Florida Trip, March 2006

Phil's Florida Trip Redux Mar 2006

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

Online Resources:

Much use was made of the above, but also the ABA/Lane guide by Bill Pranty (referred to as "Pranty" below and page numbers are shown as [p.999]). This references the version revised in 2005, which I assume is the 5th edition. I've been to FL at least three times previously for birding trips - the first time was with Ali in 1998 to the Keys which wasn't specifically a birding trip but which evolved into one.

On the previous trip in late Jan I spent a little time around central and west coast sites looking for the usual suspects to pad the year list and take photos of. This trip duplicates some of these site visits and also adds the usual array of east coast sites.

Trip Report

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

Pictures from the trip can also be found in my gallery.

In the following, underlined species are year birds, a bold underlined bird is a life bird, and the sites are in bold. See further down the page for links to sites and descriptions of them. There only life bird on this trip was a Monk Parakeet, an established exotic in the St Petersburg area.

Thursday March 2nd : Continental were slow leaving the gate, and slower taking off, so we arrived late into Tampa. Car rentals in Tampa were substantially more expensive than on the January trip to Orlando, and the car as I was given wasn't an Economy rate but was equipped as an Economy car (no cruise, no power windows). Thanks National (do not rent from them) ! In the end I got on the road by 11am as with the last trip. I took a slightly scenic route towards Lake Wales, skipped Lake Kissimmee State Park to gain some time, and went to the Lake Wales Ridge site for Short-tailed Hawk. At the marsh indicated in Pranty [p.156] I heard King Rail (a potential lifer) but did not see it. I saw the first of many Northern Parula for the trip at this site. At the boat ramp a little further north I saw Bald Eagle and more warblers. Returning to the marsh, I pulled over to check on a raptor (Bald Eagle), panned left to check on a Black Vulture, in time to see a Short-tailed Hawk fold its wings and hurtle vertically downward out of the sky toward the canopy. I've never seen a buteo do anything like that before. About 10 minutes later I saw a dark phase Short-tailed Hawk through the scope circling to the north-east of me, giving good views.

The next location (Three Lakes WMA) was scrapped because of a major accident on Rt-60 that blocked traffic. I pulled a U-turn and worked my way up the west shore of Lake Kissimmee to Kaliga Park in St. Cloud [p.151] where I found Wood Stork, Yellowlegs sp. and Killdeer. Then on to Brinson Park at Kissimmee where I found Snail Kite, Limpkin, the usual ibis and herons, Monk Parakeet (uncountable), Anhinga and American White Pelican amongst the more usual herons/ibis and coots/moorhens.

Moving south-east along Canoe Creek Road, retracing the route from January's trip, I found Wild Turkey just north of Cypress Lake Road, two Crested Caracara in the first field along this road (again), and numerous Eastern Meadowlarks and a few Sandhill Cranes. I then went down to Three Lakes WMA: I found that the gate onto Williams Road off Canoe Creek Rd was locked, as was the gate from Road 16 to Road 10 in the Prairie Lakes section. This rather messed up some of the projected scan of the area. Roughly the same species were seen as in January. I heard a Bachman's Sparrow along Road 16 about 2.8 miles in from Canoe Creek Road after sundown, almost got my scope on it before it flew away, and so was my second evasive non-lifer for the day (!). I did a long drive back to Bradenton where I stayed at the Motel 6 after dealing with spectacular front desk ineptitude for 20 minutes (this location not recommended).

Friday March 3rd : it dawned foggy so I looked for other places to bird while I waited for the fog to clear. Given the previous day's Monk Parakeet sighting I decided to go look at a couple of exotics, not my usual thing, and quickly found Black-hooded Parakeet at the Gulfport marina. This is currently ABA uncountable but on the Florida state list so is a "banked" life bird pending ABA acceptance. Then I went looking for Monk Parakeet (Pranty p.130) and got looks at them and more Black-hooded Parakeets on the soccer fields behind the electrical substation. On to Fort Desoto where it was still foggy but there were some shorebirds at East and North Beaches (including American Oystercatcher, Semipalmated Plover, Wilson's Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Willet, Least Sandpiper) and also some sadly typical photographer behavior where I watched them literally chase the Reddish Egret back and forth along the lagoon. Some people (and sadly it is usually the photographers) simply do not get it. Common Ground-Dove flew across the road, Loggerhead Shrikes and more parakeets were on the wires, and my first American Kestrel for the trip rounded out the list. It was still foggy but slowly clearing and the sun was relatively high so I skipped the Sarasota/Venice areas and drove right down to Naples.

I drove around Marco Island [p.200] watching the skies for Frigatebird unsuccessfully (but the first Roseate Spoonbill for the trip) and also found one Burrowing Owl on a small residential undeveloped lot. Tigertail beach State Park was swarming with people so I left there soon after arrival. Marco Island was busy, and announced construction for the following weekend day led me to decide to skip this site subsequently. I also skipped Eagle Lakes State Park because of the lack of recent reports (and none of Shiny Cowbirds) and lack of time.

I drove back up to Rt-41 (Tamiami Trail) and east to Fakahatchee Strand where I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite over the entrance, finally tracked down a vocal Great Crested Flycatcher along the boardwalk and an adult and juvenile Barred Owl further on, giving decent views, along with a typical set of warblers (Parula, Yellow-rumped, Palm, Black-and-white). The Bald Eagles and Red-shouldered Hawks were vocal and nesting but I saw neither.

I left Fakahatchee at 4:45pm and decided to make a run for the Venus Flatwoods area. As it played out, I was stymied by traffic congestion for the second day in a row and so around sunset gave up and headed west toward Punta Gorda where I stayed at a Motel 6 for the night.

Saturday March 4th: I reached the lighthouse on Sanibel Island shortly before dawn, but diversity was relatively low. Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Willet and Snowy Egret were around, plus some Brown Pelicans fishing off-shore and one or two wary Black-bellied Plovers. A Purple Martin flew overhead and headed on toward the shore (migrating?). After a little photography I gave up and headed for Ding Darling NWR's Bailey tract where I came up with a few calling Common Yellowthroats, Pied-billed Grebe and some herons and ibis but nothing else. I went to the wildlife drive at Ding Darling NWR and got there fairly soon after it opened. There was relatively little activity on the drive, although a decent cluster of shorebirds including many Willet, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher. There were a couple of American White Pelicans, but few herons/egrets/ibis came within photographic range. I went around the drive twice, to double check, but it was no better the second time although I did have an adult and immature Red-shouldered Hawk perched on the same dead tree.

I left Sanibel Island and turned down toward Fort Myers Beach, where the traffic was predicably hellish (at least the 3rd circle of hell traveling northbound). Further down the beach with marginally better traffic I parked in the mall near the Holiday Inn to check out the Estero Lagoon [p.194]. I did not expect much activity due to it being 11am but there were a few ibis, herons and one Brown Pelican. Looks like this could be OK for morning photography but the local beach-side hotels might cause shadow problems.

I drove south, reconnected to Rt-41 and then turned east onto Immokalee Road. In due course I found myself at Corkscrew Swamp. In exchange for the steep entrance fee ($10) I did manage to see Wood Stork and Barred Owl this time, although I did not find any Painted Buntings. I also had a close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk in typical Corkscrew fashion, and fairly close looks at Pileated Woodpecker. Corkscrew was not particularly active and Fakahatchee Strand is undoubtedly a better bang for the buck.

I drove into Immokalee and then out via Rt-29 south to Rt-41. I decided to skip both Fakahatchee Strand and Eagle Lakes Park and head east toward Shark Valley. In terms of time this was a wise move as I had underestimated the distance to Shark Valley. Along the way I stopped at the Kirby Storter wayside and took the boardwalk into the hardwood hammock where I saw a few of the usual warblers plus Great Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Further east, approaching the Miccosukee town, I saw Snail Kite over the 'glades, found two more at the abandoned airboat ride pulloff on the west side of town, and then pulled into Shark Valley's entrance to the Everglades NWR with about 1 hour before closing (gate closed at 6pm). There were a lot of herons and ibis along the west side of the trail, and so in shadow close to sunset. I have passed over this site before, but really is perhaps second only to Anhinga Trail for photo opportunities. I stayed here until near sundown, finding the first Purple Gallinule for the trip and the usual expected herons. I then drove on to Florida City where I stayed at the local Travelodge (hard to find, behind the Mobil on the east side of US-1 south of the Turnpike terminus - comfortable and rebuilding after hurricane damage).

Sunday March 5th: I started pre-dawn at the Frog Pond WMA aka "Lucky Hammock". Activity did not pick up until the sun rose, when Palm, Prairie, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Parula and White-eyed Vireos were easily found along with Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. However there was nothing "special" here so I headed into Everglades NWR and on to Anhinga Trail. Here the old Turkey Vulture roost has expanded to include even tamer Black Vultures which amuse themselves by attempting to eat the trim off the cars and will walk around at your feet. There was a "Great White" Heron next to the visitor center (very tame) and the usual array of herons, ibis, egrets, cormorants and Anhinga along the trail. Green Herons and Anhingas had hatched out. I saw a large, bright Rail dart through the marsh, not giving a good view but an almost-certain King Rail. Later on this potential-life species sounded off. Apart from not seeing the King Rail well, I did get to see a couple of American Bitterns squabbling in the sawgrass. After a great deal of photography, I was walking back to the vistor center when I noticed a dark-phase Short-tailed Hawk soaring on the thermals with the vultures. I mentioned this to some nearby birders, who then pointed out a pale-phase Short-tailed Hawk with another group. The pale-phase was actually the more accommodating of the two, repeatedly dropping back down right over the visitor center.

Short-tailed Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk, dark morph

After Anhinga Trail I went driving through the rest of the Everglades, and as usual did not see anywhere near as much - this was true even without the recent hurricane damage but that certainly has not helped matters. Near Mahogany Hammock I failed once more to see any Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows. I pulled over a couple of times to watch Swallow-tailed Kites work their way north. Paurotis Pond held nesting Wood Storks but no sign of the Vermilion Flycather previously reported. Rowdy Bend trail was too much of a mess to contemplate walking it for Mangrove Cuckoo. Mracek Pond was very quiet and the vegetation looked in bad condition. Flamingo itself still showed signs of hurricane damage (storm surge etc) and Eco Pond was closed. No blackbird flocks were around to check for Shiny Cowbirds. I drove back up to Snake Bight trail and psychologically readied myself for a mosquito onslaught that the trail is legendary for. I actually walked the trail all the way down to the platform (2.5 miles?) and encountered only a few mosquitos so I'm guessing the hurricane took the tops off the mangroves and opened the trail up to the sun. And at noon, there was no shortage of sun so by the time I'd done the round trip it felt more like the Bataan death march. I think next time I'll have to take a bicycle. As expected there were no flamingos visible from the boardwalk, even if it was low tide - there have been none reported recently and the heat haze was quite powerful. A chartered boat trip would be better if you wanted to find these birds. The walk back up the trail was unpleasantly hot, but even here there were Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinal and the usual warbler selection.

Back in the car with the AC on full, I headed back out of the Everglades. I stopped at the "Robert Is Here" fruit stand to pick up a shake (strawberry and key lime) and the long-ish wait was worth it. I must have committed a crime against nature to have driven by this stand without stopping in the past. Shake consumed, I set off to find a few exotics as I started to drive north along the east coast. Or not, as it turned out. I did not find any Mynas behind the Burger King in Florida City. I did not find Cave Swallows at exit 216 from the Turnpike. I did not find any exotics in Kendall at the Baptist Hospital, Kenwood Elementary or near the tennis courts. OK, so it was mid-afternoon and I did see a few psittacids flying near the school but it was a rather notable series of strike-outs.

I then drove north to check the urban park at the south end of Ft Lauderdale International Airport. The Smooth-billed Anis were not in evidence and had not been reported for a few weeks so that was not a huge surprise. Then I drove west to Brian Piccolo Park where amongst the swarms of people on a Sunday afternoon I found two active Burrowing Owl nests (there were probably more) and spent a little while photographing at one of them from a discreet distance. The park was open until 8pm but I left by 6pm and drove north to the somewhat run down Motel 6 at Lantana at exit 61 on I-95.

Monday March 6th: I started the day at dawn at Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Almost immediately I came across a Sora along the trail, along with Northern Shoveler, Mottled Duck, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, Purple Gallinule and a selection of ibis/herons/egrets. Great Blue Heron and Anhinga are now nesting at this site. There were numerous Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers at the slightly elevated sections. After photographing for a while I was about to leave when a Least Bittern stick its head out of the reeds, preened and sat in the sun for a little while before dropping down out of sight. A White-winged Dove flew over.

I then went to Loxahatchee NWR where the Great Horned Owl nest was easy to find but unimpressive photographically. Limpkin were sounding off. A pair of Wood Duck were looking for nest sites in the trees. One of the empoundments looked a little damaged (hurricane ? habitat management ?) but ended up holding several Wilson's Snipe. A few Northern Rough-winged Swallows mixed in with the numerous Tree Swallows.

After Loxahatchee I headed onto Green Cay Wetlands which is a facility in the same vein as Wakodahatchee but newer and larger. There were several Purple Martins and Northern Rough-winged Swallows here. I found most of the same species as Wakodahatchee, except it was less crowded. This site might be very good once the vegetation matures a little. I found a cooperative Yellow-throated Warbler along one of the drier sections with trees, foraging along the boardwalk.

I returned to I-95 and drove north 140+ miles to Merritt Island NWR where my main target was the Eastern Screech-Owl at the visitor center along the boardwalk, giving the impression it was about ready to burst out of the nest box. Along Black Point Wildlife Drive the bird activity was a little low with a single American Avocet and not much else of note. However I did notice that there were quite a few shorebirds and herons along the empoundments north of Rt-402 and Rt-406 - I was short of time and did not stop to check.

I headed west through Titusville and down SR-50 before turning south and then once again to Three Lakes WMA for another look for Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman's Sparrow. I drove around the Williams Rd section accessed from Rt-441, but did not find much except an Eastern Towhee. I then drove to the Prairie Lakes section via Kenansville and drove down to the part of Road 16 that I heard the Bachman's Sparrow previously. I hung out there during sundown - Sandhill Cranes and Barred Owls sounded off in the distance. One particularly cool find was a Barred Owl hunting over the prairie. However not a single sparrow sang. I left when it was dark enough that it made no difference if one had hopped right in front of me. I drove back to Tampa via Kissimmee, taking Rt-192 through the approaches to Disney World where every possible neon-lit business festooned along the edges of that road. It wasn't a fast route, but I-4 was quick enough that I made the entire trip in about 2 hours.

Tuesday March 7th: dawn of the last day saw me once again at Fort Desoto Park and there was a little less diversity compared to the previous Friday - no wading birds and just a few shorebirds. I managed to get a couple of pictures of Wilson's Plover but spent most of my time photographing fly-over terns.

After Fort Desoto I went south over the bridge to the Sarasota area. I stopped at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey. There were no Scrub-Jays around the parking lot, and it's possible that the habitat has become too overgrown there - nevertheless they appeared to have performed a controlled burn near there lately. I did however see one Florida Scrub-Jay on the north side of the drive on the way out (too far for photos). At Shamrock Park in Venice I found two Scrub-Jays in the scrub along the inlet but not many other birds. The light was especially bad so I did not attempt photos. At this point it was noon and I lacked obvious sites to fill the entire afternoon. I went to the Sarasota Celery Fields to look for Black-bellied Whistling Ducks but only found a Black-necked Stilt, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks and the only Red-tailed Hawk for the trip. A couple of birders stopped to ask me where they could find Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks. They did not laugh when I replied "Texas". They'd done the same sort of research I had done, but they were not able to get a place on a tour of STA-5 where there had been large numbers of Fulvous reported recently.

I then drove back down I-75 and east on Rt-72 to Myakka River State Park where it was crowded with people, in contrast to my previous visit there. There were a few shorebirds and a Bald Eagle from the bird boardwalk, virtually nothing except two Sandhill Cranes amongst the throng of people at the Tram/Airboat concession and spillway, so I got out of Myakka fairly quickly. I then decided to head east via Arcadia to Venus Flatwoods Preserve which I found largely comatose in mid-afternoon and could only bird from the road. There are no longer Red-cockaded Woodpeckers here, but a (presumed) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker gave me a little start as it flew across the road in front of me, calling. There was a Sandhill Crane in the farm fields across the way. North on Old 8 highway, along the eastern edge of Archbold Biological Research Station I saw three Scrub-Jays on the wires.

I then took a more-or-less direct route back to Tampa, arriving a little later than I had hoped for the plane, which was then delayed by residual problems caused by air-traffic radar issues in the NY area. Continental did a good job of loading and pushing back quickly once they got an earlier departure slot.

A fairly successful trip, even though I was taunted by two life birds that were not seen well-enough to count, and my only life bird was an exotic that I had previously avoided counting in NYC.

Pranty gives a pretty good outline of the countability game as implemented by the ABA. I don't quite play by ABA rules (I don't count heard-only birds on life and year lists, which is why I still "need" King Rail and Bachman's Sparrow) but still attempt to follow some common sense aspects. Nevertheless with introduced exotics it can be a little farcical: Yellow-chevroned Parakeet is on the ABA list but is not on the state lists of CA and FL which are the only two states you can find them in. So they are on the ABA list but not ABA-countable. Since I don't worry too much about ABA rules I've got no need to agonize over them, but I tend to take the judgement of regional/state birding committees fairly seriously. In any event counting exotics is a tricky thing: Muscovy Ducks are feral in the Brownsville area in good numbers, are on the TX and ABA lists so you might be tempted to count these birds.

Trip List

Pied-billed Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern Anhinga Trail, Everglades NWR
Least Bittern Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret Fort Desoto, Merritt Island NWR, Sanibel
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Corkscrew Swamp
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis more numerous further north
Roseate Spoonbill
Wood Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Wood Duck Loxahatchee NWR
Mottled Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Green-winged Teal
Redhead Fort Desoto
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup Fort Desoto
Red-breasted Merganser Fort Desoto
Swallow-tailed Kite Ft Myers, Everglades, Fakahatchee etc
Snail Kite Brinson Park, Shark Valley
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk Anhinga Trail, Lake Wales ridge
Red-tailed Hawk Sarasota Celery Fields (only 1)
American Kestrel
Wild Turkey Canoe Creek Rd near St Cloud
Sora Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Purple Gallinule
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Wilson's Plover Fort Desoto
Semipalmated Plover Fort Desoto
American Oystercatcher Fort Desoto
Black-necked Stilt Sarasota Celery Fields
American Avocet Merritt Island NWR
Greater Yellowlegs Loxahatchee NWR
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper Ding Darling NWR
Ruddy Turnstone Fort Desoto
Sanderling Fort Desoto
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher Ding Darling NWR, Fort Desoto
Wilson's Snipe Loxahatchee NWR
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull Sanibel
Royal Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer Fort Desoto
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove Fort Myers etc
White-winged Dove Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Common Ground-Dove Fort Desoto (flyover)
Monk Parakeet St Petersburg, Brinson Park (uncountable)
Eastern Screech-Owl Merritt Island NWR
Great Horned Owl Loxhatahcee NWR
Burrowing Owl Brian Piccolo Park
Barred Owl Fakahatchee Strand, Corkscrew Swamp, Three Lakes WMA
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Kirby Storter wayside
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe Fakahatchee Strand, Shark Valley
Great Crested Flycatcher various cypress swamps
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo Loxahatchee NWR
Blue Jay
Florida Scrub-Jay Oscar Scherer NWR, Shamrock Park, Archbold Research Sta.
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin Sanibel, Green Cay Wetlands
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Loxahatchee NWR, Green Cay Wetlands
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird Three Lakes WMA
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher Ding Darling NWR
European Starling
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler Green Cay Wetlands
Pine Warbler Three Lakes WMA
Prairie Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee Three Lakes WMA
Northern Cardinal
Savannah Sparrow Lake Cypress Rd
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
American Goldfinch Corkscrew Swamp
House Sparrow urban only

Trip List: 124 species
Trip List for FL#1 and this trip combined: 135

Main Locations - West Coast

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. North Beach was named 2005's top beach, and they seem to have done a good job with the area. I also found a limited number of shorebirds along the East Beach.

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. Pranty/2005 p.141.

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. Pranty/2005 p.139. This has a relatively large population of Florida Scrub-Jays although the photographic opportunities seem to have declined in recent years.

Venice Rookery
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
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 7:30am and closes sunset. $5 entrance fee, 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 southern tip of Sanibel Island good at dawn and perhaps dusk. Turn left after causeway at 4-way stop sign. Parking is $2/hour. It tends to be a little crowded with oblivious beachcombers at times, who flush the birds incessantly.

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. It has been fairly unproductive when I visited there in Jan and Mar 2006.

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 - it was in March). 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. 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, or from north of Ft Myers as SR-82 into Immokalee and south out of Immokalee. Wood Storks nesting off boardwalk in 2006 resulted in some boardwalk closure. Good looks are Barred Owl are possible (but not inevitable) here, sometimes Painted Buntings at the feeders.

The former 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 there seems little reason to visit this place.

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 related Kirby Storter Boardwalk, which opened in 2005, is on Tamiami Trail (US 41) in Big Cypress National Preserve, about 3 miles west of Monroe Station or about 7 miles east of Turner River Road. Barred Owl along the boardwalk in Mar 2006, plus similar species to Corkscrew Swamp.

Main Locations - East Coast

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. At boardwalk at visitors center an Eastern Screech-Owl has been seen at the second nest box. Vistor center is on 402 (right at fork) M-F: 8-4:30, Sat: 9-5, Sun:(Nov-Mar): 9-5. Pranty/2005 p.174. Outstanding for waterfowl and shorebirds in winter.

Loxahatchee NWR NPS site. Arthur R. Marshall Wilderness (Loxahatchee) is off Boynton Beach Blvd. West of the Turnpike then south on 441, turn at Lee road
GORP link
Hours - every day except xmas from sunrise to sunset. Visitor center is 9am-4pm weekdays, -4:30pm weekends. Some hurricane damage. Great Horned Owl nest in March 2006, regular Limpkins, some shorebirds and if you are lucky a Short-tailed Hawk (my life bird in 1998).

Wakodahatchee Wetlands
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. Sora, Least Bittern, ducks, and more conventional wetland species are regular here. The only downside is the popularity of the boardwalk with "fitness walkers", a few of which are a little impolite at times.

Green Cay
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. Looks very promising, and less crowded than Wakodahatchee, but the vegetation could use a year or two more of maturity.

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 is still active in 2006 and perhaps the single most reliable spot for them. The first mile or so of the tram path is good in the early morning for herons etc.

Anhinga Trail/Everglades National Park Service hours etc. Paurotis Pond, Mracek Pond, Mahogany Hammock, Snake Bight Trail, Eco Pond and Flamingo - fairly extensive closures in effect at Flamingo through early 2006 due to hurricane damage. The wintering flock of Flamingos is no longer reliable in 2005/6. The main entrance is open 24 hours per day. Long Pine Key nature trail map

FL Keys Wild Bird Center, 93600 Overseas Highway, Tavernier - rehab place that attracts some wild birds (e.g. Wurdemanns). MM 93.8. Often crowded. I have seen Wurdemann's Heron and White-crowned Pigeon here.

Brian Piccolo Park - no current dedicated website
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.
It was open until 8pm when I visited there on a Sunday afternoon in early March. 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 applys. They collect $1 per person entry fee on weekends.

From FL list report: Burrowing Owls a few miles past Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary on CR 846 along NE 40th Street.

The campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is locally famous for its population of Burrowing Owls. Their burrows can be found in the fields all around the perimeter of the campus.

Burrowing Owl Locations from 2002 article

Other Location Information

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. I have had Florida Scrub-Jay on both visits.

Eagle Lakes community Park se of Naples: Bronzed Cowbirds in Feb and April 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.

Bachman's Sparrow: in Ocala State Forest Riverside Island and 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. Red-cockaded Woodpecker: Ocala NF, crossroads of CR-314 and FR-88 approximately three miles south west of Salt Springs - but the new version of Pranty suggests other locations within Ocala NF.

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.

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park: Preserve is located 5 miles north of the western terminus of Okeechobee County Road 724. US Hwy 441 and Okeechobee County Road 700A intersect County Road 724. The campground is located 5 miles inside the park entrance gate. Bachman's Sparrow, King Rails. Pranty/2005 p.167.

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. I've seen Limpkin and Snail Kite at this location.

Lake Kissimmee State Park has Scrub-Jays around the campground and Burrowing Owls. Possibly also Snail Kites. Pranty/2005 p.156. Open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year. Directions: Lake Kissimmee St. Park located off SR-60, 15 miles east of Lake Wales. This is south of Orlando and on the west side of Lake Kissimmee (Joe Overstreet and Three Lakes WMA is on the east side of it).

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. Joe Overstreet had a Short-tailed Hawk at the hammock on the south side of the road just east of the marina (Feb 8th). There was a White-tailed Kite along Canoe Creek between Joe Overstreet and the first Three Lakes entrance (Feb 8th).

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, also at Prairie Lakes entrance. RCWoodpkr: fed noisily along the Florida Scenic trail approximately 100 yards from the entrance to Prairie Lakes (see map Pranty p.155). Take US441 south east out of Kissimmee 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).]

Snail Kites plying the canals for Apple Snails out near where CR846 intersect CR833 in Hendry County (near Corkscrew). Also on CR 835 after heading west from Blumberg Rd. going toward CR833. Vermilion Flycatcher -- (Feb 6th) the female VEFL continues in extreme Collier County along the north-south leg of CR858 between the 12th and 13th telephone pole north of where CR858 makes the right-angle turn from the Hendry County Correctional Facility. The bird tends to flycatch from one of the Cabbage Palms or other small shrubs out in the cow pasture on the west side (Collier County side) of CR858. Short-tailed Hawk (dark morph) seen on the east-west leg of CR858 in Collier County. Not there Feb 19th, but Scissor-tailed and Western Flycatchers were.

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].

Red-cockaded Woodpecker at end of Nassau Ct on Marco Island on Feb 8th. (unconfirmed)

Ft. Lauderdale site for Smooth-billed Ani: From Ft Lauderale take the Griffin Road exit from I-95 - just south of I-595. Go east on Griffin Road over the bridge, then go to the first traffic light and turn left into I believe its Beltway Park? Follow the road in and back to the parking lot, park here and then walk north to the fence of the park. Here you will be looking towards the Ft. Lauderdale Airport, look up or down the fence and hedge of the airport for the birds. If you don t see them this way walk east on the paved walking path until you do see them. Sometimes the birds are in the park itself. This is no longer reliable.

Other Smooth-billed Ani locations: near Loxahatchee: Area 2A (north end or area 2) - West of Deerfield Beach in the Hillsboro Area, located on Rt. 827 (Loxahatchee "Lox" Road). From I-95 exit at Hillsboro Blvd. Go west. Take a right on U.S. 441/S.R. 7, then a left on Loxahatchee "Lox" Road. Go nearly seven miles to end of road. -OR- Holey Land Road in Holey Land Wildlife Management Area, west of US 27 in southern Palm Beach County just north of the Broward Co./Palm Beach Co. line. -OR- Take US-27 up to Okeelanta and turn right onto the Bolles Canal Road (827). After about two miles this road will turn north and becomes 827A, birds near dirt road with a gate marked No Trespassing.

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.

For Black Rail, try your luck at the Holey Land/Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas at the Palm Beach/Broward border off of US 27

Red-whiskered Bulbul and Spot-breasted Oriole: neighborhood of 87th St, between 89th Ct and 91st Ave, for Red-whiskered Bulbul. This is just north of Baptist Hospital and it's also a good spot for Spot-breasted Oriole. Walk the sidewalk and peek at the trees and wires; don't worry, people are used to seeing birders around and don't mind as long as you're not peeking inside their homes. Late afternoon works best for me.

BB and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks at STA-5 is south of Clewiston on the NW corner of Rotenberger WMA. Still there (mainly Fulvous as of Feb 19th). From Miami: Get to Alligator Alley (I-75). Go west to Government (Snake) Road at the Miccosukee gas station. Take Government Road north to SR-832. Follow SR-832 west, north, and west to Blumberg Road. Take Blumberg, which quickly turns south, for about 9 miles to the STA-5 turnoff (dirt road). Go south for another 2 1/2 miles on the dirt road to the STA-5 entrance gate. Park before the gate in the area to the right. Alternate route: From I-75, take US-27 north to South Bay. Contiue west on US 27 from South Bay toward Clewiston for about 13 1/2 miles. Look for Evercane Road (CR 832) and the J & J Ag. Products sign. Continue south on CR 832 for about 9 1/2 miles to Blumberg Rd (at the second bend in the road). Turn left onto Blumberg and continue another nine miles to the STA-5 turnoff (dirt road). Go south for 2 1/2 miles on the dirt road to the STA 5 entrance gate. Park before the gate in the area to the right. You need to be on some sort of tour to get into this site.

Sarasota Celery Fields: Snipe, Sora etc Directions: From I-75 take exit 210, Fruitville Road east. Make a right at Coburn Road light and follow the road as it curves. The Celery Fields will be on your left. To get to the gazebo, proceed to Palmer Boulevard and make a left. After about a 1/4 mile you will note the small parking area and gazebo on your left.

Venus Flatwoods Preserve. (Bachman's Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker) CR-731 west at Venus for ca. 3.3 miles, turn right and after less than 1 mile left into Sheppard Rd. Venus is rather south of the target area, not really close to anything else, and wasn't productive in a brief visit in March 2006.

Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site. Located on C.R. 905, 1/4 mile north of its intersection with U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway).

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park has Black Rail and other Rails (limited access). Located off Scenic Drive in Port Richey. Turn west off U.S. 19 at Regency Park Boulevard, go one mile to the intersection of Scenic Drive and Cinema Drive. (This is north of Tampa).

Piping Plovers at Fred Howard Park north of Tampa in Tarpon Springs on Feb 8th. From US-19 or Alt-19: Traveling north on US-19 or Alt-19 turn left on Klosterman Rd. Go to Carlton Rd. Turn right on Carlton Rd and go to stop sign, turn left onto Curlew Place. Go to next stop sign, Florida Ave, and turn right. Go 2 miles to the red flashing light and turn left onto Sunset Drive (which dead-ends into the park.)

South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility (aka, Viera Wetlands) Off Wickham Road just west of I-95 at exit 191 (north end of Melbourne and about 9 miles south of Titusville). Crested Caracara site etc. Featured in the 2005 revision of the Pranty guide.

This morning (February 27) I heard both a Whip-poor-will and a Chuck-wills's-widow at the entrance to KARS Park, on East Hall Road, North Merritt Island (early morning).

Whip-poor-will and Barred Owl at Lucky Hammock at sunset.

Everglades: we turned up Richmond Dr. heading for Chekika (perpetually closed?) turned left at the tee, weather worsening, at nearly the end of the road a kiting White-tailed Kite

Vermilion Flycatcher (female) at Paurotis Pond

The Great horned owl is on the entrance road at Loxahatchee NWR off of 441 north of Boynton. After you pay your entrance fee you will see the large crowd viewing the bird. Just follow the viewers and photographers. Park in the designated parking sites. The bird can be viewed from front (morning) and the back (at sunset) quite well. She seems fairly habituated and she well ought to be considering the growing crowds.