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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Florida Trip - Day 3

        This was going to be a busy day for us. We started the day just outside of Everglades National Park.  We drove around a few back streets in search of Western and Tropical Kingbirds and found neither but we did come across several Common Ground Doves feeding in the middle of the road. A little farther on we came to Lucky Hammock. This place is amazing. There are wide open fields all around the area and then there is this ¼ acre plot of trees in the middle. 
Lucky Hammock
        Well this little ¼ acre woodlot has recorded over two hundred species of birds and we were here to try to find one in particular. As we pulled up to the spot two birders came out of the wooded area and we introduced ourselves and found out they were from Holland. So we started birding together and we would show them a few birds that they needed as lifers.
      One such bird was a male Painted Bunting which one of them exclaimed “Seeing that bird was like a religious experience”.  Finally we found the bird that I came to see, the Brown-crested Flycatcher. We were able to compare it side by side with the Great-crested Flycatcher that was also in the area. We were able to compare the amount of rusty-red in the tail feathers of both species and we got to hear the call notes which nailed the ID.
       Entering the Everglades we found ourselves on Research Road. We drove the entire length of the road and found nothing until the very end. A White-tailed Kite was flying around offering great views. On the way back we spotted a huge kettle of Turkey Vultures and I was able to pick out a dark morph Short-tailed Hawk flying among them. The name is actually a misnomer since the tail isn't actually short at all.
Dark morph Short-tailed Hawk
        Anhinga Trail is a world renowned site in the Everglades and that is where we stopped next. As you enter the parking area there is a sign warning you about the vultures. See photos below. Apparently they like to eat the rubber around your car's windshield. 

Black Vulture on the attack
         Once we were able to get a tarp over our car (provided by the National Park Service) we were than able to enjoy the Anhinga Trail. If you want to photograph birds up close and personal this is the place to be. Anhingas and most of the herons are right in your face along with the ever present Alligators.

Close encounter of the Cormorant kind
DC Cormorant

Wood Stork

Great Blue Heron

A small portion of the congregation of gators

       Since we still had a long way to go today, we were heading to Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast, we had to leave the Everglades NP. On our travels we came across a produce market claiming to be the southern most Purple Martin house in the United States.
False Advertising
         This struck me as strange since about a mile down the road there were Purple Martin houses that were also occupied. I assume that there has to be someone in The Keys that also have colonies of martins. We then drove the Tamiami Trail always looking for Snail Kites but not spotting any and then found ourselves at Big Cypress Swamp Preserve. Not much to report from this area that we hadn't already seen elsewhere. We managed to at least hear a Sora. However, one thing did catch our eye. As we climbed an observation tower to look out over a marsh we discovered a troubling situation.
Looks like an Amish person was dinner for an Alligator (joking of course)
        Along the Tamiami Trail there is a post office that claims to be the smallest in the USA. I think I might have to go along with this claim.

At another stop we had the chance encounter with several Manatees (video below). We also saw a large fish about three feet long which we found out later is called a Snook. That brought back some childhood memories of my father. I remember when I lived in Florida (3-4 years old at the time) my father would go fishing for Snook.

       After this we made a couple more birding stops and found some shore birds, Wilson's Plover being the most significant. Then it was onto Sanibel/Fort Myers area and some shut eye.

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