Costal Wetlands Ecosystems of SWFL. Part 3, Shore Birds

In a two-hour walk along the southern coast of Fort Myers Beach hundreds of birds were readily observed. The photos show just a few of the birds present and this posting doesn’t really capture a full catalogue of all of the possible birds in this group. These observations were made from 8:15 to 9:30 AM. The area is not restored after the Hurricane Ian floods. The shore was relatively flat with the sea and as I was leaving the waters were rising with the tide. Except for the Osprey, the birds in this posting belong to the Aequornitornathes as discussed in our post on Calling Birds by Clades. Shore birds seem to be a frequently undervalued group. This is somewhat understandable because they are relatively small, fast flying, limited in chroma, difficult to access and seasonal.

26.405637, -81.896622
The GPS location for these observations.

Some of the birds found in this area are at risk and some are endangered. This is a State and the Audubon Society designated sanctuary. Others birds are routinely found throughout the shore area. This is nesting, mating and hatching time for these birds and large areas are marked off-limits to all to prevent damage to the nests, eggs and mating behaviors of the birds. The photos were all made from outside of these restricted areas.

The title photo is a flock of Black Skimmers roosting on the 10 to 12 inch high dune about 200 meters from the shore line using the 400 mm lens. This is fairly representative of the terrain and accessibility for observation. All of the birds were very busy in their mating and nesting behaviors. Nearby there are numerous empty multistory condominium buildings ruined by the storm. Additionally there is considerable construction work on those damaged sites.

Nesting Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger, scavenging along the shore
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres along the shore
Ruddy Turnstone in the dune area
Least Tern Sternula antillarum
Rock Sandpiper Calidris ptilocnemis
American Oystercatcher at work along the shore
Black-Bellied Plover
American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus
Sand Piper along the shore.
Snowy Plover (immature)
Snowy plover almost invisable
Osprey, carrying fish captured from the Gulf of Mexico, flying to its nest on a perch on Fort Meyers Beach tree line.


Nine bird species were identified. Here are a few important lessons to be learned from this first trip. The area is a State protected site and you cannot approach the birds closer than 100 meters. Available birds are seasonal and their activity is somewhat predictable. The birds listed here usually flock in species. The food resource comes from the sea. They mate, nest, lay eggs and hatch on the beach during spring season. For better images some combination of extra effort should be applied. This includes: patience and better understanding of the bird behaviors, more stealth and closer approach if allowed by the Audubon Bird Naturalist who is on site daily. Use a lens with focal length greater than 400 mm and a tripod.

These small shore birds are generally at risk for flock survival. Some are endangered, some are threatened. As you would expect the usual culprits are warming, environmental squeeze*, loss of habitat, and a relatively new threat. The recent increased threat is an avian viral infection N1H1 which has globally decimated the poultry and wild bird population. This variant of H1N1 is highly contagious and the domesticated populations together with the wild populations have cross contaminated one another. This cross contamination makes the control of the disease extremely difficult because the wild group is an untreatable reservoir. The hope is that, in the wild population, the disease will burn itself out by killing the susceptible animals while the resistant survivors repopulate the species. With small populations such as the snowy plover, this may result in their extinction. The domesticated population must be kept highly quarantined and a vaccination needs to be developed and deployed. Bird flu may jump species to other farm animals and to humans.

* Environmental squeeze is the loss of beach habitat from human encroachment and rising water.

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#Osprrey #Plover #Sand Piper #Tern #Turnstone #Skimmer #Oystercatcher #environmental squeeze #avian flu #H1N1

Flowering Trees of SW Florida

We need a break form hurricane damage remediation. Some of these images and more were shown on previous postings. They are repeated here because many of these trees and flowers were damaged or lost during the hurricane Ian storm of 2022 and therefore are no longer available. We need a reminder of the past and promise of the future.

The freely available image is featured as the opener is copied from a Cindy Shuder-Sandine Facebook posting and attributed to a military reconnaissance photo. It shows hurricane Ian as it landfalls on Fort Myers beach 20 miles from where I live. It speaks a thousand words.

The flowers of the Bauhinia tree are stunningly beautiful with lavender petals and veiny traces of red made to attract the eyes of the beholder. The flower has male anthers full of pollen. In fact, in an ecstatic burst it releases its stamens full of thousands of pollen grains. The sensuous perfume attracts hummingbirds and bees. These hungry messengers dip into the sweet deep recesses of the flower and pick up the pollen and can carry it into the receptive flower of a female tree. In fact, it has its own female calix organelle within the same flower. It should be able to self-pollinate. But wait! The flowers bear no ova. It cannot reproduce sexually. It is baren. There will be no fertilized seeds. All that blossom is for enjoyment only. Most people who casually look at the gorgeous orchid like flower are unaware of the frustration of the tree which must propagate from cuttings at the whim of gardeners and lovers of the flowers. 

Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia blakenia)

The flowering trees have many secrets from most people. Flowers of some trees may never be seen by seasonal residents. They may bloom during the hot and humid seasons. An example of this is the Flamboyant Royal Poinciana tree. It blooms in the summer when our population is much smaller than that of the tourist season. Of all flowering trees, it has the most breathtaking beauty of riotous red and orange blossom. 

Flamboyant Royal Poinciana, AKA Flame Tree
Flamboyant Royal Poincieana, yellow

Contrarily, some residents are unaware of the lack of some blooms during their absence. An example of this is the Golden Trumpet tree which shows its fertility in yellow colors for three weeks during spring break. The benefit of our climate is that it is tropical. The weather provides an opportunity to have a continuous parade of seasonal flowers in Florida. There is never a time when something is not blooming. 

Golden Trumpet (Tabebuia chryaotricha)
Pink Trumpet, (Yrebebuia heterophylia)

Through the years, resident and community efforts have enhanced our neighborhoods with many plants. The trees are the most outstanding because of their height and spread of their branches. They also hold that secret prize. In certain seasons they burst out with colors and shapes that are beyond wordy description. The images that were captured in these photographs are beautiful and pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. Beyond the visual impact they give us a breath of perfume and an earful of rustling music as their leaves clatter against one another. These images are just a sample of the dozens of flowering trees in our neighborhood of SWFL


The flowering trees are appealing not only to us but also to a menagerie of animals from insects, reptiles, and birds. Most of all the flowers of the male plants are attractive to the female plants. The resulting reproductive products of fruits, nuts and seeds can be delicious as well as nutritious to a wide range of creatures.

Mexican Wild Olive (Cordia boissieri)

The colors of the flowers seem to be the most fascinating aspect of their appearance. The approximation of contrasting or complimentary hues and chromas is at times so obvious and sometimes so surprising. Sometimes it is shocking and other times it is soothing. There never seems to be an unpleasant combination. They seem to be more alive and sensuous than their cousins with less showy highlights like the oaks or even more so than the conifers.

Purple Glory AKA Princess flower,

It is such a treat to explore the streets, lanes, gardens, and wilderness to find something new or to see a variation of something familiar. Walking or bicycling provides an excellent opportunity to see and stop to appreciate the details and odors. It is a chance to see which other plants and animals are associated with the flowering trees. These cohabitations can be as intriguing as the flower. It can lead to an exploration of the details of environmental impact and an appreciation of ecological systems. I hope that you are inspired to go out and look for the trees and inspect them and perhaps appreciate their mysteries, of colors, shapes, timing, and scents.

Pink Shower (Cassia)
Dwarf Powderpuff (Calliandra haematocephala) attracting bees.

The flowering trees shown here originate from all over the world including Africa, South and Central America, China, and India and more. Untold secrets of these trees are yet to be discovered. What species of butterflies and moths are attracted to the various trees. Do the non-native trees interact or communicate with the native plant population? Are the plant defenses and pheromones compatible with the local insect population and microbial biota? There is still so much to discover. 

Pride of India (Lagerstroemia speciosa)
Coral Bean
Pink Shower (Cassia)
Plumeria, hot pink
Rose of Venezuela (Brown macrophyllia)
White Silk Floss (Celia speciosa)
Red Silk Floss (Ceiba speciosa)
African Tulip (Spathodea campanulate)
Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimisifolia)
Malibar Chestnut AKA (Pachira aquatica) (Money Tree),
Scrambled Egg Tree (Glaucous Cassia)

The full list of the Flowering Trees of SW FL in found on Pages section of this site. It shows names, colors, sun exposure etc. They also can be geolocated on the Everglades Ark Epicollect data base site, There have been several other postings on this site showering the flowering trees during the special seasons .

#Scrambled Egg Tree #Glaucous Cassia #Malibar Chestnut #Pachira aquatica #Jacaranda #Jacaranda mimisifolia #Cassia #African Tulip #Spathodea campanulate #Red Silk Floss #Ceiba speciosa #White Silk Floss #Rose of Venezuela #Brown macrophyllia #Plumeria, hot pink #Pink Shower #Cassia #Coral Bean #Pride of India #Dwarf Powderpuff #Calliandra haematocephala #Pink Shower #Purple Glory AKA Princess flower #Lagerstroemia speciosa #Pink Shower #Golden Trumpet #Tabebuia chryaotricha #Magnolia #Golden Trumpet #Tabebuia chryaotricha #Flamboyant Royal Poincieana, yellow #Flamboyant Royal Poinciana # Flame Tree #Bauhinia blakenia #Hong Kong orchid tree

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