This particular birding spot is also well known for the productive vernal pools and masses of amphibians that like to gather here for breeding. Once I turned onto the dirt road that would take us to the Whip-poor-wills , I noticed some amphibians hopping around in my headlights. They were American Toads (Bufo Americanus), and as we drove down the road we saw about 100 of them! Luckily they were big enough to see as I was driving, so progression to our destination was slow as I navigated around the toads, and wound up stopping quite a bit to remove the stubborn ones from the road.
By the time we finally got close to the Whip-poor-will spot, another thunderstorm was approaching, and cloud-to-cloud lightning was lighting up the sky at regular intervals. Then the Whip-poor-wills started calling. I pulled off the road and shut off the engine to take in the eeriness that the sound of the birds and the lightning was creating. My friends had never heard a Whip-poor-will "sing" before, so this was a terrific experience for them both!
It was getting pretty late when we got home, so I quickly re-packed my suitcase and attempted to sleep. My flight to Ft. Myers, Florida wasn't until the afternoon the next day, but my friends and I had plans to go birding the next morning, followed by breakfast, plus I had a 3 hour drive to the airport ahead of me.
This was the first time I was flying on Southwest, but I had heard good things about it, so I wasn't worried. I was impressed by the general positive attitude that all the Southwest crew had, and everything ran smoothly. The flight itself was made a lot less pleasant by the gaggle of loud woman who got drunker as time went on, and were scream-laughing the whole way. If I closed my eyes, all I could think of is a tree full of upset, screaming large parrots. This in turn kept all the small children from sleeping during the flight, and they all ended up screaming in unison.
|Leaving Pittsburgh, PA|
Luckily the flight was only 2.5 hours long with little to no turbulence. We landed 10min ahead of schedule, and my friend Libby picked me up and we were off to Sanibel. Libby was working as an intern for the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and I was lucky enough to be able to stay with her on the refuge.
My first birds of the trip were Glossy and White Ibis in the drainage ditches as we left Ft. Myers, and of course White-winged Doves, and Boat-tailed Grackles aplenty. As we approached Sanibel Island, I saw my first Brown Pelicans of the year, a few Osprey, and an assortment of gulls.
Since Libby had to work for the first two days I was visiting her, I decided to shadow her and go along on all her wildlife and water quality surveys. The first morning we awoke before dawn to do sea turtle nesting surveys on the beach, followed by water quality testing and collection. After a quick stop to grab some lunch we entered the data from the morning and headed out to try to catch some butterflies for a project that Libby was working on.
|Sea turtle nesting surveys on Sanibel Beach at sunrise.|
|Pretty crab! Pretty dead crab.|
|A Green Heron on her nest.|
|These Mangrove Crabs kept startling me when I was looking for birds in the trees.|
|White Ibis picking sand fleas out of the surf.|
|Magnificent Frigatebird cruising overhead.|
While waiting for our food to arrive at our table, we laid out all of our route maps, notes, and options so we could create the final route for the Big Day and make any other last minute decisions...such as our team name. We decided on Team Hawksauce.
|Last minute Big Day planning!|
....next up....our Big Day!