*Click on photos to enlarge.*
One of my target birds during our trip to Florida was the SNAIL KITE. When I checked on eBird before we got down to the Fort Myers area, it looked very likely that I would have to do some traveling if I was to see this federally endangered species. But, sometimes you get lucky. Twice. First, we met another birder (whose name I never got) at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and she shared with us a super location for Snail Kites – they could be seen hunting their favorite food, the apple snail in the canal that leads into Harn’s Marsh in Fort Myers. We went for them the next evening, as we arrived and parked the car, I could immediately see a Snail Kite over the canal – Yes! There were three kites present and they were actively hunting. Unfortunately, from our vantage point the light was terrible and the birds were all silhouetted. That’s when we got our second lucky break – we met local bird photographer Cindy Reilly. She took us to an amazing location just up the canal a bit, where there were 3 additional Snail Kites hunting. Huge thanks to Cindy – because of her we got amazing looks at these birds, who seemed completely unfazed by our presence. I was, however, still fighting the light for photos; it was getting later and some clouds had rolled in. I cranked up the ISO on my camera and did the best I could. I felt like I would like another try for some photos, so I went back two days later in the morning. The birds were not hunting, but I did manage to get some better perched photos of the male and the immature bird. What a super birding experience, so lucky and awesome.