Friday, July 31, 2009

Lovers Key State Park

Within Florida's 1197 miles of coastline, primarily bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, is Lovers Key State Park. The park's claim of nearly 2.5 miles of that is nestled in the 1616 acres that can be found between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach on the east fringe of the Gulf of Mexico.

Lovers Key is about a three hour drive equidistant from Tampa and Miami. It is less than a two hour drive from Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park which hosts the largest variety of known wild orchid species at 44 in the United States, and is within a stone's throw of numerous other destinations I would recommend you see.

Lovers Key has been my favorite destination. I've found virtually every visit unique and rewarding. The park is accessible from its main entrance or by waterway available for you to explore. From those, you can walk, bike, or experience the park by water, preferably at low tide unless you are in a kayak or canoe. Traversing the park's waterways to avoid a stuck in the mud experience, be sure take advantage of high tide.

I've yet to explore the park by kayak, and envision that experience without a concern for dumping photo gear in the water.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Feature: Bunche Beach Preserve

Bunche Beach Preserve at San Carlos Bay, Fort Myers, Florida USA is a venue I have visited more than a dozen times. It has become my second favorite place to observe and photograph birds.

The Reddish Egret above was photographed at Bunche Beach Preserve at its east channel in November 2008.

Although the Bald Eagle has been documented at the preserve, it has yet to make its presence known to me personally. I've sighted eagles at Lovers Key State Park several miles to the south. The diversity at Bunche Beach Preserve is not to be discounted as several dozen species, within the groups Pelecaniformes, Wading Birds, Diurnal Raptors, Shorebirds, Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers, Doves, Woodpeckers, and Mimids, can be viewed with predictable regularity outside of migration seasons. Many of these observations of mine can be viewed here.

The Reddish Egret with Roseate Spoonbill above was photographed at Bunche Beach Preserve at its west channel in July 2009.

The preserve is best visited at or near low tide where you will have the opportunity to walk into San Carlos Bay or down the beach and cross the channels which wind their way into the mangrove estuary about a mile in either direction from the parking area. The channel at the west side of the preserve is significantly shallower than that to the east.

A resource for tides at the preserve (and elsewhere along the Florida Gulf Coast) can be found here. In the case of Bunche Beach Preserve, choose "Matanzas Pass (fixed bridge) Estero Island" at Estero Bay, and the other required options to get the predicted tides for up to a fourteen day period.

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron above was photographed at Bunche Beach Preserve from within its east channel in November 2008.

Be sure to pay close attention to the weather during the rainy season (summer months) if you plan your visit at this time, as you may get caught in a thunderstorm quite far from your car.

Bunche Beach Preserve is an ideal place to make use of kayaks as well at high tide. You will not only have the opportunity to explore the channels that way, but have the ability to cross San Carlos Bay to visit Bowditch Point Regional Preserve immediately to the south of the parking area by water which is a destination worth seeing in its own right.

The juvenile Snowy Egret above was photographed at Bunche Beach Preserve at its west channel in July 2009.

A kayak or canoe also would allow access to the unnamed island immediately adjacent to Matanzas Pass bridge at San Carlos Bay. The island is a haven for many nesting wading bird species in the spring to early summer months.

Bunche Beach Preserve currently does not have an access fee although that is expected to change with the construction of restroom facilities which are underway.

Bunche Beach Preserve sunset above as seen from the west channel in July 2009.

Insect repellant may be required depending on the time of year and time of day you visit (particulary in the summer months around dusk when there is no breeze).

This is a must see venue if you are in the area especially. Again, time your visit around low tide and ideally in the morning or in the several hours preceding sunset unless you'll be using a boat.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Titillative Tides

In the Bay of Fundy, tides have a range of over 40 feet.

The gravitational impact of the sun and moon on the earth's waters includes lakes if they are large enough although imperceptibly. Coastal impacts are significantly different.

My experience observing tides in coastal regions has shown the very important role they play in the daily lives of birds in those areas. The birds will be most prolific and successful where they're observed at or near low tide. It seems appropriate where marine life will be more easily seen and confined significantly benefiting the hunters that feed upon it.

There was an extraordinary recent tidal change of 5.5 feet over an eight hour span at San Carlos Bay: Bunche Beach Preserve on the east coast of the Gulf of Mexico where upon my visit to the venue the water was lower than I had seen it all my visits with the water flow extremely strong leaving the western channel into San Carlos Bay.

The juvenile Laughing Gull above was observed at Lovers Key State Park.

Low tide at Lovers Key State Park allows for observation of wading bird species as well that otherwise might not be present in a random trip to the park.

My recommendation is to be very aware of this subject when you are making observations of birds that may be influenced by tidal waters.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mysteriously Mute

My observation of birds is a relatively new endeavor with serious study. The photography of them has become especially fun. An idea I had a couple of years ago when I had the inclination to start this blog was to have the birds appear to do the talking. From an image standpoint, what you will see are birds that appear to be doing just that in their languages. However, what I've found surprising is that the birds I'll watch, often for extended periods, are for the most part completely silent. They will sometimes surprise me by squabbling amongst themselves or on occasion make a call of warning. My bird species sightings are predominantly shore and wading birds that as a group represent about a third of the total migratory bird species or those that have a permanent presence here in Florida.

The Black-bellied Plover above was observed at Lovers Key State Park.

While you may especially have an interest in observing birds yourself in the wild, it's become a passion of mine to capture visually something interesting or even unusual. I've found photography of the subject to be extremely time consuming in capturing an image to achieve that level. The representative images for blog entries that you will see here will include when the bird was typically yawning in my observation of it. Hopefully to capture your attention nonetheless.

I'm especially envious of bird observers that can master the identification of a bird species based on hearing it without its sighting. Tim Rucci, not too long ago, told me of a humorous story mentioning his friend, Ken Conger, whom apparently can do just that.

David Sibley's mastery of birds is appreciated in his National Audubon Society Guide to Birds which I reference very frequently. His book of Bird Life and Behavior, as a companion guide, is a must have resource as I've recently discovered where he describes red lores and feet on a Snowy Egret which are typically yellow. This information is completely missing in the former book for some reason.

Keep your glass clean and have patience.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Illegal Documentation

I recently made my first trip to Everglades National Park on June 18, 2009. While there may be virtually unlimited access to this incredibly vast wildlife venue that encompasses a major footprint on the southern peninsula of Florida by water, there are only two official primary entrances to the park by land. These include the Shark Valley Visitor Center at the northern edge of the park between Naples and Miami and the primary access to the park at its main entrance in Homestead south of Miami which allows access for a slice through the park all the way to Flamingo at the end of the highway.

The Black Skimmer above at Lovers Key State Park is always a special treat to observe as it can never be counted on for a sighting.

Everglades National Park is considered to be a world class venue for wildlife viewing. One can expect that for its enormity in size and diversity including eight habitat types. In my limited research of the park, it has been noted that more than half of its area may have been negatively impacted due to man's intervention for control of its water sources for urban and agricultural needs. Weather consequences as well may have been attributable to concerns of a reported 90 percent reduction in the numbers of wading birds observed in the recent past. It is believed that the birds, however, are on a significant rebound.

As with many popular wildlife venues in this part of Florida, it may be expected that wildlife is especially abundant as the water levels from torrential summer thunderstorms and hurricanes subside to the point where food for avian and land creatures is virtually cherry picked for the taking. This scenario was recently described to me by a friend whom observed this reality at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve before the beginning of this year's rainy season. I've made a few visits to the slough with the closest experience seen first hand at the National Audubon Society Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary this spring when a veteran volunteer told me of an alligator getting the better of a wading bird some years ago. Such an event is surprisingly not much more frequently observed at that time as dozens of egrets were seen in the company of a handful of what appeared to be very well fed alligators.

It was during my initial journey into the national park on the way to Flamingo that I made my first observation of the Swallow-tailed Kite with its flight along the road toward me as it made a flyover. The observation was especially exciting as I had not seen the species before. This past week has offered the sighting of the kite in Fort Myers on two additional occasions. I'm very optimistic to offer my own photographic evidence of this species in the future.

In the meantime, you may see the Swallow-tailed Kite as observed by my friend, Tim Rucci, here. I hope you encounter a similar experience.