Orlando, April 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT surfbirds.com)


By Darren Archer

This is not so much a conventional trip report as a birders introduction to Orlando's Parks. Having read a few reports that combined a family holiday with trips out to birding hotspots I was obviously not going to amass a long list of species but I did hope to connect with one or two of the species that appear on the Scillies.

We stayed at Fairfield Inn, Marriott Village, Little Lake Bryan, it appeared not to be a popular spot for British holiday makers, but for us it was great. Not having our own transport it was adequately supplied with shuttle buses to Disney and taxi's were relatively cheap.

The weather during the two weeks was mainly sunny with temperatures between high 20's and low 30's. It was the initial first two days that were the coldest and days either side of and including the trip to Busch Gardens where the humidity rose. We were pleased that the only storm was overnight as a huge amount of water fell after dark.

As my first trip to the states I was more than happy with the numbers and variety of species though this may not appeal to avid listers.

10th April - Sandford Airport.

Arrived about 2.30pm. Not as tired as expected, but it had been a long flight. We found the transfer bus and immediately went into unknown bird territory. It was obviously a grackle, but what kind, after all it was only 20 metres away from the bus. Should not be too difficult. Are they Collared Doves sitting on that lamp post? And what kind of crow is that flying around? At least they are feral pigeons. Oh no not a bird of prey so early on. Actually not that difficult as it was an adult Bald Eagle, flying over the terminal building. In amongst this a hirundine flew across the car park, but was unlikely to stop and be identified.

By 3.30 we were moving out of the airport and we wondered where we were going to. A bird sitting on roadside wires might have been an American Kestrel, but I did not ask the driver to stop. After this birds had to be big and visible to get an ID from a moving bus. For the most part they were Ospreys, Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures (in lesser numbers) were all clearly visible. As were Cattle Egret, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tricoloured Herons, a Wood Stork, possible crane and a Sharp-shinned Hawk that came towards the side of the bus.

As we traversed the bridge over Lake Jesop a number of other hirundines were seen, unidentified and not seen on the reverse trip. An Anhinga was the first of many for the holiday. A flock of crows around a cow barn were probably Fish Crows. A few terns flying over a pond were unidentified, but Ring-billed Gulls were seen as was a Muscovy Duck but I will not count that as wild.

Reached the hotel and it was cloudy and windy and it felt cold as we were the only people swimming in the pool. Egrets, grackles and doves flew over. Little Lake Bryan held ducks of some kind as we went shopping and the Orlando Premium Outlet had grackles and House Sparrows. We got a taxi back at dusk and two ducks with pale heads may have been mottled, but they disappeared into the darkness. It felt like a crash course in American birding and it was. A Northern Mockingbird while we had pizza reminded me that this was an unidentified species seen at the airport.

11th April - Animal kingdom

Waking at 3.15am can have its advantages in birding terms, but not when first light does not come until 7am. However we did manage the first bus to Animal Kingdom. This added fly over White Ibis and Mallard in a pond. As we dropped people off at MGM an unmistakable Swallow-tailed Kite flew over the car park. Just before it left our view it spread its tail and in the morning sun was amazing. This was quickly followed by a Limpkin feeding on an undisturbed roadside pond. These two made up for yesterday's uncertainty about grackle ID.

We arrived as the park opened and allowed confirmation that that the grackles around our swimming pool are Boat-tailed. These were seen in plenty around the entrance as were some small doves that we took descriptions of after being soaked on the Kali river rapids. However the first stop was the safari. Whilst trying to keep an eye on the African animals I was also keen to look for American birds. However the drivers were not.

Even though the most populous species in the park was Black Vulture they did not get a mention even when one was standing on a hippo's back. When we went back I kind of wondered if that was because Disney was embarrassed about them. However, I thought they looked great hanging above this pretend veldt. Other birding was difficult as we rocked from side to side and a drumming woodpecker went unseen and a large 'buteo' did not get an adequate description taken.

We then walked around the African jungle trail and another drumming woodpecker in with the gorillas went unseen. A small brownish looking bird flew infront of the raft on the Kali river rapids just before we plunged down a hill so another one lost in the bush. This was not yet frustrating as it was only day 1 (later think that this was probably a cardinal). As we dried out we got a good look at one of the small doves and the description was easy to ID a Mourning Dove which then became a common species of the holiday. Common Grackles were also seen in numbers. A robin like ticking became a recognisable female Cardinal, before we got back to Africa. Here a male was seen. The Black Vultures continued to circle around.

White Ibis and Great Egrets were frequent and tame as they came to help themselves to park food - from visitors and caged attractions. One egret sat on top of a small hut and allowed approach down to 2 metres. Sub adult Ring-billed Gulls were a feature of the late afternoon and clearly visible in the emptying car park -a vast sea of tarmac. Double-crested Cormorants flew over as did a Snowy Egret before we got a lift back. I felt certain I had seen a plover with neck bands on the land between the highways near our hotel. It was not subsequently seen and was another that did not make the list.

12th April - Magic Kingdom

We left the hotel on the Disney shuttle bus at 8am. In the reedbed opposite the hotel there was a Red-winged Blackbird with the grackles. Being present at Magic Kingdom as it opens has to be one of the most surreal moments of my holiday. So happy. Apart from the grackles around the entrance the first bird of note was an Osprey circling above Tomorrowland. The blue skies also held Black Vulture and Anhinga with its distinctive spread tail. House Sparrows and Collared Doves were seen. But the stars of the morning were White Ibis and Great Egrets coming down to feed from the guest eating outside the cafes near splash mountain.

By lunch it was hot and birds of prey circled over the park. It turned out that this was probably one of the few public places in the world where looking up until you got a good ID within a public space with a pair of bins did not attract the attention of anybody. Mainly Black Vultures but also saw Cooper's Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk. These birds were high but just continued to spiral on thermals allowing good descriptions to be taken.

A Gray Catbird was seen carrying food near the jungle cruise. A look into the water here showed that amphibians survive in the form of small frogs and tadpoles that dwarfed them. By the afternoon young Ring-billed Gulls began arriving to clear the park of left overs. A Fish Crow was seen calling on Tom Sawyer's Island and an obliging male Anhinga sat on a post in Frontierland. At 4 metres it was beautiful. 3 Ospreys were in the air together over the Dumbo ride as was a Turkey Vulture. It was here that the ultra white of the egrets against the ultra blue of the sky took on amazing new dimensions. Mourning Doves and Mockingbirds completed the set of park birds. Grackles appeared to be roosting by the Monorail terminal and another unidentified hirundine chose not to stop. Parkbirds for the rest of this report will comprise of two species of grackles, mockingbirds and mourning doves.

13th April - Islands of Adventure

A different company a very different feel to the park. Osprey and Mockingbird flew around as we got out of the taxi. This was followed by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feeding in a tree by the entrance which I felt really privileged to see especially at all other times we passed this tree it was heaving with people.

Feral pigeons were noted. It was difficult to decide on bird of the day when 11 Cedar Waxwings settled in a tree by the bridge that separates Jurrasic Park from the Flying Unicorn. A Great Blue Heron fished underneath the bridge. Again Ring-billed Gulls arrived for the afternoon clear up. This was after our first ever upside down rollercoaster ride on the ice of the Duelling Dragon. Wow, I did not expect to do that! White Ibis and Mourning Doves were noted. Of interest was a discussion with one of the park workers who said he had worked here and at Disney and at night large amounts of insecticides are used so the parks stay insect-bite free. This may explain the lack of insect eating birds seen so far. White Ibis continued to fly over during the day. Each Park we go to turns into the best park we have ever been to.

14th April - Blizzard Beach

This is probably not the place you want to wander round with a pair of bins around your neck however water resistant they are. However, this is probably the highest place in Orlando and because of this you have distant views of other parks and birds use the mountain to gain extra height. Egrets and Ibis flew past all morning as did a few Black Vultures. 2 Ospreys provides excellent close views before they moved away to fish.

A singing passerine near exit 5 from the creek that runs around this park was not singing by the time I returned for a look. Park birds were again eating park food and a Fish Crow kept watch on the proceedings. On leaving the park the pus drives around a lake to get back up onto the highway. This was where we saw the only Pied-billed Grebe of the holiday.

15th April - Kennedy Space Centre

All trip reports read so far include the parks plus a trip to Kennedy where because these are fly drive trips a detour to Merritt Island adds waders to the trip list. We were to collected from Comfort Inn by a tour bus at 7.30am so detours were not going to be possible. However, an early start allowed Mockingbirds to be compared to our song thrushes also the pond held Mallard and Mottled Duck so the differences could be compared easily. An American Crow called before the bus arrived and White Ibis and Snowy Egrets flew over. From the bus an Osprey was building a nest in a mobile phone mast behind Sea World and Blue Jay was seen at another pick up point. We left behind us International drive quite pleased not to be stopping there.

The countryside expanded into cattle ranches and looked like Orlando did 40 years ago. A Loggerhead Shrike on wires and 2 Sandhill Cranes by the roadside were obvious additions. Other birds were too distant or too brief or too new to get added to the list. However White Pelicans sitting in marshy area before the NASA bridge and Brown Pelicans fishing in the waterway were not so difficult additions. However, as I have wanted to get pelicans on a list for a long time they went past too fast. The first of several alligators were seen in the ditches leading to the NASA base.

As soon as we got off the bus it was obviously different with Laughing Gulls replacing the RBs we had seen for the previous days. Another difference being these were adults. Two Tree Swallows flew over heading North and Least Terns chased over the building. I was going to have a better look at these later. The moral being they may not be there later. We watched the 3D IMAX film and then caught the bus out to the viewing platform. On the way we added Glossy Ibis, what beautiful birds, Snowy Egret and a 'white' Little Blue Heron. There was a wader in a ditch but at 40 miles per hour it stayed as a peep. White Ibis added to the variety.

The bus drove past the world's second largest building used in the construction of shuttles, with an 8 acre roof, but as it stands alone its immense size cannot be appreciated. It was only the vulture circling and casting their shadows on it that gave any sense of size. The first stop was dominated by Grackles at the picnic tables. The colours in their plumage was fantastic and could easily be overlooked as these were common birds. They were bold and fearless, but so was a Black Vulture. Overhead three Roseate Spoonbills flew under a blue sky and would provide a sight hard to be beaten for aesthetic appeal not to mention rarity value. From the tower a huge alligator could be seen floating in the lagoon looking like a log. A large tern hunting into the wind was not specifically identified due to the distance.

Onto the second stop where parts of rockets etc were on display. Having never had any interest really in the space race this was really an impressive place and made you view the world differently. Lunch outside was with Laughing Gulls, Boat-tailed Grackles and Fish Crows. Overhead 50 + White Pelicans circled on thermals, I was not disappointed with their size and mastery of the air. The rivalled the spoonbills for the top spot of the day.

From the bleachers you looked out onto a lagoon over which flew egrets and herons. Nothing new but, the numbers were hard to believe. Tricoloured herons flew over a great Blue Heron close to us and butterflies danced in the heat. This was what we missed at Disney. As we waited for the next bus ride a Bald Eagle graced the sky.

On the way back to the centre we passed the nest of the eagle on the right hand side (must have been on the left on the way out but not mentioned by the driver) almost filing the pine tree in which it was built. Having seen the bird earlier I was more impressed with the Scrub Jay sitting on wires nearby. A 'mottled' egret turned out to be a Little Blue Heron and it was a surprise to see Moorhen and young. The alligator in the pond was impressive, but there were at least two smaller ones too. However, seeing turtles was also great and another Bald Eagle was seen flying W of the centre. Mockingbirds sang near the shuttle and gave great views and it is hard to compare the two previous Laughing gulls I have seen in the winter in England with these immaculate adults. Sparrows and grackles raided for food.

As our bus left we saw alligators in the dykes around the car park with no fence between them and those wishing to collect their cars 4metres away. The journey across the bridge allowed me to see the Brown Pelicans again, I am pretty sure I saw a manatee surface, but definitely saw the fins of some dolphins. Fewer birds than on the way out but was pretty convinced that I had seen an armadillo on the roadside. A Red-shouldered Hawk lifting from a tree as we approached our drop off point made me more familiar with this species. After buying the much praised Orios in the Comfort Inn we persuaded Samuel to try Indian Food for dinner. This was also a success.

16th April - Sea World

Having seen Sea World from a distance, today was the first chance to get in. And from the moment we passed the Lighthouse and the pretend animals through to leaving after dark we had a great day. Fish Crows called as we went up to the first Dolphin show. An Osprey flew over and all the park birds were present. Samuel fed dolphins and a Great Egret tried to help himself to any scraps. A Black Vulture flew over as did a Bald Eagle while we queued for 'Journey to Atlantis' before noon. The Shamu show saw more Great Egrets trying to steal fish meant for the mammals and we got 5 minutes of rain, but we were already getting wet with salt water from the tank. We did the guided tour of the back of Shamu and the sharks which was really interesting allowing close views of Whales and Egrets alike. A Blue Jay flew past as we walked to the sharks, but I guess we were the only people who saw it. Then a lunch stop near the polar exhibit. This gave prolonged views of the very jackdaw-like fish crow, Starlings and Cardinal which was initially identified by call. Then came the first warbler of the holiday -Palm. It searched for insects in trees allowing a good description. Anhingas flew over easily told by gliding with their tail spread compared to the double-crested cormorants with their more laboured flight. We then did the sealion show - I have never seen a Walrus before. We then rode the Kraken and again saw the world turn upside down. The lake held American Coots, Double Crested Cormorants, Ring-billed Gulls, 1 Laughing Gull and a Great Blue Heron. We left the park after dark having seen beluga and more walrus -amazing. Though a part of me kept asking is this right? A tree frog was found in a palm near the taxi rank as we left in the darkness.

17th April - Busch Gardens

An early start to get the 9am transport bus to Busch Gardens from Sea World as a Tricoloured Heron flew over. For a while we did feel that we had got on the wrong bus and after that it seemed to take forever. Outside of Orlando you began to realise that everything was not quite so neat and tidy and the wide open spaces contained an assortment of different ways for people to make a living capped by the back street into the bus park at Busch Gardens. This included Pawn shops that would take guns, loan sharks who would provide bail money and cheap brothels. Not as the great god Walt intended us to see the world.

From the right hand side of the bus I did manage to see two vulture species, shrike, Wood Stork and White Ibis.

As well as park birds (here including numerous collared doves) there were some very noticeable differences here. Firstly a parrot flew into a palm tree with nesting material and Laughing Gulls were common including a few 1st summers. As we entered a monarch butterfly flew past. I have wanted to see one of these since I bought the Observer's Book of Butterflies in 1976. One flap allows them to glide several metres and in so doing revived many boyhood summers. Parrots were quite common, but it took a while to track them down a good look at the train station - Monk Parakeets. 1 Ring-billed Gull was seen as were Cattle Egrets as they strutted their stuff. Plenty of House Sparrows amongst the animals and White Ibis joined us for a bite to eat. Rode Montu, the best rollercoaster it is so long that you cannot be scared and relax into the feeling. Samuel was disappointed in not getting wet in the Congo River Rapids that looked so good in the afternoon sun. Coming back I was glad we were not driving as this road into Busch gardens looked even less inviting and more intimidating than in the morning, everything that late night movies tell you about. Starlings sung as we then headed for Orlando.

Just before it got dark again from the right of the bus we went across an area of grazing marshes. Across them were utility wires with flat trays on the top these trays held osprey nests. We saw several but the most noticeable on 4 consecutive posts. There were obviously fish out there. We got dropped off at the Orlando Premium Outlets and got a cheaper taxi ride home. A bottle of wine made the Pizza Hut pizza taste special.

18th April - Epcot

Did manage to get up early (well 7.15) for a half an hour wander. I wanted to check out the possibility of the plover seen on day one. This was to no avail but did see 2 Red-winged Blackbirds around the reed bed and the grackles leaving their roost. A Loggerhead Shrike sang from high up on utility wires. Mockingbirds fed their young behind Bahama Breeze. Mallard had a family on Little Lake Bryan, out front and Snowy Egret fished near a Tricoloured Heron. An unidentified bird singing in the woods made me promise to return another day. A Little Blue Heron flew over the bus on the way to Epcot.

Having rushed to the fast pass for test track (an unidentified woodpecker hid in the trees) we then went to Honey I shrunk the audience and saw two Brown Thrashers on the lawn with a rabbit. After riding test track we found Purple Martins and then their boxes. This allowed great views of these large hirundines. 2 American Coots and 1 Snowy Egret fed on the lake before we reached Mexico. Two crow species were seen as were Great Egrets flying over and Double-crested Cormorants. Ring-billed Gulls were scattered along the beaches but the best view were to be had in Canada. This was quickly followed by Mallard, Moorhen and what turned out to be a Red-bellied Woodpecker which was a marvellous bird. 15 minutes of rain after riding test track again did not dampen our spirits or stop us ticking green heron and finding another Palm Warbler in China where we had Samuel's second ever Chinese meal. We then bought chocolates in Italy and coffee in Canada where we stood to see the evening show. This was a great performance and should not be missed.

19th April - Discovery Cove

Given the nature of this place and the fact that we had gone for Samuel's 9th Birthday expectations of large numbers of birds were not high. Additional to the park birds there were a few notable others. Both vultures and osprey flew over. A Great Blue Heron was obviously used to trying to grab an opportunity of helping itself to some of the reef fish. A Cardinal was heard and then seen and an American Crow came into the restaurant area while we were eating BD cake. What big birds they are when seen close. As with Blizzard beach not a place to wear your bins so three small passerines that flew around infrequently went unidentified. Seeing let alone swimming with dolphins was a real buzz. However I cannot finish a not on this day without commenting on the odd collection of birds within the aviary. Incredibly diverse and eclectic, but did include 4 Inca Terns. Even though they were captive these had to be bird of the day and I never thought I would see this South American species.

In the evening the walk to the Cross Roads shopping area for a pizza at Unos allowed us to witness the grackles coming into the reed bed outside the hotel to roost. They appeared to use the highways to guide themselves in.

20th April - Islands of Adventure

While we waited for a taxi 2 Loggerhead Shrikes were noted on wires outside the hotel as we passed them in the taxi singing was noted. Laughing Gulls flew over. We headed initially for the rides we wanted to do again. Top of the list was Popeye - the best raft ride we came across. In the first go around two White-winged Doves were noted. Initially they looked different to the mourning doves but as you are getting wet and being spun around at the same time getting any ID was lucky. They were seen two times latter that day as well firming up the ID. Luckily they would not allow us to stay in the same raft like last time we were here so we had to queue again. This allowed 2 Chimney Swifts to be seen as they flew over. Staying in the wet theme we went to Ripsaw falls before drying on the fire of duelling dragons.

In ye olde English food hall we plumed for an outside seat. Nothing new was added but again looked down onto a fishing Great Blue heron. Watched a tricoloured heron stalking in the reeds and a double crested cormorant fishing. While we did this grackles and Ring-billed gulls eyed our food and everyone else's too. An osprey flew over after we had again puzzled at 'The cat in the hat' (What is that all about?) We ate in the Hardrock Café. What an experience. We nearly lost Samuel as he spontaneously joined a conga line that snaked around the restaurant as we were leaving. Luckily there was only one exit and he knew that too. By then we had ridden the Hulk, Spiderman again and Dr Deaths tower of fear so we had lost the ability to panic.

21st April - Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is the last drop off point on the shuttle bus so you have a while on the bus to look for things. Osprey flew over the hotel as we got on and then saw the usual grackles leaving their roost. A Turkey Vulture was noted. The second Swallow-tailed Kite of the holiday was flying over the drive into magic kingdom and an unidentified hawk sat on top of a tree. Coming out of that drop off alligators were seen in a pond and two Turkeys were seen feeding on the roadside before we reached the highway. This was a later start and by 10am Black Vultures were already circling over Africa. A Cardinal sang above the toilets in the African village. Just as you turned towards Asia a small woodpecker was seen to alight in a tree by the drums. It turned out to be a male Downy Woodpecker going into a hole to feed young. The female was also seen and descriptions were taken from only a few metres as they came and went not worrying too much about the hundreds of people walking past. The female spent quite along time with her head out of the hole and I worried as to whether an adequate description had been taken. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was seen whilst getting wet on the Kali river rapids and demonstrated my confidence in identifying birds since last we were here. Park birds were always in evidence. The Red-shouldered Hawk seen last time was again seen from the safari and it was great to see cattle egrets walking with gazelle.

We then got the train to Rafiki's earthwatch. This added another piece to the myth/reality of Disney and wildlife. You walk to the petting zoo past descriptions of what you can do for wildlife - feedbirds, put up feeders etc. It should have read you can do it but we are not going to the bird baths look like they would not hold water and the feeders had never seen seed. Two pairs of cardinals were a distraction from this screwed-up view of the world. A Gray Catbird was also seen skulking and over the sheep two hummingbirds flew. They were seen briefly and this is when it was brought home how great it would have been to see one of the feeders full, or even half full. A Great Blue Heron and Great Egret were seen. The last ride we did was another safari and by this late in the day the animals were much more active than even they had been at 9.30 on the first day. Woodpeckers were distant and unidentified and the Red-shouldered Hawk took to the air.

The warmth of the evening was noted for its variety of small lizards as they appeared on walls and trees. Perhaps there are some insects. Again Ring-billed Gulls in the car park as we left and a Green Heron flew into the park. In the evening a game of golf at the crossroad shopping centre then a long walk to the Indian restaurant we had eaten at after the Kennedy trip, which is closed on Mondays. But this did give another bird to the one that got away list. Something calling in the trees had to be more bird-like than frog-like. We did manage to call a cab and reach another different Indian and was pleased we got collected as it felt a bit unsafe. However, the driver was not at all pleased to be taking us such a short distance and tutted at all the long journeys he was missing.

22nd April -Sea World

Again park birds, but yet again at around midday as we queued (this time for the Kraken a Bald Eagle flew over. Ospreys also hunted and I almost saw one catch a fish. On the lake where you pedal flamingos around again American Coot, Ring-billed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants. We took a Flamingo out and got really close views of a Double-crested Cormorant working its way along the edge of the lake whilst a Snowy Egret and Tricoloured Heron hunted near it from the edge. They showed no interest in us down to 3 metres. On the beach White Ibis including first years waited for scraps and a Great Blue Heron decided it was too small to tackle the fish swimming near its feet. A Great Egret stole a burger from an unprotected bun. Two Blue Jays were seen in the trees by the smaller lake and it was the first time we noted Americans taking an interest in the less obvious birdlife. Though one of them had just flown across the path to grab attention. Even if they did not know what it was. Anhinga flew over. A plastic owl was roosting high on a mobile phone mast and initially got the pulse racing.

We took the green trolley bus back at .75c per adult as opposed to the $15 taxi fair. We shopped at the Orlando Premium Outlet and then I walked the short distance to the hotel while Anne and Samuel got a taxi. Did not add any new birds but did find a dead tortoise on the path. Did notice a clearing in a wood next to Little Lake Bryan which I thought may be worth having a look at the next morning. Ate at 'Bahama Breeze', ordered Onion rings as a starter. These came in a mountain, meaning that we took the Pizza out for lunch the next day.

23rd April - Magic Kingdom and Epcot

Did struggle out at first light not hard to do when first light is 6.45. Walked across the road and into the clearing N along the road from the lake. There was a small marshy area within which a grackle and a Red-winged Blackbird were seen. The latter sang and instantly reminded me that this bird appears on a 'Supertramp' album. A Gray Catbird was briefly seen, but then heard calling. A flycatcher was seen, but the description was not good enough to identify the species. Then I became distracted by a bird singing from deep inside a bush. It sung and moved around but never came out for about the whole of the 90 minutes I was there. I could not ID it on call but looking at the notes my written translation looks a bit like that for a Cardinal heard at AK. A Blue Jay was seen and a Red-bellied Woodpecker sunned itself before entering its nest. A Gray Catbird was then located close to this nest and it sat out in the open preening and singing a quiet sub-song. I must admit I was disappointed at the lack of species present in what looked like a great habitat compared to everything else nearby. A Blue Jay flew across the car park as we got on our last Disney shuttle bus, again Loggerheads were seen.

Second trip to Magic Kingdom added nothing new but it was obviously going to be our last look at park birds and where will we be next when ospreys are so common? It was difficult not to think that American's will think that Disney parks are good for birds as they are so big and obvious. You can't miss a Great Egret and White Ibis coming to help themselves to lunch. But where are all the insect eating birds? However, again we noticed the massive tadpoles in the water around the castle so life does go on. It is difficult to not pass a comment about the size of the American people, though the largest people of the trip were English. However when you see children nearly the age of Samuel being pushed in strollers it is difficult to see that these will not grow to be the adults allowing the adult version of a stroller to take the strain. You can see the wasted opportunities flowing down stream.

From Magic Kingdom we went for dinner to the Italian Restaurant at Epcot (book priority seating as soon as you enter the any park). From the monorail a flock of small birds were seen but not relocated. A house sparrow's nest and a rabbit by 'The Living Sea' were homely. Purple Martins were again seen over the lake. A Hairy Woodpecker was a good addition as it searched in the trees in China before dinner. A grackle was nesting in a street light so probably cooked its eggs. Reached Magic Kingdom in the few minutes of dusk and again saw grackles roosting near the paddle boat terminal. Purple Martins were also in the air. The parade and the fireworks were fairytale stuff.

24th April - Leaving

The taxi to the airport initially took us down road we knew well - west towards Seaworld. So we were surprised to get 2 Red-tailed Hawks as an addition to the list. Where had they been all holiday? We went past the business centre of Orlando and then passed a cemetery. With its mature trees and green space in a built up area this must hold birds. The trees were not the municipal pine trees about thirty years old we saw everywhere else. When we come back I want to look around this cemetery. Another Red-tailed Hawk was seen, but the birds I wanted to have a second chance at - the hirundines over lake Jesop and the possible American Kestrel were not seen. Life is not a rehearsal. Once checked in - that's a story in itself as the rules for locking cases and weights and extra bags are different at this end, we had a seat by a big picture window. Distant views of vulture species were not that good to finish on. But did manage to see a last Starling and the last bird a Northern Mockingbird as we took off at around 4pm.

Best bird - Palm warbler as it rewarded my pre-trip ID research. Though the beauty of the Glossy Ibis is hard to beat.

Most aesthetic birding moment - the fly over roseate spoonbills until I saw the fly over white pelicans.

Best birding moment - the Tricoloured heron, Snowy Egret and Double-crested Cormorant fishing together as we floated within 3 metres of them.