Fort Myers birding thus far has been hot, humid and full of amazing photography opportunities. I’ve also been chased off a trail by a wild pig, had my camera lens fog up to the point it was unusable for an hour and almost got caught out in San Carlos Bay with my camera as the tide came in. Here are some of the stories and photos from my first week in Florida.
Florida is nothing short of amazing for bird photography. It’s sunny every day and you can get close to so many species that you can’t get close to further north. Loggerhead Shrikes are on every wire, Red-shouldered Hawks are a dime a dozen and after a few days here you’re like meh another Heron.
Here’s some of my favourite photos so far:
Just because the photography is good doesn’t mean the birding lags behind. This is my 7th 0r 8th trip birding Fort Myers and southwest Florida, so finding lifers is more difficult. However, it’s my first trip here in October so experiencing migration is fantastic!
Here are my lifers so far: Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Piping Plover, Wilson’s Plover, Snowy Plover, Red Knot, Common Ground-Dove and Monk Parakeet.
Fort Myers Birding Stories
I’ve only been here a week and I already have some great stories about my experiences here.
The Wild Hog
I met up with some local birders last week and we started birding before sunrise (a first for me!). Don’t worry, I’m not converted to morning birding, but I did like the adventure of trying something new.
On to the pig. Firstly, I didn’t realize that wild pigs were a thing here. And I certainly didn’t realize that wild pigs are dangerous. Apparently they can charge towards you at 11 mph and they have tusks! We were walking on a narrow trail that was raised up on both sides above a marsh. If a pig showed up, there would be nowhere for us to go except into the water.
About halfway through our birding outing, we spotted a HUGE wild pig on a trail perpendicular to ours. It was running directly towards our trail! The local birders raised the alarm and we turned back immediately. Luckily the pig didn’t turn down the trail we were on, so we escaped (this time!).
Humidity and Lenses
The last week has been between 40-44 degrees Celsius with the humidex (104-111 Fahrenheit). If you put your binoculars and camera in your air-conditioned car and try to use them when you arrive at your destination, the lenses will be fogged up for ages! Sure, you can try to wipe them off, but they just fog right back up again. The local tip is to put everything in a sealed Tupperware container while in the car.
I was a complete tourist and spent the first hour of the outing I did with the locals unable to see or photograph anything!
Be Careful of Tides
My favourite Fort Myers birding hotspot is a hidden gem called Bunche Beach. If you visit during low tide, you will have the best #shorebirdworkout of your life! Figuring out the tide tables can be confusing and I have shown up here at ‘low tide’ and found the complete opposite.
During low tide, you can walk quite far out into San Carlos Bay on tidal flats. I saw a group of lifer Red Knots on a sand bar quite far out from shore. I was so excited to see this group I made my way out there and spent ages lying on the sand beside them taking photographs.
At a certain point I realized the sand bar was rapidly disappearing and it dawned on me that the tide was coming back in! I looked back to shore and I had a moment of complete panic that I wouldn’t make it back without swimming. Thankfully I was able to get back (with my heart racing) by finding shallower areas to walk in. Yikes – that was too close a call for my liking! It reminded me of wading out to Gull Island, except without the drybags!
Fort Myers Birding Guide
If you want to visit southwest Florida, I will be updating my guide of favourite birding and photography areas after this trip. Stay tuned!
-The Afternoon Birder
Other fun Florida finds: