure Beach, North Carolina for a few days hoping the snow in Colorado will melt and the sun will warm the ground so the May flowers will bloom in our yard and we can begin to plant our garden. The last few months have been a wonderful adventure but it's time to go home.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Harns Marsh

On Wednesday, after our friends Mike and Mel left, Bill and I headed to Lehigh Acres to visit Harns Marsh. The marsh is a 578 acre preserve that is part of the East County Water Control District and one of the area’s major stormwater retention/detention facilities.

ECWCD and Lee County have slated Harns Marsh as a regional park with trails and boardwalks scheduled to be built in 2011. The variety and quantity of birds is amazing. We saw Herons, Egrets, Ibis, Coots, Ducks, Yellowlegs, Kingfishers, Hawks and a Snail Kite (see next post). Crested Caracara have been spotted, but we did not see any.

The spring flowers were in full bloom.

I've never seen so many American Coot together in one place!

I wish this Belted Kingfisher had been closer so I could have gotten a better picture. I also saw a couple of alligators - one swimming and the other sunning on the shore.

This is a Yellowlegs - but I don't know if it is a Lesser Yellowlegs (10 1/2 inches tall) or a Greater Yellowlegs (14 inches.)

There were dozens of the small Tricolored Herons darting around looking for food.

The Ibis were everywhere - both White Ibis and Glossy Ibis. I was taken by their colors - the White Ibis have BRIGHT red bills and legs and the Glossy Ibis shine in the sun with flashes of red, blue, purple and green.

Harns Marsh is definitely a place I will return to again!

Yesterday we made what is probably our last trip to Lovers Key this season. I wanted to check and see if the Least Terns had returned from South America to nest along the beach. The barricades have been put up and a couple of Least Terns have been spotted, but they have not yet started to build their nests. Least Terns look like small Royal Terns.

I did see Sandpipers - lots of Sandpipers. I think the larger ones are either the common Spotted Sandpiper or Willets. I don't know what the small ones are - even after looking them up in my books. This is an area I need to work on!

On the way back to Fort Myers I saw these ducks swimming in a community lake. At first I though they were a pair of Mallards - but now I'm not so sure. The front one may be a Mottled Duck. Some people think they are the same species - so I guess it's OK that I'm confused.

We also found a Mangrove Preserve with a boardwalk out to the river. This is a Mangrove Crab.

The Anoles are everywhere - but I like them.

It's sad to think that we leave in less than 3 days - but the good news is that we will stop in North Carolina to visit my sister for a couple of days.

I've heard reports that Colorado had an "EPIC" blizzard yesterday and everything is closed today. I do not want to go back to that kind of weather - but I am ready to plant our garden and visit with our Colorado friends.

Snail Kite

Snail Kites are an endangered species found only in south-central Florida. We were fortunate to see one at Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres.

Apple snails, their only food, are plentiful at the Marsh.

The tail feathers are black and white - easily seen when he flies.

With Coots and Egrets in the background, you can see the Kite with a large snail in the foreground of this picture.

I walked down to the marsh to collect a couple of samples of the Apple Snail shells left by the Snail Kite.

We saw lots more at the Marsh and I will post more pictures later.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our Final Week in Fort Myers

This is our last week in Fort Myers and we continue to keep busy. On Sunday afternoon we sat by the lake behind the outlet shops in Bonita Beach to soak up the sun and watch a water skiing demonstration. The group is in training for a show at Cypress Gardens.

These youngsters were having a great time! Notice that each girl is on one ski.

Some of the more adventurous skiers going over a jump. There is a third skier who went around the jump and met them on the other side. The driver of the boat was as talented as the skiers.

This gorgeous tree is aptly named the Tree of Gold. Until I looked in up in my "Flor-ida's Fabulous Trees" book I called it the Daffodil Tree because each blossom in the cluster looks like one of the beautiful yellow Spring Daffodils that bloom in our yard in Colorado in April. We should be home in time to see them.

Monday was my second field trip with the Caloosa Bird Club. The day was dreary with a light drizzle but it didn't dampen our spirits one little bit. Our first stop was a birder's paradise. A couple from the club had invited the group to their home in Alva to see the Indigo Buntings and other birds that call their yard home. There must have been 3 dozen Indigo Buntings in the bushes and at the feeders! A handsome Painted Bunting, several White-winged Doves, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a pair of Cardinals also made appearances.

I was so taken with this beautiful display that I took Bill, Mike and Mel back today to see them. Lois and Leon welcomed us, had us sign their guest book and took us on a birder's tour of their yard. They obviously delight in their birds and enjoy sharing them. Nice people - and hopefully, new friends.

At the club's next stop we saw a Great-horned Owl and a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers that mated in mid-air as we were all lined up on the side of the street - with binoculars in hand - watching them fly around.

But my real treat of the day was at the Franklin Locks where I saw this pair of Bald Eagles. They were in the distance, but stayed around long enough for us all to get a great look at them.

I took this picture of a Zebra Butterfly on one of the nature trails near the Caloosa-hatchee River. Other sightings of note included all the usual shore birds, Limpkin, Coot, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Blue-headed Vireo and a Northern Parula.

The weather had cleared up nicely by noon when the group met back at the starting place. Bill was waiting for me. We picked up Mike and Mel and went down to Bunche Beach to see if we could spot the Scarlet Ibis. Bill brought his kite for Mike and him to fly. The two great friends had a wonderful time - but it was too windy and the kite crashed.

We didn't see the Scarlet Ibis, but this Reddish Egret was walking in the shallow surf.

Bunche Beach is a strange beach - much more secluded than Fort Myers or Sanibel Beach - with more mud flats than sand. I saw lots of common shore birds.

While we were enjoying the day, this huge flock of White Pelicans flew over.

Today, on our way back to see the Indigo Buntings at Leon and Lois' feeders, we stopped at Manatee Park. Mel had never seen a Manatee. Luckily, one was there - but only one. Since the weather is warmer than in January, they have headed back out to the Gulf.

This Mockingbird was sitting in a bush singing the whole time we were there.

They have a beautiful butterfly garden with lots of pretty flowers.

Mike and Mel wanted to walk around the docks in Fort Myers. They love to look at the boats and we all talked about the one we will buy when we hit the lottery.

This is a common Rock Pigeon and, like the other birds this time of year, is showing off his colors.

Mike and Mel are leaving early tomorrow morning to head back to their home in Missouri. We've had a great time and will miss them.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday in Paradise

It's a beautiful Sunday morning and I am sitting out on the lanai watching a little Tricolored Heron fish for his breakfast. Bill is off to the last day of the Gathering of the Giants airshow at the R/Seahawks Park on Cape Coral and Mike and Mel are sleeping in.

We all attended the airshow yesterday and they had a wonderful turnout with lots of fabulous planes. The weather was perfect in the morning - but the wind picked up a bit in the afternoon. Fortunately, the wind is not as much of a factor with these planes.

Bill had the camera for the day so these are some of the pictures he took.

Most of the planes were fueled by gasoline - not the electric - battery powered - ones that Bill flies. There were also a few jets.

One of the young instructors, Alex, flew a demonstration that was mind boggling. He made that plane stand still just a few feet over the runway and did flips and loops like I'd never seen before.

Earlier in the week, we took what was probably our last trip to Six-Mile Cypress Slough this season. I'm never disappointed with our walks there - and I always see something new. I don't remember ever seeing a Wood Stork at Six-Mile before - but I'm sure it's a good fishing spot for them.

The Tricolored Herons are quite a bit smaller than the Great Blue Herons. I think I finally have them straight in my mind. We watched this Tricolored from one of the boardwalk observation decks.

Love is in the air - a beautiful pair of Red-shouldered Hawks in the trees.

Mel, Mike and Bill. We are fortunate to have Mike and Mel as house guests until Wednesday when they will head back to their home on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

This time of year even the common Ibis are gorgeous. Just look at how bright red his bill and feet are!

You can really see the lime green facial skin on this high breeding adult male Great Egret.

I never get tired of looking at the Great Blue Herons.

We heard this Carolina Wren's melodious song long before we finally located him sitting on a Cypress Knee in the underbrush.

Even the common Brown Anole are showing their colors.

How could I visit the Slough without taking a picture of this wonderful Anhinga showing off his fancy wings?

Back over on Cape Coral we are finally seeing some of the baby Burrowing Owls outside their deep burrows. This little guy has huge black eyes - unlike the adults that have yellow eyes - and a fluffy buff-colored chest. He will get the darker markings when he is a little older. I'm glad Mom is keeping a close eye on him!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Caloosa Bird Club Trip & Naples Zoo

On Monday at o'dark thirty, I boarded a bus for a full day of birding with the members of the Caloosa Bird Club. They are a knowledgeable, experienced group - but made me feel right at home. Bill made sure I at least looked the part with a new Columbia shirt, comfortable criss-cross back strap for my "optics" (binoculars), birding hat, backpack and pants with lots of big pockets. I was set!

I sat with Nancy - who claimed to be a beginning birder as well - but I think she just told me that to make me feel better. She was delightful and I'm happy to make her a new friend!

Our first stop was the Green Cay Wetlands where I saw quite a few "life" birds (birds I had never seen before) like this Aramus guarauna (Limpkin - and yes, of course, I had to look that up in my new National Geographic "Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America.") He is a big bird - over 2 feet tall. They are not very common and he wasn't even in my little "Birds of Florida" book.

This time of year the birds are in full mating plumage and the colors are fabulous! This Tricolored Heron was showing off to the nearby female. Notice the blue on his bill.

Another shot showing his wings and feathers.

There were lots of Red-winged Blackbirds like this beautiful male with a bright red and yellow patch on his wings.

What I didn't know is that this is also a Red-winged Blackbird (non-breeding).

And so is this! This is the female and she looks completely different than the males.

There were several Purple Gallinules like this one who walked under the boardwalk we were on.

At one of the later stops, I thought I was looking at another Gallinule that was a little bigger than the rest - but the experienced birders told me it was a Purple Swamphen. The Swamphen is a bird from Europe that escaped from the Miami Zoo during one of the hurricanes and several are now living in the Everglade swamps.

Up close, the Glossy Ibis has beautiful colors this time of year. From a distance they just look black.

One of the club members had pictures of a Scarlet Ibis that he took on Fort Myers Beach - behind the Catholic Church and around the Matanza Bridge that crosses over to the island. It looks just like the regular Ibises we see - except it is bright red! I'll be looking out for him!

There were lots of marsh birds and ducks. This Common Moorhen is a noisy bird.

Looking very similar to the Moorhen is this American Coot - with a white bill.

Another life bird! This is a pair of Blue-winged Teals. We saw quite a few on our outing.

Purple Martins have adapted very nicely to man-made bird condo-miniums. I was fortunate to find one that was not sitting in the complex.

After our day of birding, we ate dinner at the historic Clewiston Inn by Lake Okeechobee. The food was mediocre but the company was excellent! I sat with my new friend Nancy and Vince - the most enthusiastic and experienced birder in the group. He lives to bird and was a most interesting dinner companion.

After a long day I was glad to see Bill waiting for me back at the starting point.

The next day - Saint Patrick's Day - we went down to the Naples Zoo. What a disappoint-ment! It's not a real zoo at all - more like a combination of a children's zoo and an amusement park or playground. They did have a nice pond with lots of alligators and the common Florida wading birds - which at this time of year have gorgeous colors. This pair of Blue Herons had just mated - which I have pictures of, but decided this is a family blog - so they are not posted.

Even the ugly, noisy Grackles are pretty in the sunlight.

I hope you can see the red patch on the lore (space between the eye and bill) of this lusty Snowy Egret.

Back at the Naples dock for a delicious seafood lunch, the Brown Pelicans were just hanging out waiting for the fishing boats to come in.

We ended our day at Mike and Mel's condo with a delicious corn beef and cabbage dinner - the traditional fare of the day.