Florida Trip, 2011
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.
American Airlines departed PHL at 0615 a little late (sleepy desk agents ?) but arrived in MIA at 0835, a little early. The slow bus journey to the rental car center using the generic shuttle buses made it such that I wasn't on the road until quite late although renting from Dollar was a breeze. There were traffic delays in Miami near the airport - this urban area frequently has traffic issues. En route to Key Biscayne: Black and Turkey Vultures; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Brown Pelican; Royal Tern. I got to Bill Baggs State Park mid-morning (10:15am) and encountered a birder that said the La Sagra's Flycatcher was heard at 8am but not since. Looking for it I found Eastern Phoebe, Palm Warblers, Northern Cardinal, a fly by Osprey. Finally heard it vocalize a total of 3 times, north of where it was seen in the morning. On the second round of calls I tracked it down visually, and on the third round I saw it very well indeed - notably pale, reduced rufous in the tail. Near this point I also came across Gray Catbird, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula. The latter was not numerous on this trip but at Fakahatchee Strand and Corkscrew Swamp it was singing. I left Bill Baggs around noon and chugged through some local Miami traffic in search of lunch.Everglades National Park. I no longer buy the "Golden Eagle" parks pass because it costs far more than it's worth to me, but $10 entry fee lasts a full week in the Everglades and I was to use it 6 times. First to Pay-hay-okee overlook (American Crow, Wood Stork) and then Paurotis Pond where the pond was closed because of Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill nesting but the parking lot was open. Swallow-tailed Kite flyover as well as a good deal of activity at the colony. Prairie Warbler and Great Crested Flycatcher heard but not seen while standing in the lot. In the pond where a basic mix of American Coot, Common Moorhen, Pied-billed Grebe, Belted Kingfisher and Great Egret. I back-tracked to Royal Palm/Anhinga Trail now the sun was low enough for decent light and found a large number of Turkey and Black Vultures coming into roost. Along the ditch: Purple Gallinule; Common Moorhen; White and Glossy Ibises; Green/Tricolored/Little Blue/Great Blue Herons; Snowy/Great Egrets; Double-crested Cormorants; 1 immature Wood Stork; Anhinga - with relatively few nests. Some Black Vultures were spending time on the ground in a mixed flock that included herons. This being the end of the dry season, the Everglades was fairly dry and some grass was yellow, with high fire danger. It's source of irony that the road-side ditches that are so productive in the Everglades are not natural phenomena and are man-made artifacts of (e.g.) the road construction process.
As I left the Everglades towards dusk I found nothing going on at Lucky Hammock, but American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Common Grackle around the fields. I stopped for the first of my three Robert Is Here fruit shakes and found Purple Martins competing for space with House Sparrows in the "martin house". These were not seen subsequently so I guess that the martins lost that battle.
Stayed overnight at Motel 6 Cutler Bay which had an atypical vibe for Motel 6 and was probably an ex-Best Western judging from the safety postings in the elevators. This made sense - it's rare to see a Motel 6 with a water feature, even if the water feature is dry. (It's more likely to have an inadvertent water feature like the Pompano Beach Motel 6 with a broken pipe in the parking lot).
Prospective rain made for a consideration of change of plans, however the Weather Channel and online resources were at odds (the TV Weather Channel being almost entirely useless and not matching their own web site) and in the end I started at dawn at Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park as per the original plans. Usual suspects including all the herons, Purple Ganninule, and a bonus bird of a tame trail-side American Bittern. A distant vocal fly-by Pileated Woodpecker was also a nice bonus. Additions compared to the previous evening were Common Yellowthroat, Belted Kingfisher, Red-shouldered Hawk, Palm Warbler, otherwise much the same. Palm Warbler proved to be the commonest warbler for the trip, with Yellow-rumped coming in a close second. The Black Vultures have taken to acting like crows here, looking for tourist handouts and lurking along the trail. Photo ops were modest but not epic, with the exception of OK pictures of the Bittern. I bumped into a Central Park birder (!) and a NJ birder, the latter mentioning Short-tailed Hawk as his nemesis bird. Shame then that having given me his cell # he left his cell phone off: when I gave up shooting and headed back to the visitor center I saw a dark morph Short-tailed Hawk soaring overhead. (He did finally track down the bird 20 minutes after I left the parking lot.) Swallow-tailed Kite and Bald Eagle were also around. Short-tailed Hawk showed between 10:15 and 10:40.
Skipping Mahogany Hammock I went to Paurotis Pond: Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, and I finally saw Prairie Warbler.
Then on to Flamingo - where for the umpteenth time I found no cowbird flocks. Eco Pond was quiet (no platform, and some tree death) and since it was hot and sunny in the middle of the day I resisted circumnavigating the pond in search of the elusive Yellow-breasted Chat, especially with other tourists around. Scanning the bay while eating lunch: Brown and American White Pelican, Black Skimmer, numerous Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gull, Willet. At the limit of visibility toward the horizon: distant shorebirds and more herons, pelicans. Several Ospreys and two immature Bald Eagles were in the air, and there were a mere two Cattle Egrets on the grass near the Visitor Center.
Bear Lake road near Flamingo was unproductive. Mracek Pond similarly so but had the first Blue- and Green-winged Teals of the trip and a small selection of heron species. Nine Mile Pond was semi-comatose so I ended up back at Paurotis Pond finding the same species, although an Alligator was terrorizing the Coot flock. Mahogany Hammock was very quiet in the early afternoon with just 2 Catbirds. Back at Anhinga briefly but there was nothing special so I started the long drive north to the West Palm Beach area.
In the late afternoon at Green Cay Wetlands there were no feeders at the visitor center (I was starting to discover that the Tropical Audubon species locations weren't totally accurate). Most of the activity was located in the middle of the boardwalk, although I did walk the entire perimeter. Seen: Pied-billed Grebe, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Common Moorhen, American Coot, White-winged Dove, many Boat-tailed Grackles, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, a few other heron sp but mostly waterfowl and chickens. At one patch in the trail there were passerines: Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, Blue Jay. Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. And the first Northern Harrier, which had otherwise been elusive.
Evening at the Motel 6 at Pompano Beach - your standard basic M6, worn out and a little noisy, but servicable. A bizarre sight the following morning was a pair of domestic Muscovy Ducks feeding on the lawn. The Motel6 was conveniently close to a gas station, McDonald's and the Turnpike entrance although it was a little further from Wakodahatchee and Green Cay than would have been ideal.
Dawn-ish at Wakodahatchee Wetlands: a Wilson's Snipe, one Black-necked Stilt, Mottled Duck, lots of Blue-winged Teal, American Coot, Common Moorhen, quite a few nesting herons - incl Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue, Green, probably Tricolored. The heron nesting has expanded in the last few years there, obviously (it's been 4-5 years since I was last at Wakodahatchee). Also: Pied-billed Grebe, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, both grackles, Red-winged Blackbird, one Limpkin passing through, and a single leucistic Peacock perched on the hood of my car in the parking area. In the back section of the boardwalk an immature Cooper's Hawk killed a Moorhen but was having a hard time dealing with it. I also saw an adult Cooper's Hawk overhead later. Wakodahatchee gave the impression of having more nesting birds than Anhinga trail.
I did a quick pass at the nearby Green Cay Wetlands - more or less identical to previous day, with less grackles and more Purple Martins. Green Cay notably had rather small numbers of herons who were perhaps busy nesting elsewhere.
Next onto Loxahatchee NWR which is only a little further away. Having overshot the turn for the overlook I was turning around when I found a Snail Kite hunting over the marsh, ultimately giving me my best looks ever view from the overlook parking lot. Also there were: Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, Cattle Egret, a tame Limpkin family that crossed the trail in front of me with a total of five young, Anhinga, White Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck. I found a second Snail Kite near where I found the Limpkin family. The activity seemed relatively quiet. I did the boardwalk loop near the visitor center but found basically nothing along it.
Then in the early afternoon I tracked north to Okeeheelee Nature Center and the feeders behind the nature center were immediately productive: Painted and Indigo Buntings, tame Palm Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Dickcissel, Gray Catbird. At the nature center itself they were doing a demo for school kids which included a human-imprinted but otherwise healthy Eastern Screech-Owl which I was allowed to pet briefly.
Heading south, I stopped at Fern Forest and found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch with the exception of fly-over Vultures and my second ever Armadillo.
Then on to the library wetlands (Broward Co) which were unkempt and with the exception of a single Monk Parakeet and a White Ibis, contained just grackles and other icterids. My experience there reinforced the impression that the Tropical Audubon Society site listings were out of date since it's hard to imagine this being productive for anything. Thankfully it wasn't far at all from my destination for the evening.
Finally, towards sunset, to Brian Piccolo Park, whose most notable bird is the multiple breeding Burrowing Owls. In this event I found only one pair that was cooperative so I'm not sure how many burrows were actually occupied. Monk Parakeets, Killdeer and a Cooper's Hawk were also in this park.
Overnight back at Cutler Bay Motel 6. Staging for the drive west via Shark Valley the following morning.
On the way out along Tamiami trail there was a large fire in the swamp area along the north side of US-41 near Miami. This was even casting a little shadow as far away as Shark Valley entrance, but at that time of day (7am) the Shark Valley entrance was closed. Instead I spent some time along Big Cypress loop road before Shark Valley opened: Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, both Vultures, Belted Kingfisher. One of the Great Blues was a "Great White Heron" which refused to pose for more than head shots. At Shark Valley (opens 8:30am) there was quite limited diversity and low numbers - a few herons: fly-by White Ibis, a small group of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Great Blue Heron. In addition: Anhinga, Common Moorhen, Purple Gallinule. Really quite slow. Best birds were an immature dark morph Short-tailed Hawk at 10:30am floating in with a vulture flock, and Great Horned Owl nesting in the parking lot !!
Then west to the Big Cypress Boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand SP - quiet except near the end of the boardwalk where I found: Great Crested Flycatcher, Gray Catbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Parula singing. At the observation platform at the end of the trail there was one White Ibis, one Great Blue Heron and a Red-shouldered Hawk that dropped down onto an obscured perch before hunting down a frog (?) and flying away. There were no Barred Owls whatsoever, and no volunteers point out anything. There was the traditional Bald Eagle nest, in active use, about half-way along the trail but that was easy to find because it's both massive and signposted.
I cut north through Immokalee to Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp: which was deathly quiet for the most part and absolutely not worth the $10 entrance fee. Two Swallow-tailed Kites seen from the parking lot, a shy set of three female and one male Painted Buntings at the alternative feeders (not the ones at the visitor center). The swamp was a little dry at the southern side of the loop boardwalk but wet enough on the northern side. On the southern side there was very limited activity - no hawk nests, no passerines, but a fly-by Pileated Woodpecker to keep things moving. Along the north side, a mixed flock of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Pine Warbler, Northern Parula, Blue-headed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler, Tufted Titmouse. But there was minimal activity at the Lettuce lake area: a few White Ibis, Anhinga, one Great Egret, one Limpkin, and that's pretty much it. DEATHLY slow, with no Red-shouldered Hawk or Barred Owl. And no nesting Wood Storks. I did not return on this trip. It's been quite a while (and perhaps as much as a decade) since I last had a really good experience at Corkscrew.
Further north still to Babcock-Webb WMA, north-east of Fort Myers, to do some sunset rummaging in the pine flatwoods: Boat-tailed Grackle, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a few heard Eastern Towhee, but neither of the target birds (Red-cockaded Woodpecker or Bachman's Sparrow). A consolation prize was a Brown-headed Nuthatch that I found while tracking down it's call when searching for RCWO's.
Overnight at the Motel 6 at North Fort Myers, which turned out to be noisy with late night arrivals of beachgoers. Not recommended despite being allegedly "refreshed" and it's certainly showing its age. The nearby Days Inn might have competitive rates.
Sanibel Island beach at the lighthouse was busy with people at dawn, but notsomuch with birds. Nothing on north side beach, but on the south side there were a few Ruddy Turnstones and perhaps more distant stuff. Instead I went to Ding Darling NWR whose wildlife drive opens at 0730. In several locations were Common Ground-Dove which were generally skittish but also flushed by witless birding tourists, the usual herons including Reddish Egret, and both Night-Herons, only one Roseate Spoonbill, but there were large flocks of shorebirds which were universally in bad light and limited my ability to indentify the challenging ones (probably Least Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher) but also Willet, Dunlin, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plover and Semipalmated Plover. A low heron count, with only a few Pied-billed Grebe, one Bald Eagle, and heard Red-shouldered Hawk. I overhead a conversation indicating that it was the same the previous day, so after doing two passes around the wildlife drive I called it a day and left Sanibel altogether.
I skipped Corkscrew Swamp because I expected it to be no better than the previous day (and it's too expensive to indulge in crappy birding).
Instead I headed north to the Venice area. I started at Shamrock Park where it was quiet in the late morning but where I did find one Florida Scrub Jay. I checked the Venice Rookery for activity - as indicated they have cleared out the foliage from the back of the rookery so now you have a charming view of the mobile home park as a backdrop. Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret and Anhinga were breeding there.
In the early afternoon I went to Oscar Scherer - on a weekend I expected it to be moderately busy and this was the case. At the end of the road I found two Florida Scrub Jays, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Downy Woodpecjer, Red-bellied Woodpecker, but in fact the best birds were a pair of Brown Thrashers. The Florida Scrub Jays did not pose for me, despite me waiting for a while in the lot, so eventually I made my way back to Venice Rookery to do some shooting toward sunset. In general Venice Rookery is better at dawn, but I did get a few shots. Over in the mobile home park there was a big Glossy Ibis flock and some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks around a pool.
Overnight Bradenton Motel 6 which is a piece of crap and should be avoided at all costs (but also booked out), but at least splurged a few $ on a local good Thai-Sushi place to break up the monotony of Subway sandwiches and McDonald's breakfasts.
The car was wet when I put the bags into it in the parking lot, so that didn't bode well for the morning's photography in St Petersburg. So although the drive to Fort De Soto was smooth, the weather was overcast with intermittent rain. The Tampa area was supposed to clear in the afternoon, but this was a weekend and so the beach would be packed by that time. At North Beach in Fort De Soto I saw: Red Knot flock, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Willet, Wilson's Plover, a Forster's Tern, one Royal Tern, Reddish Egret, Little Blue, White Ibis. Part of the beach is roped off as a foraging and breeding area, but the birds are relatively tame and approachable on the public part of the beach. Trouble is, the light was pretty bad. In the foliage off the parking lot I found multiple Yellow-throated Warblers as well as the inevitable Palm and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Ground-Dove and American Kestrel hunting the Doves. After waiting for a while for a mythical clearing patch I left the area to drive south 170 miles and pursue a sighting of Shiny Cowbird (a life bird) at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island.
On the way out of Fort De Soto there was a pullout with an active eagle nest, but the light was horrible so I have no idea why the photographers were shooting there - force of habit perhaps. However the pond at the pullout held Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks, both new birds for the trip.
The weather was overcast, with a little rain, the entire drive south although it was clearing somewhat from the west. I got to Tigertail Beach SP on Marco Island and found the beach fairly empty with only a few people there - perhaps the weather had literally dampened enthusiasm. Kind of remarkable for 11am on a Sunday. I didn't find any cowbirds of either species at Tigertail, and nor did I see any when cruising the neighborhood afterwards, and the only icterids I saw where Boat-tailed Grackles. I did, however, get to do some photography in imperfect light with close views of Red Knot, Dunlin (numerous), Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper (one of which had quite a lot of rufous alternate plumage coming in) and silent Dowitchers that were probably Short-billed. A few Black-bellied Plover and two Wilson's Plover were also present. Heron numbers were low.
I mentally reviewed options: Corkscrew, Ding Darling and Fakahatchee strand had all been slow with no photo ops worth of mention, and these were all the local sites within reasonable distance. So I decided to head East. Before I did so I checked Eagle Lakes Community Park for cowbirds, found none, but a huge flock of Tree Swallows (hundreds to a few thousand) and a Loggerhead Shrike (only my second one of the trip). Then I headed east on US-41/Tamiami Trail. I skipped the new Thousand Islands NWR trail because it was hot in the middle of the day, but I did stop at Port of Islands resort to check for Manatees at the channel there. I found none but did find Common Ground-Dove and a Swallow-tailed Kite swooping lower over the entrance road. Common Ground-Dove were particularly widespread on this trip.
I made a short stop at Shark Valley in relatively cloudy conditions but it was quiet there - the owl was still present, a Tricolored Heron and nothing worth of note. So in bad light and time ticking on, I headed to a local Miami birding site: Castelow Hammock. I drove in at 4:45 and found a sign that said the gate closed at 4:30pm. It doesn't say that on the gate but I didn't feel like parking roadside and risking theft while walking the hammock. Or worse still getting locked in. After that bit of futility I headed to the nearby Chekika part of Everglades NP, getting there at 5:15 and finding out that it "closed" at 5pm - not that there were any rangers to enforce that. Chekika was very slow: a few Kingfishers on the wires, Tree Swallow but absolutely no herons. I didn't spend much time here either, but headed down to the Days Inn at Homestead who were friendly but experiencing some issues getting rooms cleared in the aftermath of a local speedway race.
Morning at Anhinga trail again produced pretty much the same species as the previous week's visit, including the American Bittern which was less cooperatively posing (it was simply too close, even for my 500mm on a full frame Canon 5D). However I did see two pale morph Short-tailed Hawks - one distant, harassed by crows, and one that was circling right over my head producing good photographs. Further away I did spot a Swallow-tailed Kite again. Otherwise it was a predictable set of birds, in some cases probably the same individuals.
From Anhinga I eschewed heading deeper into the Everglades and instead went into the FL Keys to make a stop at the wild bird rehab center in Tavernier. $5 donation requested. They do a lot of very worthwhile rehab work there on injured birds. In some cases the birds are permanently incapacitated so there's some sort of revolving display of wild birds there, some of which are more permanent than others. There are also some absurdly tame wild Pelicans and Egrets there because they're very aware that they can get fed if they hang around. This time it was mainly Great Egrets, Brown Pelicans and White Ibis and I was way too early for the 3 or 3:30pm feeding time that attracts a large number of Brown Pelicans. I did get a Black-and-White Warbler in the small parking lot, but that's it. I was going to get a replacement birding hat from the gift shop, but that was closed. I came north back out of the keys via Card Sound Road, but that didn't add anything of note.
I then went off on what's best described as an Odyssey of Bullshit. I drove through suburban southern Miami to Bill Sadowski park following the Tropical Audubon site description. Google maps put me on the wrong side of the park, but I soon fixed that. What I found, however, was that the park was closed. Tropical Audubon details don't indicate that it should be like that, and they don't link to the Miami-Dade site for that park. OK, so then I decided I'd head for the next nearest site, Castelow Hammock - at least it wasn't 4:30. After a little while and a little traffic I got there and found that the park was closed here too. WTF ? Turns out that Tropical Audubon has not updated it's opening/closing times in a while and both these parks are closed on Monday and Tuesday. In short you can't trust the TAS site for times, although of course the site directions are fine - after all sites don't move. (The same issue probably pertains to using Bill Pranty's ABA/Lane guide to FL, although I wasn't using that for these sites since I prefer web-based services). I was, shall we say, seriously annoyed.
So great, two sites, zero results, and a couple of wasted hours. This was the end of the trip, I was tired, and the nearest site that I knew was useful was Anhinga Trail. So back there I went, for something like the 4th time this trip. I stayed there through sunset. The birds along the trail itself were the same - as you'd expect. I spent a certain amount of time sitting in the shade avoiding the worst of the sun (I'm a redhead, so after 7 days in FL I was pretty firmly roasted). As the time wore on the big vulture roost started to build as endless streams came in off the thermals. I wandered back to the parking lot as the sun lowered. I started to pack away my camera, when suddenly a Swallow-tailed Kite swooped low across the lot, then another. I stuck around to watch this and shoot photos of it, and came up with a maximum count of five Swallow-tailed Kites which were rather vocal at times, some of which were also carrying prey (a frog and the other one might have been a snake). I also saw one of the light morph Short-tailed Hawks coming into roost. All told quite a good end to the trip, although most of the middle of the last day was futility.
I ended up with 118 species, including the heard-only Towhee, and also including the one bonus life bird, the La Sagra's Flycatcher seen on the first day of the trip. This is a lower trip count than my TX trips but rather typical for my FL trips. I spent the last night in Miami at the Runway Inn on the northern edge of the airport, flying back to PHL (and rather chillier weather) via a partly-filled American Airlines flight.
|Pied-billed Grebe||Podilymbus podiceps|
|American White Pelican||Pelecanus erythrorhynchos|
|Brown Pelican||Pelecanus occidentalis|
|Double-crested Cormorant||Phalacrocorax auritus|
|American Bittern||Botaurus lentiginosus||Anhinga Trail|
|Great Blue Heron||Ardea herodias|
|Great Egret||Ardea alba|
|Snowy Egret||Egretta thula|
|Little Blue Heron||Egretta caerulea|
|Tricolored Heron||Egretta tricolor|
|Reddish Egret||Egretta rufescens||Fort De Soto|
|Cattle Egret||Bubulcus ibis|
|Green Heron||Butorides virescens|
|Black-crowned Night-Heron||Nycticorax nycticorax|
|Yellow-crowned Night-Heron||Nyctanassa violacea|
|White Ibis||Eudocimus albus|
|Glossy Ibis||Plegadis falcinellus|
|Roseate Spoonbill||Platalea ajaja|
|Wood Stork||Mycteria americana|
|Black Vulture||Coragyps atratus|
|Turkey Vulture||Cathartes aura|
|Black-bellied Whistling-Duck||Dendrocygna autumnalis||Venice|
|Mottled Duck||Anas fulvigula|
|Blue-winged Teal||Anas discors|
|Green-winged Teal||Anas crecca|
|Ring-necked Duck||Aythya collaris||Fort De Soto|
|Lesser Scaup||Aythya affinis||Fort De Soto|
|Swallow-tailed Kite||Elanoides forficatus||Everglades, Corkscrew|
|Snail Kite||Rostrhamus sociabilis||Loxahatchee NWR|
|Bald Eagle||Haliaeetus leucocephalus|
|Northern Harrier||Circus cyaneus|
|Cooper's Hawk||Accipiter cooperii|
|Red-shouldered Hawk||Buteo lineatus|
|Short-tailed Hawk||Buteo brachyurus||Everglades - Anhinga and Shark Valley|
|Red-tailed Hawk||Buteo jamaicensis||Everglades|
|American Kestrel||Falco sparverius|
|Purple Gallinule||Porphyrio martinica|
|Common Moorhen||Gallinula chloropus|
|American Coot||Fulica americana|
|Limpkin||Aramus guarauna||Wakodahatchee, Loxahatchee, Corkscrew|
|Black-bellied Plover||Pluvialis squatarola|
|Wilson's Plover||Charadrius wilsonia||Fort De Soto, Marco Island|
|Semipalmated Plover||Charadrius semipalmatus||Fort De Soto, Marco Island|
|American Oystercatcher||Haematopus palliatus||Fort De Soto|
|Black-necked Stilt||Himantopus mexicanus||Wakodahatchee|
|Greater Yellowlegs||Tringa melanoleuca||Cutler Wetlands|
|Lesser Yellowlegs||Tringa flavipes||Ding Darling NWR|
|Ruddy Turnstone||Arenaria interpres||Fort De Soto, Marco Island, Sanibel|
|Red Knot||Calidris canutus||Fort De Soto, Marco Island|
|Sanderling||Calidris alba||Fort De Soto, Marco Island|
|Western Sandpiper||Calidris mauri||Marco Island|
|Least Sandpiper||Calidris minutilla|
|Dowitcher sp (Short-b?)||Limnodromus|
|Wilson's Snipe||Gallinago delicata||Wakodahatchee|
|Laughing Gull||Larus atricilla|
|Ring-billed Gull||Larus delawarensis|
|Herring Gull||Larus argentatus||fly-overs at Wakodahatchee|
|Royal Tern||Sterna maxima|
|Forster's Tern||Sterna forsteri||Fort De Soto|
|Black Skimmer||Rynchops niger||Flamingo|
|Eurasian Collared-Dove||Streptopelia decaocto|
|White-winged Dove||Zenaida asiatica|
|Mourning Dove||Zenaida macroura|
|Common Ground-Dove||Columbina passerina||quite widespread|
|Monk Parakeet||Myiopsitta monachus||Brian Piccolo|
|Great Horned Owl||Bubo virginianus||Shark Valley|
|Burrowing Owl||Athene cunicularia||Brian Piccolo Park|
|Belted Kingfisher||Megaceryle alcyon|
|Red-bellied Woodpecker||Melanerpes carolinus|
|Yellow-bellied Sapsucker||Sphyrapicus varius||Big Cypress loop road|
|Downy Woodpecker||Picoides pubescens|
|Eastern Phoebe||Sayornis phoebe|
|Great Crested Flycatcher||Myiarchus crinitus|
|La Sagra's Flycatcher||Myiarchus sagrae||Bill Baggs SP|
|Loggerhead Shrike||Lanius ludovicianus||only two, both suburban|
|White-eyed Vireo||Vireo griseus|
|Blue-headed Vireo||Vireo solitarius|
|Blue Jay||Cyanocitta cristata|
|Florida Scrub-Jay||Aphelocoma coerulescens||Shamrock Park, Oscar Scherer|
|American Crow||Corvus brachyrhynchos||apparently the only crow in the interior Everglades|
|Fish Crow||Corvus ossifragus||Fort De Soto|
|Purple Martin||Progne subis||Robert Is Here store, Green Cay|
|Tree Swallow||Tachycineta bicolor||some areas held massive flocks|
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow||Stelgidopteryx serripennis||Green Cay Wetlands|
|Tufted Titmouse||Baeolophus bicolor||Big Cypress loop|
|Brown-headed Nuthatch||Sitta pusilla||Babcock-Webb WMA|
|Blue-gray Gnatcatcher||Polioptila caerulea|
|Gray Catbird||Dumetella carolinensis|
|Northern Mockingbird||Mimus polyglottos|
|Brown Thrasher||Toxostoma rufum||Oscar Scherer SP|
|European Starling||Sturnus vulgaris|
|Northern Parula||Parula americana||Bill Baggs SP|
|Yellow-rumped Warbler||Dendroica coronata||second commonest|
|Yellow-throated Warbler||Dendroica dominica||Fort De Soto|
|Pine Warbler||Dendroica pinus||Corkscrew|
|Prairie Warbler||Dendroica discolor||Everglades, Keys|
|Palm Warbler||Dendroica palmarum||commonest warbler|
|Black-and-white Warbler||Mniotilta varia|
|Louisiana Waterthrush||Parkesia motacilla||Everglades|
|Common Yellowthroat||Geothlypis trichas|
|Eastern Towhee||Pipilo erythrophthalmus||heard at Babcock-Webb|
|Northern Cardinal||Cardinalis cardinalis|
|Indigo Bunting||Passerina cyanea||Okeeheelee Nature Ctr|
|Painted Bunting||Passerina ciris||Okeeheelee Nature Ctr|
|Dickcissel||Spiza americana||Okeeheelee Nature Ctr|
|Red-winged Blackbird||Agelaius phoeniceus|
|Eastern Meadowlark||Sturnella magna||Everglades|
|Common Grackle||Quiscalus quiscula|
|Boat-tailed Grackle||Quiscalus major|
|Brown-headed Cowbird||Molothrus ater||Everglades, Fort De Soto|
|House Sparrow||Passer domesticus||urban|
Fort DeSoto Park on the southern tip of the St. Petersburg peninsula, access via I-275 and Rt 682. Location guide including post-2005-hurricane updates. North Beach appears to be best - facilities here are excellent and it probably attracts crowds which would reduce the usefulness of late afternoon shooting.
Myakka River State Park
The park is located 9 miles east of I-75 in Sarasota along State Road 72, Sarasota, FL. (941) 361 6511. Entrance fees were $3.00 per vehicle 1/2006 (just me). Open everyday, 8:00 AM until Sunset. About 60 miles south of Tampa; 15 miles east of Sarasota, 9 miles east of I-75. Best locations are the spillway off the tram/concession overflow parking lot, and the shoreline before the Clay Gully bird boardwalk.
Oscar Scherer State Park
1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, FL. (941) 483-5956 Oscar Scherer State Park is located on U.S.41, south of Sarasota. Heading south on I-75 take exit 198 (rt 681) and follow signs to Osprey. Heading north on I-75 take exit 195 (Laurel Rd). About 10 miles south of Sarasota. The park opens 8am, closes sunset. $4 fee per vehicle.
The Venice Rookery is on Route 41 in Venice a short block west of Jacaranda Blvd and south of Rt-41. (south-west of Jacaranda/Rt-41 intersection). The entrance road is an Annex between a Florida Highway Patrol (police) building and the Sarasota County Courthouse. About 15 miles south of Sarasota. To reach the Venice Rookery from Interstate 75, take exit 193 at Jacaranda Blvd. Travel southwest for about five miles along Jacaranda and turn right onto Route 41 heading west/north. As soon as you complete that right turn, get into the left lane and make the first left turn. You'll enter a small street called the Annex between the Highway Patrol building and the courthouse. Proceed for several hundred feet and the rookery will be on the right side. Parking is in a paved lot on the left. There is now a covered picnic structure on the site. Best at dawn.
Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel Island (and Ding Darling Society)
Wildlife Drive - five miles; one-way drive with interpretive signs. observation tower and pavilion. Open to pedestrians and bicyclists sunrise to sunset every day except Friday. The front gate opens to vehicles 7am or 7:30am and closes sunset (5:30 or 6pm in Feb/Mar). $5 entrance fee (free with Golden Eagle, Duck Stamps), CLOSED FRIDAYS. Sanibel accessed via Fort Myers/Cape Coral via Summerlin Rd (avoid McGregor) with connections to Rt-41 and I-72 via Cypress Parkway/Daniels Parkway, Cypress Lake Parkway. DO NOT TAKE McGREGOR which is much slower.
Lighthouse at the eastern tip of Sanibel Island highly variable but potentially good at dawn and perhaps dusk. Turn left after causeway at 4-way stop sign. Parking is $2/hour. There tends to be a lot of beach activity starting fairly early in the morning.
Ding Darling Bailey's Tract: South on Tarpon Bay Road from Bailey's Store (corner Periwinkle Way/Tarpon Bay Rd). Entrance on right approx. 1/2 mile. Clapper Rail, Sora, Sedge Wren, Wilson's Snipe at Ani Pond and Sanibel Gardens.
Estero Lagoon/Ft. Myers Beach
To reach Estero/Ft. Myers beach, go north on Hwy 41 to Bonita Beach Road (about 15 miles north of Naples) and turn left. Or get off at exit ?? (old #18) on I-75 and head west. Estero Beach Lagoon is located behind the Holiday Inn. (Park across the street in the winter if the parking lot seems full). You would never guess that one of the top birding spots in Florida is 100 yards away as you drive down this congested road. There is an extremely wide beach to the north and a lagoon to the south. The beach may have 200+ Skimmers in the winter. Also look for Sandwich and Royal Terns. The traffic around here can be moderately hellish.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
375 Sanctuary Road West, Naples, FL. Telephone: 941-348-9151. $10 fee. Hours December 1 through April 30: 7 AM to 5:30 PM About 10 miles east of I-75 Naples via Immokalee Rd (846?), or from north of Ft Myers as SR-82 into Immokalee and south out of Immokalee on Rt-846. Wood Storks nesting off boardwalk in 2006 resulted in some boardwalk closure.
Briggs Nature Center
Hours Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. On Rt 951 south of I-75 just after it turns east. Adults $7.50; (Admission is good for both the Briggs Nature Center and the Naples Nature Center if visited within seven days.) No longer definitive for Shiny Cowbird, so there's no compelling reason to visit here.
Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park is located on Janes Memorial Scenic Drive, just west of Copeland on S.R. 29. Copeland is north of Tamiami Trail between Naples and Shark Valley. The Big Cypress boardwalk is actually off Tamiami Trail in the general vicinity of Everglades City (nor far east of Port of Islands).
There's a new marsh trail into Thousand Islands NWR on the south side of US-41, 3 miles east of SR-92 and three miles west of Port of Islands.
Merritt Island NWR
Exit 80 off I-95 (north of SR-50). Follow Rt 406 east onto the island - beach pullouts on both sides of the causeway, an info center just over the bridge, but the main attraction is the Black Point Wildlife Drive which is where most of the action is to be found.
Arthur R. Marshall Wilderness (Loxahatchee) is off Boynton Beach Blvd.
West of the Turnpike then south on 441, turn at Lee road
Hours - every day except xmas from sunrise to sunset. Visitor center is 9am-4pm weekdays, -4:30pm weekends. Reserve itself is 5am-6pm. Some hurricane damage in 2008.
The Wakodahatchee Wetlands are located in suburban Delray Beach on the east side of Jog Road between Woolbright Road and Atlantic Avenue (Exit Route 95 onto Atlantic Avenue West; continue to Jog Road; turn right; park is on the right) The site is on the southeast side of Palm Beach County Water Utility Department's Southern Region Operations Center at 13026 Jog Road, Delray Beach. The wetlands are open to the general public from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. No admission charge.
Another filter marsh about 1 mile NW of Wakadohatchee. Called Green Cay (proun. "key"), it's much bigger and more open, attracting an interesting mix. Same boardwalks, etc., and a nature center. Located at 12800 Hagen Ranch Road about a mile and a half south of Boynton Beach Boulevard, or 2 miles north of Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Open sunrise to sunset. No admission charge.
Okeeheelee Park nature trails. 7500/7715 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33413.
Shark Valley/Everglades Shark Valley hours are 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. First tram 9am. Best along the outbound (straight) tram road in the mornings in the first 200-300 yards. The Snail Kite roost to the west of the entrance at the abandoned airboat ride still seems to be active in 2006.
Anhinga Trail/Everglades National Park Service hours etc. Mracek Pond, Mahogany Hammock, Eco Pond/Flamingo - back in 2008 there were fairly extensive closures in effect at Flamingo at the sw terminus of the road. I'm not sure how much this applies these days. The main entrance is open 24 hours per day.
FL Keys Wild Bird Center 93600 Overseas Highway, Tavernier - rehab place that attracts some wild birds (e.g. Wurdemanns, and a ton of Brown Pelicans) because of their regular feeding schedule.
Brian Piccolo Park
9501 Sheridan St., Cooper City, FL 33024. Tel: (954) 437-2600 As of 2002: Winter Park Hours 8 a.m.-6 p.m. beginning the last Sunday in October.
From I-95, exit at Sheridan (about 2 exits south of Ft. Lauderdale airport) and head west for probably 4-5 miles. You'll see signs for the park. From I-95, exit at Sheridan (about 2 exits south of Ft. Lauderdale airport) and head west for probably 4-5 miles. You'll see signs for the park. It's a big multi-purpose park with lots of open fields. The burrowing owl burrows are clearly marked and cordoned for their protecton. Naturally, despite the fact that this is an open public parkground, normal bird photography etiquette applies. They collect $1 per person entry fee on weekends.
The campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is locally famous for its population of Burrowing Owls. I believe the Burrowing Owl is the schools's mascot. Images of the little critter appear on all kinds of Florida Atlantic things. Their burrows can be found in the fields all around the perimeter of the campus.
Burrowing Owl Locations from 2002 article
One more great spot is the Venice Inlet (aka the Venice Jetty) at the south end of Casey Key. Take 41 south to Albee Road, cross the bridge to Casey Key, then continue south on Casey Key road to the end of the island. This is a good spot for Pelicans and small Herons, and is often covered up with shorebirds, especially around sunset.
Shamrock Park in Venice also has Florida Scrub-Jay. Follow Rt-41 north/west out of the rookery site. Shortly before Rt-41 and Rt-41 Business split, take Shamrock Drive to the west (left). Follow this for about 1.7 miles to the Shamrock Park Nature Center on the right. Taking Center St to the west off Jacaranda should put you into Rt-41 just north of Shamrock Dr.
Eagle Lakes Community Park se of Naples: Bronzed Cowbirds in 2/2004. Shiny Cowbirds in 2/2002. From the junction of C.R. 951 (Collier Blvd.) and U.S. Rte. 41 in Naples, go north on U.S. Rte. 41 for approximately one mile until you see the sign for the park on your right. Park near the sports field. Walk east until you see the mitigation impoundments. There are three total with the best one being the one with the Bald Cypress trees in it. (Update: Bronzed Cowbirds are moderately reliable - I saw them in 2008 - Shiny Cowbirds are elusive at best. Early morning is best before the cowbirds depart.)
Bachman's Sparrow: in Ocala State Forest Riverside Island & around Lake Delancy in the northern part of the forest are really good for Bachman's. Also anywhere there are trees marked for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers is usually good habitat. I've heard them singing as early as mid to late February. Make sure you know the song beforehand.
Apopka Kingbird roost: Directions: From S.R. 441 (Orange Blossom Trail) between Apopka + Zellwood, turn south C.R. 437. Continue going South CR-437 past Lust Rd, 0.9 miles Hooper's Farm Nursery on right. Kingbird roost on left along Power lines in back of field. (DeLORME p.79). Park and pull off between Orange grove and field. Birders beware, road is 55 m.p.h! Scope needed for good viewing. Fork-tailed Flycatcher seen 5:15-5:40 PM as of mid-Jan. Birders please stay along road as not to disturb the birds coming to roost. Ash-throated Flycatcher seen at Lust Rd gate to Apopka. May also see birds a little north of the roost across from Harmon Rd. I-4 to Turnpike north to Ocoee/SR-429 (toll), follow SR-429 north to Apopka, left onto SR-441 and left within the next mile or two onto CR-437. SR-429 is not shown on older maps (e.g. my DeLorme).
Orlando Wetlands park: A water reclamation system east of Orlando off SR50 with a small reception area. Large open ponds with extensive fresh water marsh. From Orlando, drive east on SR-50 to Christmas. Go north 2.3 miles on Fort Christmas Road (CR-420), then 1.5 miles east on Wheeler Road (an unpaved road). The parking area is on the left. Another neat place is the little parking lot across the street from the entrance to OWP - the Seminole Ranch property.
Disney Wilderness Preserve (Nature Conservancy). Over 11,000 acres of wetlands, flatwoods, scrubs, creeks, lakes, and trails. Phone (407) 935-0002 - Entrance is at Scrub Jay Trail, off Pleasant Hill Rd., 1/2 mile west of Poinciana Blvd. Go left on Scrub Jay Trail to Visitors Center and parking. From I-4: exit onto Hwy. 535 and head south. Follow 535 to Poinciana Blvd. Turn right (south) onto Poinciana Blvd. Follow Poinciana Blvd. approximately 15 miles until you reach the intersection of Poinciana Blvd. and Pleasant Hill Road. Turn right onto Pleasant Hill Rd. Approx 1/4 mile, turn left onto Old Pleasant Hill Road from a left-hand turn lane. Watch for these landmarks: sign for Old Pleasant Hill Rd., green "The Nature Conservancy," sign and a large Poinciana sign on stone work on the right-hand side of the road opposite of the turn. After turning left, go a 1/2 mile to Scrub Jay Trail. Turn left and follow Scrub Jay Trail to The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Learning Center.
Brinson Park Drive south on US17/92 into downtown Kissimmee then east onto CR525 Neptune road, the park is shortly reached and is the area where the highway bisects two areas of water, the large Lake Tohopekaliga is to your left. (Snail Kite, Limpkin).
Cypress Lake Road: located approx. 15 miles south of Kissimmee off highway 523 (Canoe Creek Rd). An area of rough grassland, mixed pine forest, boat ramp overlooking lake. Crested Caracara, Sandhill Crane and Loggerhead Shrike. Joe Overstreet Road: this area is located a further 5 miles or so south of Cypress Lake off Highway 523 (Canoe Creek Road) a similar habitat to that of the Cypress lake plus grazed farm land leading down to Lake Kissimmee. (Caracara etc) This is the road to Three Lakes WMA.
Threelakes Wildlife Management Area): Habitat of scattered pines over a vast area with large tracts of open land. Specialities: Red-cockaded woodpecker - nesting clan at the entrance gate - look through the scattered pines for trees with white rings painted around them then just wait from a sensible distance, Crested Caracara, Bachmans Sparrow - best seen in a large open area about 3/4 mile into the reserve. Take US441 south east out of Kissimee then CR523 south at St Cloud on Canoe Creek Road for approx. 23 miles to find the entrance to your right (sign posted). Route also passes road to Cypress Lake and Joe Overstreet. [Alt directions: From Kenansville, take Florida Highway 523 (Canoe Creek Road) 9 miles northwest. Park entrance is on the left (west).]
Boggy Creek Airboat: 192 East to Poinciana Blvd. Make a right on Poinciana Blvd and go 19 miles south until it dead ends. (Poinciana will change names to Southport Rd.) (Snail Kite). This seems to be just below the Disney Preserve.
Honeymoon Island (HMI), Gulf coast north of Tampa. Shorebirds and landbird migration.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker: Ocala NF, crossroads of CR-314 and FR-88 approximately three miles south west of Salt Springs. At Three Lakes WMA: fed noisily along the Florida Scenic trail approximately 100 yards from the entrance to Prairie Lakes (see map Pranty p.155)
Lake Kissimmee State Park (Pranty p.158) (Reddish Egret, Scrub-Jay)
Sea-watching at Turtle Mound on the Atlantic coast (Pranty p.175)
Clay Island, west side of Lake Apopka, had many Snipe along Canal section on 1/24.
From trip report: Collier Co Rt 92 into Marco Island for Mangrove Cuckoo (unspecified pull-offs). Mangrove Cuckoo at Rowdy Bend in Everglades. Mangrove Cuckoo also reported from Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda (4000 W. Marion Avenue) in mangroves near the flats [Pranty p. 188].
Spot-Breasted Orioles can often be found in the Native Planting area of Kenwood Elementary School. From U.S. 1 in South Miami, turn west on Kendall Drive (also called SW 88th St.), go 0.3 mile and turn left on SW 79th St. Go about 0.2 mile to the Kenwood Elementary parking lot on the right, and park. Walk south between the two white school buildings and enter the Native Planting area. Look for the Oriole, and also Red-Whiskered Bulbuls, in the vicinity. The Oriole is also commonly found at A.D. Barnes County Park, located at Bird Road (SW 40th St.) and S.W. 72nd Ave. ALSO: Spot-breasted Oriole Tropical Audobon society grounds in Miami.
Baptist Hospital area in Kendall for exotics such as Spot-breasted Oriole, White-winged Parakeet, Red-whiskered Bulbul. (see Pranty).
Lucky Hammock: officially the Frog Pond WMA, local birders call the area "Lucky Hammock" because of the good fortune we have had birding there. From the end of the Turnpike at Florida City, take SR-9336 toward the main entrance of Everglades NP (follow Everglades signs). From Krome Ave, it is 8 miles to Aerojet Rd. Aerojet Rd is about 1/2 mile before the park boundary and 1/2 mile past the C-111 canal. There is a big sign for the Southern Glades Youth Camp. Turn left (south) on Aerojet Rd. Lucky Hammock is about 1/4 mile on the right. Bird the hammock and the shrubby area across the street. Check the fields. When you are done there, head further south to the sign for the Southern Glades WEA, which marks the end of Frog Pond WMA. The "Annex" is the area between the Southern Glades WEA sign and the gate just beyond the youth camp entrance. It also has good birding. The area further south of the gate only recently opened up. In March 2011 there was fencing being put up near Lucky Hammock which may limit access.
A.D.Barnes Park: Directions: From the Palmetto Expressway, exit at Bird Road (SW 40 Street). Drive east 0.5 miles to SW 72 Avenue and turn left to the park entrance (no fee, check hours).
Matheson Hammock Park: From US 1, drive east 2.4 miles on North Kendall Drive (SW 88 Street) to Old Cutler Road. Turn right and drive south 0.6 miles to the park entrance (fee for beach area, open sunrise to sunset).
Bill Sadowski Park: This small park (no fee, open sunrise to sunset) is located at SW 176 Street and 79th Avenue, 0.5 mile west of Old Cutler Road. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Cutler Wetlands: This small mitigation marsh is located at the intersection of SW 97 Avenue and SW 224 Street. From Old Cutler Road, drive east 0.5 miles on SW 224 Street. From SW 248 Street, drive north 1.5 miles on SW 97 Avenue. Find a place to park along SW 224 Street.
Kirby Storter Boardwalk (Big Cypress National Preserve): Located 3.3 miles west of Monroe Station, on the south side of Tamiami Trail, this half-mile boardwalk passes through cypress swamp in Georges Strand. Look for Eastern Bluebird around the parking area, and Tufted Titmouse and migrant and wintering songbirds along the boardwalk.
Sarasota Celery Fields: Snipe, Sora etc. From I-75 take Exit 210, Fruitville Road east. Make right at Coburn Road light and follow road as it curves. The Celery Fields will be on your left; Ackerman Lake will be on your right. To get to the gazebo, proceed about ' mile south from Ackerman Lake and make a left onto Palmer Boulevard. After about ' mile, make a left into the small parking lot near the gazebo.
A female Summer Tanager continues at the west end of Sugden Park in east Naples.