|Susan with Royal Terns, Black Skimmers and Willet|
It’s hard to believe that until the
1960’s Marco Island was almost totally uninhabited except for mosquitoes. In fact during Hurricane Donna in 1960 the
island was submerged under 12 feet of water.
Now most of the island is covered with 1960ish tract homes giving it a
retro feel. Crescent Beach occupies most of the island’s west coast. Its northern most part is called Tigertail
Beach and is one of the most important sites in south western Florida for
|Tigertail Beach with its Shorebirds|
The beach and
lagoon are constantly changing in response to the currents but at low tide the
mudflats are revealed and can be easily explored. When we first arrived early
morning January 25 there were no visitors present and the tide was out. To my
surprise I immediately spotted a number of
Wilson’s Plovers(a lifer for me).
|Wilson's Plover showing off its hunker of a bill|
In addition to the Wilson’s there were Snowy(another recent lifer), Piping,
Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers, Western and Least Sandpipers, Dunlin,
Short-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs and a Reddish Egret.
|Snowy Plover with black eye spot|
|Piping Plover - compare bill shape to Snowy above|
There were a
few Red Knots one of which had a band on each leg.
|Winter plumaged Red Knots|
|Red Knot with flags on legs|
While photographing and enjoying some great
looks at the 2 new life birds we were suddenly interrupted by groups of
kite-surfers noisily trudging across the mudflats and then the dunes to reach
the ocean. The birds quickly flew away so I was lucky to get in my half hour of
birding before the crowds arrived. In
contrast to the less developed Tigertail Beach, the southern part of Crescent
Beach is definitely a bathing beach. It’s surrounded by hotels and condos but
there is municipal parking for folks just visiting. We spent part of the day on
this beach with some friends who took advantage of the great shelling there and
I believe it to be as good as can be found on Sanibel Island. Royal Terns and Black Skimmers were numerous
along with several Magnificent Frigatebirds and a Peregrine Falcon.
A week later Susan and I returned to search
out the Burrowing Owls that nest on the island and are plentiful in spite of
the rampant development. When we arrived
on the island we were side tracked by an open air market a few blocks off the
main street. As it turned out this was a fortuitous event since we really had
no idea where to go to locate these owls. There were lots of different vendors
selling anything from T-shirts to Tacos but one exhibitor was displaying his
wildlife photos including several of our target bird: the Burrowing Owl. On inquiring he told me he shot the pictures
only a few miles away. He directed me to
the Mackle Library and suggested I check out the surrounding streets and watch
for roped off areas on vacant lots. Sure enough many of the undeveloped
residential lots within blocks of the library had small roped off areas and
several Burrowing Owls standing next to their burrows.
“Sibley” says they are nocturnal hunters but
they will perch outside their homes in the daylight.
Really a most interesting bird and another
lifer for me.
Marco Island is only 30
minutes south of Naples and is on my must see places for birding, shelling and
hanging out on a beautiful beach.
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Thanks Gary Looks like a great placeReplyDelete