Fort Myers Area

We checked out of the Travelodge at Florida City a day early on 12 May and drove to Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast, stopping at Corkscrew Swamp on the way. It was an early start as the drive to Corkscrew was quite a long one. Corkscrew is owned by the Audubon Society and has a $10 entrance fee. Well worth it in my opinion even though it was the most expensive reserve we visited.
The boardwalk is approximately 2 miles in length passing through various habitats, including slash pine, grasslands, hardwood hammocks and swamps called lettuce lakes.
Warblers and woodpeckers were evident in the woodlands including Pileated Woodpeckers drumming and feeding close to the boardwalk. Other species were Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Carolina Wren and a Barred Owl that hissed at us as we passed under its perch.


At the lettuce lakes were Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Great and Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, a Roseate Spoonbill, a couple of Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a family of Limpkins that came even closer than the ones at Loxahatchee. They were litteraly touchable at one point. The only new species here was Wood Duck. There was a single female with nine ducklings. There were apparently two females earlier in the day but one became a breakfast snack for a gator.

After visiting Corkscrew we drove the prairie loop drive close by suggested by Pranty to look for Caracaras. We saw very little at all during the heat of the day so we headed to Fort Myers to check into a motel.
I checked in and headed back to Corkscrew. Unfortunately the drive took longer than I thought leaving me only half an hour to check out the birds. I took the short cut to the lettuce lakes where Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks were feeding. On seeing me the birds quickly flew up into the trees.
I videod an adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron sat out on a branch and on the way back to the visitors centre saw a group of White-tailed Deer, does and fawns, feeding in the grassland.

On the penultimate full day, 13 May, we visited Sanibel Island and the J.R. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

We paid two visits to the refuge, one early morning as the tide was coming in and the birding was a little disappointing and one later in the day when the tide was completely out and the birding was still a little disappointing. We did have excellent views of Ospreys, Reddish Egrets, various waders in small numbers including a Marbled Godwit, Willets, Dowitchers, and several Black-bellied Plovers.

After visiting the refuge we drove to the end of Captiva Island and had a brief look at the beach where Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling were wandering amongst the sun worshippers on the beach.

We then drove to the opposite end of Sanibel Island to the lighthouse at Point Ybel where Sarah had a couple of hours on the beach whilst I wandered around the beach and woods seeing very little in the way of birds.
I decided to have a walk along the Bailey Tract so headed off there. It was excellent for dragonflies but there were few birds in the heat of the day except for Moorhen, American Coot, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk and a pair of Black-necked Stilts.
I returned to the beach to pick Sarah up to find I had missed out on seeing a Dolphin. So to console myself we stopped at an ice-cream shop before our second visit to the Ding Darling Refuge.We drove around the loop drive waiting for the tide to go out and all the waders to appear.
The tide kept going out but very few waders appeared, basically the same ones we saw in the morning. We did have great views of a pair of Yellow-crowned Night Herons that were stood on a nest close to the entrance to the Shell Mound Trail.

On the last full day May 14, I rose early to get to Corkscrew Swamp as it opened. However, I had misread the opening time and arrived half an hour after opening and five people had beaten me in. I walked the reverse route round the boardwalk straight to the lettuce lakes and luckily no one had disturbed the feeding Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks Herons and Ibis. I slowly crept towards the feeding birds and captured the activity on video. I managed at least half an hour before someone else came past and frightened off all the birds. I spent around four hours watching the the birds including the families of Limpkins and Wood Ducks and managed to find a pair of Blue-headed Vireos calling from the foliage in the trees.
As I left Corkscrew I noticed an injured Racoon near the rubbish bin just outside the entrance to the reserve. He jumped into the bin and came up with an apple core.
The poor chap only had half a tail and a large gash down one of his back legs. I thought about giving him a piece of cookie but it is illegal to feed the wildlife so I resisted the temptation and left him rading the rubbish bin.
After leaving Corkscrew on the main road towards Immokalee I noticed a large raptor fly up from a roadkill at the roadside and immediately recognised the head pattern of a Crested Caracara. I slowed down and stopped to let a massive truck past and reversed into a gravel track close to where the bird had flown from. I drove up and down the track with no sign of the bird. However, on reaching the main road I spotted it perched high in a dead tree on the opposite side of the road. I had a good look and videod the bird before leaving.

In the afternoon we visited the winter homes of Edison and Ford and were shown round by Rita who managed to talk non-stop for at least two hours. The tour was interesting and she was an amusing guide. It was worth a visit. Later in the afternoon we headed for the Fort Myers beach area, stopping initially at Lovers Key State Park and then the lagoon near the Travelodge mentioned in Pranty. The lagoon was excellent for waders, egrets, and herons including Wilson's Plover, American Oystercatcher, peeps, Red Knot, Reddish Egret (great views), Black Skimmer, Whimbrel and Long-billed Curlew. Whilst walking back to the car we noted Wood Stork and several Roseate Spoonbills feeding in the lagoon. I stopped to video the Spoonbills for as long as I could stand being bitten by the sand flies around my ankles, much to the amusement of a couple of women on one of the hotel balconies.
We left Fort Myers on 15 May and headed back to Orlando with a brief stop at Myakka River State Park to look for Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks which are supposed to breed in the area.
We saw niether of these species only Mottled Duck and Mallard (a single male presumed wild). The park was very pleasant and it would have been nice to spend a bit more time there but all we did was walk along the boardwalk out to the lake where along with the ducks were herons, Glossy Ibis, Greater Yellowlegs, Great and Cattle Egrets.

We left the park and continued to Orlando airport where we deposited the hire car, passed through customs without a hitch even though I realised later I had gone the full flight with an army knife in my rucksack. We left Orlando at quarter past six and arrived back in Manchester just after seven the next morning.

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