Sunday, October 7, 2007

Kayaking & Birding in Florida

Friday, Oct. 4: Kayaking with Doug Gagnon and Paul Hamel. They had flown down from Amherst on Thursday night and we met them at a boat ramp at Turtle Beach on Siesta Key just south of Sarasota. We had rented kayaks with a guide to lead us around the 35 acre Jim Neville Preserve and Pelican Island from 10:30 to 2. The island reserve was created by Jim Neville to preserve land for birds and the health of the area. (Doug is with Sandy in the kayak.)

After some brief instruction (Paul hadn't kayaked before) we were on our way past some hotels and condos and on to the mangroves. It was a hot day but the breeze on the water felt great. The sky was blue until close to 2 when we got back to the shore. Birds sighted: kingfisher, tricolored herons, brown pelicans, bald eagle, anhingas, black vultures, ibis, cormorants, and cattle egrets. (We weren't sure about the differences between the cormorant and the anhinga until our canoe trip on Saturday.)

About 12:30 we stopped at Turtle Beach to stretch, have a snack and look at shells. There were tons of mostly unbroken shells on the beach. We collected a number of beautiful ones. Ryan, our guide, showed us shark's teeth and a stingray quill, black with grooves. Paul even found his own shark's tooth - not an easy thing to do on a big beach! Just south of this stretch of beach was Stephen King's winter home, still boarded up with hurricane shutters until at least the baseball season is over. In case you don't know, he's a major Red Sox fan!

It was a great relaxing trip. Ryan wasn't very knowledgeable about birds but he didn't get us lost, the main mission.

After a great lunch out on a patio under an umbrella and blown away by huge fans, we went back to Ft. Myers and Doug and Paul returned to his mother's home in Sun City Center, about 45 minutes north. It was so much fun doing this trip with Doug and Paul and visiting with them!

The bird in the water is a tricolored heron. The birds in the Brazilian pepper trees are pelicans.

Saturday, Oct. 5: We arrived at the Lakes Regional Park in Ft. Myers for a free canoe trip led by 2 members of the Bird Patrol. They help keep tabs on the bird population, do a bird count, and generally keep the county informed about the environment through the actions of the birds. We learned so much and saw a ton of birds!

Another man-made lake, it was originally a gravel pit in the 60s. Lee County purchased it in 1978 and it finally became a park in 1982.

There were 13 of us in 5 canoes. We tried to be careful not to paddle too close to the shore and disturb the birds but it was really hard. (This trip only occurs the first Saturday of each month so there really isn't much traffic here to stress the birds.)

Here we learned that the anhinga and cormorant are similar birds in that they are both black and lack oil in their feathers. But the cormorant has a hooked bill and the anhinga has a longer, pointed bill and sleeker body with a white tipped tail. We were fortunate to see a cormorant and an anhinga near each other on a tree to make the comparison.

There were a number of young birds born in the last few months who were still depending on their parents for food. We saw young herons and egrets who could only hop from branch to branch but were surprisingly large.

Bird sightings: tricolored herons, anhingas, black vultures, ibis, cormorants, and cattle egrets, and a new one today, a pileated woodpecker, just like in New England.

This is a frequent neighborhood sign for the golf-cart crossing. And here's our resident lizard named Charlie who keeps our lanai (open porch area) free of ants.

We really have enjoyed spending 3 weeks in Ft. Myers. We've done a lot to the house but also relaxed and had a lot of fun. We feel very fortunate to be doing the traveling we're doing. We look forward to seeing other friends and family in our travels.

Next adventures: Oct. 10-17, Davis, CA; Oct. 17-20, NYC; Oct. 20-25, Amherst, MA; Oct. 26-Nov. 20, Kauai and the Big Island, Hawaii.

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