Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Florida 16th – 30th November 2006,
We travelled to Florida with Travel City on a direct flight from Manchester to Sanford, North of Orlando. We booked a Flydrive with a Double luggage allowance for £706 for the two of us. The purpose of our trip was to go birdwatching, fishing and to visit our niece in Naples on the Gulf Coast.
On arriving at Sanford the car had been upgraded several times to a 7 seater Dodge Caravan with aircon and cruise control. The double luggage of 40 Kilos each was really useful for 2 tripods, telescopes, binoculars, books and fishing rods plus two tackle boxes!
We also did some Christmas shopping and came back with nearly 70 kilos of luggage.
The first week was spent in Cape Canaveral where we rented a wonderful private apartment from Mr. Scott Joseph for a total cost of $500. (The price does vary according to the season and includes Taxes and a cleaning charge) This apartment was one block from the beach, and the road outside was really quiet and away from the Highway running through the Cape. The apartment was found through www.vacationrentals.com and Mr. Joseph has two apartments in this block of condos he can be contacted on email@example.com
Our information was found on www.spacecoastbirding.com and this site provided lots of information about Brevard County including a bird list, which I adapted to Fall and Winter birds. Other information was downloaded from www.floridabirdguides.com you can print off the relevant pages you need plus the sites are now shown on the highways with brown tourist signs. The main sites we visited in the first week were Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral Jetty. We went twice to Merritt Island. Try and avoid the 7 mile drive on a weekend. When we went on the Monday it was practically deserted. We did visit other locations; one in particular was Pine Island off NASA Highway. Be careful here the mosquitoes were dreadful to the point were we had to take double antihistamines to quell the inflammation!
We expected to see more ducks at this time of year, but maybe it was a little too early. There were plenty of herons, ibises, a nice selection of waders, and we were pleased to see a Sora Rail.
On Thanksgiving Day we travelled across to Naples. The drive took us through a very rural part of Florida. The driving was wonderful with no traffic and long straight roads. We stopped off at Lake Okeechobee to see Sandhill Cranes, Snowy Egrets and White Ibises posing outside the Camp Shop at the RV Site and Picnic area.
In Naples we stayed at the Best Western off the 41 which runs through Naples. We paid $82 for three nights due to Thanksgiving and $62 for the remaining 2 nights; this included an outdoor continental breakfast. The reserves we visited were Corkscrew Swamp, Sanibel Island, Tigertail Beach on Marco Island, and San Carlos Beach off John Morris Road which in on the right after you come off Sanibel Island.
Corkscrew Swamp is wonderful and great if you are a photographer. JR ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a 5 mile drive with plenty of viewing places. We had great views of White Pelican and a Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Tigertail Beach at Marco Island is good for waders, but the best wader watch must be San Carlos Beach. We viewed nearly every wader there that we had seen so far on the trip and found Skimmers on the sand bank and a juvenile Herring Gull on the beach.
For the last two nights we drove back towards Orlando. We took the back road through Immokalee and to La Belle. Between La Belle and Palmdale we saw plenty of Red Shouldered Hawks and a Crested Caracara sitting on the fence. We booked into a Quality Inn on the ‘27’ at Dundee, between Lake Wales and Haines City. This Inn was $69 per night for a room overlooking orange groves at the rear of the Inn. The Inn has its own restaurant and even has Happy Hour in the bar between 4.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. (Worth getting to the bar for a beer at a dollar). In the orange groves we had House Wren and Common Ground Dove.
We spent a day in Kissimmee State Park. Follow the instructions in the Florida Birding Guides, as you drive down Boy Scout and Camp Mack Roads look out in the fields for Crested Caracara, Kildeer and Eastern Meadowlarks. It is worth pointing out here that if you want to stay somewhere a little quieter there is a country store that rents out cabins on either a nightly or weekly basis. They are Waters Edge Cabins, 10730 Camp Mack Road, Lake Wales, Florida 33898 the owner is Nancy who can be contacted on 863-696-4866. The cabins consist of bedroom, lounge with TV, kitchen and bathroom. They have a lovely veranda and overlook a small lake that runs into Lake Rosalie. There is also a new motel opposite the gates of Kissimmee State Park at Camp Macks River Resort.
We had great views of Bald eagles, a Barred Owl and Wild Turkeys were found at the rear of the observation tower. We spoke to the Park Ranger about not being able to find the Florida Scrub Jays and he pointed us down the track to the right of the pay station at the entrance. As we came back up the track they appeared about seven of them! On our arms, hands and heads they perched!
On our last morning we packed everything back into the suitcases and headed back towards Sanford, as we did not fly out until 8.00 p.m. we had plenty of time to head for Orange City and the Blue Springs Reserve to view the Manatee. The Manatee comes up the St Johns River to the Blue Springs in Winter for the warmer water. We were very lucky to see four Manatees on the far bank wallowing in the mud. Blue Springs was worth the visit also to catch a Hermit Thrush and a Carolina Wren under the bushes at the rear of the playground. We went into Orange City and had a late lunch at the Riverside Restaurant for a final meal in Florida.
We missed the turning for the Interstate Highway and ended up in De Bary where we took a right turn for the Highway once again. Just right off the turning there is Gemini State Park we took out our binoculars for a final time and spotted Tufted Titmouse, Barred Owl and Black and White Warbler. This was a great spot for Pileated, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. We left there at about 4.15 p.m. to get to the airport for 5.00 p.m. check-in.
The trip to Florida was a great break just before Christmas and our bird count was 109 species.
Species, Where Seen
Mallard, Merritt Island
Blue Winged Teal, Merritt Island
Pintail, Merritt Island
Ring Necked Duck, Merritt Island
Hooded Merganser, Merritt Island
Wild Turkey, Kissimmee State Park
Pied Grebe, Common on all fresh water
Northern Gannet, Port Canaver al Jetty Park
American White Pelican, Ding Darling and Mosquito Lagoon, Merritt Island
Brown Pelican, Common
Double Crested Cormorant, Common
Magnificent Frigate Bird, Flying over Lovers Key State Park
Great Blue Heron, Common
Great Egret, Common
Snowy Egret, Common
Little Blue Heron, Common
Tricolored Heron, Common
Reddish Egret, Merritt Island
Cattle Egret, Seen in fields with Cattle.
Green Heron, Merritt Island
Black Crowned Night Heron, Corkscrew
Yellow Crowned Night Heron Corkscrew and Ding Darling
White Ibis, Common near water
Glossy Ibis, Merritt
Roseate Spoonbill, Merritt and Ding Darling
Wood Stork, Seen on the Refuges and near water
Black Vulture, Merritt Island, Pine Island, Kissimmee State Park
Turkey Vulture, Common
Bald Eagle, 3 on Merritt Island and 7 Kissimmee State Park
Northern Harrier, Merritt Island
Red Shouldered Hawk, Common
Red Tailed Hawk, Merritt Island
Crested Caracara, Fence between La Belle and Palmdale
American Kestrel, Fairly Common
Peregrine Falcon, Pine Island
Sora, Merritt Island
Common Moorhen, Merritt and other waterways
American Coot, Common
Sandhill Crane, RV Site Lake Okeechobee, Kissimmee State Park
Black-bellied Plover, on shore Cape Canaveral, Tigertail Bay, San Carlos
Semipalmated Plover, Merritt, San Carlos
Kildeer, Merritt, in fields near Kissimmee Sate Park
Greater Yellowlegs, Merritt, San Carlos
Lesser Yellowlegs, Merritt, San Carlos
Spotted Sandpiper, Indian River, Merritt Island, San Carlos
Ruddy Turnstone, Common and on Cocoa Pier
Red Knot, Tigertail Beach, San Carlos
Sanderling, Common on the shoreline
Western Sandpiper, Ding Darling and San Carlos
Least Sandpiper, Merritt, Tigertail Beach, San Carlos
Piping Plover, Tigertail Beach and San Carlos
Dunlin, Merritt, Tigertail Beach and San Carlos
Short Billed Dowitcher, Tigertail Beach
Laughing Gull, Common
Ring Billed Gull, Fairly Common on the Beach
Herring Gull, Juvenile San Carlos Beach
Great Black Backed Gull, Port Canaveral Beach
Caspian Tern, Merritt and San Carlos Beach
Royal Tern, Common on Shoreline
Sandwich Tern, Cape Canaveral, Merritt and San Carlos Beach
Forster’s Tern, Merritt, Cape Canaveral, Ding Darling
Black Skimmer, San Carlos
Rock Dove, Common
Eurasian Collared Dove, Common in Cape Canaveral
Mourning Dove, Fairly Common especially in Central Florida
White Winged Dove, Flying over condo in Cape Canaveral
Common Ground Dove, Quality Inn, Dundee
Red Masked Parakeet, In the trees next to Best Western, Naples
Barred Owl, Kissimmee State Park and Gemini Park, De Bary
Belted Kingfisher, Common over water
Red Bellied Woodpecker, Common
Downy Woodpecker, Pine Island, Corkscrew and Gemini Park, De Bary
Hairy Woodpecker, Corkscrew
Pilated Woodpecker, Corkscrew
Eastern Phoebe, Common
Gray Kingbird, Corkscrew
Loggerhead Shrike, Merritt
White eyed Vireo, Gemini Park, De Bary
Blue Jay, Hammock State Park, Sebring
Florida Scrub Jay, Kissimmee State Park
American Crow, Naples
Fish Crow, Cocoa Pier
Tree Swallow, Common, thousands over Merritt Island
Tufted Titmouse, Gemini Park, De Bary
Carolina Wren, Blue Springs State Park, Orange City
House Wren, Quality Inn, Dundee
Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Corkscrew
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Lake Okeechobee
Hermit Thrush, Blue Springs State Park
Gray Catbird, Corkscrew
Northern Mockingbird, Common
European Starling , Common on East Coast
Yellow Rumped Warbler, Pine Island
Palm Warbler, Ding Darling, but fairly common
Black and White Warbler, Gemini Park, De Bary
Common Yellowthroat, Merritt
Chipping Sparrow, Merritt Island
Savannah Sparrow, Merritt Island
Northern Cardinal, Pine Island and Kissimmee State Park
Red Winged Blackbird, Merritt, Corkscrew
Eastern Meadowlark, Camp Mack Road, Nr Kissimmee State Park
Common Grackle, Corkscrew
Boat tailed Grackle, Common
American Goldfinch, Corkscrew
House Sparrow, Common in towns on the East Coast