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Ft Myers area hurricane damage update

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  • Charlie Ewell
    All, For those that may not be aware of post Hurricane Charley birding in the Ft Myers area: With the hurricane damage closing both the Sanibel Lighthouse and
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2004

      For those that may not be aware of post Hurricane Charley birding in the Ft
      Myers area:

      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
      really difficult
      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


      Charlie Ewell
      Arlyne Salcedo
      Cape Coral, FL
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