Thursday, 28 November 2013

Martin Bevan's Trip to Florida

Two Week Holiday to Florida

I had been planning the trip with my family for nearly 18 months.  The time had arrived and we got up very early for our three and half hour trip to Gatwick airport and as usual it was pitch dark and raining. The first sign of any birdlife was at the service station at Cobden which took the form of a Robin singing, Carrion Crow, Black headed Gull, Pied Wagtail or car park Wag and Wood Pigeon.  We made good time to the airport and found the airport devoid of birdlife.  After the nine hour flight we arrived shattered but were soon on the way to the hotel the Ramada Gateway in Kissimmee and the light was starting to fade. But birds started appear and the first bird to make the list was Turkey Vulture followed by Boat Tailed Grackle and lots of Great Egret. Best of all was an Osprey trying to catch a fish in a small road side pool.  On getting to the Hotel we choose a room in the tower part of the hotel and had a good field of view over the area and Disney in the distant. Scanning around I spotted a small Warbler in a tree below and it was very plain with a yellow rump and it pumped its tail constantly. Later I found out it was my first of many Palm Warblers.
First morning in a foreign country is always great and I had one hour spare as everybody was still fast sleep.  So I walked around the grounds of the hotel when the light was just starting to appear. There were lots of birds calling and some flying high overhead.  The first bird of the morning was Northern Mockingbird and has I walked birds came thick and fast.  2 Northern Cardinal,  3 Palm Warblers, 1 House Wren, 2  Eastern Bluebirds, 1 Belted Kingfisher, House Sparrow, American Crow, 1 Loggerhead Shrike, 2 Mottled duck, 1 Little Blue Heron, 1 Coopers Hawk, Black Vulture, Turkey  Vulture, 1 Wood Stork, 1 Blue Gray Gnatcatcher. The Hotel had trees all around the edge and waste ground behind that and at the back there were two small lakes. One was bare and the other had a reed beds, this one proved better and also behind this was a wood. This site was handy for me and most of the birds I saw on that first day I saw daily.  I walked the grounds on five different days and these are the birds I found, Blue Jay, Great Blue Heron, 1 Pied billed Grebe found every day, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Common Grackle, 1 Northern Parula one day only, Yellow Rumped Warbler, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Red Shoulder Hawk, Mourning Dove, Eastern Phoebe, Great White Egret, White Ibis, on one day only flying over 6 Glossy Ibis, and Double Crested Cormorant. 
Birding at the parks produced the following.


On the large lake on the way  in there was Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, Great Egret, Anhinga, Double Crested Cormorant, Boat tailed Grackle, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red Shouldered Hawk, Mottled Duck, Mallard, Palm Warbler, American Crow.

Black Vultures in large numbers in the African area. Turkey Vulture, Red Shouldered Hawk,  Boat Tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, American Crow, Northern Mockingbird, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, Mourning Dove, Palm Warbler, Mottled Duck, Mallard, Pied Billed Grebe, White Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Great Egret.

This park was very quiet. Both Vultures were present, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, Northern Mockingbird, Boat Tailed Grackle, 12 Mallard, 3 Ring Billed Gulls flying over on last visit.

Was the only Disney site with American Coot and Moorhen, Double Crested Cormorant, White Ibis, Anhinga, Mottled Duck, Mallard Duck, Red Shouldered Hawk, and House Sparrow.

Was a great place for Wood Storks and Snowy Egrets. There was also lots of White Ibis, Great Egrets, Double Crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Blue Jay, American Crow, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, House Sparrow, Palm Warbler, Carolina Wren, both Vultures, Osprey, Red Shouldered Hawk, Bald Eagle seen from water park, Mourning Dove, also on the way in on a small lake was a 1 Black Bellied Whistling Duck. This was the only bird of the trip. I also had a Sun Conure.  I do not know if it was feral or escaped from Sea World.


Was very quiet as well, 2 Pied Billed Grebes, House Sparrow, American Crow, Palm Warbler, Mallard, Feral Pigeon, Great Egret flying over and Double Crested Cormorant.


Was good for Laughing Gull there were about thirty there. Also Cattle Egret looking for scraps around the food tables. Also Great Egret, White Ibis, Small Blue Heron, Tri Coloured Heron, Moorhen, Boat Tailed Grackle, Collard Dove, House Sparrow, also Monk Parakeet nests seen but no birds were seen anywhere, Osprey, Black Vulture, Red Shouldered Hawk. On days where I had more time I would cross the 192 highway by my hotel and would go down a road called Reedy Creek Blvd. This area was pretty good and the following were observed Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tufted Titmouse, Gray Catbird, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Marsh Wren, Eastern Phoebe, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black White Warbler, Yellow Throated Warbler, Yellow Rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, White Eyed Vireo, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Common Ground Dove, Boat Tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Red Winged Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, 2 House Finch were seen on one occasion, Great Horned Owl, 1 Whip Poor Will was seen on one evening visit, Barn Swallow, Red Shoulder Hawk, American Kestrel, both Vultures, Turkey, Carolina Duck, White Ibis, Great Egret, Sandhill Crane, Wood Stork, Wilson Snipe.

I also booked two days out with a Birding Pal, which worked out very well. My birding pal was called Mrs Jenny Walsh and on my first day out with her we had a good start which was 12 Roseate Spoonbill feeding in a drainage ditch. What a great start to the day and then it was onto a new park called Twin Oaks Conservation Area, it’s an old cattle ranch and it’s found on the side of Lake Tohopekaliga.  It was a great site but when you look across the lake it was being disturbed by Airboat Tours every twenty minutes and birds were flying everywhere. There was a small wader scrape and there was 42 Least Sandpiper and 12 Greater Yellowlegs, 7 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Killdeer, also seen at this site were 30 Palm Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, 20 Eastern Meadowlark, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Red Bellied Woodpecker, House Wren, Ground Dove, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay.  This site was also good for Bald Eagle with four seen at the same time and one found sitting in a tree giving crippling views.  Also other birds of prey seen were Red Tailed Hawk, Red Shouldered Hawk, 1 American Kestrel, 1 male Snail Kite, 1 pair Northern Harriers, both Vultures. A Great Horned Owl was found roosting in a large Oak and give great views.  Also around the lake there were Sandhill Cranes in the fields and a large flock of about hundred American Coots, Moorhen, also 6 Pied Billed Grebe, Anhinga, Limpkin, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis. Next stop was a street where Great Horned Owl nest every year and after a ten minute search my second Great Horned Owl of the day was found and after that we went to an electric substation to see a colony of Monk Parakeet nesting in the substation. The next stop was a wood nearby which was called Lake Runnymede Conservation area.  This turned out to be pretty good with 6 Black and White Warbler, Palm Warbler, 2 Yellow Throated Warbler, 3 Ruby Crown Kinglet, 2 White Eyed Vireo, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, 10 Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpecker, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren. We finished off at St Cloud Lakefront Park which is on the east of Lake Tohopekaliga which was good for Limpkin where six were seen, also one more Snail Kite and a lot of Muscovy Ducks which I think must have been feral or domestic.  Also there were two very tame Sandhill Cranes which were begging for food.

The next time I met Jenny Walsh we went to Shingle Creek Regional Park first which was quiet at first, then it picked up with highlights being Pileated Woodpecker on a telegraph pole drumming away which I first thought was a guy on a roof because it was so loud. Other birds seen  at the wood were Red Bellied Woodpecker, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Gray Catbird, Eastern Phoebe, Osprey, both Vultures, Wood Stork, White Ibis and Small Blue Heron. There were lots of Tree Swallows passing overhead also a Belted Kingfisher. Best bird seen however was a roosting Barred Owl along the boardwalk in a swamp area. Our next area to visit I did not find out what it was called. There were lots of ranches and a local resident stopped us to ask what we were doing.  Birds seen in this area were 1 Crested Caracara, 3 Red Shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Loggerhead Shrike, 2 Eastern Bluebirds, Mottled Duck. Our next stop was back to East lake Tohopekaliga to finish off.  A small wood there had 1 Black and White Warbler, 1 Ruby Crown Kinglet, 1 Bald Eagle, 3 Sandhill Cranes, Pied Billed Grebe and also a fly over male Northern Harrier.

The last day arrived and we travelled to Orlando international airport for our flight home. Birds flying to roost nearby were 10 Wood Stork, 15 Great Egret, 10 White Ibis, 3 Mottled Ducks and then it was back to the cold and rain.

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