Collier County Birding 11/29/03
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of showing some of our local birds to Dick
and Catherine Harris of Boulder, Colorado. Unfortunately, probably due to
near gale-force winds, the birds were uncooperative. We started out at
the Big Cypress Bend Boardward off of the Tamiami Trail near Carnestown.
Highlights here were a FOTS American Robin; adult Bald Eagle being
harassed by American Crows; male Northern Parula; Blue-headed Vireo;
numerous Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Palm Warblers and Tufted Titmouse. Also
seen were at least three Pileated Woodpeckers and four Great Crested
We then proceeded to head east towards Everglades City along the Tamiami
Trail where there were a few flocks of up to 75 Blue-winged Teal in the
small freshwater "ponds" along the highway. Also present were several
Wood Storks and most of the waders (no shorebirds). The hoped-for Roseate
Spoonbills never materialized. Small flocks of Tree Swallows were
ever-present over the sawgrass marshes.
Our next stop was the Fritchey Road Wetlands. Here we struck-out on Snail
Kite and Limpkin (as well as Scissor-tailed Flycatcher) which have been
fairly 'regular' as of late. There were still considerable amounts of
water in the flooded fields but where these birds were yesterday is
anyone's guess. We did have a nice male Northern Harrier fly over the
wetlands. No Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows or Pine Warblers were
seen in the residential areas along Greenway Rd. I was dismayed to see
that the entire vegetation at the corner of Greenway & Fritchey Rds. was
obliterated in preparation for yet another installment of someone's
"American Dream". Finally, at the corner of Tamiami Trail and Greenway
Rds., I did see a lone Eastern Bluebird in a Slash Pine.
Our next stop was Shell Island Road and Briggs Nature Center on the way
to Marco Island. If you're thinking of stopping at this location any time
soon, don't bother. Briggs has been closed for over six months since they
ran out of potable water and it doesn't look like it will be opened any
time soon despite the sign out on Collier Blvd. that reads "Closed For
Summer." We couldn't even coax a Florida-Scrub Jay from out of the brush,
even having peanuts in our hand -- a surefire winner in the past. We
didn't see a single bird anywhere along Shell Island Road: no Eastern
Towhees -- not even a Northern Mockingbird!
Our next stop of the day was the ever-amazing Tigertail Beach on Marco
island. There were thousands of shorebirds present that afforded very
close looks. All of the plovers were present, including good numbers of
Wilson's, Piping and Snowy Plovers as well as all of the 'usual'
suspects. I managed to see one Piping Plover with shiny metal bands on
both legs as well as a banded Snowy Plover having a green band on the
right leg and red-over-blue bands on the left leg. I will report these
banded birds to the proper agency and report my findings here at some
later date as to where these birds were banded initially. Noticeably
absent were Red Knots, which I would have expected to see at this time of
Despite whitecaps on the Gulf, no hoped-for jaegers or Northern Gannets
were seen. We did have a Common Loon plying the surf. Terns and gulls
were not common and we only managed Royal, Sandwich and a lone Forster's
Tern for our efforts.
Checking all of the 'usual' locations for Burrowing Owls on Marco island,
we only managed to find one pair that was 'out' -- probably due to the
cold temps and high winds. More alarming were the number of sites still
available for these birds. Many of the locations that once housed BUOW
sites were now replaced with huge ranch style houses with sprawling
yards. Fewer and fewer Burrowing Owl sites are seen every time I go to
check on them. It won't be long before these lovely little owls will be
extirpated from Marco island I'm sad to say.
All in all, it wasn't the best birding day I've had in Collier County of
late, but showing 'new' birds to out-of-town birders is a pleasure in and
of itself as I'm sure most of you would agree.