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A Report from

South Florida & Dry Tortugas Birding Trip Report,

Marcus & Zoe Ward

29/03/03 ~ 12/04/03

Brown Pelican, Tigertail Beech, 04/04/03

For a first birding trip to the states and after much deliberation we decided on Florida as an ideal area as it has a great selection of bird life. I have also heard some great tales of birding in Florida and so we were set. We chose to travel the first two weeks of April, as it seemed the optimal time to see birds on migration as well as a few winter stragglers. Sadly however we were aware that it would mean we were too early for a couple of specialities such as Antillian Nighthawk & Cave Swallow. We are in the lucky position that we are both very active and enthusiastic birders and so we could dedicate the majority of our schedule to birding activities. Thankfully neither of us has any interest whatsoever in the large entertainment parks whose sole purpose seems to be to exploit overpaid American tourists. Besides birding our other targets where to see as much of the 'real' Florida as possible including it's mammalian wildlife and maybe a quick side trip into Cape Canaveral, however this turned out to be another hyped up entertainment park so we quickly knocked that one on the head!

Planning: During the planning of the trip we used the ABA Pranty guide, A Birders Guide to Florida and various useful trip reports taken from the Bird Tours website. We also found some very useful websites detailing locations not found in any of the other publications; of these the Miami area Audobon Society site was very useful. Additionally we registered with FLORIDA-L bird service, which provided information on up to date sightings of rarities and specialities. In the field we used the Sibley field guide and found the Pranty site guide a useful asset.

Flights: These were in-direct via New York, which was quite a hassle. Next time I would certainly pay the extra for a direct flight.

Accommodation: We had pre-arranged one nights accommodation in the Days Inn in Homestead, and carried camping gear with us. We intended to do a mixture of camping and staying in Motels, however as Florida is primarily formed of limestone with a very thin layer of soil we found camping both expensive and impractical. We ended up camping just 5 nights and stayed in a mixture of motel and hotels the rest of the time, which proved to be fairly economical. We found that camping within the national and state parks both comfortable and economical, however the privately owned sites seemed primarily geared towards RV's and very expensive e.g. Stock Island Campsite $63 per night!!.

Transport: For this we had a pre booked hire car through Alamo, which was fairly economical and luckily up-graded from small to medium class. A Dodge Neon with air-conditioning which proved to be essential. Driving in Florida is straightforward and easy, if not a little boring.

Weather: Throughout the trip conditions were generally fine and extremely hot (70~80F) with light patchy cloud most days. However a storm did pass the first few days of the trip, which generated some fairly strong winds and thus cancelled the Tortugas boat for a day.

Dry Tortugas Trip:  Originally we had planned to camp on Fort Jefferson not just for the birding but just for the sheer beauty of the place. Sadly however due to some plumbing problems the campsite has been closed for the year and so could only do the standard day trip. We travelled to Dry Tortugas on Yankee Freedom II, unfortunately the trip was delayed by a day due to strong winds, however the wait was worth it. I would thoroughly recommend Yankee Freedom II which is fast, comfortable and manned by birders. The crossing cost around £80 which includes all food and drink, which even by American standards is plentiful! It is almost essential to book in advance which we did via their website. It is also worth asking the captain if he would be prepared to pass close by Hospital Key for the Masked Boobies.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Dry Tortugas, 02/04/03


29th March       Heathrow - New York - Miami - Homestead
30th March       Homestead - Everglades (Anhinga Trail, Gumbo Limbo, Mahogany Hammock, Nine Mile Pond, Eco Pond, Flamingo & Long Pine Key)
31st March       Everglades - Key West (Anhinga Trail, Caloosa Beech, Sombrero Beech, Bahia Honda S.P.)
1st April           Key West - No Name Key -Key West (Key Deer Preserve, Bahia Honda S.P.)
2nd April          Key West - Dry Tortugas- Key West
3rd April           Key West - Everglades City (Krome R R, Tamiami Airport, US 41 Disused Airboat Stand, Cypress Bend Boardwalk)
4th April           Everglades City - Naples (Tigertail Beach, Briggs Nature Centre, Corkscrew Swamp)
5th April           Naples - Venice (Fort Myers Beach, Ding Darling, Bailey Tract)
6th April           Venice - Hillsborough River S.P. (Oscar Scherer S.P.)
7Th April           Hillsborough River S.P. - St Cloud (Kissimee S.P, Three Lakes Preserve, Joe Overstreet Rd.)
8th April           St Cloud - Cocoa Beech (East Tohopekilga Lake, Merrit Island)
9th April           Cocoa Beech - Belle Glade (Sandhill Crane park, Savannah S.P.)
10th April          Belle Glade - Flamingo (Loxahatchee, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Eco pond)
11th April          Flamingo - Miami (Eco Pond, Mahogany Hammock, Pah-o-Okee, Anhinga Trail, Krome RR, Tamiami Airfield)
12th April          Miami - New York - Heathrow

Trip Details: -

Sat 29th March: Upon arrival at Miami international airport, we fought our way through the chaos, which seems to be standard for American airports and eventually got our luggage and hire car. By now it was 19:00 so made the short hop to Homestead and the Days Inn had a fry up in a diner and hit the sack.

Sun  30th  March:- Woke up to the unfamiliar sounds of singing Grackles and Mokingbirds before realising where we were and eagerly hit the road for the Everglades N.P. Made our first stop at Royal Palm for the Anhinga Trail where we were immediately greeted by Black & Turkey Vultures hanging around the waste bins. Along the trail most expected species were found such as Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Blackbirds and the first of many Alligators. What was overwhelming was the sheer tameness of the birds here as a result of the Anhinga trail being such a popular tourist destination.

Next to the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm is the Gumbo Limbo trail which passes through a dense tropical hardwood hammock. Here we were lucky enough to find a Veery rooting through the ground litter and catch a glimpse of a Mangrove Cuckoo as it passed through the trees. Besides these the trail seemed relatively birdless.

Onwards to Mahogany Hammock where we had tremendous views of Pileated Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker & Northern Flicker. Our next stop was at Nine Mile Pond where a solitary Black Necked Stilt was parading along the shoreline and a very tame Turkey Vulture was hanging around the cars in the hope of a few scraps of food. Hawking over the pond were Caspian, Royal & Least Terns as well as passing Osprey and White Pelican.

We continued south towards Flamingo making a brief stop at Mrazek Pond, which was completely birdless bar a lone male Blue Winged Teal at the back. Also we passed the start of the Snake Bight Trail which we noted was currently closed to allow for re-growth of vegetation.

Once at Flamingo we stopped to have some lunch in the main visitor centre which has an Osprey nest over the roof providing great views of the adults feeding chicks and a steady stream of Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls passing by offshore.

After lunch we had a quick walk around Eco Pond which has a fantastic heronry dominated by White Ibis but also containing Tri-Coloured Heron, Snowy, Cattle & Great Egret, Little and Great Blue Heron among others.

Sadly the heavens now opened as a prequal to the arriving storm so we headed northwards towards Long Pine Key and set up camp for the night.

Mon 31st March: Woke up to the sound of Whip-Poor-Wills and de-camped with an encore of Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler & Northern Cardinal as well as an overflying Short Tailed Hawk, which provided a very good start to the day. Headed out of the park, on the way could not resist a quick stop at the Anhinga Trail. Plan for the day to head out and down the Keys to get us in position to get on the trip out to Dry Tortugas the following day.

A quick stop at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Centre on Key Largo proved interesting, however few wild birds seen. Next stop was at Caloosa beech at the southern end of Lower Matecumbe Key, which proved to be a good spot. Here we had good views of Belted Kingfisher, Short Billed Dowitcher, Eastern Kingbird and roosting Gulls, Terns & Herons.

Once at Marathon we made some detours in search of Burrowing Owl sites, which are listed in the Pranty guide, all of which proved fruitless. However one site, Sombrero Beach did turn out to be a good birding spot and here we saw Willet, Reddish Egret & Roseate Tern. There was much development work in the area, which is why I assume the Burrowing Owls were absent.

Our next stop was at the Bahia Honda State Park, which charged a $5 entrance fee. By chance we were here at high tide and so the waders were pushed up very close to the road that traverses the park. Amongst the vast numbers of Semipalmated Plover we managed to pick out Western & Least Sandpiper, Piping & Wilson's Plover along with a good number of Black Bellied (Grey) Plover and Short Billed Dowitcher. Around the car park we had Cliff and Barn Swallows and numerous Gulls, Terns & Pelicans offshore. A great park!

From here we went off in search of accommodation and stopped off at Stock Island to check out the campsite. We were shocked to learn that we would be charged $63 to pitch our tent in a suburban area on a small plot as hard as concrete. We then discovered that the large hotels on Key West such as the Raddison charge around $75 per night so we didn't need much convincing as to what was the best option for us!

Tue 1st April: Up with the birds as it were and excitedly hurried down to the key for our boat out to Dry Tortugas only to be told that due to the high winds the trip had been cancelled and that we should try again the following day! So we let the news sink in over a typically massive breakfast and strolled around Key West before deciding to make the most of this extra day in the area which had been sprung upon us. First of all we headed North with the intention of doing some birding and hopefully connecting with one of the regions rare mammals the Key Deer.

Started off in the Key Deer preserve on Big Pine Key which initially seemed to be completely devoid of life, probably partially due to the extremely strong wind, which I promise was not just the result of a massive American breakfast! Although few and far between we did find some quality birds such as White Crowned Pigeon, Prothonatary Warbler and a large number of Rough Winged Swallow.

For a break from searching for the Deer, we headed North a short way and re-visited Bahia Honda S.P. This time though the tide was out. However we did see a few quality birds. A Common Loon was an un-expected find and two over flying Magnificent Frigatbirds were a fantastic sight.

Back at Big Pine Key we decided to check out a neighbouring Island, No Name Key where we finally connected with 1 adult and 2 young Key Deer strolling along the roadside. These are very similar to White Tailed Deer, which are fairly common further north in areas like the Everglades, however, they are noticeably smaller and daintier.

From here we decided to act as traditional tourists and returned to Key West and took in the nightly sunset celebration which is worth the experience just once, even if just for the famous cat man display!

Wed 2nd April: Another early start, and this time our trip was on. Winds were still fairly strong but the general conditions seemed OK. Got settled onto the top deck of the Yankee Freedom II with another birder from New York and had a long chat with the various helpful crewmembers which was mainly made up of birders.

It's seems that in a bizarre twist of fate the storms and strong winds were good for us as we had a good number of Audubon's & Sooty Shearwaters on the 2 hour crossing over to Dry Tortugas. Once in the area the captain did a detour via Hospital Key so that we could all get good views of the Masked Booby colony.

Once at Fort Jefferson, we didn't know where to start! An incredible place with incredible birds, which can be seen at extremely close range. A fantastic place for photography. Along with the breeding Brown Noddies and Sooty Terns our highlights included Orchard Oriole, Summer Tanager, Worm Eating Warbler, Gray Kingbird, Yellow Throated Vireo and literally 100's of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, which were swarming the few trees within the fort. There were also a few bizarre, un-expected birds flying around the fort such as Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher and Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. We also sadly found a deceased Least Bittern. A truly amazing place, our only regret being that we couldn't stay longer or camp here.

On our return journey to Key West we seemed to have fewer shearwaters but did pick up a couple of Brown Boobies and had an Osprey following the boat for a while.

Thur 03rd April: Woke up early for the long drive northwards. Our first stop of the day was at Krome railroad tracks, an area of farmland off of SW177 avenue, about 15 miles north of Homestead. Here we had Killdeer, Eastern Meadow Lark, Common Ground Dove and Indigo Bunting. After a quick visit we continued to the Tamiami airport where we had fantastic views of Burrowing Owl by the entrance road along with Loggerhead Shrike and Eastern Meadow lark.

From here we headed out along the Tamiami trail ( US 41) stopping at the disused airboat stand. Here we got good views of hawking Snail Kite. Following this went in search of a campsite which we found on US 41 near the Everglades City turn off, not bad a bit rough. Had time to have a look at Big Cypress Bend boardwalk, which was well worth the time. Heard Barred Owl, and saw a good passerine flock which included American Redstart, Black and White Warbler, Northern Parula, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher and Tufted Titmouse. Hit the sack after a fantastic meal in Everglades city.

Fri 04th April: After a very rough night headed off to Marco Island and Tigertail beach. A fantastic location very many breeding birds in amongst the sunbathers including Marbled Godwit, Knot, Piping, Snowy, Wilsons and Semi-palmated Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Western and Least Sandpiper, Willet, Reddish Egret, Black Skimmer and Least & Royal Terns.

After a very messy ice cream headed for Briggs Nature Centre where almost immediately we had great views of Florida Scrub Jay on the entrance road. Another highlight being their feeding station, which attracted Eastern Towhee, Brown Thrasher, Red bellied Woodpecker and Mourning Dove. Also had a possible Bob Cat on the boardwalk.

We now had a long drive north to Corkscrew Swamp which proved to be well worth the effort. Among the more common birds we saw Limpkin, Downy Woodpecker, Black Crowned Night Heron, Red shouldered Hawk, Wood Stork and got some tremendous close views of a Barred Owl. Checked into motel in Naples area.

Sat 5th April: A lazy start, followed by the short drive to Fort Myers, paid the $5 to park at the Holiday Inn and went for a walk along the lagoons. Almost immediately found a family of Killdeer noisily guarding chicks barely a few days old and quickly found our target bird the American Oystercatcher. Another fantastic spot with all the usual wading and shorebirds in very good numbers seemingly oblivious to the bathers.

Piping Plover, Fort Myers Beach, 05/04/03

Our next stop was the Ding Darling Nature Reserve on Sanibel Island. Unfortunately the tide was high so we did not pick up on many shorebirds along the causeway. Once at this famous reserve we both had pre-conceived ideas on how it would be and I must say we were not disappointed. Along the way we managed to get fantastic views of Roseate Spoonbill, White Pelican and numerous wading and shore birds. However we did dip on one of my main target birds for the trip and I enquired at the visitor centre as to the status of Yellow Crowned Night Heron. The warden helpfully told us where we could find two nests by the roadside in dense vegetation, just past the start of the Shell Mound Trail. Low and behold she was spot on. We had previously driven straight past them, we managed to find two nests with two adults and one juvenile bird in attendance - fantastic!

Following this success we went on to the nearby Bailey Tract and walked the main loop, birds seen along the way were our first Pied Billed Grebe and American Coot of the trip along with all the usual herons and vultures. Just before getting back to the car Zoe picked up on an unusual call in the bushes next to the waterway and managed to pin point another target bird for the trip, a lovely little Black Whiskered Vireo.

From here we headed off of the island and headed on into Venice to find a motel. Once settled we headed down to the shark tooth beach. Sadly no sign of any teeth but a fantastic sunset in the company of a small group of  Sanderling a few Least & Forsters Terns and Ring Billed & Laughing Gulls

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Ding Darling, 05/04/03

Sun 6th April: Today was to be a primarily travelling day as we headed north and inland aiming for the interior. En-route we stopped off at Oscar Scherer S.P. said to be good for Bald Eagle and Florida Scrub Jay. However the warden was particularly un-helpful and it was a very hot and humid day and so we just went for a shortish walk. The only highlight of the visit being a Brown Water Snake seen resting on a log at very close range.

Next stop was the famous Pelican Man Sanctuary, Zoe being a Veterinary Nurse finds such places very interesting. The sanctuary housed many species, each of which had it's own sorry tale to tell. It is sad to see so many injured birds the majority as a result from run ins with fishing nets and lines. However the sanctuary I am sure serves a great educational purpose for the next generation of fisherman, lets hope they take heed!

From here we decided to head straight for Hillsborough River State Park to set up camp, luckily we did arrive early enough to hire a kayak and go for a spin down stream. Not too many birds to be seen along the river way but worryingly very many Alligators. The campsite was economical clean, quiet and comfortable with many Great Crested Flycatchers and Gray Squirrels in the area.

Mon 7th April: Early start for the drive further inland to Kissimee State Park. Once there we parked up and walked on towards Cow Camp where there is supposed to be an active Bald Eagle nest. En-route we picked up our first Wild Turkeys of the trip along with Carolina Wren, Red Tailed Hawk, Florida Scrub Jay, Pileated Woodpecker, Black & White Warbler and a lovely little Fox Squirrel. Once at Cow camp we saw two Bald Eagles in the air, one at very close range and noticed the ground was heavily potted as if dug by a Wild Boar.

Back on the road again, we were seeing more and more Sandhill Cranes along the roadside. We headed for the Three Lakes Wildlife Management area. Target birds here were Red Cockaded Woodpecker, Whooping Crane and Crested Caracara. Sadly there seemed to be a lot of hunters in the area making birding a little tricky. We did manage to find a number of the white ringed trees, which indicated a Red Cockaded Woodpecker colony however our search was fruitless. As somewhat expected we did not connect with Whooping Crane but did see a few Crested Caracara hawking the scrubland.

Our final stop for the day was a drive down Joe Overstreet Road. This turned out to be a fantastic excursion. On the way out we had many Cranes and Egrets in the roadside fields with numerous Loggerhead Shrikes and Eastern Meadowlarks on the wires. Stopping to scope a raptor assuming it would be another Red Shouldered Hawk, we were amazed to find it was actually a Black Tailed Kite, which continued to show well for a while. At the end of the road, a flock of Savannah Sparrows occupied the car park while both Bald Eagle and Osprey were perched close by. In the fields were numerous Glossy Ibis, Sandhill Crane, Heron's and Egrets.

On the return journey, stopping to photograph a Lesser Yellowlegs and Black Necked Stilt in a roadside pool, a large flock of 40~50 Cattle Egret flew in and went to roost in the tree next to us providing fantastic photographic opportunities. Further on down the road a pair of suicidal Northern Bobwhites crossed our path and thankfully survived.

We managed to find suitable lodging in the nearby town of St Cloud, which just seems to be one long stretch of fast food restaurants and Motels along the US 192.

Limpkin, East Tohopekilga Lake, 08/04/03

Tue 8th April: Woke early and headed off to check out the local lake, East Tohopekilga Lake which was a hive of activity with local school trips, joggers, OAP's etc. However amongst all of this we managed one of the most amazing sightings of the trip. On a jetty we spotted an odd heron like bird in the open. Once I got my scope on it I was amazed to find it was a Limpkin, which allowed us to approach incredibly close and to get some superb photographs. Another local birder was present who said after years of birding the area this was only the 2nd time they had seen a Limpkin here and after years of birding Florida the best sighting of a Limpkin!

Along with this the area also held the usual array of Herons, some lovely Sandhill Cranes with chicks, a Snipe and a pair of Killdeer.

We moved off Eastwards and headed directly for Merritt Island. We had intended to do some more touristy stuff and stopped off at the Cape Canavril Space Centre however the entrance fee was ridiculous so we decided to just go birding instead.

First point of call was the Black Point Wildlife Drive, which turned out to be a fantastic site. Many of the usual suspects such as the Heron's, Ibis, Shorebirds and Raptors, but here they seemed very approachable and in very big numbers. We discovered a very large heronry containing numerous Roseate Spoonbills and there were scores of Glossy Ibis in the area. Other birds of particular interest were a Northern Harrier, American Avocet and many ducks including numerous Blue Winged Teal, Mottled Duck, Northern Shoveler and a single Red Brested Merganser.

Next point was the Manatee observation point, I had been very keen on seeing some Manatees these bizarre 'Sea Cows', but was very doubtful about our potential success. Therefore I was amazed to find up to 9 individuals at the viewing point including 2 calves showing exceptionally well. Apparently the site is reliable due to an underwater spring, which contains minerals that the Manatees need. These springs are few and far between, therefore when discovered they become reliable sites for the species. Absolutely superb, we remained transfixed by these wonderful creatures for nearly an hour.

We thought it would be hard to top this but we did come very close, as we left and did a short circuit of Lagoons opposite the Black Point Drive. Part way around we noticed a mixed flock of Skimmer's, Terns' and Gulls take to the air and noticed that a Peregrine had taken a Black Skimmer. Unable to kill the Skimmer the Peregrine resorted to holding its head under the water for a considerable time while the Skimmer fought for its life. After what seemed like an age the Peregrine was successful and I am sure enjoyed it's meal - sad but that's nature! Other birds of note from these lagoons were a Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Scaup and a Common Ground Dove, which we followed for nearly ¾ mile!

It had been a long day, but we wanted to get as far South as possible so we drove southwards along the belt of Island as far as Cocoa Beech and found a suitable Motel for the night.

Wed 9th April: Had a lazy start, as the day ahead was to be one of travelling. We headed off Southwards and stopped off at a couple of parks en-route, which were fairly un-productive. Both near to Fort Pierce, Sandhill Crane Park and Savannah State Park, we were hoping for Brown Headed Nuthatch. However both parks seemed relatively birdless.

We headed South and inland to Lake Okeechobee and circled the lake to Belle Glade and set up in the campsite. The campsite was like a little oasis from the quiet but rough town of Belle Glade. A fantastic site on the reedbed fringed shores of the lake and teeming with birds. The site itself had scores of Egret's, Herons and a Wood Stork all hanging around fisherman in the hope of some tit bits. The waters edge held many Purple Gallinule which were fairly tame and we found a pair of Smooth Billed Ani nesting in the tree's near our tent - What more could you ask for!

Things went down hill slightly when we went out in search of food and for the first time felt intimidated by the numerous locals hanging around on every street corner. One bonus however came during our search for food as we found a Great Horned Owl perched on a post in the half-light.

Thur 10th April: De-camped early and headed directly for the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge. We started with the Cypress Swamp boardwalk, which was fairly quiet except for the occasional noisy Blue Jay and a small passerine flock, which contained Prairie and Black & White Warbler. Following this we walked the circuit around the lagoon, which was good and even in the fairly high winds did produce some good birds. Mainly the usual Herons and Egrets with a good number of White Ibis, Mottled Duck, Black Necked Stilt and a Killdeer. Highlight of the trip however was to see an adult Limpkin with 3 chicks skulking through the undergrowth.

From Loxahatchee we drove directly to Wakodahatchee Wetlands, which suprisingly is not in any guides but I heard a great deal about it on the net (directions below). An absolutely fantastic reserve, with many highlights along the boardwalk. Firstly Great Blue Heron & Anhinga nest in the reserve very close to the boardwalk, which give extremely close views. There is also a great nest box, which contains a colony of Purple Martin. As we were walking along the boardwalk Zoe picked up on a Least Bittern, which went on to give great views and was the first of four which showed very well.

As we effectively had a spare day before our return flight, we decided to head out of town and drive south for the Everglades as we had such a great time there at the beginning of our trip. It was a long drive but we arrived at Flamingo and set up camp with enough time for a quick look at Eco Pond. Here we enjoyed the great spectacle of 100's of White Ibis flying in to roost whilst a Common Nighthawk was skirting the pond in search of flying insects.

Also in the area is a very tame Red Shouldered Hawk, which spent a lot of time around the campsite. We later saw it plucking and eating a Cattle Egret, which I can only assume, was already either dead or dying. Another bonus when returning from the restaurant we saw a Racoon foraging on the roadside, nice to actually see a live one!

One negative point about the Flamingo area is the Mosquitoes, a real nuisance that seem to range from your typical Scottish type midges to massive creatures that require a double take to ensure they are not a hummer. They are inescapable and seem to be immune to all sprays and deterrents. That said the beauty and wildlife of the area more than compensate.

Fri 11th April: Aim for the day was to head North to Miami stopping at all of the main birding spots, with just one target bird, the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow it was to be a casual day. 

First stop was Eco Pond where we were accosted by some cameramen to be filmed for a new Everglades promotional video! We then headed north directly to Mahogany Hammock, turned around and drove south for exactly a mile, where we got out and started scanning the reeds. It wasn't long before we had a superb singing Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow perched atop a reed stem. The advise we had was that the prime time to visit is between 8~10 a.m. We were there pretty much at 10:00 and this is the only bird we saw among the many singing Grackles and Blackbirds.

Now we could turn down the pace a little and just take a leisurely drive north, we had a look around Mahogany Hammock and found a particularly showy Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Next stop was Pah-o-Okee which was quiet except for a pair of Eastern Kingbird.

We then visited the Anhinga trail, which had four coaches full of school children on a day trip so we didn't hang around for too long but did count up a total of 22 Alligators! We then headed out of the park and returned to Krome Railroad Tracks but the wind had picked up and all the fields harvested since our last visit, so it was fairly uneventful. We then drove around to the Tamiami airport to have a last look at the Burrowing Owls, which were again showing very well along with Eastern MeadowLark & Cattle Egret.

One last stop where US1 crosses SW 216th Av. In Kendall, the road bridge is a reliable site for nesting Cave Swallow, however as I suspected we were a bit early and there was no sign of the birds. Exact details of the location are available in the pranty guide or on the Miami area Audobon web site. From here we drove North to Miami Airport and the Days Inn for our last night.

Sat 12th April: Return trip to the UK via New York.

Below is a list of sites, which were either not detailed clearly in the guidebooks we had or not at all, and so we were forced to search for more accurate details.

Krome Railroad Tracks:-

Krome Railroad tracks is a good site for Sparrow's, buntings and birds of the open pasture. Located about 15miles directly North of Homestead, follow Krome Avenue (S.W. 177th Av.) through and out of Homestead. Continue on the road Northward through open pastureland for approximately 15 miles, you will notice the Rail Road on the East of the road as you get closer. It is difficult to explain in detail as there are no landmarks but you will come to a canal, which the road passes over. Just before crossing the canal there is a rough dirt track to the right. Turn on to the dirt track and park just before the railroad crossing.  If you hit the major junction with SW 88th Av. you have gone too far, turn around here and the canal is around 2 miles south. The bushes around the crossing itself are said to be good for Sparrow's and Buntings and in the open pasture beyond we had E. Meadowlark, Killdeer & Ground Dove along with the more common Doves, Blackbirds etc..

Tamiami Airfield:-

Tamiami Airfield is a fantastic place to see very approachable Burrowing Owls, it is easiest described from the previous site, Krome RR. From Krome RR head north to the main junction with the SW 88th Av. and turn right (East). You have to travel East for a fair way, much further than it looks on the map! Passing numerous fast food outlets, you will eventually come to the junction with SW 137th Av (Lingren Av.) which is well sign posted. Follow this for 2~3 miles until you see the airport with it's main entrance on the right (West). Turn in on the main entrance road, follow the entrance road for a short way and you will see an orange traffic cone on the right hand (South) side next to a junction. This marks the nest burrow of a particularly approachable pair of owls. Follow the roads around the airport where you will see a number of cones each marking nest burrows of the owls. Also around the airport we saw numerous Cattle Egrets, Loggerhead Shrike & E. Meadowlark.

Burrowing Owl, Tamiami Airfield, 11/04/03

Belle Glade Campsite:-

We camped at Belle Glade Campsite but it would be worth a visit just for a spot of birding if you were in the area. The camp site itself held some very tame purple Gallinule, a nesting pair of Smooth Billed Ani, numerous Herons and Egrets as well as a resident Wood Stork which has a club foot that prevents it from flying too far. It has learnt to hang around the fishermen for titbits. The folk that had permanent pitches on the site were very welcoming pointing out nest sites and even offered us a ride out onto the lake to search for reedbed birds but it was a little choppy out there so we gracefully declined! The campsite is located North West of the town on the reed fringed shores of Lake Okeechobee, from the SR 715 or US 441 (both cross the SR 717) take the SR 717 (West canal Street) in a NW direction and follow over the single track canal bridge to the campsite which is at the end of the road.

Purple Gallinule, Belle Glade Campsite, 09/04/03

East Tohopekilga Lake:-

East Tohopekilga Lake is located directly North of St. Cloud. Take any main road North from the US 192 as you pass St. Cloud and you will reach the lake. The lake is quite popular with locals and day-trippers but still holds a good variety of birds. It is worth driving up and down along the road, which borders the lake, and getting out for a scan at various points including the jetty. Around the jetty are a number of reed-fringed pools, which held a good number of Heron's & Egrets. Here we also had some very confiding Sandhill Cranes with young chicks, an incredibly showy Limpkin, Killdeer & Common Snipe

Wakodhatchee Wetlands

Wakodhatchee Wetlands is a fantastic site, which for reasons unbeknown to me does not seem to be advertised or promoted in any of the guidebooks. The site has breeding Least Bittern, Gt Blue & Green Heron, Anhinga, Purple Swamphen, Purple Martin as well as numerous species of Tortoise all of which are very easily viewed from the raised boardwalk. Wakodhatchee is located in suburban Delray Beach, I describe the easiest way to find it from I95. Exit onto Atlantic Avenue and head West and continue to Jog Road and turn right (South). The wetlands are located on the right (East) of the road adjacent to the water authority plant. (Address 13026 Jog Road, Delray Beach).

Least Bittern, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, 10/04/03

Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow site:-

Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow is a sub-species of the Seaside Sparrow, which held full species status until the late 1970's. The only area that it can be found is in a few isolated sites in the Everglades. The easiest location is along the main park road from about 0.8~1.2 miles beyond the Mahogany Hammock turn off. We stopped at exactly 1 mile beyond Mahogany Hammock and found a singing bird almost immediately on the East side of the road. I had been informed that the best time is from 8am until around 10am between March & May, we stopped off at 10.00am.


A fantastic trip with the majority of target birds being seen, the only major dips being Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Whooping Crane and Cave Swallow which I think we were a little early for anyway. However as time progressed the birding was so pleasurable the importance of seeing all targets seemed to dwindle as we were just enjoying being out there seeing fantastic wildlife. The people were 'interesting' always very friendly and helpful until they got your tip at least! All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip, I would certainly recommend Florida as a great birding location

Florida Species List  
Common Loon 1 North at Bahia Honda S.P.
Pied Billed Grebe A few individuals at Bailey Tract & Merrit Island
Audubon's Shearwater 2 from outward crossing to Dry Tortugas
Sooty Shearwater 2 from outward crossing to Dry Tortugas
American White Pelican Seen at Flamingo, Ding Darling & Merrit Island
Brown Pelican Numerous at all coastal sites
Magnificent Frigatebird A small number from the keys, numerous at Dry Tortugas
Masked Booby Seen only on Hospital Key
Brown Booby Individuals on outward and return  Dry Tortugas crossing
Northern Gannet Common on Dry tortugas crossing, none elsewhere.
Double Crested Cormorant Common in Suitable habitat
Anhinga Common in Everglades S.P.  Small numbers elsewhere.
Reddish Egret Fairly common in suitable habitat
Snowy Egret Common throughout
Tri Coloured Heron Common in suitable habitat
Little Blue Heron Common in suitable habitat
Great Blue Heron Common throughout
Great White Heron Common in suitable habitat
Great Egret Common in suitable habitat
Green Heron Common in suitable habitat
Least Bittern 4 at Wakahodchee
Wood Stork Small numbers throughout
Black Crowned Night Heron 2 at Corkscrew Swamp
Yellow Crowned Night Heron 2 on nests & 1 Juvenile at Ding Darling preserve
Glossy Ibis Small numbers throughout
White Ibis Common throughout
Roseate Spoonbill Small numbers in suitable habitat
Mallard Small numbers in suitable habitat
Mottled Duck Small numbers in suitable habitat
Blue Winged Teal Common throughout
Northern Shoveler Seen only at Merrit Island
Lesser Scaup Seen only at Merrit Island
Red Brested Merganser Seen only at Merrit Island
Bald Eagle Seen only at Joe Overstreet Road & Merrit Island
Turkey Vulture Common throughout
American Black Vulture Common throughout
Northern Harrier 1 Hawking low over Black Point Drive, Merrit Island
White Tailed Kite 1 Perched openly on Joe Overstreet Road
Swallow Tailed Kite Small numbers in Everglades N.P.
Snail Kite Seen only from disused airboat stand on US41
Osprey Common throughout
Red Shouldered Hawk Common Throughout
Short Tailed Hawk 1 seen over Long Pine Key Campsite, Everglades N.P.
Red Tailed Hawk A few individuals in Kissimee area
American Kestrel Common Throughout
Merlin 2 hunting on Dry Tortugas, 1 at Flamingo
Peregrine Falcon 1 seen catching & drowning Skimmer on Merrit Island
Crested Caracara Seen only in and around Kissimee area
Northern Bobwhite 2 crossing the road at Joe Overstreet Rd.
Wild Turkey Common in Kissimee area
Sandhill Crane Common in Kissimee area
Limpkin 1 with 3 chicks at Loxahatchee, 1 Corkscrew & 1 St Cloud
Common Moorhen Common throughout
American Coot Merrit Island & Wakahodchee only
Purple Gallinule Seen only at Belle Glade & Wakahodchee
Semipalmated Plover Common in Suitable habitat
Wilson's Plover Good numbers at Tigertail Beach & Fort Myers Beach
Snowy Plover Good numbers at Tigertail Beach & Fort Myers Beach
Piping Plover Good numbers at Tigertail Beach & Fort Myers Beach
Killdeer Fairly common, seen at various sites
Black Bellied Plover Common in Suitable habitat
American Oystercatcher Seen only at Fort Myers Beach
American Avocet Seen only on Black Point Drive, Merrit Island
Greater Yellowlegs Common in suitable habitat
Lesser Yellowlegs Common in suitable habitat
Solitary Sandpiper 1 on salt lagoons, Merrit Island
Willet Common in suitable habitat
Whimbrel 1 Dry Tortugas, 2 Fort Myers Beach
Marbled Godwit 3 Tigertail beach
Ruddy Turnstone Common in suitable habitat
Western Sandpiper Common in suitable habitat
Least Sandpiper Common in suitable habitat
Sanderling Common in suitable habitat
Dunlin Common in suitable habitat
Red Knot Seen only at Tigertail Beach
Short Billed Dowitcher Common in suitable habitat
Common Snipe 1 flushed at East Tohopekiga Lake, St Cloud.
Laughing Gull Common throughout
Ring Billed Gull Common throughout
Herring Gull Common throughout
Caspian Tern Individuals seen in Everglades N.P. & along the Keys
Royal Tern Common throughout
Sandwich Tern Dry Tortugas & Bahia Honda S.P.
Common Tern 1 Bahia Honda S.P.
Forster's Tern Common in suitable habitat
Roseate Tern 2 Bahia Honda S.P.
Least Tern Common in Suitable habitat
Gull-Billed Tern 1 Dry Tortugas, 1 Caloosa Beach
Sooty Tern Numerous Dry Tortugas
Brown Noddy Numerous Dry Tortugas
Black Skimmer Common in suitable habitat
Mourning Dove Common throughout
White Winged Dove Small numbers along the Keys
Collard Dove Common throughout
Common Ground Dove Seen only at Ding Darling preserve & Merrit Island
White Crowned Dove Small numbers along the Keys
Mangrove Cuckoo Seen only on Gumbo Limbo Trail, Everglades N.P.
Smooth Billed Ani 2 Belle Glade Campsite
Great Horned Owl 1 on wires between Belle Glade & Pohokhee
Barred Owl Very confiding adult & juvenile at Corkscrew Swamp
Burrowing Owl Numerous burrows at Tamiami Airport, Kendall
Whip Poor Will Heard at Long Pine Key campsite & Highlands Hammock
Common Nighthawk 1 hawking over Eco Pond, Flamingo
Ruby Throated Hummingbird Numerous at Dry Tortugas
Belted Kingfisher Fairly common throughout
Red Bellied Woodpecker Fairly common throughout
Downy Woodpecker Seen only at Corkscrew Swamp
Yellow Bellied Sapsucker 1 Dry Tortugas, 1 Mahogany Hammock, Everglades N.P.
Northen Flicker Fairly common throughout
Pileated Woodpecker 1 Mahogany Hammock, Everglades N.P, 1 Kissimee S.P.
Great Crested Flycatcher Fairly common throughout
Gray Kingbird 1 only on dry Tortugas
Eastern Kingbird Fairly common throughout
Loggerhead Shrike Common throughout
Black Whiskered Vireo 1 seen well on Bailey Tract, Sanibell Island
White Eyed Vireo 1 at Dry Tortugas & 1 Key Deer Preserve, No Name Key
Yellow Throated Vireo 1 at Dry Tortugas & 1 at Briggs Nature Preserve
Blue Jay Fairly common in suitable habitat
Florida Scrub Jay Seen at Briggs Nature Centre & Merrit Island
American Crow Common roadside bird
Fish Crow Fairly common throughout
Purple Martin Seen regularly throughout
Tree Swallow Large numbers seen at Belle Glade
Rough Winged Swallow Fairly common throughout
Bank Swallow A few individuals at Bahia Honda S.P.
Barn Swallow Common throughout
Cliff Swallow Seen at Key West and Loxahatchee
Tufted Titmouse Seen at Big Bend and Kissimee S.P.
Carolina Wren Fairly common in suitable habitat
Blue Gray Gnatcatcher Fairly common in suitable habitat
Ruby Crowned Kinglet Seen at Dry Tortugas and Long Pine Key, Everglades N.P.
Eastern Bluebird Seen at Long Pine Key & Joe Overstreet Rd.
Veery 1 seen along Gumbo Limbo Trail
Northern Mockingbird Common throughout
Gray Catbird Fairly common throughout
Brown Thrasher 1 at feeding station at Briggs Nature Centre
European Starling Common throughout
Common Myna Seen in McDonalds carpark, Kendall
Yellow Warbler Dry Tortugas
Yellow Rumped Warbler Large numbers Dry Tortugas, a few scattered elsewhere
Prairie Warbler Fairly common in suitable habitat
Palm Warbler Most common Warbler sp, see in most areas
Pine Warbler Fairly common in suitable habitat
Blackpoll Warbler Seen only on Dry Tortugas
Yellow Throated Warbler Seen only on Dry Tortugas
Black & White Warbler Seen at Big Cypress reserve & Kissimee S.P.
Prothonotary Warbler Seen only at Key Deer Sanctuary, No Name Key
American Redstart Seen only at Big Cypress Preserve
Tennesse Warbler Seen drinking at the spa, Dry Tortugas
Northern Parula Fairly common throughout
Worm Eating Warbler 2 individuals seen on Dry Tortugas
Hooded Warbler 1 individual on Dry Tortugas
Summer Tanager 1 individual on Dry Tortugas
Northen Cardinal Fairly common throughout
Indigo Bunting 1 male at Krome RR
Eastern Towhee At feeding station, Briggs Nature Centre
Savannah Sparrow Small flocks seen at Joe Overstreet Rd & Flamingo
Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Seen singing by roadside near Mahogany Hammck
Eastern Meadowlark Fairly common in suitable habitat
Brown Headed Cowbird Seen only at Everglades City & Flamingo
Red Winged Blackbird Common throughout
Common Grackle Common throughout
Boat Tailed Grackle Common throughout
Orchard Oriole 1 male on Dry Tortugas
House Sparrow Common throughout


Marsh Rabbit
Key Deer
White Tailed Deer
Gray Squirrel
Fox Squirrel
Bottle Nose Dolphin
Brown Water Snake
Green Anole
Brown Anole
Carinate Curly-tailed Lizzard
Eastern Fence Lizard
Florida Scrub Lizzard
Six Lined Racerunner
Broadhead Skink
Ground Skink
River Cooter
Common Cooter
Florida Redbelly Turtle
Florida Softshell Turtle
American Crocodile
Southern Stingray

Copyright: Marcus & Zoe Ward


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