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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Southwest Florida: Breeding Shorebirds, Least Tern and Black Skimmers

[SW Florida, June 2013]

A quick summer visit to Southwest Florida provided an opportunity to see familiar yet always interesting species.

First, a contender for our most striking shorebird: the American Oystercatcher. Regular at Little Estero Lagoon where they nest, a breeding pair was observed feeding and incubating.

American Oysteratcher

A bonanza of conch shells that wash up on the beach constitute the chief food source for this orange-billed shorebird.

Adopting a similar color scheme as the Oystercatcher -- orange, black and white -- the black skimmer is another breeder of the area.

One of only 3 skimmer species on the planet, this ungainly bird with its awkward proportions and clumsy gait is transformed into a masterful acrobat when it's in the air skimming the water for food.

Skimming the shallows at Tigertail Beach, Marco Is.

The skimmer's long wings give it the necessary lift to stay just inches above while slicing the water with its lower mandible. When something is sensed, the bill snaps shut instantaneously.

Another breeder here is the Least Tern, found in appropriate habitat on both coasts as well as scattered locations in the interior. Our smallest tern is also our only tern with a yellow bill.

At Little Estero, it was heartening to see a couple of bird wardens guarding the nesting species and alerting beach goers to the almost invisible chicks and nesting sites.

Snowy Plover, a resident breeder at Little Estero

Wilson's Plover, another resident breeder at Little Estero

A Plover parent sheltering its progeny.

Finally, a bonus bird:

A bald eagle -- seen in the backwaters of Naples.

Seen from an evening boat cruise, the eagle, like all of the birding, and, indeed, everything else in SW Florida, including the sunsets, are all absolutely breathtaking:

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