Monday, April 7, 2014

Captiva Island

During this journey, we escaped into the mesmerizing turquoise waters of the warm gulf. I had read about this place in so many birder books and it exceeded my expectations. Captiva Island is one of the most desired locations for tourists.  We went on a weekday and left early before everyone woke up in Florida to find a parking spot.  And thanks to great planning on our parts, we had a fantastic trip into the unknown.  

Brown Pelican
My quest on this adventure was to search for the Northern Gannet, Magnificent Frigatebird and Swallowtail Kite. I had a schedule to keep, but I also wanted to do it in a fun way so that my friend Sydney could join along in the birding experience.  

A great place to start your day for breakfast or afternoon lunch

We grabbed breakfast and I ran to the beaches before the thousands of people arrived to chase all the birds away.  A sip of coffee and a quick run to the beach turned out to be a great idea as I was able to find several birds up close.

But we were heading away from Captiva Island to Cayo Costa State Park where we would be secluded and not have to deal with the tourist crowd.  So we brought our cooler of veggies and water along with beach chairs and umbrellas.....

Cayo Costa State Park

And from there I explored the beaches alone away from noisy crowds.  Sydney enjoyed the sun and water while I tracked Ruddy Turnstones. I was able to observe them close from the water while they foraged around vegetation left on the beach.  Several hung out on piers and others were strolling around on the beaches. 

Ruddy Turnstones
I had never seen Sanderlings before but I knew these birds right away when I saw them run on the beach.  They were tiny and spastic little birds.  


It was also here that I found my first US Anhinga!  I had only seen them in the dark rainy forests of Panama a couple years ago. When I saw this bird again, I smiled.  This bird moves like a snake through water or a needle pulling thread.  Cue Sound of Music:)

Laughing Gulls lived up to their names as they made their "laughing" type calls on the beach.  But this time, I was REALLY able to observe them up close.  The last time I had seen that bird was in Guatemala.  And before that it was in the middle of the desert!  Both of those sightings were far far away.  It was here in Florida I could watch them up close as they walked around me. 

Laughing Gull
Of course, any desert rat goes through "green shock" outside of our rocky canyons and cactus covered landscapes of browns and yellows. 

It wasn't my Shire(Wisconsin) nor was it the mystical Central America.  But it was tropical with too many birds all around me. I was in my own country birding and it felt safe. Granted, we had to seriously navigate around the Spring breakers and the Northerners who have had to endure a most painful winter. So in a sense, I'm glad I live in Arizona because I didn't feel the need to tan or soak in the sun all day on the beach......

We sat on the boat to and from Cayo Costa.  I remember wishing that time didn't exist.  Being with my friend and being in Florida around so many new birds made me wish I had a month to spend there. But life does not wait nor does it care what you do with it. So we made the most of it.  

Watching a Double-crested Cormorant tackle a large fish and then swallow it whole was fascinating.  

Double-crested Cormorant gets his meal
The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins were life mammals for me.  I did take pics but a fin doesn't make an exciting pic:)

But a Horseshoe crab does!  I'm glad I was paying attention to the beach.  I'd hate to step on that one!

Horseshoe Crab
And along the way on my private little walk in paradise, I found the Swallowtail Kites and Magnificent Frigatebirds. 

Swallowtail Kite
As with everything in this life, it all flew by so quickly.  I met an older birder who recently told me while sitting at a hummingbird feeder that he needed to pay more attention to the history and stories of the places he visits.  I knew what he meant.  I could be in Russia, Thailand, Peru, or any place looking at a new and amazing bird..... and not really notice all the other little things around me. I do try.   

Magnificent Frigatebird

So no Northern Gannets.  They will have to wait until next time.  We had a wonderful day at Captiva and Cayo Costa State Park.  Stay tuned for more!  Next week we'll discover a religious sect ruled by women and Gopher Turtles......
For more on our world's birds check out Wild Bird Wednesday!


  1. Seriously... That bird swallowed the fish whole?
    Nice shots of all your birds. Florida sounds really good right now.

  2. A wonderful post Chris. I thoroughly enjoyed the photos!

  3. What an amazing weekend... Awesome Anhinga.

  4. A wonderful birding adventure, especially having a beach to yourself. I saw Frigate birds in Mexico and was totally impressed with their size. OK, so not as big as a condor. ;)

  5. You do have fun on your birding outings, Great sightings and photos, Chris!

  6. Nice shots of the Kite and Frigatebird. I hope I can get a chance to see them soon!

  7. the turnstones are pretty. like the anhinga, too!

  8. Beautiful photos! What a fabulous weekend you had.

  9. Beautiful photos, looks like a great place.

  10. Great photos! Interesting to study all the details!

  11. The swallowtail kites are such beautiful birds and unmistakable in flight. The laughing gull is another favorite for me. :)

  12. Hi Chris. What w a wonderful trip with great birds found and shot. You will see the gannets next time perhaps.

  13. Another excellent post, Chris. Elegantly described and beautifully illustrated.

    Greetings from UK - Richard

  14. Great set of birds - and I like the horseshoe crab as well.

    I wonder if my kids will experience "green shock" the first time they see the UK?

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. Hi Chris. It's a small world when I can go out tomorrow morning and get my fill of Turnstones, Sanderlings and even Gannets. And here you are a zillion miles away enthusing over my commons. Such is the joy of World Birding - I love it.

    Can't see those Swallow-tailed here though - shame.

  16. Great post Chris with some wonderful photos and birds. What a superb time you had there. I particularly love the Horseshoe crab :)
    ps I hope you don't get a comment twice. Blogger is playing up :(

  17. Chris, I am so glad you got to go there! What amazing pictures! What amazing adventures! It just makes me want to go back again as well! There is so much to see!

  18. You've shared a wonderful collection of birds from your beautiful day. The photos of your surroundings show us you do pay attention as well. Glad you had such a lovely day.

  19. Congratulations on such a successful day! Lovely shots.

  20. Great sighting of birds and I love the cormorant with its meal. Got to watch out for those crabs indeed. Looks like a lot of fun and adventure to be had in this place.

  21. What a wonderful array of photos!
    I like that horseshoe crab. I remember the first time I ever saw one (dead) and thought I had discovered some prehistoric animal. I was about ten.

  22. Your images make me really look forward to our stay on Sanibel Island in only two weeks!


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