Also see the PHOTO GALLERY
following the summary of the 2013 MBWeek.
I suppose I could understand why some would enjoy the 80-85 degree weather we experienced on a daily basis down in Florida. After all, temperatures close to zero were waiting for us back in Minnesota. But these record and near-record highs were relentless, and for me they mostly wore out their welcome after a few days. On the other hand, we mostly avoided Florida's other daunting challenge – traffic. True, driving into Miami to bird at Virginia Key on Thursday morning wasn't any fun, but this was about the only time we had to endure clogged roadways.
No matter what you thought of the weather and traffic, though, you'd have to agree that the birding went pretty well overall. While our attempts to find swamphens, bulbuls, and orioles may have been unsuccessful, useful information on the Western Spindalis and Bananaquit arrived too late to do us any good, and our limited itinerary did not include reliable scrub-jay locations, these were about our only disappointments. After all, we turned up 158 species, plus another 5 "non-countable" exotics, with nearly 50 of these not regularly found in Minnesota.
It's difficult to narrow down such a long list of birds into a manageable list of highlights, but some of my favorites were....
- Our full day in the Fort Myers area included a nice assortment of shorebirds during low tide at Bunche Beach, 2 (possibly 3) Razorbills near Sanibel Island's lighthouse, our first Snail Kite and second Limpkin at Harns Marsh, Monk Parakeets and Burrowing Owls in residential Cape Coral, and Nanday Parakeets on our second try near downtown Fort Myers.
- At Babcock-Webb WMA the next morning we found both Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and Brown-headed Nuthatches at our first stop (along with hordes of ground-foraging Pine Warblers), an afternoon walk at Big Cypress Bend was highlighted by a family of Black Bears and a Barred Owl, our first Short-tailed Hawk later flew over the Tamiami Trail, and the afternoon ended with our best views of Snail Kites.
- After enduring a morning Miami rush hour, we found our first of two La Sagra's Flycatchers plus an unexpected Great Black-Hawk of dubious origin at Virginia Key, Yellow-chevroned Parakeets and two more Short-tailed Hawks were at Matheson Hammock, and a pair of entertaining (though non-countable) Hill Mynas appeared in Kendall.
- Our best birding day included a surprising group of cooperative White-crowned Pigeons at Paurotis Pond, a closely-heard Black Rail and a diurnal Barn Owl on the Coastal Trail, our first Purple Gallinule (and lifer #600 for Robin) at Anhinga Trail – all at Everglades National Park, and the day ended with those 4 western species of flycatchers just outside the park and the Common Mynas finally coming to roost near our motel.
- Short-tailed Hawk #5 flying low overhead in Kendall was the next day's highlight, and our final morning included our best Limpkin views, our second La Sagra's Flycatcher, and Painted Buntings at Green Cay – certainly a nice conclusion to our successful MBWeek.
Monday, January 7: noon arrival at Orlando airport; afternoon drive to Fort Meyers for first of 2 nights via Celery Fields near Sarasota and Oscar Scherer State Park; dinner at Gator Bites.
Tuesday, January 8: Bunche Beach, Sanibel Island lighthouse area, parakeet check at Broadway & Hanson, Calusa Nature Center, Harns Marsh, Cape Coral owls & parakeets, and successful return to Broadway & Hanson; dinner at Gator Bites / Fish Monger.
Wednesday, January 9: morning at Babcock-Webb WMA and Eagle Lakes Park; afternoon drive to Florida City for first of 3 nights via Faka Canal, Big Cypress Bend boardwalk, Oasis Visitors Center, and successful kite scan along Tamiami Trail; dinner at Mutineer.
Thursday, January 10: morning search for rarities at Virginia Key (twice) and Bill Baggs State Park; afternoon search for exotics at Matheson Hammock and Kendall area; dinner at El Toro Taco.
Friday, January 11: Everglades National Park (mostly at Paurotis Pond, Coastal Trail, Eco Pond, Flamingo, West Lake, Anhinga Trail, and Coe Visitors Center), late afternoon at Lucky Hammock / C-111 Canal, and successful evening myna search; dinner at Capri.
Saturday, January 12: morning at Cutler wetlands, return to Kendall & vicinity for exotics, and Pembroke Pines; afternoon drive to West Palm Beach for last night via scrub-jay searches at Juno Beach and Carlin Park; dinner at Carrabba's.
Sunday, January 13: final morning at Spanish River Park and Green Cay; departure for airport at noon for afternooon flights home.
- "non-countable" exotics listed in parentheses
- "non-Minnesota" species (i.e., not on Minnesota Regular list) in boldface
(Egyptian Goose - if they count muscovys, why not these?)
Wood Duck (wild or injured bird at the Mutineer?)
American White Pelican
American Bittern (seen by some at Green Cay)
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Silver Lakes Park)
(Great Black-Hawk - status uncertain at Virginia Key)
Peregrine Falcon (Spanish River Park)
Sora (Green Cay)
Piping Plover (also at Bunche)
Red Knot (Bunche Beach)
Eastern Screech-Owl (Spanish River Park)
Barred Owl (Big Cypress Bend)
(Mitred Parakeet - best in Kendall and potentially "countable")
(Yellow-chevroned Parakeet - best at Matheson Hammock; also potentially countable)
Great Crested Flycatcher
Western Kingbird (ditto)
Yellow-throated Vireo (Spanish River Park)
Purple Martin (early "spring" migrants)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Green Cay)
Sedge Wren (mostly heard at Coastal Prairie Trail)
(Hill Myna - potentially "countable" in Kendall)
Ovenbird (Spanish River Park)
Orange-crowned Warbler (Spanish River Park)
Pine Warbler (especially numerous at Babcock-Webb)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black Bear (amazingly tame at Big Cypress Bend!)
American Crocodile (2 at Flamingo marina)
Common Snapping Turtle
Brown Water Snake
Southern Cricket Frog (heard-only)
WINTER FLORIDA PHOTO GALLERY
also see the Florida I MBWeek Photo Gallery
"Great White" Heron, Flamingo
Great Black-Hawk (origin unknown), Virginia Key
(Ann Inouye photo)
Short-tailed Hawk, Kendall
Purple Gallinule, Anhinga Trail
Limpkin, Green Cay
(Ann Inouye photo)
White-crowned Pigeon, Paurotis Pond
(Ann Inouye photo)
Burrowing Owls, Cape Coral
Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Babcock-Webb WMA
Monk Parakeet, Cape Coral
Nanday Parakeets, Fort Myers
La Sagra's Flycatcher, Green Cay
Common Myna, Florida City
Hill Myna, Kendall
* * *
Additional species (from April 2011 Photo Gallery)
(Vija Kelly photo)
(Vija Kelly photo)