Florida Trip, 2011


Florida Trip 2011

Online Resources:

(Sites and links to sites are at the end of the report)

Caution: do NOT trust the Tropical Audubon site directions for location opening hours - they are inaccurate !! For a state with a lot of (casual) birders, there's pretty low participation in the electronic lists, some of which border on moribund at least during the time that I checked them. The TAS boards are a little more active, but there are really only a few active reporters on that list.

Travel Details

Sunrise: ~6:45am; Sunset ~6:20pm.

I made the less typical choice (for me) of flying into Miami. On previous trips I had used Orlando (usually cheap flights) or Tampa Bay but the flight + car rental costs combined clearly indicated Miami was the cheaper option by about one hundred dollars. Miami still has reasonable car rental prices but the other airports (Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale) have needlessly expensive ones: I'm not all that interested paying $45/day for just a car. This made for a reversed J-shaped trip where I covered the east coast from Loxahatchee NWR southwards, but the west coast up to as far as St Petersburg. This schedule is atypical of my other FL trips in that it starts with 2.5 days in the East, then transits west via Shark Valley. Given that I live in the East, and have covered FL before, potential life birds were extremely limited and fairly unlikely: Mangrove Cuckoo; Shiny Cowbird; La Sagra's Flycatcher. The East coast sites were more productive than the West coast sites on this trip, by a significant margin for both birding and photography.

A word about rental cars: recent experiences with Dollar/Thrifty at both San Antonio and Miami in early 2011 have been positive. In Miami it's worth noting that the Miami area toll roads no longer accept cash - something I was alerted to by the Dollar agent and led me to buy the $36/trip option of Sunpass. This saved me time and also billing inconvenience. I ended up in a Ford Fusion - rather Camry-like in its competence, and a little stodgy. However two serious demerits - the rear view mirror is both set low (I'm 6'2" and it was below my eye level) and is too large, and also the rear seat neck supports obscure vision out the rear window. The net effect is reduced visibility out the front because of the mirror size and placement, and reduced visibility out the back due to obstruction. This affects driving and also affects your ability to spot birds while driving along. Avoid the Ford Fusion if you are tall. On my 2002 Accord the mirror is higher, it is smaller, and yet it still gives pretty full coverage of the rear window. There was also the suspicion that the blind spots were larger on the Fusion, which in it's base rental car configuration may also be a little sluggish - it's rare that when I get back in my aging Accord (125K miles) it feels anything other than slow. In this case it felt quite peppy with good road feel, so the Fusion was certainly not as much fun to drive as the 2009 Hyundai Sonata that I drove in TX in January.

Trip Report