Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bulletin #11 - South Florida #6

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Bulletin #11 – South Florida – part 6

Hello friends,

I have had the opportunity to visit Florida twice in the first half of 2007.

My first visit was to Sanibel Island in February. Last month, I had a business trip to Miami for a weekend and managed to spend about 2 full days birding with a great guide Paul Bithorn (305.431.5908 or email

My wife, Linda, and I were staying on Sanibel Island, off the coast from Ft. Myers. It is famous as the best shelling location on the gulf coast. The beach has much human traffic and apparently the birds have become quite tame as they are very approachable. I have never before been able to walk to within 15’ from a group of gulls and terns.

Each late afternoon, a small mixed flock of gulls and terns was on the beach in front of the condo where we were staying. I was able to get close up pictures of several birds.

The first is a 1st summer plumage Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis). The second is the adult winter plumage. click ‘next’ once

The next is a winter plumage Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis). Notice the black bill tipped with yellow.

Lastly, there was a larger gull that I saw one afternoon when I didn’t have my camera. Fortunately, he came back to the same place every day. I was ready for him and I got many photos. It had a black back, so I knew it was either Lesser or Greater Black-backed Gull. The difference is the leg color, with Greater BBG having pink legs and the Lesser BBG having yellow legs. The Greater is also much larger.This was a Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus). This medium sized (21”) gull is primarily a European resident along the Atlantic coast, but it occurs rarely along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the USA. It was a lifer for me. Here are a couple of photos. The field marks are the black back, yellow legs, yellow beak with red spot, and yellow eye. The brown wash on head and neck is the winter plumage. In summer, the head and neck are pure white. click ‘next’ once

Several shorebirds also were very tame and allowed good photos.

This Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) shows a few black feathers under his wing. In fact the whole underwing is black, but this is the first and only photo where I saw the tips of the black feathers when the wings were folded. click ‘next’ once

The Sanderling (Calidris alba) is a common winter resident all along the Gulf Coast. Here is the winter plumage.

The last photo is an Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) swimming. Unlike Cormorants who have at least some of the body visible while swimming, the Anhinga swims with its body completely submerged. Only the head and neck are visible. I saw this phenomenon twice in Florida, but managed only a single useful picture.

Lastly, here are a couple of photos of Manatees, and endangered mammal.

The first shows an adult with a baby beside. The second shows the animals back covered with barnacles. There is a location to see these huge beasts near Ft. Myers and these photos were taken from the bank of the river at that location. click ‘next’ once

The Miami guide (Paul Bithorn) I used, was extremely knowledgeable, especially for the mangrove species and exotics. Many of the exotics occur in specific neighborhoods in the Miami area, and a casual birder would have a difficult time locating them. To contact Paul, call him at (305) 431-5908 or email him at

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2007 David & Linda McDonald

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