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A Report from

Florida 20th Jan to 3rd Feb 2005,

John Brown

For me and my wife Sharon this was our eighth visit to Florida in winter birding and relaxing, but this year we invited any of our birding friends to join us, and five of them did. Tom Tams and his wife Sandra. Peter Hogg. Andy Watts, and Mick Dunkton. As Sharon and Sandra just put up with been married to birders, this was not going to be an intensive birding trip and was to cater for everyone, although Tom, Pete, Andy, & Mick wanted as many ticks as possible. As I had visited most of the birding sites in Florida over the past eight years I assured them, all the ticks they wanted would be within 1hour 30min drive from Haines City were our villa was located. We only missed a couple of birds and that was due to the high water levels on the reserves following the three hurricanes during the autumn. (Well that's my excuse and it's a good reason for them to return again).

Cost of Trip 

7 Number FlyDrive (Travel City Direct)             =  £1760.00
8 seater minivan (turned out to be 12 seater)
Villa, 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom,
pool & games room, sleeps 8,                         =  £600.00
Southern Dunes Haines City
Travel Insurance                                          = £26.00 each
2 cars Manchester (Air parks) Car park             =  £98.00

14 days Total Cost  =  £377.14 each

Birding Sites

All of the sites we visited apart from South port road and Hooper Farm road (the Western Kingbird roosting site) are on the Great Florida Birding Trail this will give you location map, directions and opening times. The state parks entrée fees are between $3 and $5 per car and up to 8 passengers.

Southern Dunes

The villa was located at Southern Dunes on Hwy 27 (to be our local patch for 2 weeks). A small lake was on the site with reeds on two sides, this turned up some good birds, an over wintering Wilson's warbler, House Finch, Ovenbird, and Least Bittern, Sandhill cranes were on the grounds most days. Been fed by the local residents. A total of 68 species were seen on the site.

South port Road & South port Park RV Camp

From Kissimmee (US 192), take John Young Parkway S 3.6mi. To Pleasant Hill Rd, Follow road to junction with Poinciana Blvd cross straight over to South Port Road.

Southport road is a well-known birding spot in Florida with two pairs of nesting Caracara`s and Bald Eagle nesting in the area. Along the road we kept stopping every few hundred yards and getting out of the van to scan the area. Hundreds of Tree Swallows were hawking the fields full of American Robins, 66 species were seen along the road and in the RV Park. In previous years I have seen Snail Kite on the last two fields on the left-hand side as you approach the park, because of high water on Lake Toho no Kites were seen. Birds of note were Painted Bunting, Barred Owl, White Crowned, Chipping, and Savannah Sparrow, all seen in the Park. The Barred Owl roosts in the large trees in the picnic area to the left when you enter the park through the gate. Flocks of sparrows come into the park from the pasture field at the other side of the road. Four Painted Bunting were seen in the park feeding around the vehicles and picnic tables.      

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Try to avoid weekends, as this is a very popular state park for locals. Around the car park area and Spring can be excellent area for woodpeckers and there can be very approachable we had five species. Three Hermit Thrush were found around the canoe rental area located to the right of the spring. A one-hour walk through Park produced 28 species, Brown Headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Black and white, Prairie, Pine, and Palm Warbler, a good area for Tufted Titmouse, In previous years I have located Ovenbird in the undergrowth around the car park area.         

Saddle Creek Park

This is one of the best parks for a variety of species. On entering the park Brown Pelican, Caspian Tern, Reddish Egret, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Tri-coloured Heron were seen on the first ponds. The nature trail located at the far end of the park produced Black Crowned Night heron, Ovenbird, Yellow Throated, Yellow-Rumped, Parula, Pine, Palm, Prairie and Black and White Warbler. Flocks of Kinglets Tufted Titmouse, and Gnatcatchers with White eyed and Blue headed Vireo mixed in, and five species of woodpecker. 54 species seen on the visit.         

Winter Haven Audubon's Centre

The grounds had been devastated by the hurricanes, but did produce good numbers of Warblers, Vireos, and woodpeckers. Three Wood Duck were seen on the lake as well as good numbers of Fosters Tern and Tree swallows. 36 species seen in a 2 hour walk around.

Merrit Island

When you cross over the Indian river to Merrit Island stop at the first car park on the right hand side, it's a good area for Divers and grebes, you also get excellent views of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. The car park is also a good roosting place for Black Skimmers and Gulls.

Black Point Drive 

Florida Scrub Jay

As always, great views of Roseate Spoonbills, Large flocks of American Avocets and Marbled Godwits, All species of heron in Florida can be seen here, 65 species seen on the drive round.

Oak and Palm Hammock Trail

This is the place to see Ovenbird, within the first 20 yards of starting the trail we had four Ovenbirds. A good trail for large numbers of Vireo, warblers,

Entrance to National Seashore

Just before the entrance to the seashore (the pay booth) stop at the pull-in on the right hand side. Put some peanuts in your hand and you can feed the Florida Scrub Jays, We had five. 81 species seen on the visit.

Disney Wilderness Reserve

Great area for singing Bachman's Sparrow and chipping sparrow, We walked to the lake and back it took about 5 hours and produced some good birding. Good numbers of Northern Bobwhites were seen Towhee, Hermit Thrush, Pileated Woodpecker, and Brown Thrasher, We only seen two other people on the reserve in the five hours we walked around. Well worth a visit. 48 species seen.

Lake Kissimmee State Park

At the entrance to the park next to the wardens hut is the best place to see Florida Scrub Jay. Good numbers of raptors could be seen from the Observation tower overlooking Lake Kissimee. Northern Harrier, Merlin, Red Shouldered Hawk, Broad Winged Hawk, Osprey, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel. Black & Turkey Vulture. All the trails were closed Due to hurricane damage, But we still went on them. After a few hours on the trail we saw 55 species. A good area for Orange crowned, Prairie, and Parula Warbler, Watch out for snakes, I nearly stood on one.   

Old Town Kissimme (on the 192)

If you want some entertainment and birding at the same time go to Old Town on a Saturday night. The car cruise is on Old Town on a Saturday night, but also Old Town has the largest sky diving swing in the world 300 feet high, which is lighted up with powerful spot lights that attract a lot of insects, in turn this attracts Nighthawks, Chuck-wills-widow and Whip-poor-will. I know you are not suppose to get nighthawks during the winter here (as Peter kept telling me) but you do. Some years I have had the three together this year we only got Nighthawks but then again we only visited once and had a great night. Stand at the fence next to the swing and lights and just look up to the swing, lots of Bats to.

Blue Springs State Park

Very popular state parks with the locals, so go midweek. This is the best spring to see Manatees, up to 80 can be seen with young around the spring. A boat leaves the park at 10am and 1pm each day on a 3 hour nature tour of the St Johns river (price $16). You get excellent views of Bitterns, Purple Gallinule, Yellow Crowned & Black Crowned Night Heron, well worth the trip.

A one-hour walk on the park trail produced American Redstart, Hermit Thrush, and 6 species of warbler.

43 species seen on trip.  

Honeymoon Island

Follow the Osprey trail to see the nesting and roosting Great Horned Owls, If you have troble locating them, just ask the warden. The trail produced good numbers of Warblers, Vireos, and Woodpeckers, every other tree seems to have a Ospreys nest. At the far end of the trail was good for Divers, and Grebes we seen Pasific Diver here.

The main beach and coarsway is the place for waders and there are very approachable, Willet, American Ostercatcher, Snowy Plover, Western, Least, and Spotted Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Dowitchers. And Killdeer all in good numbers. Roosting on the beach were Royal, Caspion, and Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmers, Rig Billed Herring, and Laughing Gull,

72 species seen.      

Lake Apopka (Western Kingbird Roost)

his is a popular site for the local birders, With up to 400 roosting Kingbirds also Cassins Kingbird, Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher and Least Flycatcher are seen reguraly . Thousands of American Robins roost in the Orange grove, Hooper Farm Road is the location, and not easy to find as the road is a garden centre entrance. When you pass Hooper farm Road on the left travel 50 yards and park at the gate entrance on the right hand side of the road. All the Birds come into roost 30mins before sunset and sit on the telegraph wires prior to going into the orange grove, If you are there early check the field to the right for Sparrows also check the track up the orange grove, 7 species of sparrow are seen here. Lee Road ( the next road down) has 5 Groved Billed Ani wintering this year, this is also a good road to see Scissor Tailed and Least Flycatcher.       

The evening we visited was the only evening it rained, Still we saw 50+ Kingbirds, thousands of Red winged Blackbirds and Robins going to roost. If you vist Florida in the winter you must give this site a go. 


Species List

Red Throated Diver Only recorded at Merrit Island & Honeymoon Island
Pacific Diver Only recorded at Honeymoon Island,
Western Grebe Only recorded at Merrit Island
Horned Grebe Only recorded at Merrit Island & Honeymoon Island
Pied Billed Grebe
Common on lakes,
Brown Pelican Common on both coasts.
Magnificent Frigatebird Only at Merrit Island
Double crested Cormorant Common.
Anhinga Common.
Great Blue Heron Common
Great Egret Common
Snowy Egret Common
Reddish Egret recorded on the two coasts and Saddle Creek Park
Tricoloured Heron Common
Little Blue Heron Common
Cattle Egret Common
Green Heron Common
Black crowned Night Heron recorded on Merritt Island Saddle Creek Park & Blue Springs Park
Yellow Crowned Night Heron Only Recorded at Blue Springs Park
White Ibis Common
Glossy Ibis Recorded at Merritt Island, Lake Kissimee, & Honeymoon Island
Roseate Spoonbill recorded at Merritt Island
Wood Stork common,
Mallard recorded at Merritt Island
Mottled Duck, seen in small numbers on inland lakes and also at Merritt Island
Green-winged Teal recorded at Merritt Island
Pintail recorded at Merritt Island
Shoveler recorded at Merritt Island
Black Scoter recorded at Merritt Island
Hooded Merganser recorded at Merritt Island and Road side ponds
Red-Breasted Merganser recorded at Merritt Island
Wood Duck 3 at Winter Haven Audubon's Centre
Lesser ScaupThousands coming in from the Gulf of Mexico to roost in Tampa Bay in the Evening
Ruddy Duck recorded at Merritt Island
American Wigeon recorded at Merritt Island
Blue winged Teal Only recorded at Merritt Island, but by far the commonest duck
Turkey Vulture common
Black Vulture common,
Northern Harrier Recorded at Merritt Island, Lake Kissimee, & South Port Road
Sharp-shinned Hawk Recorded at Merritt Island,& Lake Kissimee
Coopers Hawk Seen Daily at southern Dunes and Parks
Red-shouldered Hawk Common
Broad-winged Hawk Recorded at Lake Kissimee
Recorded at Merritt Island, Lake Kissimee, & South Port Road
Red-tailed Hawk Seen regularly.
Bald Eagle Seen daily, 16 seen at Lake Kissimee
Osprey common
Crested Caracara
Only seen South Park Road
American Kestrel Recorded at Merritt Island, Lake Kissimee, & South Port Road
Bobwhite seen Disney Wilderness Reserve
Turkey Seen regularly on field edges
Sora Rail Recorded at South port Park
Virginia Rail Recorded at South port Park
Purple Gallinule Only Recorded at Blue Springs Park
American Coot Common
Sandhill Crane common
Black-bellied Plover
Common on both coasts
Grey Plover recorded on the two coasts
Snowy Plover Only at Honeymoon island,
Semi-palmated Plover Common at Honeymoon Island
Killdeer Common
American Oystercatcher Only seen at Honeymoon Island,
Greater Yellowlegs Regularly seen on both coasts and some inland pools
Lesser Yellowlegs Regularly seen on both coasts and some inland pools
Willet Common on both coasts
Marbled Godwit Recorded at Merritt Island
Ruddy Turnstone Recorded at Merritt Island & Honeymoon island
Sanderling Common on Honeymoon Island
Dunlin Recorded at Merritt Island & Honeymoon island
Western Sandpiper Recorded at Merritt Island & Honeymoon island
Least Sandpiper Recorded at Merritt Island & Honeymoon island
Spotted Sandpiper Recorded at Honeymoon islands
Short-billed Dowitcher
Recorded at Merritt Island & Honeymoon island also road side pools
Long-Billed Dowitcher Recorded at Merritt Island & Honeymoon island
[Wilson's] Snipe Recorded at Merritt Island
Woodcock Recorded at South port Park
Laughing Gull Common on both coasts
Herring Gull Common
Ring-Billed Gull
Mew Gull 1 recorded at Merritt Island
Caspian Tern
Recorded at Merritt and Honeymoon islands & Saddle Creek Park
Royal Tern Recorded at both Merritt and Honeymoon islands
Sandwich Tern Recorded at Merritt and Honeymoon islands
Forster's Tern Common
Black Skimmer Common on both coasts
Mourning Dove Common
Collared Dove Common
Common Ground Dove Recorded at Southern Dunes and Honeymoon Island
Great Horned Owl Recorded at Honeymoon island
Barred Owl Recorded at South port Park
Nighthawk Recorded at Old Town on the 192
Belted Kingfisher Regularly seen by island pools and on roadside wires
Red-bellied Woodpecker The commonest woodpecker,
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Seen regular in Preserve 
Downy Woodpecker Seen regular in Preserve & one at Southern Dunes
Hairy Woodpecker Seen regular in Preserve
Pileated Woodpecker Seen regular in Preserve
Eastern Phoebe Common
Western Kingbird Seen at Lake Apopka
Loggerhead Shrike Common
Cedar Waxwing Common
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo Seen regular in Preserve & at Southern Dunes
Blue Jay Common
Florida Scrub Jay Recorded at Merritt Island
American Crow Common
Fish Crow Common,
Tree Swallow Common
Tufted Titmouse Seen regular in Preserve
Carolina Wren Seen regular in Preserve
House Wren Seen regular in Preserve &  at Southern Dunes
Marsh Wren Recorded at Honeymoon island
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Common
Eastern Bluebird Recorded at South port Park
Northern Mockingbird Common
Grey Catbird Common
Hermit Thrush Seen regular in Preserve
Brown Thrasher Seen in Preserve & at Southern Dunes
Red-winged Blackbird
American Robin Common
Brown-headed Cowbird 1 seen at South Port Park
American Pipit seen Disney Wilderness Reserve
Northern Parula
Recorded at Merritt and Honeymoon islands & Saddle Creek Park
Yellow-rumped Warbler Common
Orange-crowned Warbler Seen in Preserve & at Southern Dunes
Prairie Warbler Seen regular in Preserve & at Southern Dunes
Palm Warbler Common
Pine Warbler Common in the Pine Flatlands,
Wilson`s Warbler 1 seen at Southern Dunes
Yellow-throated Warbler
Seen regular in Preserve &  at Southern Dunes
Black & White Warbler Seen regular in Preserve
American Redstart Only Recorded at Blue Springs Park
Ovenbird Recorded at Merritt islands, Saddle Creek Park, and Southern Dunes.
Yellowthroat Regular on lake edges,
Northern Cardinal Common
Painted Bunting 4 At South Port Park
House Finch 2 recorded at Southern Dunes
Rufous-Sided Towhee Recorded at Merritt, Honeymoon islands & Disney Wilderness Reserve
Savannah Sparrow Seen regular in Preserve
Chipping Sparrow Seen regular in Preserve
White-Crowned Sparrow seen at South Port Park
Bachman`s Sparrow seen Disney Wilderness Reserve
House Sparrow Only recorded at Southern Dunes
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle Common
Eastern Meadowlark Common in open fields

Report By me John Brown

Photos by Tom Tams

(Except this one by Andy Watts!)


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