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.

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