Florida South and Central 25 January - 4 February 2002


Florida bird photos here

Paul Bowyer and Julian Thomas

Trip report compiled by Julian Thomas

Part I - Practical details
Daylight and weather
Information sources
Part II - Itinerary and sites
Site rating
Part III - Lists
Bird list
Other animal groups



I had been thinking about a winter trip to Florida since the previous spring, and Paul was up for it as soon as I mentioned it to him in mid-October. My aim was to see as many members of new families and Florida specialities as possible, while Paul particularly wanted to see Bald Eagle and a hummingbird, and to get as many good photographs as he could. Both hoped to see as many species of wood-warbler as possible. It was relatively easy to blend these differing requirements together and we worked well as a team on our first foreign trip together.

In all we recorded 164 “countable” species (plus a few uncountable exotics) over 11 days. All bar 3 species were seen well by both of us, some extraordinarily so. A couple more days would perhaps have increased our success rate with the more difficult species (eg rails and sparrows), and there were several sites where we could easily have spent a lot more time had it been available (eg Loxahatchee and Merritt Island), but we did see most of the specialities, and the landbirds seen included 14 species of wood-warbler, 3 vireos and 5 tyrant flycatchers. Overall we were very pleased with the trip and with the views of the birds obtained. Overused word of the trip: Stunning!

Apart from the birds, other major highlights included excellent views of manatees, alligators of varying size, and some large and very beautiful butterflies. Details of non-avian sightings are given after the bird list.   
 Part I

Practical details


We flew with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick to Miami direct. Post September 11th the flights were distinctly cheap at £220 each return and only three-quarters full. The details were: Friday 25 January depart Gatwick 1045am GMT, arrive Miami 3.30pm EST; Monday 4 February, depart Miami 6pm EST, arrive Gatwick 6.30am GMT Tuesday 5th.  These timings allowed some birding on the first evening and about two-thirds of a day at the end.


With an early check-in we stayed overnight near Gatwick. The Armani Guest House at Ifield Green was £35 each (for single rooms en suite), but also only £10 to park the car for the duration of the trip and with a short free ride to the airport in the morning (the taxi back at the end cost £12.50). A bargain, and also a pleasant place to stay with a decent pub just down the road.

Once in Florida, we stayed first in Homestead, where there were several motels to choose from  - we picked the Fairway Inn on US-1, and stayed there five nights in total (days 1-3, 5 and 10). It wasn’t plush, but was pleasant enough, fairly cheap ($49 per room per night), and with a variety of facilities all close by.

On the Keys (day 4) expect to pay $99 per room minimum on Key West, but $49-$75 per room in the Marathon area. Our plans for the next morning meant that staying on Key West was the most convenient; the Holiday Inn Beachside was very pleasant. The Marathon Chamber of Commerce Tourist Center can make bookings for you in either place - thanks to Dave Helliar for that tip.

In St Cloud (days 6 and 7) we found the Budget Inn to be cheap ($40 per room) and reasonable, although the air-conditioning in my room didn’t work properly. The pizzeria next door was basic but OK and the only bar nearby was the Corvette Lounge, which was about the same. As a flavour of real blue-collar America I liked it, but it would not be to everyone’s taste.

In Arcadia (day 8) there was not much choice - a run-down Economy Inn or a Best Western. This was perfectly adequate, but expensive ($99 for an “efficiency”).  Food options available were not brilliant either. Give it a miss.

On day 9 we elected to pick from the motels by I-75 near Fort Myers airport. The Sleep Inn was very comfortable and had a cheap bar, but was pricey ($80 per room). The food options close by were a bit limited for a semi-vegetarian. A bit more searching would probably have found better options further south.


We hired through Avis Worldwide before we went - a Chevrolet Malibu cost us £335 for the trip, including a full tank of gas. It was roomy and comfortable and served us well once we got used to it, but a group of 4 would need a car at least one size up. Gas was about $1.20 a gallon, so a fill-up cost less than $20, but also only got us about 200 miles, so we had to fill up most evenings. A handy opportunity to stock up on drinks and snacks for the next day though.


Just about everywhere except the bars took credit cards or travellers cheques. Some cash was also needed for park fees and occasional toll roads (a stash of quarter-dollars is a good move). A little-known fact is that some banks put daily limits on foreign-currency transactions on their credit cards, as I found to my cost - luckily Paul could step into the breach, but it was an unwelcome surprise.


We were wary and largely kept out of cities, but we had no security problems and even in the areas in Tampa where caution was advised in the Birder’s Guide there was no time when we felt threatened.

Daylight and weather

Daylight hours were approximately 7am (or a little before) to 6.30pm (by which time it was pretty dark). For the first week the weather was slightly hotter than usual, with daytime temperatures of 80-85 F, dropping to 68-70 F at night. There was some early morning fog at times, but it mostly burned off very quickly and did not cause any difficulties.  The last few days were generally a bit cloudier, but we only saw a few spots of rain.   


It was a quiet time for mosquitoes, but they still found us regularly in the Everglades and on the Keys, although much less elsewhere, including Corkscrew Swamp. Especially in mangrove areas (and at Eco Pond at dusk) we both found it necessary to keep re-applying the repellent at frequent intervals. In the end, though, they were not a serious problem.

Information sources

We used Bill Pranty’s 1996 edition of A Birder’s Guide to Florida heavily in working out which sites to visit, and found it essential, but also it is out of date in places now (a later edition is available). We also had a copy of Jerry Cooper’s book on planning birding trips in North America, which had some extra info on south Florida in winter. Thanks to Paul Chapman for the loan of both of these.

For rare and unusual species, printing detailed directions etc off the Florida Rare Bird Alert website (www.javaswift.com/floridabirds) before we went was invaluable, and gained us several species we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Especially as once there we couldn’t get through to the statewide RBA number, and the message on the Lower Keys RBA line hadn’t been updated for a couple of weeks. However, the War Veterans Memorial Library in St Cloud (open 9am-9pm) had a computer lab with free web access for an hour, so we could get at least one update during the trip. Other libraries elsewhere may have similar facilities.

With a bit more preparation we could also have identified more of the other animals that we saw, but I have managed to retrospectively identify some of the butterflies due to the excellent photos and other info on the Butterflies of North America website (thanks to Darrel Watts for the link) at: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/fl/toc.htm.
 Part II

Itinerary and sites rating


Note: all bar two of the sites mentioned here are in A Birder’s Guide to Florida, including directions and access details. For those two (Lucky Hammock and the kingbird roost site), some basic details are given here - for more try the Florida RBA website archives.

The following abbreviations are used throughout:
SP - State Park                 NP - National Park      
NWR - National Wildlife Refuge  WMA - Wildlife Management Area

Day 1
The flight was comfortable and uneventful, but from landing to getting in our hire car took nearly two hours, so we only had a nominal amount of time birding that evening at Curtiss Parkway, just north of the airport, seeing several common species but none of the target countable exotics. It’s about an hour’s drive to Homestead from there on the turnpike.

Day 2
After a relaxed start watching common birds around the motel grounds (including Loggerhead Shrike, a few Common Mynas and Common Grackles amongst the many Boat-tailed Grackles, a roost of Ring-billed Gulls on the roof, and 2 Killdeers over), we arrived at the entrance to Everglades NP at 9am, having seen American Kestrel and Tree Swallows on the way. Taylor Slough (pronounced “slew”) was a breath-taking introduction to the park, as large numbers of wading birds (including Wood Storks, White and Glossy Ibises, Little Blue, Great Blue and Tri-coloured Herons and a few Great and Snowy Egrets) had chosen to feed there that day. All of these became regular sights, most of them daily. Turkey Vultures were everywhere, a Northern Harrier quartered the marsh and a Red-shouldered Hawk landed in a lone small tree close by. The road to Royal Palm Hammock gave us our first views of an alligator (and a big one at that!) and American Black Vulture, and our first White-eyed Vireo showed well in the visitor centre car park.

Anhinga Trail was rather busy, as it was Saturday, but we had astounding close-up views of Anhingas, Double-crested Cormorants, various wading birds including a Great White Heron and several Green Herons, American Purple Gallinule, Palm Warbler and Common Yellowthroat. The Gumbo Limbo Trail area was good for landbirds, particularly along the old Ingraham Highway. Warblers seen here included Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula and our only Magnolia Warbler of the trip; also seen were 2 Great Crested Flycatchers, several Blue-grey Gnatcatchers and Brown Thrasher.

Mahogany Hammock was to be our next stop, but it is currently closed for rehabilitation, so on we went. Paurotis and Nine Mile Ponds were worth brief stops (including 3 Caspian Terns at the latter), but Mrazek Pond and the short part of Snake Bight Trail we walked proved unproductive.

The Flamingo area was very good though, with a variety of habitats in a relatively small area. Wonderful views off the restaurant breezeway, and bird-filled too - both American White and Brown Pelicans, several Ospreys, groups of Black Skimmers and Laughing Gulls and hundreds more wading birds, including a Scarlet x White Ibis hybrid. In the trees around the car park we found Prairie, Yellow-throated and Black-and-white Warblers, the ubiquitous Palm Warbler, and another Great Crested Flycatcher. The evening gathering of wading birds at Eco Pond was spectacular (mostly White Ibises and Snowy Egrets, but also a few Great Egrets, Great White Herons, Green Herons and Glossy Ibises). At dusk at the campground a Great Horned Owl loomed briefly over the trees, and 2 Lesser Nighthawks (unusual in winter) hawked around in the car’s headlights. Driving back through the park at night was an experience, as we had to swerve to avoid an alligator but unfortunately could not avoid all of the many frogs crossing the road.  

Day 3
Another day spent very largely in Everglades NP, but first our first twitch of the trip, although it was hardly a big detour. Checking wires on the way down SR-9336 got us White-winged Dove (2) by the J D McLean water treatment facility, then we visited Lucky Hammock, an isolated clump of hardwood trees 300 yards down a side road (signposted to a youth camp) about a mile before the park entrance. A couple of hours here produced several new species, including Bell’s Vireo (a Florida rarity and the main object of the visit), Yellow-breasted Chat (also rare in Florida in winter), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (scarce in winter), Painted Bunting, Common Ground Dove, and House Wren as well as more views of (among others) Black-throated Green Warbler and Great Crested Flycatcher.

We arrived in the park a little after 10am and worked our way down again. A couple of hours in the Gumbo Limbo Trail/Ingraham Highway area was again productive (including a selection of warblers,  good views of Pileated Woodpecker and Short-tailed Hawk, a brief White-crowned Pigeon and a Barred Owl heard but not seen), but Paurotis and Nine Mile Ponds produced much the same as the day before. We spent the rest of the day again around Flamingo, including another look off the breezeway (most of the same wonderful birds to watch again, plus a single Reddish Egret), a small part of the Coastal Prairie Trail (the marsh was dry and produced only one Swamp Sparrow and 4 Savannah Sparrows, but we also saw another Ovenbird in the mangroves) and dusk at Eco Pond (where we were treated to excellent views of another 2 Swamp Sparrows and a Sora).

Day 4
We started at Lucky Hammock again at 8am for a couple of hours, as Paul had missed the chat’s brief showing. No luck unfortunately - it was distinctly quieter than the day before, although Painted Bunting, House Wren,and several Grey Catbirds showed well again.

Along the Upper Keys, the roadside wires hosted several Belted Kingfishers, Northern Mockingbirds and Loggerhead Shrikes and 2 Broad-winged Hawks. Our first real stop was Key Colony Beach, just before Marathon, where our first Magnificent Frigatebird drifted over, and we got further good views of Yellow-throated Warbler and plenty more Brown Pelicans. We also tried round Marathon airport (for tyrannids, unsuccessfully), Sombrero Beach (where we saw our first 56 Willets, but little else) and Ohio Key (good for waders, including Wilson’s (6), Piping(1), Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers, about 60 Least Sandpipers and 2 Short-billed Dowitchers).

An adult Bald Eagle on a roadside power pole on the Saddlebunch Keys was magnificent, but on Key West the sight of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and one of four Magnificent Frigatebirds in the same binocular view is one that will live with me forever! Hamaka City Park was unproductive and we could not find the entrance to Thomas Riggs Wildlife Refuge, but we managed to view some of the salt ponds, seeing Blue-winged Teals and a few more Reddish Egrets and Tri-coloured Herons at dusk.

Day 5
From now on we started at dawn, today at Saddlebunch Key. No Mangrove Cuckoos, even at this premier spring/summer site, as they are very scarce in winter, but the visit still provided some quality landbirds,  eg American Redstart (3), Yellow-throated Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula and Blue-headed Vireo. Working our way back up the Lower Keys, we did areas at the end of the road on No Name Key (where highlights were White-crowned Pigeon, Black-and-white Warbler and another Northern Parula) and on Big Pine Key (including our first Royal Tern and several Killdeers).

A long stop at Bahia Honda SP was productive, including an immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Painted Bunting (3), Royal Tern, Cattle Egret, and a mixed group of waders including an unseasonal Pectoral Sandpiper. At Ohio Key a slightly different mix of waders to the day before included 4 Greater Yellowlegs. A flock of 35 Royal Terns here was matched by another flock of 48 at the other end of Seven Mile Bridge.

Back up near Marathon, a quick look at Curry Hammocks SP gave us excellent views of our third Broad-winged Hawk of the afternoon, and dusk at Key Colony Beach provided good views of 3 Burrowing Owls. From there it was about 1½ hours drive back to Homestead.

Day 6
This was our “transfer day” up to the Orlando area, but we still managed to fit quite a lot of birding in, and the quality was high. A couple of hours at Loxahatchee NWR gave us a very showy (and noisy) Limpkin along the Marsh Trail, and also good views of, amongst others, Mottled Duck, Glossy Ibis, Blue-winged Teal, Wilson’s Snipe and Lesser Yellowlegs.

Heading to Belle Glade, a fortuitous roadside stop for more views of Northern Harrier also gave us Red-tailed Hawk and, even better, 2 light phase adult Swainson’s Hawks! An hour or so at Belle Glade campground was principally a twitch for a first-winter male Vermilion Flycatcher (simply stunning), but also gave us a variety of other species, including our first Fish Crow, 19 Forster’s Terns and close views of American Black Vulture and Tree Swallow.

Heading north, a Great Horned Owl was found dead by the roadside, and plenty of Cattle Egrets were evident in the fields either side. Past Yeehaw Junction we started seeing Sandhill Cranes and the fields just west of Kenansville were very productive, with a brief flyover Crested Caracara, 6 Bald Eagles, and about 35 Wild Turkeys.  

Arriving at the campground at the entrance to Three Lakes WMA just after 5pm, we were immediately rewarded with good views of Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird and Pine Warbler, as well as the inevitable Red-bellied Woodpecker and Myrtle and Palm Warblers. Only a short wait later 2 Red-cockaded Woodpeckers flew into roost. We finished off at dusk watching a roost of 44 Sandhill Cranes and 4 Wood Storks at a farm pond along Canoe Creek Road, and reflecting on an excellent, if hectic, day’s birding.

Day 7
Dawn saw us on the north side of St Cloud at Kaliga Park, on the shores of Lake East Tohopekaliga, where showy Snail Kites (2) and Limpkins (2 or 3) and yet more Sandhill Cranes were the highlights, as well as streams of commoner birds leaving roost. A drive along the lakeshore produced another magnificent Bald Eagle and a male Northern Harrier, then after a stop at the library for gen we drove the hour or so to Merritt Island NWR.

We could only give it less than six hours, which wasn’t enough, but we still got several species seen nowhere else on the trip (among them Florida Scrub Jay, Marbled Godwit and various wildfowl including Hooded Merganser) and had excellent views of manatees (a real trip highlight). Other bird highlights were flocks of American Wigeons (one containing a single drake Eurasian Wigeon), 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls, 3 Caspian Terns, a flock of 83 Black Skimmers, and more close views of Fish Crow.

By 4pm we were on our way to Hopper Farms (2 miles south of US-441 along CR-736, west of Apopka, northwest of Orlando), where there was a large Western Kingbird roost (70-75 birds), which also included a single Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Other species seen here included Bald Eagle, Osprey, Common Ground Dove, about 350 American Robins, and a flock of 500+ American Crows.

Day 8
We drove south from St Cloud into the prairies at dawn. Two Crested Caracaras showed very well by Canoe Creek Road, then we took Joe Overstreet Road down to the shore of Lake Kissimmee, seeing Eastern Meadowlark (3), American Robin, Killdeer, Brown-headed Cowbird (c.30), Bald Eagle, Song Sparrow (1), Savannah Sparrow (c20), Sandhill Cranes and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, among others.

From mid-morning we spent several hours exploring Three Lakes WMA. We soon had good views of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3) and a male Eastern Towhee, and perserverance eventually got us tolerable views of Bachman’s Sparrow. Bird flocks in two separate areas of hardwood hammock included Blue-headed (2) and White-eyed Vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (5+), Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Eastern Towhee and Brown Thrasher.

A two-hour plus drive then took us to an “extra” site, McKay Bay Nature Park in Tampa. It was not ideal timing as the tide was in, but we still saw 5 American Avocets (the main target) and 7 more American White Pelicans. We finished the day at the nearby impoundments on the southeast side of the bay; highlights here were our best views of Roseate Spoonbill (8) and our only Green-winged Teals (2, with Blue-winged Teals). A further two-hour drive to Arcadia put us back within reasonable range again of our planned route.

Day 9
Another dawn, this time a couple of hours at Rainey Slough, an excellent wetland site where particular highlights were close views of an American Bittern in flight, Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow (3), American Black Vulture (2 on a carcass), and  Black-crowned Night Heron (4) among the by now commonplace herons, ibises and passerines.

Then on to Fort Myers Beach for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. The outer beach was very busy, as Saturday had come round again, but the lagoon was productive. Highlights here were Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, American Oystercatcher (8), single Wilson’s and Piping Plovers with Semipalmated Plovers, a Spotted Sandpiper, 2 Hudsonian Whimbrels, over 70 Royal Terns (with c.20 Sandwich and a few Forster’s Terns) and 220 Black Skimmers.

On the way over to Sanibel Island we saw our only Western Sandpiper of the trip in amongst Sanderlings on the second causeway island. At the famous Ding Darling reserve the numbers of birds were impressive - for example, 73 American White Pelicans, c12 Reddish Egrets, and plenty of Greater Yellowlegs and Willet - but the only new species we added for the trip was Red Knot.  We finished the day off with good views of Pileated Woodpecker in Lighthouse Point Park, and an obliging and engaging pair of Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral at dusk.

Day 10
On this, our last full day, we decided to spend the whole day at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which is a truly amazing place with a primeval feel to it. Walking around the 2.25 mile boardwalk gave us some wonderful experiences, including excellent views of Barred Owl (1, plus 2 more heard), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (6), Carolina Wren (4) and Yellow-crowned Night Heron (3), some incredibly close views of Green and Little Blue Herons, and a brief view of a pair of Wood Ducks dropping in. Not to mention more “gators”, including another very large one. The volunteer naturalists patrolling the boardwalk were very friendly and helpful.  The area around the feeders by the volunteers’ quarters (not those by the visitor centre) was particularly productive - species seen here included American Goldfinch (4), Pine Siskin (1, and a big surprise), a scorching male Painted Bunting (all too briefly), Pine Warbler, Northern Parula and Downy Woodpecker.

The 2½ hour drive to Homestead along the Tamiami Trail in the dark was enlivened by listening to the Superbowl on the radio, and we were there in time for me to fulfil another personal dream by watching the last few thrilling minutes of the game in the local bar.

Day 11
We had to drop the hire car off by about 3.30pm to get to the airport on time, and wanted to maximise birding time, so we decided to spend the day in and around Miami. It turned out to be very productive. At the Cave Swallow stakeout north of Homestead we picked the wrong bridge of the two, but still managed to pick out one definite one (and 3 or 4 more probables) amongst the accompanying Tree Swallows as they headed high straight from roost.

On to the area round the Royal Palm tennis club in Kendall, where the highlights were 2 Yellow-chevroned Parakeets and then a spanking adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler!

Our main site for the day was the Fairchild Tropical Gardens, for a twitchable group of 6 Smooth-billed Anis. It took some time to find them, but eventually the views were excellent. Other highlights there were three Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a noisy flock of Hill Mynas, a very photogenic Anhinga, and a large green iguana falling out of a tree.

With time starting to run out, we headed to the Curtiss Parkway area again, and were rewarded with excellent views of at least 4 Monk Parakeets. More were calling from the thick foliage of nearby trees, but they scattered uncounted when a Short-tailed Hawk buzzed through! It then circled over us for several minutes giving excellent views, another Yellow-throated Warbler dazzled us, and the Myrtle and Palm Warblers were as always ever-present, but all too soon our time was up and we headed for the airport.

Site rating (1-5 stars)

Everglades NP:
Taylor Slough ***
On the first visit it was a spectacular introduction to the park, but far fewer birds there the next day
Anhinga Trail ***
Too many people really on our visit, but the views of the birds could not be beaten.
Gumbo Limbo Trail/Ingraham Highway  ****
The trail itself is short and the cover dense, but the Ingraham Highway gives a wide clear view around and above. Very good.
Paurotis and Nine Mile Ponds **
Worth a drop in and scan for a few minutes in passing.
Flamingo *****
The bird-filled view off the breezeway, Ospreys nesting above the restaurant, gems of warblers in the car park, and nightbirds at the campground, plus Eco Pond of course. Excellent.
Eco Pond*****
Spectacular numbers of egrets and ibisies in the evenings and always the potential for rails and passerines in the rushes. One of our favourite spots.
Coastal Prairie Trail **
We only walked about a mile of a seven-mile trail, so it is probably unfair to judge it, but the marsh was bone dry and finding the few sparrows we did was hard work..
Snake Bight Trail *
One of the few places where we saw very little, but then again we only walked the first few hundred yards, so this is probably unrepresentative.

Key Colony Beach **
Essentially suburban birding, which I don’t enjoy, but several good birds fortuitously seen.
Marathon airport *
No tyrannids found and too much traffic; not enjoyable birding.
Sombrero Beach *
Too disturbed, give it a miss, except perhaps at dusk.
Ohio Key  ****
A good selection of waders available in a relatively small area.
Key West **
Patchy: the power wires along Duck Key Avenue were good to us but Hamaka City Park was poor and we couldn’t find the entrance to Thomas Riggs WR.
Saddlebunch Key ****
A good range of wintering landbirds made for an enjoyable stop.
No Name Key ***
Not as good as Saddlebunch, but still worth a shortish stop - a burnt area of mangrove proved to be a good gallery, with flocks of warblers moving through it.
Long Beach Road, Big Pine Key *
Most areas seemed closed off and it wasn’t that productive.
Bahia Honda SP ***
A good site and worth some time (we spent about 2.5 hours here). The campground is private.
Curry Hammocks SP *
We only stopped briefly here, but it looked nothing special.

Loxahatchee NWR****
An excellent wetland site, which could have done with more time than we could give it.
Belle Glade campground***
Not great surroundings, but good enough birding to compensate for that.
Canoe Creek Road***
Very good views of a number of target species from the roadside.
Joe Overstreet Road***
A chance to get in amongst the commoner farmland birds, plus Lake Kissimmee at the far end.
Three Lakes WMA****
Another excellent site, especially Hardwood Hammock (just into the Prairie Lakes section) and the campground by the entrance.
Kaliga Park****
Not much of a park (just a roadside strip really), but viewing a productive area of lakeshore. Excellent for an hour or two from dawn.
Merritt Island****
Good views of a range of species. Perhaps not quite as good as we were expecting from all that has been written about it, but then again we could not give it anything like the time it deserves and did not do the Canaveral National Seashore or the Hammock Trails. All the tracks on the south side of the main road were closed for security reasons post September 11th.
Hopper Farms***
Merely a stakeout for the kingbirds, but which nonetheless provided some extra views of other species too.
McKay Bay and impoundments***
A bit out of the way from our planned sites, involving long drives to and from, and we could not visit at the best state of tide, but it still got us our only American Avocets, so the detour was worth it.
Rainey Slough*****
An excellent wetland site, with plenty of birds. The prime site for American Bittern and a number of other species.
Fort Myers Beach****
A bit busy with people on our (weekend) visit, but some excellent views of a good variety of species.
Ding Darling NWR***
As with Merritt Island, it didn’t quite live up the hype, and we didn’t enjoy the wildlife drive type of birding. This seems churlish though, as the numbers of birds were impressive, and we would have wowed rather more if it had been towards the beginning of the trip rather than near the end, when we were looking for a few difficult target species.
Lighthouse Point Park**
A pleasant enough stroll, and we got photos of Pileated Woodpecker, which was the main reason for visiting the site, but not many other species seen.
Cape Coral**
Purely a Burrowing Owl site, and good views ensued, so worth it. Not much else, though.
Corkscrew Swamp*****
Our favourite site of all, shown (and perhaps helped?) by the fact that we spent a whole day there. Close-up views of a wide range of species in a wonderful setting.
Cave Swallow roost **
Not the most pleasant of sites, on a busy turnpike slip road  - we were glad to get out of there quickly after our brief success
Suburban birding again, but pleasant enough and it worked!
Fairchild Tropical Gardens***
Basically a twitch for the anis, but pleasant birding in a park setting.
Curtiss Parkway ***
More suburban birding but in a more open setting, although with more traffic.

 Part III

Bird List - Florida, 25 Jan-4 Feb 2002

Pied-billed Grebe
Seen regularly at a number of sites (eg Eco Pond and Paurotis Pond in Everglades NP, Ding Darling NWR and particularly  Merritt Island NWR).

Double-crested Cormorant
Everywhere. Several individuals seen down to a few feet at Anhinga Trail, Everglades NP.

Not quite as everywhere as the cormorant, but still impossible to miss. Particularly photogenic individuals were seen at the Anhinga Trail, Loxahatchee NWR, Ding Darling and Fairchild Tropical Gardens.

Brown Pelican
Seen in numbers at all coastal sites and all along the Keys. Also at least 15 at Belle Glade (Lake Okeechobee).

American White Pelican
Less common than the Brown - seen only at a few sites: Flamingo, Everglades NP (3, 26 January); Merritt Island (5, 30 Jan); McKay Bay, Tampa (7, 2 Feb); and Ding Darling (flock of 73 roosting near the wildlife drive, 3 Feb).

Magnificent Frigatebird
Five seen, all females or immatures, and all drifting over at height in the Keys on 28 Jan: one, Key Colony Beach; 4, Key West.

Great Blue Heron
Everywhere - first seen flying over the hire car lot as we loaded up. “Great White Herons” were seen in Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail, Eco Pond) and on the Keys (Key Vaca). Only one “Würdemann’s Heron”, over Key Colony Beach on 28 Jan.

Little Blue Heron
At every wetland site, coastal and inland. Mostly singly or in small groups, but large numbers were seen off the Flamingo restaurant 26 and 27 Jan roosting on the small keys offshore. Particularly photogenic at Anhinga Trail and in Corkscrew Swamp

Tri-coloured Heron (Louisiana Heron)
As with Little Blue, seen at every wetland site, usually in small but obvious numbers. Very vocal.

Black-crowned Night Heron
Our only sightings were at Rainey Slough flying into roost, 2 Feb - 1 adult and 3 immatures.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Not seen in the Everglades NP - a bad year for them there, apparently. An immature lurking at Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys on 29 Jan was followed by a fine adult at Fort Myers Beach lagoon (2 Feb) and 3 adults (including a pair nest-building right by the boardwalk) at Corkscrew Swamp (3 Feb).

Reddish Egret
Sightings: Flamingo (1, 26 Jan); Key West (2, 28 Jan); Merritt Island (1, 31 Jan); Fort Myers Beach (1, 2 Feb); and Ding Darling (c12, 2 Feb). Widespread, but strictly coastal and much less common than the other egrets.

Great (White) Egret
Just about everywhere, usually in small numbers.
Snowy Egret
Not as widespread as some of the other herons, but seen in many places. Large numbers off the Flamingo restaurant and at Eco Pond in the evenings.

Cattle Egret
The first was on Bahia Honda Key, 29 Jan, then 8 at Loxahatchee, 30 Jan. While in the central prairies they were a common sight.

American Bittern
Only one in flight (though giving close views), Rainey Slough, 2 Feb.

Green Heron
Everywhere. Particularly photogenic on Anhinga Trail and at Corkscrew Swamp.

Wood Stork
Easy in the Everglades (especially at Paurotis Pond) and at Corkscrew Swamp. Also seen in the central prairies, but not on the Keys.

Roseate Spoonbill
Sightings at Paurotis and Eco Ponds, McKay impoundments, Fort Myers Beach lagoon, and Ding Darling. Always small numbers (no more than 8) and mostly immatures, but still an impressive bird.

White Ibis
Everywhere. Large numbers at Eco Pond in the evenings, but smaller groups seen at every wetland site, coastal and inland. Also, a Scarlet x White Ibis hybrid was off Flamingo on 26 Jan.

Glossy Ibis
Largest numbers were at Taylor Slough, Everglades NP (30+, 26 Jan) and at Loxahatchee (40+, 30 Jan), but single figure numbers seen regularly elsewhere too. Photogenic at Eco Pond.

Our only ones were a pair in Fairchild Tropical Gardens on the last day!

Mottled Duck
Our first were two pairs at Loxahatchee (30 Jan), with other single pairs at the McKay impoundments (1 Feb) and Rainey Slough (2 Feb). Generally we were a bit disappointed with the numbers and variety of ducks seen other than at Merritt Island.

Northern Pintail
Two pairs at Merritt Island, 31 Jan.

One briefly at Merritt Island, 31 Jan.

American Wigeon
Good numbers at Merritt Island (31 Jan), but not seen elsewhere.

Eurasian Wigeon
A single drake was with a flock of c 200 of the above species along Black Point wildlife drive at Merritt Island (31 Jan). An ABA rarity, no less!

Green-winged Teal
A pair with the following species in one of the McKay impoundments (1 Feb) were, surprisingly, the only ones we saw.

Blue-winged Teal
Seen in varying but usually small numbers on Key West and at Loxahatchee, Merritt Island, the McKay impoundments and Ding Darling.

Wood Duck
A pair flew quickly over and landed out of sight at Corkscrew Swamp on 3 Feb - typical views for the locality, apparently.

Lesser Scaup
A distant flock of 78 diving duck off Kaliga Park, 31 Jan, were mostly if not all this species; at least 30 were seen in several groups around Merritt Island later the same day.

Red-breasted Merganser
One off Ohio Key (28 Jan) with two there the next day. A flock of 17 at Ding Darling, 2 Feb.

Hooded Merganser
Groups of 4 and 15, including 4 adult drakes in total, were at Merritt Island along Black Point wildlife drive (31 Jan).

Turkey Vulture
Absolutely everywhere. To see this species in Florida just look up!

American Black Vulture
Not as common as the above species but still seen regularly, sometimes in association with them, but mostly on their own or in small single species groups.  Close views on the ground or perched were of birds attending carcasses on Merritt Island (8 birds), Rainey Slough (2) and Belle Glade (1).

Seen regularly around the coasts and on the Keys, and occasionally near lakes inland. Mostly fly-overs, but prolonged close views at times, particularly around the Flamingo restaurant complex, where there is an active nest.

Bald Eagle
A fine adult showed well on a power pole along the Saddlebunch Keys, 28 Jan. Up to six birds, adults and immatures, sat in fields near Kenansville, 30 Jan, and one flew over the Three Lakes campground the same evening. Singles also perched near Kaliga Park and flying over the kingbird roost near Apopka (both 31 Jan), and another adult showed well perched by Lake Kissimmee (1 Feb).  

Red-tailed Hawk
Surprisingly few seen. A pale bird east of Belle Glade (30 Jan) was overshadowed by the Swainson’s Hawks also present (qv). One sat in a tree near Kaliga Park and a fine adult soared over Merritt Island (both 31 Jan).

Red-shouldered Hawk
Seen regularly in the Everglades and on the Keys. Some particularly close views at Corkscrew Swamp (3 Feb). Occasional sightings elsewhere.

Short-tailed Hawk
Two light phase birds seen: one circling over the Ingraham Highway, 27 Jan and one scattering Monk Parakeets along Curtiss Parkway then circling overhead, 4 Feb.

Swainson’s Hawk
Our luckiest find, as 2 light phase birds (adults?) were seen some 10 miles or so east of Belle Glade on 30 Jan, flying over a roadside field, having just been put up from it by a farm vehicle. We had originally stopped to look at a Northern Harrier! Distinctly narrow and pointed “hands” to the wings compared to other buteos.

Broad-winged Hawk
Only seen on the Keys, but 5 sightings, all on roadside wires: one on Key Largo and one in the Marathon area, 28 Jan; and 3 in the Marathon area, 29 Jan. The latter were all within a few miles of each other and included a particularly obliging adult just inside the entrance to Curry Hammocks SP.

Cooper's Hawk
After  probables behind the Fair Havens nursing home (25 Jan) and at Marathon (28 Jan), our only definite sighting was a brief adult at Saddlebunch Key (29 Jan).

Snail Kite
Only two seen, but giving prolonged close-range views in flight and perched, early morning at Kaliga Park, 31 Jan. Both appeared to be immature males - one was in adult plumage apart from an orangey-yellow cere and legs, while the other showed some brownish mottling on the underparts and was presumably younger. The younger bird was ringed, but we could not read the number.

Northern Harrier
A total of 9 birds, all bar one of them ringtails: 1, Taylor Slough, 26 Jan; 1, north of Homestead, 30 Jan; 1, Loxahatchee, 30 Jan; 2, east of Belle Glade, 30 Jan; 1, north of Belle Glade, 30 Jan; 1, this a male, Kaliga Park, 31 Jan; 2, Merritt Island, 31 Jan. Males are much darker than our Hen Harrier - more reminiscent in fact of Montagu’s.

Peregrine Falcon
One brief fly-by at Lucky Hammock, 27 Jan.

American Kestrel
Everywhere, and usually perched prominently on trees or wires. Not particularly co-operative for photography though.

Crested Caracara
A brief one flew over the car on the evening of 30 Jan near Kenansville, then two gave excellent views by Canoe Creek Road south of St Cloud early am on 1 Feb.

Wild Turkey
Two flocks, one of 26 and another of about 10, by the road between Kenansville and the entrance to Three Lakes WMA, late afternoon, 30 Jan.

Sandhill Crane
Regularly seen in varying numbers in the central prairies, and ridiculously tame at times. Extremely close views were obtained at Kaliga Park and by Lake Kissimmee, for instance, and the sight of one picking about on a house lawn in St Cloud took some beating.

One gave prolonged close-range views (and calls) at Loxahatchee, 30 Jan, and 2 or 3 birds also showed well at Kaliga Park the next morning. Very unusual, stiff flight action.

Sora Rail
The only rail of the trip (one of the few disappointments) was a single Sora which showed extremely well at the edge of Eco Pond at dusk on 27 Jan.

American Purple Gallinule
We expected to see a lot more of these than we did, but the first in particular made up for that by showing down to a few feet along Anhinga Trail on 26 Jan.  Otherwise two brief singles at Belle Glade (30 Jan) and one at Corkscrew Swamp (3 Feb).

A common sight in all wetland areas. The shield was noticeably larger and more flared than on European birds (and very bright red).

American Coot
Regularly seen on open water, eg Paurotis Pond. Close views at Eco Pond. Large gatherings along Black Point wildlife drive, Merritt Island.

American Oystercatcher
Eight at Fort Myers Beach lagoon (2 Feb) was our only sighting.

American Avocet
Five at McKay Bay, Tampa and 4 (possibly some of the same birds) seen distantly from the nearby impoundments (both 1 Feb). This was effectively a twitch (albeit without knowing the birds were there) as we had failed at Merritt Island.

Black-bellied (Grey) Plover
Small numbers seen at: Ohio Key on both 28 and 29 Jan; Merritt Island, 31 Jan; Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel causeway islands and Ding Darling (all 2 Feb). Interesting small differences in plumages from European birds.

Semipalmated Plover
The largest flock was of c30 birds at Ohio Key, 28 Jan. Smaller numbers there the next day and at other shorebird sites.

Piping Plover
Singles seen at Ohio Key, 28 and 29 Jan, and at Fort Myers Beach, 2 Feb.

Wilson’s Plover
Six at Ohio Key, 28 Jan, and a singleton at Fort Myers Beach, 2 Feb.

Our first two flew over the motel grounds in Homestead, 26 Jan. Seen regularly after that in small numbers in all open habitats, coastal and inland, including an obliging group of 11 by Eco Pond.

Wilson’s Snipe
About 12-15 birds seen at Loxahatchee, 30 Jan, some showing well on the ground. One in flight, Rainey Slough, 2 Feb, showing the dark underwing well.

Short-billed Dowitcher
Most of the dowitchers seen technically remained unidentified, but single birds at Ohio Key, 28 and 29 Jan, were heard to call and were definitely Short-billeds. All of the rest (singles or small groups seen at Bahia Honda Key, Merritt Island and Ding Darling) were also in coastal situations and were also probably Short-billed, but we cannot be sure that we did not overlook a Long-billed or two.

Our first sighting was also our largest group, 56 at Sombrero Beach, Key Vaca, 28 Jan. After that seen regularly in varying smaller numbers at every coastal site. Particularly close views at Fort Myers Beach lagoon.

Hudsonian Whimbrel
Two singles at Fort Myers Beach lagoon (2 Feb).

Marbled Godwit
About 15 were mixed in with other waders (chiefly Willets but also a few dowitchers) at Merritt Island, 31 Jan. As the light was against and they were tightly grouped, we didn’t study these, as we assumed that we would see more of them, but never did!

Greater Yellowlegs
Our first were 4 at Ohio Key (29 Jan), then about a dozen or so from the watch tower along Blakc Point wildlife drive, Merritt Island (31 Jan) and 40+ at Ding Darling (2 Feb).

Lesser Yellowlegs
A single fly-by at Ohio Key (29 Jan) was followed by 4 at Loxahatchee (30 Jan), c12 at Merritt Island (31 Jan)., and one by Lake Kissimmee (1 Feb).

Spotted Sandpiper
One, Fort Myers Beach, 2 Feb.

Red Knot
Only a single small party (6-10) at Ding Darling, 2 Feb.

Pectoral Sandpiper
One, Bahia Honda Key, 28 Jan, was out of range for this time of year.

Least Sandpiper
Flocks were seen at Ohio Key (28 and 29 Jan, 60+ birds), and at Fort Myers Beach lagoon (83), with a few at Ding Darling (2 Feb).

Western Sandpiper
One, Sanibel causeway islands, 2 Feb.

Small flocks in most places that held waders, eg Ohio Key, Bahia Honda Key, Sanibel causeway islands.

Again, small flocks in most places that held waders. Some birds were noticeably long-billed.

Again, small groups seen in most places that held waders, particularly the Keys and Sanibel.

Herring Gull
Surprisingly scarce, with very few seen in the Everglades NP, but more on the Keys. The best opportunity for close study was at Fort Myers Beach, with both adults and immatures present.

Ring-billed Gull
Seen regularly in groups of 10-50 around the coasts and the lakes. A roost on the roof of the Fairway Inn motel allowed close study of plumages of all ages.

Bonaparte's Gull
Two on Merritt Island, 31 Jan: an adult along Black Point Wildlife Drive, and a first-winter around the jetty by the end of the SR-406 bridge.

Laughing Gull
The commonest gull, seen in varying numbers at all coastal sites, on the Keys, and by lakes inland.

Caspian Tern
Three at Nine Mile Pond, 26 Jan and 5 there the next day. Three at Merritt Island, 31 Jan.

Royal Tern
Singles at Big Pine Key and Bahia Honda Key (29 Jan) were followed by flocks of 35 and 48 at either end of Seven Mile Bridge later the same day. A single was also seen at Merritt Island (in a flock of skimmers), 31 Jan, and a minimum of 78 birds were seen at Fort Myers Beach, 2 Feb.  

Sandwich Tern
About 20, Fort Myers Beach, 2 Feb.

Forster's Tern
Sightings at the following: Ohio Key (3, 29 Jan); Belle Glade (19, 30 Jan); Kaliga Park (4, 31 Jan); Merritt Island (c30, 31 Jan); Lake Kissimmee (3, 1 Feb); Fort Myers Beach (4, 2 Feb).

Black Skimmer
Our first were a flock of about 30 wheeling around off the Flamingo restaurant, 26 Jan. Subsequent sightings included a flock of 83 showing extremely well in a pull-off parking area on Merritt Island (31 Jan), c20 circling McKay Bay (1 Feb), and two flocks totalling 220 birds showing very well at Fort Myers Beach (2 Feb). A more distant flock of about 50 was on a sandbar viewed from the bridge leaving Estero Island that lunchtime.

Feral Pigeon
Seen in a few places: I confess to having paid even less attention to them here as I do at home!

White-crowned Pigeon
Two sightings: an adult seen well but briefly, Gumbo Limbo Trail, 27 Jan (although a clatter of wings suggested that at least one other bird was present and not seen); and another single, apparently immature (with an off-white cap), No Name Key, 29 Jan.

Collared Dove
Just about everywhere, in the south at least.

Mourning Dove

White-winged Dove
Two on wires by the entrance to J D McLean water treatment facility, along SR-9336, 27 Jan.

Common Ground Dove
Sightings as follows: 3, Lucky Hammock, 27 Jan; 1, Ohio Key, 28 Jan; 1, Saddlebunch Key, 29 Jan; 2, near Belle Glade campground, 30 Jan; 1, showing well, Hopper Farms, 31 Jan. Most were flight views as birds were flushed from roadsides.

Smooth-billed Ani
No longer in the Bailey Tract at Sanibel Island and the group at Loxahatchee NWR moved a couple of months prior to our visit, but a group of 6 in Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Miami proved relatively easily twitchable (4 Feb). Very comical and great fun to watch skittering about on the lawns there. The birds are near the entrance, ranging between the overlook and the café.

Monk Parakeet
At the Fair Havens nursing home on Curtiss Parkway, Miami, they had gone to roost by the time we got there on 25 Jan, but were noisy and obvious mid-afternoon on 4 Feb. At least four birds were seen well, although several others appeared out of thick foliage and scattered when a Short-tailed Hawk scooted by!

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet
Two seen well two or three times in Kendall, and one in Fairchild Tropical Gardens, all on 4 Feb.

Barn Owl
One over the main Everglades park road after dark, somewhere near Mahogany Hammock, 26 Jan.

Great Horned Owl
One seen at dusk over Flamingo campground, 26 Jan, and one found dead by the roadside north of Belle Glade, 30 Jan.

Barred Owl
One heard at the Ingraham Highway, Everglades NP(27 Jan) was not confidently identified until we had been to Corkscrew Swamp, where one was seen very well and calling, 3 Feb. Another two birds were heard to call there but were not located.

Burrowing Owl
Two active burrows located. On the Keys, one is on the municipal golf course at Key Colony Beach, viewed from 7th Avenue, by a tree with a large plaque at the base dedicated to A. Glaisner. Two, then three, birds showed well at dusk on 29 Jan. At Cape Coral near Fort Myers another active burrow is a few hundred yards down Sands Boulevard (left off Cape Coral Parkway) in a vacant lot on the left, marked by two thin white stakes.A pair showed very well in fading light, 2 Feb.

Lesser Nighthawk
Unusual in winter in Florida, this was another species where up-to-date gen came in very useful. One, then 2 birds flew around the far end of the campground at Flamingo, 26 Jan. They didn’t come out until right on dusk and the best views were in the car’s headlights just after dark.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Scarce but not unexpected in winter, but we were lucky, I think, to see four without visiting a feeder stakeout: a female at Lucky Hammock, 27 Jan and 3 together (a 1st-winter male and two female-types) in Fairchild Tropical Gardens, 4 Feb. Technically speaking we could not entirely rule out Black-chinned Hummingbird in two out of the four cases, but in the end decided, both on the features shown and on range/likelihood, that all were Ruby-throats.

Belted Kingfisher
Common, showy and often noisy, this species continued to delight wherever we went, often on roadside wires.

Downy Woodpecker
Two in Hardwood Hammock, Three Lakes WMA (1 Feb) and one by the feeders at Corkscrew Swamp (3 Feb).

Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Two came in to roost in marked trees near the right-hand edge of the campground at Three Lakes WMA at about 5.30pm on 30 Jan.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
By far the commonest woodpecker - seen just about everywhere.

Pileated Woodpecker
An impressive bird, seen at several sites, including: Ingraham Highway/Gumbo Limbo Trail (1, 27 Jan); Lake Kissimmee end of Joe Overstreet Road (2, 1 Feb); Lighthouse Point Park on Sanibel Island (2, 2 Feb); and Corkscrew Swamp (3, 3 Feb).

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Three together at Three Lakes WMA, 1 Feb, and sightings of six birds (probably all different) at Corkscrew Swamp, 3 Feb. One there was on a favourite tree (plenty of drill holes) mere feet from the boardwalk.

Eastern Phoebe
The first was by the toll booth at the entrance to Everglades NP, 26 Jan. After that seen daily in ones and twos at most sites, particularly in open brushy or wooded areas.

Great Crested Flycatcher
Seen quite regularly in the south. Sightings as follows: Gumbo Limbo Trail (2, 26 Jan; 1, 27 Jan); Flamingo (1, 26 Jan); Lucky Hammock (1 on both 27 and 28 Jan); Saddlebunch Key (2, 29 Jan); No Name Key (1, 29 Jan); Corkscrew Swamp (at least 2, 3 Feb).

Western Kingbird
Having failed to find this species at regular haunts on the Keys, we detoured to take in the roost at Hopper Farms, west of Apopka, northwest of Orlando, on the evening of 31 Jan. We counted 70-75 birds, of which about 6 or so showed well on nearby wires before joining the main roost, which was more distant on wires across private fields.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
One on the tall power lines along Duck Key Avenue in Key West showed very well in the evening of 28 Jan - at one point a Magnificent Frigatebird drifted through behind it! Also one, more distantly, in the kingbird roost near Apopka, 31 Jan. A breathtakingly beautiful bird.

Vermilion Flycatcher
We successfully twitched the first-winter male at Belle Glade campground, 30 Jan. Nearly in full plumage, it wasn’t quite the full colour of an adult male, but was still a stunning little bird!

Cave Swallow
One definitely identified, but possibly a few more also present in among a group of 30-40 of the following species, leaving the roost site north of Homestead, 4 Feb.

Tree Swallow
A few seen in most places, but noticeable concentrations around the fields either side of SR-9336 on the way to Everglades NP and at Belle Glade campground. They also roost at the Cave Swallow stakeout.

Loggerhead Shrike
Common. Most often seen on roadside wires, usually several a day.

Nearly as common and just as noisy as at home!

Blue Jay
A few seen around woodlands and gardens, eg by SR-9336 at J D McLean water treatment facility, in Three Lakes WMA and in St Cloud.

Florida Scrub Jay
Only one, on Merritt Island, along the back road from the visitor centre to Haulover Canal about a ½ mile north (left) of the fee booth for Canaveral National Seashore, 31 Jan. It flushed from the roadside then sat for us at close range for a minute or two before disappearing into the brush. This general area is currently the best spot for them in the refuge; more time would probably have produced more sightings.

American Crow
Seen in ones and twos in many areas. Large flocks seen on 31 Jan - about 300 leaving roost at Kaliga park and in excess of 500 going to roost over Hopper Farms.

Fish Crow
Not recorded until we saw and heard a bird at close range at Belle Glade campground, 30 Jan, but, although close crows were studied, we may have overlooked birds previously. After that we still did not identify many, but with a clearer idea of both structure and calls we noted 2 along the entrance road on Merritt Island (31 Jan) and a group of 5 on one of the Sanibel causeway islands (2 Feb).

Tufted Titmouse
Two were in a flock in Hardwood Hammock, Three Lakes WMA, 1 Feb and one was at the volunteers’ quarters feeders at Corkscrew Swamp, 3 Feb.

Brown-headed Nuthatch
At least 2 birds around the pines in Three Lakes WMA campground, 30 Jan.

Carolina Wren
Two pairs seen well in Corkscrew Swamp, 3 Feb, including the male of the first pair singing on a branch at head height mere feet away from us.

House Wren
Surprisingly, only two seen - one at Lucky Hammock, 27 and 28 Jan, and one at the sparrow site in Three Lakes WMA, 1 Feb.

Marsh Wren
One showed very well indeed at Rainey Slough, 2 Feb, with another brief probable also seen there.

Brown Thrasher
Just two brief sightings - Paul saw one very well at the Gumbo Limbo Trail/Ingraham Highway junction, 26 Jan, and I saw one less well at Three Lakes WMA, 1 Feb.

Grey Catbird
Common and easily seen and heard in the southern mainland and the Keys. Less commonly seen in the central area (chiefly in Three Lakes WMA), but still present.

Northern Mockingbird
Common - seen mostly on wires, around gardens and in reserve car parks!

Eastern Bluebird
Seen well in the prairies, but not elsewhere. A pair in the campground at Three Lakes WMA (30 Jan), and 4 on wires along Canoe Creek Road early am (1 Feb).

American Robin
A flock of about 350 birds on and around wires at the kingbird roost near Apopka, 31 Jan. One or two along Joe Overstreet Road, 1 Feb.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Common and seen just about everywhere. Their calls often gave them away.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
At least 4 in a mixed flock in Hardwood Hammock and 1 in another flock in another narrow strip of hardwoods, Three Lakes WMA, 1 Feb.

House Sparrow
Small numbers in urban areas, not that we looked very hard for them!

White-eyed Vireo
One of the commoner landbirds seen in wooded areas, and often heard first.

Blue-headed Vireo
One at Saddlebunch Key (29 Jan) showed only briefly. Then 2 showed well in separate bird flocks in the hardwood hammocks, Three Lakes WMA (1 Feb) and another was noted at Corkscrew Swamp (3 Feb).

Bell’s Vireo
A Florida rarity, news of which was picked up from the Florida RBA website. Virtually the first bird we saw at Lucky Hammock on 27 Jan.

Common Yellowthroat
Common indeed, as we saw single figure numbers at most sites, especially wetlands.

Four sightings of three birds: Gumbo Limbo Trail, 26 and 27 Jan (both sightings were within 100 yards of each other, so considered to be the same bird); Coastal Prairie Trail, 27 Jan; and Bahia Honda SP, 29 Jan.

Black-and-white Warbler
Singles showed well at Flamingo, 26 Jan and No Name Key, 29 Jan.

Myrtle Warbler (Yellow-rumped Warbler)
All were of course Myrtle rather than Audubon’s and I prefer the name. The commonest warbler, seen at just about every site and often in small flocks.

Prairie Warbler
First noted at Flamingo (26 and 27 Jan), but also seen at Saddlebunch Key (29 Jan) and at Corkscrew Swamp (3 Feb). Another little gem, the song sounds like a speeded-up Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) without the final long note.

Pine Warbler
Seen on both visits to Three Lakes WMA and around the visitor centre and volunteers’ quarters at Corkscrew Swamp. The song is like the trill of a Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix).

Palm Warbler
Common - seen as widely as Myrtle Warbler but mostly in ones or twos rather than groups. All were of the expected western nominate race, except for an adult male of the eastern race hypochrysea at Three Lakes WMA, 1 Feb. A very different and distinctive-looking individual, much brighter than the western birds, with bright rufous cap and flank streaking and a lot more yellow below.

Magnolia Warbler
One, first-winter, Gumbo Limbo Trail/Ingraham Highway, 26 Jan.

Black-throated Green Warbler
Two adult males were seen along Gumbo Limbo Trail/Ingraham Highway, 26 Jan, with a male and a first-winter there the next day. Single adults were seen at Lucky Hammock on both visits, and one showed well at Saddlebunch Key (29 Jan). Like most of the warblers, a very attractive little bird.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Adult male, Royal Palm tennis club, Kendall, 4 Feb. Another little stunner.

Yellow-throated Warbler
Five seen, all singly: Flamingo (26 Jan); Key Colony Beach (28 Jan); Saddlebunch Key (29 Jan); Hardwood Hammock, Three Lakes WMA (1 Feb); and Curtiss Parkway (4 Feb). A personal favourite.

Northern Parula
Four or five seen: Gumbo Limbo Trail/Ingraham Highway, 26 Jan; both Saddlebunch Key and No Name Key, 29 Jan; a probable seen very briefly, Loxahatchee, 30 Jan; and Corkscrew Swamp, by the feeders, 3 Feb.

Yellow-breasted Chat
Rare in Florida in winter - one seen briefly at Lucky Hammock, 27 Jan, was another known bird at this site. There may in fact have been two, but they were being typically skulky.

American Redstart
Four seen, all females or immatures, and all seen on 29 Jan in the Keys. Three on Saddlebunch Key (1 at the end of the road, 2 by the bridge), and one at Bahia Honda SP.

Brown-headed Cowbird
Only seen along Joe Overstreet Road (1 Feb), a flock of 36 birds and another group of 4.

Eastern Meadowlark
Three along Joe Overstreet Road (1 Feb), singing and showing well.

Red-winged Blackbird
Common, especially in wetland habitats. Generally rather noisy.
Boat-tailed Grackle
Common everywhere. The first bird we saw, while walking through Miami airport!

Common Grackle
Not as common as Boat-tailed, but still seen regularly, often in company with them, when the size and structural differences were easy to pick out.

Northern Cardinal
A few seen at most sites. The males were as brilliant as I remembered them from previous visits to the States.

Painted Bunting
A female or immature, Lucky Hammock, 27 and 28 Jan. Three females or immatures, Bahia Honda State Park, 29 Jan. A stunning male showed twice all too briefly at the feeders at Corkscrew Swamp, 3 Feb.

American Goldfinch
Four on a feeder by the volunteers’ quarters at Corkscrew Swamp, 3 Feb.

Pine Siskin
An unexpected bonus. A single bird was on the same feeder as the goldfinches at Corkscrew Swamp, 3 Feb. They are distinctly unusual in southern Florida, but one had been reported a couple of days before. It is not a difficult species to identify, but in the circumstances we were grateful that the ID was confirmed by the couple from Maine who had showed us where the feeders were.

Song Sparrow
One along Joe Overstreet Road (1 Feb) was our only sighting. Generally we did not do well with the sparrows - more time to search might have produced more sightings, but the saltmarsh species seemed in short supply anyway, perhaps due to the dry conditions.

Swamp Sparrow
Three in the Flamingo area, Everglades NP on 27 Jan: 1 by Coastal Prairie Trail and 2 at Eco Pond. At least 3 at Rainey Slough, 2 Feb. The most attractive of the sparrows.

Savannah Sparrow
The commonest sparrow. Everglades NP: one by Eco Pond, 26 Jan and four along Coastal Prairie Trail, 27 Jan. Also seen at: Kaliga Park (3), Black Point wildlife drive, Merritt Island (1), and Hopper Farms (4), all on 31 Jan; Joe Overstreet Road (about 20), 1 Feb; and Rainey Slough (1), 2 Feb.

Bachman’s Sparrow
Four or 5 small sparrows flushed from an area of grass and dwarf palm clumps in Three Lakes WMA (1 Feb) were thought all to be of this species, but only one was seen well enough to confirm the identity. The birds would flush at about 20-30 yards range from the grass, fly a short distance and go straight into the dwarf palms. They were very reluctant to be flushed a second time, and seemed to run away from the point of landing virtually immediately. The single bird seen well was relocated scuttling under the edge of a clump for a few seconds before it flew again and was lost in another clump.

Eastern Towhee
A male and a female seen in separate areas in Three Lakes WMA, 1 Feb.


And the “uncountables”…

Common Myna
Up to 9 around the Fairway Inn motel, Homestead on several dates. They often joined the grackles around the swimming pool by the office in the mornings.

Hill Myna
Up to 16 in Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Miami, 4 Feb, mostly in tall trees by the entrance. Very noisy.

Nutmeg Mannikin
A juvenile at Eco Pond, 26 Jan.

[Red-masked Parakeet]
A flock of 27 parakeets with red faces over Kendall, 4 Feb were probably of this species, but there are a number of other possibilities, including Mitred Parakeet.


Other animal groups

We had neither the time nor the skill to identify much of the other wildlife we saw, fascinating though it was. The write-ups below are therefore necessarily rather inadequate, but include some wonderful memories. Some of the butterflies in particular were stunning.


Manatees - a true highlight was watching a dozen of these gentle creatures at close range off the purpose-built viewing area at Haulover Canal, Merritt Island on 31 Jan. The largest one had a series of old deep scars on its flank, presumably from a boat’s propellor.

Raccoons - seen a few times, mostly in the Everglades, but also at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. One scene of a mother with two cubs at Flamingo was rather charming, but the first view was a classic, as one boldly trotted across the car park at Royal Palm Hammock and rifled through the bins there.

Also in various places a few unidentified deer (White-tailed?) and rabbits (possibly both Cottontail and Marsh Rabbit), a single vole, and a couple of bats over Flamingo campground.


Alligators - seen mostly in Everglades NP, at Loxahatchee and at Corkscrew Swamp. The first one we saw was the biggest, but one at Corkscrew wasn’t far behind it - both were at least 12 feet long and massive.

Terrapins - some large ones, unidentified as to species, seen at Anhinga Trail and at Corkscrew Swamp.

Lizards - we saw a variety of smaller lizards (agamas?) in various shades of brown, but I don’t know enough to know how many species were involved. Also a large green iguana at Fairchild Tropical Gardens.

Snakes - a Cottonmouth at Belle Glade on 30 Jan had just caught a large bright green frog. Watching it swallow it was unpleasant but oddly fascinating.


Some identifications (asterisked) are tentative, but are the most likely species from studying photos, range and flight periods given on the Butterflies of North America website.

*Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) - a few on the Keys, all too briefly
*Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) - seen at most sites
*Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) - particularly the Everglades and the Keys
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) - mainly noted on Bahia Honda Key
Zebra (Heliconius charithonius) - everywhere with trees. Wonderful shape and flight.
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) or Tropical Buckeye (Junonia genoveva) (poss both?) - common in wooded areas
Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus) - one at Corkscrew Swamp. Marvellous!!
Monarch (Danaus plexippus) - a few seen in the Everglades and Miami
Queen (Danaus gilippus) - reasonably common

Also some smaller whites, blues and hairstreaks which were not noted in sufficient detail for retrospective identification.


Several species seen, but the only one identifed was Green Darner.