Fort Myers Florida Weekly

Six places to feather your birding life-list


Roseate spoonbills can be seen in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel year-round, but this is the time of year they are found in abundance. COURTESY PHOTO

Roseate spoonbills can be seen in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel year-round, but this is the time of year they are found in abundance. COURTESY PHOTO

The birds are here in full force. Grab your binoculars and life-list to take advantage of the seasonal populations of snowbirds that grace our beaches, wetlands and mangrove forests. Did you know Lee County counts around 250 different species of birds? The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau recommends the following spots along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail ( to watch and photograph birds — from sweet, tiny warblers to majestic roseate spoonbills — during prime Florida birding season.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island. Easy access to close-up birds have made this a hot spot for birders since it opened in 1945. Merely cruising along Wildlife Drive, you can check off a number of species, some — like the shy, elusive mangrove cuckoo — quite rare. You needn’t be a birder, however, to love watching the behaviors and antics of the white pelican — visiting now for the winter — and “dancing” reddish egret. Most iconic, the roseate spoonbills gather in the wetlands year-round, but most abundantly this time of year. To see birds coming in to roost, plan a sunset nature cruise or kayak paddle into Tarpon Bay. 472-1100,

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, south Lee County. The designated gateway to the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail’s South Trail, Corkscrew Swamp originally was best known for its colonies of nesting American wood storks. The nesting season can be iffy, dependent on all the right weather and water conditions, but birders get their rewards in the winter and spring when limpkins, warblers, vireos and painted buntings are the stars of the show. 348-9151;

San Carlos Bay – Bunche Beach Preserve, south Fort Myers. Mangrove and beach habitats combine here to provide legendary birding opportunities. Low tide and evening’s roost are the best times to see flocks of black skimmers, plovers, white ibis, roseate spoonbills and even the occasional bald eagle. Saturday Bird Patrol Tours ( take place throughout the season, the next on March 3. 765-6794,

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers. From the 1.2-mile boardwalk, you easily can spot gallinules, moorhens, pileated woodpeckers, white and glossy ibises, belted kingfishers, bald eagles, ospreys and a variety of egrets and herons. The most determined birders lurk on the observation decks and blinds the park provides. In the interpretive center, watch a short video about bird migration. Call to reserve a spot for the next Bird Walk on March 3. 533-7550,

Lighthouse Beach Park, Sanibel Island. In spring and fall, when birds are migrating, a phenomenon known as “fall out” happens at points of land that provide the avian travelers a rest stop after long flights. Lighthouse Beach is one such stop for weary wingers. Watch and listen at sunrise for small birds in transit, such as rare warblers (more than 35 species have been recorded), flycatchers and indigo and painted buntings. Birders also report peregrine falcon, brown pelican and shorebird sightings. 472- 0345,

Caloosahatchee Regional Park, Alva. A variety of riverfront habitats means good diversity. Look in the flatwoods for red-shouldered hawks and barred owls. Along the park’s biking and horse trails, birders spot wild turkey and swallow-tailed kites. 694-0398,

For more information about exploring nature at the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, visit

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