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Monday, April 28, 2014

Least Terns Arrive at Little Estero Lagoon

[Little Estero Lagoon, Fl. April 2014]

The aptly named Least Tern is our smallest tern. They are Spring/Summer visitors to the US and favor the same nesting sites that we do for recreation -- wide, sandy beaches.

A small group of volunteers at Little Estero Lagoon help in cordoning off some beach space for these delicate terns which have to contend with thundering beach joggers, impervious beach combers, and the ever-present fishermen and their extensive fishing paraphernalia.

Least Terns, in addition to coastal sites in the Southern US, are also found at our major river systems -- a habitat where they're doing much worse; bad enough to earn a Federal designation as an endangered species. Their raucous calls pierce the air just as their plunge dives pierce the water -- making the beach feel more alive and vibrant this time of year.

The protected area at Little Estero not only helps the terns but other species as well; especially the breeding Wilson's and Snowy Plovers.

Wilson's Plover

Wilson's Plover is second only to the Black-bellied Plover in size at our beaches. The bill is robust while the legs are a dull pinkish grey. 

Snowy Plover

Much smaller than Wilson's, the Snowy Plover has a slimmer bill, silvery legs, and a broken chest band. Its mainly white plumage, black headband and sandy back give it excellent camouflage. It is no longer considered a subspecies of the Old World Kentish Plover.

With peak shorebird migration still weeks away, there was not much else Little Estero had to offer except a Least Sandpiper (above) and a Willet (below).

This venue is excellent for American Oystercatcher (although none were seen on this occasion) and hosts Red Knot, Short-billed Dowitcher, Whimbrel, Semipalmated Sandpiper and even Avocets in migration. Ruddy Turnstone (below) is seen year round.

Spring is renowned for its songbird migration; however, hotspots such as Little Estero Lagoon should not be overlooked for coastal specialties.

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