Caloosa Bird Club History

A Southwest Florida Institution


by Carol Redeker & Chris Thompson

In early February of 1958, a group of thirty-five bird lovers met to organize. They named temporary officers and voted to meet on the second Sunday of the month in the afternoon. At the second meeting, a week later, it was decided that the group would be known as the Caloosa Bird Club. As of 2002, the club is now 44 years old.

A set of by-laws was adopted on April 15, 1958 and officers were elected: Mrs. Robert Gibson, president; John Bunnell, vice-president; Mrs. Maurice McErlain, secretary; Miss Cecil Hamilton, treasurer. Board members were J. L. Allison, one year term; Charles Peck, two year term, and William Widger, three year term. In addition to regular field trips, the club, an affiliate of the National Audubon Society, voted to sponsor Audubon “screen tours” (wildlife films) to be held at the Edison Park School auditorium three or four times in the winter months of January, February and March with the members taking turns meeting and housing speakers and hosting a reception after the films. The club also voted to participate in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts. The Society had started these counts as a way to protest hunting.

The screen tours were held for years but were abandoned in the early 1970s. Our own Alvah Sanborn, a member of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, was one of the lecturers on the screen tour circuit.

Application for membership required participation in two field trips and attendance at one regular meeting plus approval by the board of directors. On February 9, 1975, a motion was passed limiting the number of members to one hundred. Meetings were held at the Ft. Myers Savings & Loan Association’s office on Pondella Road in North Fort Myers, and the room was getting too small to accommodate any more people. Also, the number of cars in a caravan on field trips was getting unwieldy and, due to increased traffic, downright dangerous. I wonder what the board would think now. . .in 2002?

The club was incorporated in 1960, and the original by-laws of 1958 were amended to change the date of the annual meeting. In 1972, a further revision provided for a second vice-president. In addition, a membership committee was activated in accordance with a provision of the original by-laws. In January 1977, discussions were held regarding the definition of membership and the function of the executive committee. The club proceeded to approve these changes.

It was very interesting to note during a study of the club minutes and newspaper clippings in the club archives that Mr. & Mrs. Keeling Sisson, Sr. were present at the meeting of December 6, 1958 and that on December 4, 1965 an Ivory-billed woodpecker was seen in Mrs. G.P. Moynes’ backyard on McGregor Boulevard! The European Collared-Dove, an escapee from the Bahamas, made its appearance in the mid-1980s and has surged in numbers, pushing out the Mourning Dove. A picture of Rosemary Fleming scoping the Caloosahatchee River in Cape Coral on the 96th annual Christmas Bird Count appeared in the Fort Myers News-Press in 1995. She was counting Lesser Scaup and reached 7000 before her eyes tired and she reported ‘scaup eyes.’ On the 1999 Christmas Bird Count, Gwen and Jack Stupple were doing the same thing. Robbie Wooster and a friend were scanning the treetops at the Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary, looking for warblers. “The forest has big trees and the warblers are very small. It’s hard work to see them, but a great way to spend time outdoors,” says Robbie.

In 1984, Dr. James A. Lane published “A Birder’s Guide to Florida.” While compiling the information for his guide, he stayed with Sally Nelson, who was the president of the Caloosa Bird Club from 1976-1979.

We are still having field trips to some of the original sites mentioned in Lane’s guide, plus trying out new ones from time to time. The IMC/Agrico Phosphate Mines in Bartow is one of the favorites of club members. Brigg’s nature Center and Tigertail Beach on Marco Island are others. The Loxahatchee N.W.R. and Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Palm Beach County are popular East Coast destinations.

The field trips in recent years to the Dry Tortugas, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, the Texas Gulf Coast, and southwestern Arizona have been responsible for adding large numbers of birds to members ‘life lists.’ Our thanks goes out to Bill Saunders, Clint Sowards, Zaida Aponte and George Hadwen.

We have some excellent birders and with everyone on the look-out, we come away with some very good lists on our field trips. The officers and directors deserve a big vote of appreciation for planning the trip schedule and the trip leaders have earned our sincere thanks for their dedication, time, and effort to make each trip an outstanding experience.

We are very proud of our club!