Southwest Florida is fortunate to have a wealth of nature to enjoy, and many people are amazed at the area birdlife, wanting to learn more about our avian neighbors. As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, Tigertail Beach boasts an abundance of bird species, including permanent residents, winter visitors, and those stopping briefly during long migrations. Every November and January, the Friends of Tigertail host free programs to teach identification of the birds that are present in the lagoon, including general information as well as physical characteristics and behavioral differences that enable the observer to tell the birds apart. The topic of the January 18 presentation was “winter residents,” including those birds who spend the winter months on Marco Island beaches. Fran Huxley and Susan Kubat, Friends of Tigertail members and experienced birders, presented a wealth of information.
After welcoming words by Friends of Tigertail President Linda Colombo, Fran and Susan introduced specifics about the birds that were likely to be seen. The group of 31 participants then walked to the lagoon beach where they were met by several shorebird species at the water’s edge. Unfortunately, most of these flew away, to return later, so attention was given to the wading species visible across the lagoon and those flying overhead. Juvenile and adult white ibis, and tricolor, reddish, little and great blue herons demonstrated their feeding behavior while brown pelicans and osprey dove into the water for fish. Crows and turkey vultures flew above, and one of the resident ospreys stayed in his nest near the observation tower. A laughing and ring–billed gull rested by the water, finally to be rejoined by their winter resident friends. Semipalmated plovers, least sandpipers, and a ruddy turnstone flew back to entertain the program participants.
The group learned several details about birds. One example is why birds standing on the beach always face into the wind. The answer is that an oncoming wind allows more lift if the birds need to fly away quickly.
Becoming familiar with so many characteristics of different area birds, group participants are now able to identify various species and more thoroughly enjoy the avian population surrounding them.
Besides quarterly beach clean-ups and Conservancy Camp student scholarships, Friends of Tigertail sponsor educational activities each season. Their next event is “Discover Tigertail” on Saturday, February 22, where there will be several stations near the kiosk and on the lagoon beach with experts discussing different wildlife inhabiting the beach. This is a free, family–friendly event.