Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lil' Florida Birding Trip

I took a little mini-trip to Florida in the earlier part of this week. I must have seen between 75-100 bird species over the last three days (many were repetitive from last year's trip). Below is a lil' list of lifers and some misses. I've added a few select photos from some of the major parks I visited.

Painted Bunting
Magnificent Frigatebird
Florida Scrub Jay
Clapper Rail
Northern Bobwhite (no photo)
Common Ground Dove (no photo)(Lifer - #231)

***Misses (that I was really hoping to get):
Brown headed Nuthatch
Mangrove Cuckoo
Piping/Snowy/Wilsons Plover
Yellow crowned night heron
American Bittern (I just missed a viewing opportunity at corkscrew, it flushed just seconds before I arrived)...
Prarie Warbler

Pine Warbler

I guess I'm kinda disappointed in this trip. I had some bad luck along the way ... stupid things like my camera malfunctioning on the first day of the trip, mis-placing the GPS I brought from Windsor (only to find it later), and abruptly shortening my trip and slashing my original itinerary.

Sanibel Island & Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Great birding area. I could swear I saw a Black-whiskered Vireo at one point, but I'm not sure if it was just a red-eyed vireo. As I drove to Sanibel Island, Royal Terns and Osprey were very easily seen. This was a great park, but to my absolute dismay, my camera died soon after I entered the park. I did get to see a Magnificent Frigatebird overhead. I was actually looking up on occasion as I drove and I saw a huge bird with a forked tail... I pulled over and snapped a few photos as it circled overhead and then continued northward along the gulf coast.
Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area 
This area is near Fort Myers and is a huge reserve, it was awesome to drive around. There were promises of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers (RCW), Brown headed Nuthatches and other great birds. The number of roads and paths to take was confusing/frustrating. I did get my second look at a Meadowlark... I still have not seen one in Ontario yet. I saw many Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds and typical Florida Passerines. I saw a Northern Bobwhite which I believe are almost placed there for the sake of hunting.

Some trees are marked as having artificial cavities for the RCW. At one point, I met some birders who saw one, but as I looked, I only saw it 'swoop' out of sight. I can't really lifer it in this case.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (Naples FL)
 A few 'wild' painted buntings were hanging out (and around) the feeders at Corkscrew Swamp Reserve. A female was hanging out as well. I saw tonnes of warblers and parulas on this trip but they were high in the trees and difficult to get great looks at through the foliage. I was informed an American Bittern was out near one lookout and it was flushed just as I approached the viewing platform... I still have not lifered this bird! Later though, I saw two separate Pileated Woodpeckers, one male, then later a female at very close range. I saw at least 4 separate Red-Shouldered Hawks crashing through branches catching lizards off branches.  I would say this location is a must see, and is hands-down my favorite Florida birding experience. Even if you didn't see any birds, the habitat is absolutely breathtaking.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge 
Merrit Island was absolutely incredible last year, but this year, ... it was a little bit of a disappointment. Many of the areas that were flooded last March were bone-dry this March. One nice catch from Merrit Island was the Clapper Rail below. I also found a pair of Florida Scrub Jays on the Scrub-Jay trail. Some cool turtles were seen along the Canaveral National Sea Shore.
Florida 'Scrub Habitat' is getting more and more rare. Its like SW Ontario's Oak Savannah habitat... Both are just so easily turned into sub-divisions or strip malls or Best Buy parking lots.   I was pleasantly surprised to see this Scrub Jay on the Scrub Jay Path on Merrit Island. This guy was proudly perched while another (female?) Jay was skulking around nearby.

Good birding,

Here is a link with some more selected photos from the trip (picasa web folder)

Bonus: My first attempt at youtube videos. I took 40 seconds of video of  a Pileated Woodpecker... 

Below I list out some of the parks I had planned on visiting and some that I actually made it to. This may be of use to anyone planning a trip to Florida soon.
J N Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Wildlife Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957, USA
Great spot. Traffic to and from the island is almost exhaustive.
Bunche Beach John Morris Road
18201 John Morris Road
Fort Myers, FL
Did not make it. Famous for shorebirds and gulls.
Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area
Very nice, but huge and poorly mapped out.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
375 Sanctuary Road West
Naples, Florida 34120
(239) 348-9151 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (239) 348-9151      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Best spot on this trip. Absolutely fantastic!
 Park Information
8700 Estero Boulevard
Fort Myers Beach, Florida 33931
Drove through the park but did not really go in. No time...
Big Cypress ~ Facilities (Campgrounds) Midway Campground
52105 U.S. 41, Ochopee, Florida 34141
United States
 ( )
Did not make it..
The Wakodahatchee Wetlands
I pulled into the lot at 7pm and security told me it was closed. Arrrghh...
Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands
12800 Hagen Ranch Road, Boynton Beach, Florida
Operated by Palm Beach County
Parks and Recreation Department
Did not make it
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
10216 Lee Road
Boynton Beach FL. 33473
(561) 732-3684 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (561) 732-3684      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Did not make it
St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park
1000 Buffer Preserve Drive
Fellsmere, Florida 32948
Did not make it
Buck Lake Conservation Area
Did not make it. Wanted to see Bachmans Sparrow and Brown headed nuthatch here.
Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera (AKA Vierra Wetlands)
10001 Wickham Road • Melbourne, FL 32940
Did not make it
Welcome to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge 
Black Point Wildlife Drive
This March, I found it to be a little bit of a dud. I left a little disappointed . The wetlands that I saw last year were all dry this year.


  1. I feel your pain-- especially over a camera malfunction-- but these are excellent photos and great experiences!

    You're a stalwart fellow to decline a tick on the RCW-- I'm not sure I would have let that one go.

    Chin up, Dwayne! Super results!

  2. Fun trip! I have also visited Ding Darling and Corkscrew Swamp. My big "miss" for that trip was the mangrove cuckoo. To see the RCW, I visited Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. We saw adult birds flying in and out of the nest cavity to feed young. Very cool. I also will not count a lifer, even a rare one, unless I REALLY see it in such a way that I could tell you why I know it was what it was.

  3. A nice assortment of birds for a li'l trip. Maybe that Bobwhite should be a Southern Bobwhite!

  4. don't be disappointed Dwayne...I would be extremely happy to see any of these birds! haha i only *dream* of painted buntings! some great info here...will keep this bookmarked for whenever I make it down to FL!

  5. Stuart & Jenna: thanks for the positive comments. My 40D had a broken shutter from 1 hour into the trip to present. I borrowed a camera for the remainder of the trip. I have to make a choice to buy a new camera (7D?) or fix my existing camera at a rediculous charge.
    Blake: I love the inclusion of the word li'l in the comment
    Kiki: Great insight on the missed birds. I meant to add the mangrove cuckoo, brown-headed nuthatch and so many others. Great lifer criteria.

    PS: I saw a Horned Grebe (lifer #232) at Point Pelee on Saturday. It was pointed out to me by Tom from Ojibway. Of course, no photo of it because I don't have an operating camera at present.



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