|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 wintering 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|
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.