On the 11th of September I entered Florida on my own as Deborah was still in Phoenix with our kids/grandchild. We, (the dogs and I), stayed near Jacksonville and birded a couple of great spots via good directions from a local birder. At sunrise on the 12th I arrived at Kingsley Plantation where among other things I saw some Common Peafowl/Peacocks. In the mature oaks around the parking lot were several Tufted Titmouse, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, and American Redstarts.
At around 8:00 I moved out to the shoreline in Huguenot Memorial Park. It was filled with shorebirds, terns, herons and egrets including Black-Bellied, Wilson’s and (lifer) Piping Plover’s at the water’s edge. (FOY) Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers were viewed up close as well. Also there were Least Terns and some expressive Royal Tern’s.
Royal Terns "communicating"
Next stop was outside of Orlando in Titusville, FL where I thankfully picked up my first-mate and valued co-pilot Deborah. In our campground this gentleman surprised us with his Green-Winged Macaw which he has carried with him for years while full-time RV’ing.
While touring the (very cool) Kennedy Space Center with Deb, I saw my first ever Florida Scrub Jay low in trees near the road. Despite several attempts over the next couple of weeks, I was unable to catch any pictures of this Florida Endemic.
The next morning I spent birding the Merritt Island NWR. There walking through the “Oak Hammock” I viewed a number of warblers including American Redstarts, Black and White, and a lifer Black-Throated Blue Warbler. Also in this part of the world both Black and Turkey Vultures are common and sometimes are seen together for good comparison.
The next day Deb and I took a tour around the Viera Wetlands in Melbourne, FL. This sewage reclamation facility is set up well for birding by car with its raised dykes and mowed banks providing good viewing over the many ponds and habitats.
On September 17th we arrived at Kissimmee State Park in the middle of Florida. This very quiet and beautiful park in had a lot of pines, palms, and large oaks dripping with Spanish moss… a habitat common throughout Florida. Here I saw my first Snail Kite of my year and life.
At Easterlin County Pk. outside of Fort Lauderdale I captured this image of a White Ibis, a common species in this part of Florida.
Our most southern venture into Florida was to Curry Hammock St. Pk. in the Keys. There at the hawk watch platform I found my first Prairie Warblers. This season they set a world record for day and season sightings of Peregrine Falcons. (651/3242)! Also on this day trip out the Keys we saw our first Magnificent Frigatebirds flying overhead.
Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Our home base in the Keys was John Pellenkamp Coral Reef St Pk. in Key Largo. Here were some nice birds including a lifer White-Crowned Pigeon.
Next we intended to spend a few nights at Flamingo Campground on the southern tip of Everglades National Park. However the mosquitoes were so thick we made it only one night. Should have known when we were the only ones at the 300+ campground! The stop was worthwhile, though, as the birding was good at Eco Pond and I picked up another lifer seeing dozens of Palm Warblers near the Visitors Center. Also, here, we heard our first Barred Owl of the year.
On the 24th of September, we high-tailed it out of the “mosquito breeding grounds” to Ft. Meyers Beach. Birding stops from here included Ding Darling NWR, Bunch Beach, and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples where I caught a shot of a Yellow-Throated Warbler and added a FOY Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.
Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, and Great Blue Heron
We stopped next at Palmetto near Tampa, FL. Here, Birding Pal Chris showed me the ropes at Fort DeSoto County Park where he was able to find an unusual Pomarine Jaeger. My 150th lifer of the trip! Also at Ft. DeSoto, I saw my FOY Long-Billed Curlew.
Thank you Chris!
After a brief stop in Carrabelle, FL we made our way to our last stop in Florida at Panama City Beach. We love this place with it’s pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters. It’s the first place we have returned to since leaving AZ in January. It also was where we hooked up with both of Deb’s sisters and hubbies who flew from Vancouver to join the celebration of Deborah’s 60th. What a blast! (see travel pages for more). Once the dust settled we decided to stay another week here and I was able to get to St. Andrews St. Pk. for some birding.
Leaving Florida, the count for 2012 stands at 378 with 154 lifers for the year. 400 seems plausible again. We will be heading fairly quickly back to the Phoenix area but maybe can pick up a few new birds along the way. First stop will be near Birmingham, Alabama as we take a slightly different route home following I-40 to the west.
What a 9 month trip it's been!
Our next destination took us to the more remote LowKey Hideaway in Cedar Key, FL. The birding was great right from our campground where this shot of American White Pelicans was taken. Our RV was parked right on the water and literally “12 steps” from their funky Tiki Bar which was too much fun at night. Cedar Key is a very cool little town sticking out into the Gulf of Mexico. The locals describe it as what the Keys used to be like back-in-the-day. If you ever get the chance go visit Cedar Key. Also, nearby at the Cemetery Boardwalk, we saw lifers in Blue-Winged Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush.
Our next destination took us to the more remote LowKey Hideaway in Cedar Key, FL. The birding was great right from our campground where this shot of an American White Pelican was taken. Our RV was parked right on the water and literally “12 steps” from their funky Tiki Bar which was too much fun at night.
Cedar Key is a very cool little town sticking out into the Gulf of Mexico. The locals describe it as what the Keys used to be like back-in-the-day. If you ever get the chance go visit Cedar Key.
Also, nearby at the Cemetery Boardwalk, we saw lifers in Blue-Winged Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush.
Great Blue Heron seen while out on our first Air Boat ride.
Based on a local's suggestion on October 18th I ventured out on one more birding adventure before leaving Florida. This time to St. Josephs Peninsula St. Pk. It was the most fun I've had birding in quite a while including adding 3 new year birds (2 lifers).
Not long after passing the entrance of this beautiful barrier island park I saw a Grackle-looking bird. But something was different. Skinnier but just as black I realized the beak was different, then it hit me... It had to be a bird I'd been looking for since Texas last May... A Groove-Billed Ani! While my day was made already I later stumbled onto a sparrow along the water with a different face. After reviewing the photo's in the car I realized it was a Clay-Colored Sparrow. Another lifer. Lastly standing as if waiting for me in the boat ramp parking lot grass was a bird that looked very familiar... but not recently. Turned out it was a Pacific Golden-Plover common in Hawaii but new for the year.
...with its unique beak.