Saturday, April 16, 2022

Sanibel Island pond frenzy: More than 100 birds amongst alligators one chaotic morning

I’ve been hearing from some of my northern neighbors that snow is still falling, but the ice is out in some lakes and Loons have returned to those open waters. Other big predator birds like Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls, Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons may already be on eggs or at least looking at nest sites. The Peregrines just lay their eggs on a rock ledge, building ledge or bridge beam with no nest material.

The Ravens who nest behind my house had copulated on my pond dam before I left, so I’m sure they are on eggs now. They have young in flight and out begging for food by Memorial Day. The little Saw Whet Owls also get on nests early and have young out and about by the end of May. There hasn’t been much movement of bird migrants here on Sanibel Island so far. However, some of the
locals (Bald Eagles and Osprey) have young about ready to fledge.

I photographed the Eagle nest the other morning as the young one was being fed by the adult. The young one still has a little more growing to do before it leaves the nest, but it was standing on the edge of the nest flexing its wings. Many of the water birds and shore birds have been making nests and some are already sitting on eggs. The Snowy Plovers on the beach have set up territories and some are on nests that have string barriers around them to keep the beach goers from stepping on their eggs. You would never see them, as they look like little pebbles in the shells or on the sand.

These little birds sit for 28 days before their two or three little ones hatch. We won’t be here for that, but I did photograph the hatching years ago which was neat. All three that I watched hatch were out running around the nest site within a couple of hours. Then they must contend with beach goers and dog walkers. The little ones blend in with the sand on the beach just like the eggs. They could get stepped on as they just sit down and wait for people to pass by as mom and dad are trying to lead intruders away.

Bald Eagles, including a juvenile and an adult on a nest. Photo by Gary Lee.

There has been quite a show each morning at the Bailey Tract (loop trail) in different ponds on the property of water birds. Each pond contains many fish of different sizes and there is competition between the birds, the alligators (some 10 and 12 feet long,) and a pair of otters. The alligators did nail one of the water birds one morning. However, there are lots of fish for them to eat along the bottom of the ponds. Breakfast is breakfast when you live out in the wild.

One morning there were over 100 water birds including, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Little Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teal, and Mottled Ducks around two of these larger alligators in one pond…which got pretty hectic.

Everybody was finding something to eat, but there was a lot of squabbling going on. If a bird were to misstep, one of the alligators was always in wait when that happened. I did catch a Great Blue Heron on film who nailed a pretty red bream (fish). It had to get out of the pack or lose his catch. I’ve been watching several of the night-blooming cereus plants that I planted around our unit. Yesterday (April 9) one bloomed during the night, and I caught it in the morning before it faded away.

This morning (April 10) two different plants had a blossom. Looking at several of the plants that now grow in the area, there are going to be lots of blooms before we leave here in a couple weeks as flower buds are popping out of the big leaves everywhere. One long leaf had 5 different flower buds, which might all come out on the same day. Last year that plant had over 25 blooms while we were here, and some still had to come out when we left. One of the staff in the office sent me pictures of the blooms they could see right out their office window during that next week.

The weather has been cool and very windy, but it looks like this week is going to be a super beach week with plenty of time to get wet and a tan at the same time.

Older lady missing here this morning (April 10) with a big search going on, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Great Blue Heron with fish. Photo by Gary Lee. 

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

4 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Sanibel/ “Ding” Darling are magical places. If it weren’t for the tourists, I would like them even more!! I am saving up to buy the island instead.

  2. John Marona says:

    Got back from Bonita Beach , just south of Sanibel yesterday, This morning my front deck looked like it was covered with that beautiful beach sand, but alas, it was just snow. Don’t think I’ll go next year, that way I won’t be depressed when I get home. If I just stay here I’ll be fine with the slow seasonal change. I love the four seasons here, but the fifth season, mud season, not so much.

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Florida! It’s a shame what they have done to that place! Sure, there’s still some nice getaways, places to escape the madness, quiet beaches here and there, back-country sandy roads, and many of the old tin-roofed houses with their tall windows and wrap-around porches, to wax nostalgic, are still set-off on some of them Florida byways. I know people born and raised on that peninsula who swear to me ‘better days’, but then we can all say the same I suppose, especially as we age, no matter where it is we live. But Florida! I suppose if there was no such thing as air-conditioning there’d be less inhabitants in the sunshine state.

    I was part and parcel of that landscape Central Florida for a good chunk of my life, more than I wish to admit; and though I made the most of it and took advantage of her natural bounty, and all things else ‘good’, it was all so alien to me and I just couldn’t get used to it and always looked forward to the day I would hit the road and head back to New York, to be close to the Adirondacks which will always have a special place in my heart, my psyche…always there will be an emotional attachment in me to the ‘Dacks’ as my grandfather Robert G. used to call them when he was alive and well half a hundred years ago.

    I missed ‘real’ woods when I lived down there, and I missed any semblance of cold, or even cool, which was rare except but for a few select weeks, or days, in the year, and always they were short-lived days when they did appear. I recall January’s as the month I always looked forward to of the twelve months in the year when I lived in Florida. Because you could bet some refreshing, healing, cold air would arrive sometime then, to change-up the norm, to be rid of the dreaded heat or humidity which was never far away, and which Floridians seemed to look forward to always,
    humidity which clung to the body by way of sweat; wee, dewy crystalline spheres attaching themselves to one’s person just minutes into stepping into the Florida out of doors…. I suppose even hell would be a paradise to some no matter how much their conditioned, convenient way of escapism life tries to convince them otherwise. I don’t know how the hell (no pun intended) I survived so long down there.

    The coldest days of the years in Florida were vacation days to me. When I knew a cold morning was in the forecast, I’d call my boss and say, “I’m taking off tomorrow”, and instead of working I’d be out in the woods taking refreshing long walks on those so uncommon days, or early mornings, as that was the time to be out, before the sun climbed high and the heat arrived. And always when I was in them Florida woods, whether it be the Withlacoochee State Forest, or the Ocala National Forest, the Adirondacks were flaming in my mind, except there was just no comparison, it was just my fruitful imagination which kept me very much alive and held me on back then. Those Florida woods reminded me of all things else about Florida, that things were deliberately created versus real, an escape from what is never far away no matter where you live in Florida……an artificial world.

  4. Humberto Middleton says:

    Your article on Sanibel Island Pond, is remiss in not clearly stating where it’s located, in New York or Florida State.

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