For those that may not be aware of post Hurricane Charley birding in the Ft
With the hurricane damage closing both the Sanibel Lighthouse and Lakes Park
indefinitely, Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve seems to be the only public park
location in the Ft Myers area capable of hosting a list of passerine migrants
like the one posted previously. Ding Darling NWR has reopened, but I don't know
what condition the vegetation along the wildlife drive or the Bailey Tract is
in. Perhaps some migrants can be seen there?
Shorebird areas Little Estero Lagoon (Ft Myers Beach) and Bunche Beach seem to
have faired very well. I did not get out to these areas till at least a month
after Charley, and was relieved to find business as usual bird wise. A Snowy
Plover banded at Sanibel was present, which indicates to me the bird would have
had to have been present in the area somewhere during the storm and was able to
ride it out.
An unknown for me, however, would be how the Least Terns fared. I have
monitored the nesting colonies the past few years, and this was by and far the
best in recent memory. Easily 250-300 individuals, one half of which were this
year's juveniles and chicks, were present in the weeks leading up to Charley.
On my last visit to the area 6 days before the hurricane, most of the young
would have been capable of flight. My first opportunity to get out there was 17
Sep, and no Least Terns were present. Because this date is after the point many
would have migrated out of the area, I cannot tell what effect the storm had on
these individuals. Interestingly, I did see two LETE in Cape Coral shortly
after Charley's winds started to decrease. They were moving back towards the
coast from an inland direction!
The outer sandbar/beach at the lagoon did lose about half of its upper beach,
but because it had built up fairly high at points with dune vegetation, it
survived the storm in tact. The inlet has been slowly moving south and filling
in as it has hit a row of mangroves. The storm enhanced this, and I suspect
that inlet may close completely in the near future. Since I first birded that
area in '96, I would estimate there have been at least 6 different inlets! The
dynamic nature of that area is certainly one of its charms for me.
I visited Bunche Beach later the same day I surveyed Little Estero, and found it
to be in good shape as well, shorebird wise. The "short-billed" Long-billed
Curlew, that I suspect is the same "short-billed" individual that has wintered
at least the past two years (?) was present. Only a few of the 300+ dowitchers
present were juveniles.
I have not had a chance to look into the status of Babcock-Webb WMA or the Yucca
Pens unit near Punta Gorda. I know Ponce DeLeon Park in Punta Gorda was closed,
but do not know the present status, and I have not heard how the popular Hooded
Merganser roost pond off Aqui Esta made out.
As Jeff Bouton has alluded to in previous posts to other lists, it was also
for me to get out birding that first month to six weeks after the hurricane. If
the clean-up and mental/emotional strain wasn't enough, the following storms
seemed to occur on my days off from work and compounded the situation, just
crushing any enthusiasm for birding (as odd as that may sound when it is your
favorite hobby!). For almost two months it was like the movie "Ground Hog Day!"
Hope this is of use to some, and please add to, update, or correct any
Cape Coral, FL