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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Pine Island and Little Pine Island

February 4th, 2013 · No Comments

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Pine Island is “old Florida.” This term denotes the way this rapidly growing state was at least two generations ago. Sharon wisely chose to base our month-long stay away from the high rises and hustle and bustle of the cities.

At a length of 17 miles and a width of two miles, Pine Island is the largest island in Florida. It is a barrier island off the coast from the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers. With a population of just 9,000 people and not a single stoplight, Pine Island is a laid back place that we thoroughly explored and enjoyed.

With a whole month to discover the natural treasures of Southwest Florida, our strategy was to start by exploring the island and generally go farther and farther. Our main guide was the South Section of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. This wonderful resource catalogs the best sites to find Florida’s birds. Pine Island itself actually doesn’t have any Great Florida Birding sites, but it still has lots of great birds.

Our exploration of Pine Island got off to a great start on our first full day there. Driving the main road through the island, we saw a raptor that I had never seen before, a Red-shouldered Hawk. Later we saw several more and appreciated that they are about as common in Florida as Red-tailed Hawks are in Colorado, but my first view of it was an exciting discovery for me.

A Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) Takes Off

A Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) Takes Off

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At the north tip of Pine Island is a small beach bordered by grass. Here I was excited that an even more common bird was feeding very close to me. I had already seen many White Ibis, but I felt this opportunity was so special that I actually lay down in the grass to get a bird’s eye view.

A White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) Feeds Near Me

A White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) Feeds Near Me

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While we don’t have Red-shouldered Hawks or White Ibis in Colorado, we do have a few Osprey. But on this trip to Florida I saw more Osprey than in all the previous years of my life. One of the first that we saw was on our first full day on Pine Island.

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Brings a Fish Back to its Nest

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Brings a Fish Back to its Nest

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The trip we took the most often was down a side road to the village of Pineland. Those photos in this series of photo essays will follow. But one day Sharon wanted to stop at the Old Pineland Mango Grove for some mango honey. She bought a jar or two while I photographed the baby mangoes.

A Stalk of Baby Mangoes

A Stalk of Baby Mangoes

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Traveling a bit further from our base, we made three trips to Little Pine Island. While the view from our living room and bedrooms was of Little Pine Island, we drove four miles to the Little Pine Island Trail in Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. Except for the road across Little Pine Island that affords the only land access to Pine Island, Little Pine Island is totally undeveloped. At the end of the trail through the high marsh we came to a slow-flowing creek where we saw these reflections on the water.

Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) and Their Reflections

Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) and Their Reflections

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As we waited at the creek we spotted a Green Heron. While it’s more common in Florida than in Colorado, this was the only Green Heron that I saw on our trip.

The Only Green Heron (Butorides virescens) That I Saw in Florida

The Only Green Heron (Butorides virescens) That I Saw in Florida

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Just then, Sharon looked up. She saw a much bigger and even more colorful bird flying right over us, and hollered to me.

A Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) Flies Past Us

A Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) Flies Past Us

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This was the most beautiful bird that I had hoped to see in Florida, even though I had seen them during my trip two years ago. Color isn’t everything, but for me it means a lot.

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