Phil's Florida Trip Feb/Mar 2002

Sunrise: ~6:40am; Sunset ~6:20pm.

Locations - West Coast

Fort DeSoto Park on the southern tip of the Tampa peninsula. Location guide including post-hurricane updates.

Myakka River State Park
The park is located 9 miles E of I-75 at 13207 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL USA 34241. E-mail: (941) 361 6511. Entrance fees are $4.00 per vehicle. The park is open everyday, 8:00 AM until Sunset. About 60 miles south of Tampa; 15 miles east of Sarasota.

Oscar Scherer State Park
1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, 34229. (941) 483-5956 Driving Directions Oscar Scherer State Park is located on U.S.41, six miles south of Sarasota. Heading south on I-75 take exit 36. Heading north on I-75 take exit 35A. About 10 miles south of Sarasota.

Venice Rookery
The Venice Rookery is on Route 41 in Venice a short block north of Jacaranda Blvd. 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 #35 to Jacaranda Boulevard. Travel southwest for about five miles (pass Venice Avenue, Center Road, Indian Hills, Skiar and Woodmere) and turn right onto Route 41 heading 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 an open lot on the left.

Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel Island
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 1 hour after sunrise and closes 1/2 hour before sunset. $5.00 entrance fee, closed Fridays. Sanibel accessed via Fort Myers/Cape Coral.

Lighthouse at the southern tip of Sanibel Island

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 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.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
375 Sanctuary Road West, Naples, FL 34120. Telephone: 941-348-9151. Hours December 1 through April 30: 7 AM to 5:30 PM About 10 miles east of Naples.

Briggs Nature Center
Hours Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Adults $7.50; children 3 - 12, $2; children under 3 and Conservancy members FREE. (Admission is good for both the Briggs Nature Center and the Naples Nature Center if visited within seven days.)

Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

Locations - East Coast

Shark Valley/Everglades (NPS sites down as of writing)
Shark Valley hours are 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. Hours December 1 through April 30: 7 AM to 5:30 PM

Anhinga Trail/Everglades (NPS sites down as of writing)
Mracek Pond, Mahogany Hammock, Eco Pond/Flamingo

Loxahatchee NWR (NPS sites down as of writing)
Arthur R. Marshall Wilderness (Loxahatchee) is off of Boynton Beach Blvd. West of the Turnpike then south on 441
Hours - every day except xmas from sunrise to sunset. Visitor center is 9am-4pm weekdays, -4:30pm weekends

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. There is no admission charge.

Brian Piccolo Park
9501 Sheridan St., Cooper City, FL 33024 Tel: (954) 437-2600 Winter Park Hours 8 a.m.-6 p.m. beginning the last Sunday in October.

Miami Metrozoo

Matheson Hammock in Coral Gables (see Pranty)

Burrowing Owls/Ft. Lauderdale:

The most reliable place that I have found (the owls are always there) is on the east coast near Ft. Lauderdale/Tamarac--a park called Brian Piccolo County (or state) Park, named after the Chicago Bears football player. 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 applys. 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.


Myakka is excellent this time of year, but you need to get there early in the morning. The park opens at 8 AM (usually a little earlier.) There are excellent opportunities all over the park, especially along the shoreline about 1/2 mile before you get to the birdwalk.

Limpkins can be readilly found at the spilway in Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County. Walk to the spilway then follow a small path to the left. Limpkins are often feeding on clams in the moving water on the east side of the river. They are accustomed to people so head shots are possible at only 20'. Lots of other shore birds too. Got some great shots of spoonbills lit up by a setting sun there last weekend. Almost every shot was a keeper.

The Venice Rookery is also very good this time of year. Take 41 South from Sarasota, and watch for the Florida Highway Patrol station on the right just before Jacarana Blvd. You need at least a 400mm lens here. There are lots of Herons (all varieties), Cormorants, Anhingas, and Egrets.

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.

Oscar Scherer State Park is also very good in the morning, although it doesn't present as much variety as Myakka. The Scrub Jays are famous and friendly -- you'll find them -- along with several varieties of woodpecker -- in the piney woods on the white trail, to the left of the pond. The pond often has Anhingas, Herons, and Coots, but only early in the AM or late in the day.


It occurred to me today that I have not looked for, or been asked about Lesser Nighthawks for weeks. I went to Flamingo campground just after sunset and found a few (hard to count in low light). They were at the back of C-loop, near the coastal prairie trailhead, zooming around at knee level. I have heard from birders lately that things are "slow" around Flamingo. I guess it is slow in terms of west indian vagrants, but otherwise quite the opposite. For the last 2 days a small flock of Tree Swallows (20-30) has been working an insect hatch at the seawall. If one stands in the right place they will come within inches of your head. I also tried to make a hoop w/my arms but they wouldn't fly through (but came close). Another common winter bird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, has been around in rediculously large numbers. If you listen closely you can pick out others in the mix - Cape May Warbler, Black-and-white, Prairie, Yellow-throated and a few others.

RBAs: Florida message: 941-242-ZEET (9338)

Other links:

Florida Mailing List
Tropical Audubon
Loxahatchee (FWS - currently dead)
NPS Everglades
NPS Everglades map