This is a report on an exciting 161-species winter birding trip to Florida, USA, in February 2001. Sue Bird organised the trip to the sunshine state and navigated us to the birding hotspots. The group of four Doncaster birders was made up of Sue Bird, Roger Bird, Dave Carroll and Helen Womack. Florida has a warm and sunny climate, with rain virtually unknown in February and day length of almost twelve hours at this time. The state has an enormous number of sites protected for wildlife and managed to a high standard. Facilities such as visitor centres and boardwalks are excellent. The Everglades National Park, Florida, covers 566,143 ha of freshwater lakes, wet prairies characterised by islands of tropical hardwood trees, saltmarshes, mangrove forest, beaches and brackish water estuaries. This Ramsar site was added to the Montreux Record in 1993 and is a World Heritage Site, Biosphere Reserve.
DONCASTER TO ORLANDO
On 10th February we left Doncaster at 4.00am in a hired VW Golf and travelled to London's Gatwick airport. Our British Airways jumbo Boeing 747 scheduled flight departed on time at 11.30am and arrived at Orlando international airport nine hours later. The 4,400 miles journey was made at an altitude of 33,000 feet and at speeds of up to 550 m.p.h. We collected the flydrive car, a comfortable 3-litre V6 Buick featuring air conditioning, automatic transmission, cruise control and lots more. An early taste of North American birds was in the car park, with Common Grackle, Blue Jay and Mourning Dove first on the list. After a slight delay pondering over the car's motorised seat adjustments and steering column-mounted drive selector, we set off towards Alligator Lake Inn, seven miles east of St. Cloud, our accommodation for the next four nights. Along the road came more doves and grackles perched on wires and our first encounter with the amazing Nine-banded Armadillo. Setting our watches back five hours to Eastern Standard Time and travelling to the efficiencies (lodgings) saw us arrive at 6.00pm local time, some 15 minutes before sunset.
LIST OF VISITED SITES
The trip itinerary was based on arrival at Orlando and departure from Miami, staying at St. Cloud, Naples and Florida City on our southwards journey, with the following places visited (click here):
THE FORTNIGHT'S WEATHER
A five day forecast for Orlando was obtained from the BBC On-line weather centre and predicted temperatures to be above average for the time of year (28°C) on our arrival. We had all day sunshine during the two week stay, except on 12th February when fog persisted until early afternoon. At least a factor 12 sun screen was needed due to around ten hours of exposure to sun rays each day. Estimated daily max temperatures (Saturday 10thSaturday 24th) were as follows: 28°, 29°, 23°, 22°, 29°, 28°, 29°, 27°, 27°, 23°, 26°, 28°, 28° 28° and 27°C on the last day. Florida was undergoing a prolonged drought, Corkscrew Swamp and the Everglades, for example, were much drier than usual and birds tended to be concentrated in the remaining 'oases'.
SITES & BIRDS FOUND
The following summary gives a brief description of the sites visited and lists birds found there, but for a full species list click here. By the end of the trip, with few exceptions, all the group had a good look at all species listed.
Alligator Lake was only a few metres from our first accommodation. Daybreak was heralded by singing Northern Mockingbirds and the sound of some eighty Sandhill Cranes calling as they lifted from a nearby roost. We watched six Killdeer on the lake shore, with single Great Blue, Tri-coloured and Little Blue Herons as well as a Great Egret. On the lake, Mallard, Mottled Duck (2), Muscovy Duck (2) and a Pied-billed Grebe were soon located. Belted Kingfisher sat on the wooden jetty were we had scopes set up. Overflying us were Tree Swallows, Forster's Tern, Fish Crow and Ring-billed Gull, and under mature pine trees in sandy lakeside gardens Red-winged Blackbirds (10), colourful Blue Jays, American Robins (12), Common Grackles (40) and both Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers were present. Later, Purple Martins and American Kestrel were added to the tally at this large freshwater lake.
Heading towards Southport at the southern end of Lake Tohopekaliga we saw Black Vultures, Stock Doves, Laughing Gulls, Loggerhead Shrike, Cattle Egret and American Kestrel. A stop near a rubbish tip was very worthwhile with Turkey Vulture (50), Black Vulture, Bald Eagle (5), European Starling, Osprey, Brown-headed Cowbird (200), Anhinga, Yellow-rumped Warbler and American Robin. We had good views of a Crested Caracara and two beautiful Eastern Meadowlarks along the SR-531.
Belted Kingfisher was the first bird seen at Lake Tohopekaliga. White Pelicans (25), Pied-billed Grebe, Anhinga, Sandhill Cranes, Great, Cattle and Snowy Egrets and Great Blue Heron (3) all showed. Raptors included Bald Eagle (2), Northern Harrier, Osprey (2), Red-shouldered Hawk (2) and, to our surprise, a sought-after Snail Kite. Fulvous Whistling Duck, Moorhen and American Coot all swam on this lake. Smaller birds involved stunning-plumaged male Northern Cardinal, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Common Grackles, Fish Crow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler, a single Song Sparrow and, of course, the ubiquitous little Palm Warbler.
Coastal fog held temperatures down and reduced viewing to close range during the morning. Double-crested Cormorants were common and no less than 12 Belted Kingfishers were counted. Loggerhead Shrike, Collared Doves and House Sparrows were here too. As two Greater Scaups appeared a bottle-nosed dolphin surfaced. About 30 Brown Pelicans and 70 Laughing Gulls in various plumages had gathered in one small area. We joined the Black Point Wildlife Drive to be rewarded with many waders. Better known as shorebirds in the US, they included Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, 30 Killdeer, Common Snipe, Lesser Yellowlegs and Greater Yellowlegs. The drive also produced Pied-billed Grebe (30), White Ibis (60), Tri-coloured Herons (12), Reddish Egret (1), Green Heron (3), Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Wood Stork (3), Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill (7), Northern Shoveler, (12), American Wigeon (25), Blue-winged Teal (12), Hooded Merganser (3), Lesser Scaup (6), Anhinga, Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey (10), Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle (4), with single Northern Harrier and the Accipiters Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Other species along the same drive were Royal and Forster's Terns, Great Black-backed Gull, Sora Rail, Eastern Meadowlark (3), Cedar Waxwing (15), Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow (3) and Common Ground Dove. A real spectacle involved at least 5,000 American Robins feeding on berries and over 1000 Tree Swallows gathered over the palm trees and shrubs. Offshore watching from Merrit Island gave us a Red-throated Loon, Sandwich Tern, Ring-billed Gull, Brown Pelican and 25 Northern Gannets passing in just ten minutes. Before we departed from the site five American Kestrels and three Florida Scrub Jays were seen.
At Ulumay Wildlife Refuge near Cocoa, Royal Tern, Wood Stork (2), Great Blue Heron (9), Purple Martin, Tri-coloured Heron, Mottled Duck (2), Northern Harrier and American Kestrel (4) were of interest, as well as two pairs of platform nesting Ospreys.
Prairie Lakes Preserve
This site is part of the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. On our way to the reserve, Northern Mockingbird, Red-shouldered Hawk, Bald Eagle and American Kestrel had all been logged. Five Wild Turkeys also appeared at the roadside, but by the end of the day this number had risen to 22. Driving through the site we logged the following during our visit: Tree Swallow (120), American Robin, Eastern Towhee (10), Eastern Pheobe, Red-shouldered Hawk, Whooping Crane (5), Turkey Vulture, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Meadowlark, Black Vulture, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird (5), Common Yellowthroat, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pine Warbler, Downy Woodpecker (3), Mourning Dove, and a striking Black and White Warbler.
We had the daily sandwich lunch while viewing Jackson Lake and found Greater Yellowlegs, White Pelican (350), Osprey (4), Black and Turkey Vultures, Red-shouldered Hawk (3), American Kestrel, Bald Eagle (2), Whooping Crane (2), Blue-winged Teal (40), Mottled Duck, Great Blue and Little Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, Sandhill Cranes, Great and Snowy Egret, Brown-headed Cowbird, Palm Warbler, Eastern Pheobe and Northern Cardinal. We moved on further and found a Blue-headed Vireo under an area of dense canopy. Coming to a river, elation, with the discovery of a Limpkin for all to see. We parked the car and walked along a track next to the river, finding Tree Swallow (100), Black-crowned Night Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, Blue Jay (2), American Kestrel, Northern Mockingbird, Black Vulture (many near a dead Alligator), Belted Kingfisher, American Robin (20), the first Field Sparrows (6) and Song Sparrow (1), Red-winged Blackbird (25), Eastern Meadowlark, Palm Warbler, Bald Eagle, Osprey. Bachman's Sparrow was also found in the area.
A three miles drive to Chapman's Ranch put us onto two elegant Whooping Cranes, part of a reintroduction programme in this area. Also here, Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel and ten Glossy Ibis. By now we were losing daylight so we left the SR-523 and hurried along Joe Overstreet road (a track with grazed grasslands on both sides) to see the sun setting over Lake Kissimmee. Birds seen along the track were Loggerhead Shrike (8), Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel (7), Killdeer (3), Eastern Meadowlark and big Wild Turkeys (14). At the lake at sunset was an adult Bald Eagle perched on a post and, though distant, two more Whooping Cranes. Anhinga (40), Sandhill Crane (200), White Pelican (15), Glossy Ibis, Fish Crow, Great Blue Heron, Snowy and Great Egret were also seen. Large numbers of birds headed to roost over Lake Kissimmee as the sun sank below the horizon.
Lake Kissimmee State Park
On 14th February, when temperatures reached 29°C, Lake Kissimmee State Park was our destination and we spent all day there. In order as seen, we had Eastern Meadowlark, Sandhill Crane (120), Florida Scrub Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Towhee (8), Blue Jay (4), Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, Bald Eagle, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo (2), Brown Creeper and Eastern Pheobe. American Crow, Common Ground Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (5), Red-shouldered Hawk, Belted Kingfisher and Moorhen were then seen. Next came American Coot, Glossy Ibis, White Ibis, Blue-winged Teal, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Whooping Crane (3), Loggerhead Shrike, Osprey, Yellow-throated Warbler, Tree Swallow, Tri-coloured Heron, Pine Warbler, Northern Parula, Black and White Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Carolina Wren, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher and Pied-billed Grebe.
J.N. 'Ding' Darling Wildlife Refuge was the first place visited on a day trip to this island. The drive around wetland reserve produced some good birds: American Oystercatcher, Prairie Warbler, Reddish Egret, White Ibis (50), Red-breasted Merganser (10), Tri-coloured Heron (common), Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Pied-billed Grebe, Red-breasted Mergansers, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, White Pelican, Osprey (5) and Belted Kingfisher. Also, Red-winged Blackbird, Willet (100), Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Brown Pelican, Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers (200), Dunlin (50), Black-bellied Plover, Tree Swallow, and Bald Eagle (4). Further along the track were Yellow-crowned Night Heron (2), Wood Stork, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Great Blue Heron, Blue-winged Teal (40), Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper (20), Spotted Sandpiper (2), Killdeer and a single Ovenbird.
A look at Bowman's Beach produced 30 Brown Pelicans, White Ibis, Greater Yellowlegs, Mottled Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, 70 Royal Terns, Forster's Tern, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Willets, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone and Red Knot, with Anhinga, Belted Kingfisher and one Sandwich Tern.
On another day of high temperatures the canopy shade of Corkscrew Swamp boardwalk was welcome. We started off with a Killdeer on the visitor centre lawn and ten Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles at the feeding station. Birds from the boardwalk trail included Grey Catbird, Turkey Vulture (20), White Ibis (40), Yellow-rumped Warbler (4), Red-winged Blackbird, Black Vulture, Black and White Warbler (4), White-eyed Vireo (3), Red-bellied Woodpecker at its nest hole, Pileated Woodpecker (2 males), Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (30), Carolina Wren (3), Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Parula (6), Common Yellowthroat (3), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Downy Woodpecker (5), Green Heron (7), Yellow-crowned Night Heron, (5), Anhinga, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Moorhen, Palm Warbler, Purple Gallinule (4), Tufted Titmouse, Great Crested Flycatcher (2), Yellow-throated Warbler (2), Barred Owl (roosting), Eastern Pheobe, Black-crowned Night Heron (2), Carolina Wren and Mourning Dove.
We visited Tigertail Beach on Marco Island on 17th February to add some more shorebirds to our tally. It was high tide on our arrival and we had to cross a channel to reach the birds. As the tide lapped over the white sands, the first waders were soon found: Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin and Sanderling (50). The sand flats produced Piping Plover (10), Wilson's Plover (18), American Oystercatcher (3), Snowy Plover (20) Willet, Black-bellied Plover (10), Red Knot (50), Semi-palmated Plover (10), Least Sandpiper (50), Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers, and Western Sandpiper (10).
Other finds along the beach were Northern Cardinal (7), Pied Kingfisher (2), Reddish Egret (2) and its white morph, Osprey (2), Brown Pelican (50), Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Common Ground Dove (3), Great Egret (10), Tri-coloured Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Royal Tern (60), Ring-billed Gull scavenging our lunch, Little Blue Heron, Palm Warbler, Sandwich and Caspian Tern (2). Although it was too late to enter Briggs Nature Centre, we birded nearby and logged Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal, White Ibis, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, white morph Reddish Egret, Eastern Towhee, Florida Scrub Jay (5), Grey Catbird, Mourning Dove, Common Ground Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Brown Pelican, Black Vulture and Red-shouldered Hawk.
On 18th we left the Gulf Coast and took the Tamiami Trail south to the Everglades. During the journey we called at Shark Valley and recorded Black Vulture, Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Mockingbird, Green Heron (6), Anhinga, Moorhen, Great Blue Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Egret, Yellow-crowned Night Heron (5), Purple Gallinule, Pied-billed Grebe, Cooper's Hawk eating prey, White-eyed Vireo, Purple Gallinule, Palm Warbler, Turkey Vulture and Red-shouldered Hawk. The remainder of the journey to Florida City produced a Northern Harrier and at least 20 Belted Kingfishers on roadside wires. After finding some accommodation a few miles from the Everglades our first visit to the famous Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm Hammock was thoroughly enjoyed.
On the Anhinga Trail we found American Kestrel (5), Northern Harrier, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Pheobe, Boat-tailed Grackle, Wood Stork, Anhinga (50; and sitting nests), Red-shouldered Hawk, White Ibis (40), Killdeer, Double-crested Cormorant (30), Great Blue Heron (16, and 3 white morphs), Green Heron (18), Tri-coloured Heron (4), Purple Gallinule (7), Moorhen, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture (180 in distance), Black Vulture (5), Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Osprey, Great 'White' Egret, a male Painted Bunting in flight, European Starling (roost) and 15 Cedar Waxwings. Along the Gumbo Limbo Trail a Brown Thrasher was foraging on the ground.
Everglades Main Drive
Birds from the road included American Kestrel (4), Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture (10), Wood Stork (2), Tree Swallow (1000), Western Kingbird, White Ibis, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk,Common Grackle, Northern Mockingbird, Red-winged Blackbird, European Starling, American Crow, Boat-tailed Grackle, Cedar Waxwing (104), Purple Martin, Cattle Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Double-crested Cormorant and Little Blue Heron. An immature Golden Eagle on 23rd was a bonus. Bald Eagle (4), Cooper's and Red-tailed Hawks, Savannah Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird were also seen. Birds of interest at the VISITOR CENTRE were Yellow-rumped Warbler (10), Cedar Waxwing (40), Northern Flicker (3), Merlin and Downy Woodpecker. A road just off the main drive on 24th February produced Eastern Phoebe, Cedar Waxwing (12), Northern Mockingbird, Grey Catbird, Eastern Bluebird (pr), American Robin (20), Northern Flicker, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, European Starling, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Northern Cardinal, House Wren and a Broad-winged Hawk perched on a broken pine trunk. We found a pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches, thought to be absent from the Everglades? See request at end.
Long Pine Key
Palm Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker (3), Grey Catbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler (3), Pine Warbler (3), Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Belted Kingfisher, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Pheobe and Northern Mockingbird (3) were all seen here.
It was clear from this viewpoint that the extensive Everglades wet prairies were suffering a major drought. Boat-tailed Grackle (60), American Crow, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, White Ibis (30), Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird and Wood Stork were logged.
Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Moorhen, Wood Stork, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron (and its white morph), Little Blue Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, Snowy Egret, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, Green Heron, Glossy Ibis, Caspian Tern, Osprey, Roseate Spoonbill, Tree Swallow, Purple Gallinule, Belted Kingfisher, Blue-winged Teal, and Prairie Warbler were recorded at this pond.
Almost dried out, this very shallow water gave us Blue-winged Teal, American Coot, Northern Waterthrush (2), Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Moorhen, Green Heron, Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Grey Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Pheobe, Common Yellowthroat (3), Belted Kingfisher, Tri-coloured Heron and Bald Eagle.
Osprey (four nests; some with young), American White Pelican (100), Double-crested Cormorant (60), Reddish Egret, Merlin and Turkey Vulture. A Bald Eagle was seen mobbing an Osprey for its fish. Spotted Sandpipers (2), White Ibis, Brown Pelican, Yellow-throated Warbler and Black-tailed Skimmer (400), at last! Also seen here were Caspian Tern (8), Laughing Gull (100), Little Blue Heron (11), Great Blue Heron (and its white morph), Tri-coloured Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk and a red ibis hybrid.
This site was overflowing with birds, including Glossy Ibis (2), Snowy Egret (350), Great Egret (4), Roseate Spoonbill (6), Pied-billed Grebe (20), Sora Rail (3), Little Blue Heron (2), Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cattle Egret (1), Grey Catbird (35), Green Heron (2), Moorhen, American Coot, Northern Cardinal (3), Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat (5), Tri-coloured Heron, Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Mockingbird, Red-shouldered Hawk, Black and Turkey Vultures, Purple Gallinule and a second-year male Bullock's Oriole on 19th February. Cedar Waxwing (100), Red-bellied Woodpecker, Merlin, Ovenbird (2), Black and White Warbler, Yellow Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Green-winged Teal Anhinga, Great Crested Flycatcher, Swamp Sparrow (2), Bald Eagle (pr), Tree Swallow, Prairie Warbler, Northern Flicker, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Brown Thrasher and the only Cave Swallows (2) of the trip were seen here.
Red-bellied (2) and Downy Woodpeckers (1), Western Kingbird (4), Great Crested Flycatcher (2), Killdeer (9), Wood Stork (2), Red-shouldered Hawk, Blue Jay (12), Northern Mockingbird (2), Grey Catbird, Barred Owl (call), Prairie Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Palm Warbler all showed.
We made a one day trip to Florida Keys calling at a disused research centre and botanical gardens on Key Largo for White-crowned Pigeon (3), with Collared Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (3) and Northern Cardinal also seen. On to the Keys and we saw Red-breasted Merganser, Palm Warbler (7), American Kestrels, Double-crested Cormorant, Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, Ring-billed Gull (30), Magnificent Frigatebird (at Harry Harris County Park), Osprey, Great Blue Heron (white morph), Reddish Egret and Forster's Tern.
LONG KEY PARK: Here we found American Redstart, Prairie Warbler, Grey-blue Gnatcatcher, Red-breasted Merganser, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Grey Catbird, Tri-coloured Heron, Little Blue Heron, Osprey and Double-crested Cormorant.
MARATHON AIRFIELD: Cattle Egret (3), Burrowing Owl (2), American Kestrel (3) and Rock Dove.
LAKE EDNA, Grassy Key: Little Blue Heron, Cooper's Hawk, Tri-coloured Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Ring-billed Gull, Willet, Royal and Caspian Terns. Before leaving the Keys we added Peregrine at a road bridge, 12 noisy Rose-ringed Parakeets, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Northern Flicker.
Other Sites Visited
HOMESTEAD AREA: Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Mockingbird, Common Grackle, Eastern Meadowlark, Mourning Dove, Collared Dove, White-winged Dove (2), Killdeer (17), Tree Swallow (200), Common Ground Dove (5) and American Kestrel (4).
A visit to the FRUIT & SPICE GARDENS gave us Purple Martin, Black and Turkey Vultures, Palm Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (2 on Old World Tropics banana tree nectar), Grey Catbird, Blue Jay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cooper's Hawk (pr), Northern Flicker, White-winged Dove (3), Osprey (harassed by 27 Turkey Vultures for its fish), Northern Cardinal, Loggerhead Shrike and Red-winged Blackbird.
BAY OF BISCAYNE produced Shiny Cowbird, Common Grackle, Osprey, Red-breasted Merganser (10), Pied-billed Grebe (11), Royal Tern, Caspian Tern, Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone (5), Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper (3), Ring-billed Gull, Little Blue Heron (4), Great Blue Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Anhinga and Belted Kingfisher.
FLORIDA CITY: At the Burger King car park, Hill Mynah.
The landscape of Florida is flat, with extensive areas of open countryside. Some agricultural fields grew beans and maize while others were planted with orange groves. The Everglades area, of course, was uncultivated and remains a wetland wilderness. There is a tropical feel to the whole region due to the many palm trees, including coconut. The 'wading birds', egrets, herons, ibises, spoonbills and storks were probably the most significant group of birds seen on this trip - numbers and approachability were really impressive. We were usually out by around 8.00am and birded until dusk. Mosquitos were not active during our visit, perhaps partly due to the drought, but this must also affect insect eating birds. Some toll roads had to be used, but these only charge around 75 cents.
Currency exchange rate at the time of our visit was reasonable, so each US Dollar was worth about 70p. Prices, for example, were $1.43 for a US gallon of unleaded petrol. Cans of soft drinks were 75 cents (50p). Eating out ranged widely from takeaways at $3.00 to three course meals (with drinks) at restaurants costing from $15-$25 each. The cost of our efficiency accommodation varied from $50-68 per night, plus tax. All were en suit with fridge and air conditioning, twin beds, and usually a stove. Entrance fees were reasonable; the National Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp Preserve at $8.00 (£5.60) each, admission fee for the day, was the most expensive, while entry to the Everglades NP was only $10 per car for the week.
Moore, D. and D. Hosking (1997) A Birders Guide to Florida.
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. 3rd edn.
Sibley, D. (2000) The North American Bird Guide.
RECOMMENDED RESTAURANT (near Everglades)
Farmers' Market Restaurant, North Krome Avenue, Florida City.
Sue Bird is given a big thank you for organising this very enjoyable birding trip to Florida. Chris Johnson, Roger Mitchell and Alan and Lucy Smith all provided us with useful information on birding in Florida.
At the top of a tree at Eco Pond on 21st February a 1st-W male Bullock's Oriole was seen by our group. Does anyone have any other reports of this species in the area or nearby around that time?
We had a sub-adult Golden Eagle over the Everglades on 23rd February. How unusual is this record?
On 24th February we watched a pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches in pines in the Everglades, along a sideroad between Long Pine Key and Pa-Hay-okee. According to literature that we used, this species is not found below central Florida! Have these nuthatches now colonised the Everglades?