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Fw: Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area (Ft Myers Beach)

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  • Charlie Ewell
    All, Below you may find interesting my summary for the Little Estero Lagoon (Ft Myers Beach) nesting season. I monitored the site weekly for interested
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 23, 2003

      Below you may find interesting my summary for the Little Estero Lagoon (Ft Myers
      Beach) nesting season. I monitored the site weekly for interested parties with
      Lee County (Preservation 20/20) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
      Commission. The main focus of interest is the Least Tern colony that utilizes
      the area.

      Charlie Ewell
      Arlyne Salcedo
      Cape Coral, FL

      Subject: Re: Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area

      Hello everyone,

      Here are the highlights of the breeding season survey :

      First survey on 20 Apr had 4 Least Tern (LETE) nests (north roped area) and 2
      Wilson's Plover (WIPL) nests.

      27 Apr had 26 LETE (3 distinct colonies: north [12], middle [5], and south [9])
      and 3 WIPL nests.

      3 May had 44 LETE nests (north [14], middle [30], south [0]). South colony
      apparently abandoned. The WIPL nests were no longer active, and unfortunately
      no eggs or chicks observed.

      10 May had 82 LETE nests (north [40], middle [42], south [0]). Also noted the
      northern colonies frequent disturbances due to resident Osprey fly-bys.

      18 May had 90 LETE nests (north [30], middle [60], south [0]).

      24 May had 95 LETE nests (north [35], middle [60], south [0]). An adult
      Yellow-crowned Night-heron was observed not too far from the northern colony.
      Ospreys continue to disturb and flush the colonies. Not too much human
      disturbance noticed to this point.

      31 May had 91 LETE nests (north [26], middle [65], south [0]). An unleashed
      small dog w/ owner crossed the inlet near the middle colony. The dog ran
      through 200-300 resting terns and gulls. They passed middle colony area far
      enough away that the dog did not flush any LETE off eggs. I was too far away to
      see how the dog passed the northern colony as they proceeded up beach. I was at
      the northern colony as they returned southbound, this time dog on leash. No
      LETE were flushed.

      3 Jun had 80 LETE nests (north [15], middle [60], south [0]). The north colony
      is steadily declining at this point with no chicks observed yet.

      7 Jun had 60 LETE nests (north [15], middle [45], south [0]). First decline in
      the middle colony noted; still no chicks observed. One WIPL nest seen near
      northern colony.

      14 Jun had 41 LETE nests (north [2], middle [39], south [0]). WIPL nests
      observed again in the north area [2], and a new one in the middle area [1]. The
      2 remaining LETE nests in the north colony were flushed by condo walkers that
      had crossed the lagoon and passed through the roped area. I examined the area
      for any hints as to why this colony had failed. I found one cracked eggshell w/
      embryo, a few areas of ants (unsure of type, as I did not check to see if they
      were Fire Ants!), and footprints. Perhaps a combination of the presence of
      Yellow-crowned Night-herons at the lagoon, the Osprey fly-bys that clearly upset
      the terns on nest, and human disturbance is to blame???

      21 Jun had 50 LETE nests (north [2], middle [48], south [0]). A WIPL nest was
      found in the same area as the 3 nests that failed in May (re-nesting?). I still
      have not seen any LETE or WIPL chicks (Marie Gonsalo reported seeing one) this
      season. Notable on this survey was my first sighting of juvenile LETE (2), one
      fed by an adult, and 4 separate courtship/copulations. Perhaps I missed the
      juvenile LETE as chicks, but I
      cannot say they did not arrive with adults from outside these colonies. Two
      dogs observed off-leash along the inside (opposite) of the lagoon.

      The 21st was my last survey before the remaining colony was taken out by the
      storm that occurred on Friday 27 Jun. I was away that weekend, and heard of the
      storm upon my return. I had hoped for some re-nesting attempts, but have not
      seen any.

      Other birds of note during the surveys: The Black Skimmer flock fluctuated
      around 150 individuals, both adult and immature. No breeding attempts or
      behavior seen. The American Oystercatcher flock was consistently around 25-30.
      Also no breeding behaviors noticed. Snowy Plovers (2 m/f) were not seen
      consistently. One was an apparent male that was banded last summer as a chick
      on Sanibel Island. It has been present on and off since last fall. No breeding

      Non-breeders of note: This was the largest concentration of summering peeps
      (basic plumage) I have witnessed over the 5 summers I have been spending a
      significant amount of time at the lagoon. Their numbers were consistently near
      or over 100! I assume many were Western Sandpipers due to bill shape and other
      jizz related field marks, but would not speculate on all that I looked at. Some
      certainly seemed to be within the bill size/shape of Semipalmated Sandpipers.
      There was a large influx of them during the mid to late May migration period, so
      I would not be surprised if many of the non-breeders stayed behind after the
      adults pulled out.

      No Least Sandpipers were observed from 18 May-11 Jul, and the July bird was an
      adult that I believe was a fall arrival. Red Knots were usually around 12-15
      basic plumaged individuals (one being partially alternate), with one full
      alternate present as late as 21 Jun. Four apparent adults returned by 24 July.
      A Dunlin in "ratty" alternate plumage and missing a "foot" was present
      throughout the summer. Short-billed dowitchers ranged from 13 basic plumaged on
      14 Jun to 4 basic individuals on 21 Jun to 1 still present 7 Jul. The basic
      plumaged SBDO was joined by 13 alternate plumaged by 24 Jul.

      Five basic Willets that summered were joined by an alternate plumaged adult 21
      Jun. Nine adults arrived by 3 Jul, 15 by 11 Jul, and 40+ by 24 Jul! A handful
      of both basic Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones remained, with both beginning to
      increase by 24 Jul.

      Up to 4 basic plumaged Marbled Godwits were present during the period, with a
      flock of 23 southbound alternate plumaged adults present 24 Jul (14 were still
      present 28 Jul, and only two by 2 Aug). The first Whimbrel returned 24 Jul,
      after 4 were last seen 18 May.

      Of the plovers, up to 5 basic Black-bellied summered (including 1 that was
      partially alternate), being joined by an alternate BBPL 3 Jul. I did not see it
      on subsequent visits through July. Five alternate returned 16 Aug. Up to 25
      basic Semipalmated Plovers summered, with their numbers increasing to 53
      individuals by 24 Jul.
      A few sub-adult Common Terns were usually present with the 100+ each
      non-breeding Royal and Sandwich Terns. A first-summer Lesser Black-backed Gull,
      that had been present since at least mid-winter, was last seen 21 Jun. Five
      immature Herring Gulls involved in a molt that certainly limited their mobility,
      decreased to 1 by August. I found the specimen of one individual on 24 Jul.
      Roseate Spoonbills (25) returned to the lagoon by 2 Aug.


      Charlie Ewell
      Arlyne Salcedo
      Cape Coral, FL
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