3rd to 17th September 2016 - Florida

We took another trip to Florida in September, not a birding holiday (gasp!) but with a couple of birding days allocated.  I’d done a small bit of research about what might be around but the first bird was a complete surprise and took some extra research to decide what it was – Common Nighthawk!  Very cool.

Tricoloured Heron

The first of the two allocated days of birding was at Merritt Island and the first stop on our driving tour was actually for a mammal – manatees!  We went to the recommended location, expecting to see possibly a fin in the distance or something if we were lucky, but were surprised by what must have been about 20 manatees, coming as close as they could – I must have been less than a foot away from one at one point.  We also nearly fell off the pier when one surfaced next to us with a teeny tiny baby manatee swimming beside it.  Squee!  When I was finally dragged away, we then started to do some birding, seeing a flock of Osceola Wild Turkey, a few Red-shouldered Hawk and two new ones for the list – Red-tailed Hawk and Belted Kingfisher.  The next lifer was one we were aiming for and Tristan found it almost immediately after we set off on the walk – Florida Scrub-jay!  That walk then turned into one of the worst experiences I have had with biting insects, they were continuously very painfully nipping at me and drew blood!  Grr.  It was a good location for Gopher Tortoise however. 

Sandhill Crane
Baby Manatee!
Back in the car and we saw plenty of species from the heron and ibis families.  Another unexpected addition to the life list was Mottled Duck and a Clapper Rail who kindly flew across the road before landing right beside it.      

Gopher Tortoise
Florida Scrub-jay
I’d like to thank the lovely gentleman at the visitor centre for the really useful information and locations to visit, I wish we’d had at least double the time to explore.

Green Heron (?)


It was off to the Disney Wilderness Preserve for the second day of birding.  Whilst in the car going up the driveway we stopped to look at a lovely (loud!) bird that had flown up to a perch beside the road and identified it as an Eastern Meadowlark, a lifer for all of us.  Another lifer kindly flew into view as we left the car, a massive Pileated Woodpecker.  What an amazing bird.  A loud bird stumped us somewhat, but later Oliver Simms kindly helped out with the ID and confirmed our suspicion that it was a Carolina Wren, another lifer.   The rest of the walk around the Preserve was very quiet, with 3 unidentified birds, a very hot sun and some wading through flooded paths.

Eastern Meadowlark
Carolina Wren (Thanks Ollie!)

I wanted to carry on birding so on the way home we stopped off at Kissimmee Lakefront Park for a quick look, which became a lot longer look as it’s a great location!  Almost immediately we had Limpkin, which wasn’t particularly phased as we walked past and there were plenty of both types of Grackle and both types of Vulture around too.  We excitedly watched a group of 4 Sandhill Crane fly towards us and were amazed when they landed just feet away and happily went about pecking in the grass.  They appeared to be a family group with two juveniles.

The Park was good for warblers, with a couple we couldn’t ID as well as good views of Yellow Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler.   This is meant to be an excellent location for Snail Kite and whilst we saw a number of very large empty snail shells, the kite was nowhere to be seen.  Something I was amazed at here and indeed over on Merritt Island, was the sheer number of Osprey.  They were seemingly on every post and we had some brilliant views of them catching and carrying fish.

Young Sandhill Crane

Yellow Warbler?
That was the end of the official birding but we of course kept our eyes open when out and about, spotting a few Bald Eagle, Mockingbird and other lovely birds.

Lady Red-winged Blackbird (thank you for the ID Ollie) 



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