'Ding' Darling and Fort Myers Beach
The day began with a true downpour. Rain just kept falling very, very heavily, and the motel car park became a river. We delayed starting for about an hour then drove to 'Ding' Darling. There were not many birds about, mainly due to the tide being high, but the information centre and shop were well patronised. A drive around gave us our first Solitary Sandpiper, a few egrets and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes.
At the nearby Bailey Tract we picked up some nice birds in the early stages of our walk, including Chimney Swifts, Common Yellowthroat, Great Crested Flycatcher, Palm Warbler, Pileated and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawk, Green and Little Blue Herons, Roseate Spoonbill, an adult Yellow-crowned Night-heron, 17 Snowy Egrets, Mottled Duck and the slightly surreal sight of a Magnificent Frigatebird soaring over woodland. We then found what could be called a small fall of migrants comprising male Prairie and Magnolia Warblers, two Gray Catbirds and our first Veery. The latter bird was sometimes very hard to locate as it fed deep in the bushes. We could hear Carolina Wren singing but finding the bird was another matter – one brief flight view was had as it shot across the path.
Lunch was taken near Sanibel Lighthouse. The beach here held Sanderling in all possible plumages and Ruddy Turnstones. Northern Gannets were seen flying past the shore, along with a lone Magnificent Frigatebird. Northern Flicker, Red-bellied, Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers were found, soon followed by a Great Crested Flycatcher, three Indigo Buntings and a Blue Grosbeak. At the point we watched 6–8 Bottlenose Dolphins moving back and forth in the water only a few metres from the shore.Although the tide was still too high we made a quick stop again at 'Ding' Darling, picking up Roseate Spoonbill, Great and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, Black-whiskered Vireo and Prairie Warbler.
Next stop was Fort Myers Beach. Peter Lansdown said he'd been here about ten years ago and seen American Avocet and that this was the best place for them. Not deterred by the ten-year gap, we walked the sandy beach with the sea one side and a lagoon the other. The sky was getting greyer and greyer and the wind was picking up. Despite these adverse conditions we did well: five Killdeers, two Reddish Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, 23 close Roseate Spoonbills looking exceptionally nice when the sun shone, a lone Solitary Sandpiper, a pair of Mottled Ducks with six ducklings, a White Ibis and a summer-plumaged Spotted Sandpiper. We reached the ten-year-old American Avocet site and found six American Avocets, quite remarkable! We also had our first (two pairs) American Oystercatchers, two Semipalmated Sandpipers and three Wilson's Plovers.