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
Cape Coral, FL
Subject: Re: Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area
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 , middle , and south )
and 3 WIPL nests.
3 May had 44 LETE nests (north , middle , south ). 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 The WIPL nests were no longer active, and unfortunately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 , middle , south ). Also noted the
northern colonies frequent disturbances due to resident Osprey fly-bys.
18 May had 90 LETE nests (north , middle , south ).
24 May had 95 LETE nests (north , middle , south ). 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 , middle , south ). 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 , middle , south ). The north colony
is steadily declining at this point with no chicks observed yet.
7 Jun had 60 LETE nests (north , middle , south ). First decline in
the middle colony noted; still no chicks observed. One WIPL nest seen near
14 Jun had 41 LETE nests (north , middle , south ). WIPL nests
observed again in the north area , and a new one in the middle area . 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 , middle , south ). 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
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.
Cape Coral, FL