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Yesterday, July 31, 2010, Pete Thayer and I birded Dinner Island Ranch  
WMA in Hendry County and the Palm beach County sod farms south of  
South bay and Belle Glade. We left Naples at about 5:45AM and arrived  
at Dinner Island Ranch shortly after sunrise. On our way out CR846,  
east of Immokalee, just over the Collier County/Hendry County line, we  
had a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flyby. Further east on CR846 before  
the junction of CR833, he had three different Snail Kites and 8-10  
Limpkins in various places. In one small wetland field alone, there  
were six Limpkins all feeding communally. Dinner Island Ranch was  
great as usual. We saw many of the expected waders but the highlights  
had to be the three King Rails that came out of the wetland pass the  
hunter's check-in kiosk and which walked in front of us on the road,  
not twenty feet from where we stood. Thanks to Don MacKrell for some  
pointers on where to find these birds at dinner island Ranch. There  
were many Eastern Meadowlarks, mostly juveniles, everywhere. Northern  
Bobwhites were calling as were Sandhill Cranes. An unexpected Barred  
owl in a distant tree was a nice find. Red-shouldered Hawks and at  
least one Belted Kingfisher and several Green Herons all stood  
sentinel on the various powerlines. Crested Caracara were present as  
usual, too. White-tailed Deer were fairly common as well. A pair of  
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks was also nice to see. We next went north  
to Clewiston and easily found the Common Mynas at the Burger King on  
route 80. At the Walmart in town, numerous Barn Swallows were hawing  
insects in and around the box store. On the way out, a family of four  
Gray Kingbirds were perched on the telephone line as we exited back to  
route 80.

Along the Miami Canal, we found two Barn Owls in the champion Red  
Cedars but the views of these birds were fleeting. Many swallows,  
mostly Barns (ubiquitous everywhere we went throughout the day) and  
some Cliff swallows, were sitting on the powerlines along the canal or  
hawking insects. Try as we might, we could not find one Bank Swallow  
at this site nor anywhere else all day long. Note: there were  
literally thousands of Wandering Gliders (Globe Skimmers) everywhere  
we went. Some of the swarms in in the high hundreds for sure.  
Migration for that Odonate, at least, is in full swing south of Lake  
Okeechobee. A pair of Eastern Kingbirds was present as was an  
unidentified "yellowish" warbler that did not give us satisfactory  
looks.

We next tried to find suitable habitat i.e. sod farms along US Rte. 27  
south of he microwave tower south of Okeelanta Sugar Refinery and  
found the former sod fields but it seems this year, sugarcane is a  
much more profitable crop to grow. Pete speculated that with the bust  
in the building economy in places like Ft. Myers and naples, there  
isn't as much as a demand for sod so farmers are utilizing the land to  
grow more sugarcane. Good theory. We did find some sod fields along US  
Rte. 27 namely at the King Ranch  and a few other properties. However,  
none of them held any water, not even a puddle, so the only shorebirds  
we could find there were Killdeer. On the other hand, we did find some  
fields that had been freshly flooded (to combat nematodes) and in  
these fields along US Rte. 27, we did find many Black-necked Stilts,  
Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Pectoral Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers.  
Several Black Terns made a pass through the flooded field as well.

Our best birding this day would come as we made our way to Browns Farm  
Road at Six Mile Bend. In another plowed field we had hundreds of  
Glossy Ibis, well over 25 Gull-billed Terns, 15 or so Least Terns, 3  
Caspian Terns, a few Forsters Terns and a half-dozen or so Black  
Terns. There were 22 Roseate Spoonbills feeding together as well as  
hundreds of the usual waders including many Wood Storks. Shorebirds  
included on Spotted Sandpiper, both yellowlegs, many Least Sandpipers,  
one Black-bellied Plover, many Pectoral Sandpipers, hundreds of Black- 
necked Stilts, Killdeer and one American Avocet still in breeding  
plumage. There were several dozen Laughing Gulls in various stages of  
molt plus one lone Black Skimmer.

A few Belted Kingfishers were also seen somewhere during the day but I  
did not take note of where since I saw my FOTS a couple of weeks ago  
at STA-5.

Further afield, we made our way over to Gladeview Rd (former Roth Sod  
Farm property) further east off of CR-880. Here we hit the  mother  
lode of flooded fields/muck fields. The number of Glossy Ibis and  
other waders was astonishing. Best birds here were five more American  
Avocets along with more of the various tern species and shorebirds.  
Many, many Common Nighthawks were flying everywhere but the most  
interesting behaviors observed were one CONI plucking some sort of  
insect out of the water along the canal/ditch that parallels this  
road. No, it was not "drinking" water. Lots of other CONIs were  
sitting on little mounds of the black loam in the flooded field. If  
you didn't know to look at these mounds, one would never see them as  
they blend in very well. There were hundreds of Laughing Gulls, many  
of them juveniles, in various plumages too.

We didn't have any of the better shorebirds (other than perhaps the  
American Avocets) but it was a great day anyway. Those pesky  
dowitchers out there avoided certain identification because they were  
too distant and the heat shimmer didn't allow for close scrutiny. If i  
had to guess, i'd say most if not all were Short-billed dowitchers due  
to their coloration and "jizz". We counted well over 300 Fulvous  
Whistling Ducks at this location. One set of parents was chaperoning  
over thirty ducklings in a line. Too cute. The only other ducks here  
were Mottled Ducks. Did I mention that it was wicked hot out there?  
I'll definitely be back though in the coming weeks, perhaps hooking up  
with TAS on their fieldtrip on August 28th.

Lastly, we went back to Naples via Snake Rd./Government Rd/CR 833 or  
whatever this road is properly called via I-75 (Alligator Alley). We  
looked in vain for the White-tailed Kite that Paul Bithorn reported  
from this location a week ago but could not find it. He had to settle  
for a consolation prize of Swallow-tailed Kite instead. Such a  
graceful bird.

Good birding to all.

Vincent Lucas
Naples, FL
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