A quick trip to coastal Southwest Florida yielded a fine assortment of migrating shorebirds including:
- Hudsonian Whimbrel
- Western Sandpiper
- Piping Plover
- Marbled Godwit
- Short-billed Dowitcher
- Red Knot
- Spotted Sandpiper
- Black-bellied Plover
First a member of the curlew family -- the Whimbrel; or, specifically, the Hudsonian Whimbrel (the subspecies found in our area). The Curlews have fared extremely poorly in the face of hunting; and in this group of 8 species, 2 are [most probably] extinct (Eskimo Curlew and Slender-billed Curlew); and a further 3 are threatened.
Breeding in the vicinity of Hudson Bay and the Arctic, the Hudsonian Whimbrel winters as far South as Argentina and Chile.
There are half as many godwits as curlews -- only 4 species around the globe and we have 2 of them: the Marbled and Hudsonian. The Marbled Godwit is the largest of the lot and is seen well as a wintering species in South Florida.
Another migrating shorebird, the Black-bellied Plover, was seen in its alternate plumage. The Black-bellied shares with the Marbled Godwit the distinction of being the largest of its kind in the US (i.e., it is our largest plover).
The next plover, in comparison, is a dwarf: the dainty Piping Plover.
This plover was found on the beach side, patting its yellow foot while feeding.
Farther down the beach, a large flock of Red Knot were also busy feeding.
They are strikingly unremarkable in basic plumage.
One individual was sporting vestiges of its alternate plumage -- showing off its rich rufous undersides.
Three freshly plumaged juvenile short-billed dowitchers were in the vicinity.
The Long-billed Dowitcher, which is visually virtually indistinguishable from the Short-billed is not found coastally thereby making identification infinitely simpler by virtue of location.
On the peep front, Western Sandpiper were seen in a small flock:
While Least Sandpiper was not seen at this venue, Spotted Sandpiper was.
The presence of mangroves, lagoon and coastal habitat features near Lovers Key State Park all contribute to making Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area a prime venue for observing shorebirds.