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

Fort Myers-Cape Coral Area

February 7th, 2013 · No Comments

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Fort Myers and Cape Coral comprise one of the largest urban areas in Southwest Florida with a metropolitan area population of about 620,000 people. Located where the wide Caloosahatchee River meets the Gulf of Mexico, this area is one of Florida’s major tourist destinations. Millions of snowbirds winter here together with the real birds that my friend Sharon and I went to see.

Our base was on Pine Island at the western edge of the area, about 18 miles from downtown Cape Coral and another couple of miles across one of three long bridges over the Caloosahatchee River to downtown Fort Myers. As we expanded the area that we explored from Pine Island outward we didn’t fail to include these cities. We found great parks teaming with wildlife there.

We even found birds on busy street corners. These Burrowing Owls live in an otherwise vacant lot next to Annie’s Cafe at the southeast corner of the intersection of Coronado Parkway and SE 47th Street in Cape Coral. I hadn’t expected to find Burrowing Owls in Florida (much less in a city), because the ones we have in Colorado live in burrows that prairie dogs build. As far as I know, Florida lacks prairie dogs, so the owls there have to dig their own burrows, which is easier there in the soft sand than in the rocky Colorado soil.

A Family of Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia)

A Family of Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia)

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I love not only the expression of the owlet in the photo below but also the simple background. It’s the pavement of SE 47th Street.

The Owlet Looks Sideways

The Owlet Looks Sideways

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Another urban location where we found beautiful birds is Cape Coral’s Yacht Club Community Park. Right on the Caloosahatchee River, this park has a public beach, fishing pier, community pool, and lots of sunbathers. And in the trees between the parking lot and the beach live a colony of Monk Parakeets.

These Lovebirds are Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus)

These Lovebirds are Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus)

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Also in the city, Cape Coral’s Rotary Club developed the Rotary Park Environmental Center. In one part of the park a boardwalk took us through mangroves down to the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. While I was looking out at the river from the observation platform, a Tricolored Heron flew directly below me.

A Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) Flies Low over the Caloosahatchee River

A Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) Flies Low over the Caloosahatchee River

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Across the river and into the trees (to borrow the resonant phrase that Ernest Hemingway used as the title of one of his novels) we went to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers. We walked the 1.2 mile long boardwalk through the freshwater swamp. I was most intrigued by the cypress knees, the distinctive structures that form above the roots of these cypress trees.

Cypress Knees Grow in Abundance at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Cypress Knees Grow in Abundance at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

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Lakes Regional Park is truly urban, yet is the premier Fort Myers park and feels wild.

The Scene of One Lake at Lakes Regional Park

The Scene of One Lake at Lakes Regional Park

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Cormorants sometimes work together. Here they are lined up to cooperate in feeding.

Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) Feed Together at Lakes Regional Park

Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) Feed Together at Lakes Regional Park

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A Gallinula chloropus Swims Alone in the Lake

A Gallinula chloropus Swims Alone in the Lake

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As difficult as the scientific names of birds can be, I sometimes find them preferable to what we usually use in English. We generally call this beautiful bird either a Swamp Chicken or a Common Moorhen. It’s nothing like a chicken, and I can’t think that any bird like this one that never visits Colorado is all that common.

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