Birding South Florida - March 2001 - Daily Log 

12.3.2001 (Arrival, Moore Haven) - 13.3. (Venus area, Immokalee, Corkscrew Swamps) - 14.3. (CR 846 near Corkscrew, Bunche Beach, Sanibel Island) - 15.3. (Tamiami Trail, Briggs Nature Center, Big Cypress, Everglades City, Homestead) - 16.3. (Homestead, Everglades National Park) - 17.3. (Everglades National Park, The Keys, Key West) - 18.3. (Garden Key on Dry Tortugas) - 19.3.2001 (Card Sound Bridge, Key Largo, Everglades, Departure)

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After my arrival at Miami International Airport in the evening, I picked up my rental car and drove on the US-27 towards Moore Haven at Lake Okeechobee, where I spent the night in a Motel.

Flatwoods PreserveI started very early in the  morning (about 6 am) and was at sunrise at Flatwoods Preserve west of Venus. (US-27 northwards, CR-731 west at Venus for ca. 3.3 miles, turn right and after less than 1 mile left into Sheppard Rd). I found no Red-cockaded Woodpecker, but Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, a late Am. Robin etc..
After that I drove to the junction US-27/SR-70 (GPS: N 27°12'33.5'', W 81°19'45.0'') where I met Mark Adams. Waiting produced White-winged Doves, Eastern Towhee and some Tree Swallows. Together we followed SR-70 west for a mile before turning left towards Archbold Biological Station where we walked the trail. The area produced little besides a Wood Stork perched on a tree. Going further south on the road along Archbold we easily found some Florida Scrub Jays on the wires and later on a Bald Eagle. Another visit to Flatwoods Preserve showed me a flock of Northern Bobwhite.
Then we headed southwards on CR-731 watching several Swallow-tailed Kites, many Vultures, some Hawks and 2 Crested Caracaras north of La Belle. Since it was very dry and we already had the Caracaras we did not make the recommended loop CR-832, CR-833, CR-846, but went directly on SR-29 to Immokalee. From there we drove on CR-846 to the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and did the Boardwalk. We had some Egrets and Herons aswell as the first Alligators with much more to come, but the best bird was probably a light morph Short-tailed Hawk soaring over the swamps.

Today I went birding with Vince Lucas from Naples. First we went on CR-846 towards Corkscrew. Just after the turn-off to CR-858 is an Agricultural Research Center on the right hand side of the CR-846 with a Purple Martin colony in lots of different nest boxes (GPS: N, W Staying on that CR-846 about 4 miles east of Corkscrew we watched at least 4 Burrowing Owls along a small road leading southwards from CR-846 (N, W Also along this small road were Common Ground Dove and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Afterwards we headed back and went north on US-75 till the exit 20, west to US-41, on US-41 north till turning off left on SR-865 and after about 1.5 miles left again towards Sanibel Island on SR-869. After 5.4 miles on SR-869 is a Circle K petrol station (before the bridge to Sanibel!) where we turned left to Bunche Beach (N, W The beach is extremely good for shorebirds at low tide. Besides many plovers and sandpipers we also found a Prairie Warbler, Reddish Egret, Marbled Godwit and 1 Long-billed Curlew. The area is good for terns and gulls. Be prepared to walk through more or less shallow water for birdwatching!
Gulls and TernsTurning left at Circle K brought us directly to Sanibel Island. Along the road/bridge to the island was a first winter Great Black-backed Gull aswell as more shorebirds and gulls. Following the main road we came to the famous J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. After having a look at a Raccoon sitting in a tree near the visitor center we followed the "wildlife drive" (5 miles). Although it was obviously very dry we found some American White Pelicans, shorebirds and wading birds. After that we made an attempt to find Lesser Scaup near Ft. Myers, but without success, it was probably too windy at the places we looked for them.

This morning I started again together with Vince Lucas. First we went north on CR-846 and turned then right into CR-858 till there is a fruit farm on the right hand side (after about 10 miles) behind a ditch, some trees and a fence. Vince saw here previously Scissor-tailed Flycatcher but we found nearly nothing. Nevertheless along the CR-858 we had 2 Crested Caracara, a flock of Cedar Waxwings and I saw something crossing the street which might have been a giant River Otter (N, W
School BusAfter having a look at a partial albinotic House Sparrow in Naples we headed southwards on US-41 (Tamiami Trail). About one mile north of the intersection of SR-951 and US-41 we stopped at Eagle Lakes Park (N, W; parking lot on the northern side of US-41). The area was full of wading birds, some Mottled Ducks and Blue-winged Teals aswell as 2 Bald Eagles.
We went south on SR-951 and drove to the Briggs Nature Center (2.5 miles, then right) to find some of the (here) introduced Florida Scrub Jays, a White-crowned Sparrow, a beautiful Yellow-throated Warbler and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. All around the visitor center without entering the reserve!
Next stop was at the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, there were some warblers reported but the best bird for me was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Some miles further south on the US-41 we went on the SR-29 southwards to Everglades City and Chokoloskee. Birding from the roads produced some Skimmers, shorebirds and wading birds. At the parking lot of the Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee Vince showed me a Great Horned Owls nest with two young in it (N, W Out in the 10,000 Islands NWR were American White and Brown Pelicans on a small sand bar visible from the Smallwood Store.
Back on US-41 the next stop was about 0.5 miles before Everglades Tower/Shark Valley at an abandoned Air Boat Ride (N, W We easily found several Snail Kites and 2 Limpkins. From this place Vince headed back towards Naples. On the way to the intersection US-41 and SR-997 I saw Caspian Tern and headed then south on SR-997 towards Homestead. Coming closer to Homestead I took SW 216th Street eastwards. On the wires along this street were White-winged Doves and Monk Parakeets. Following the street further east I passed under the overpass of the Florida Turnpike, just after which I turned immediately left and stopped nearby. I was there at about 5.30 pm and easily found some Cave Swallows coming to the bridge over the canal.

After leaving the Greenstone Motel in Homestead which is on SW 177 Krome Avenue and has affordable prices, I went southbound on SW 177. Before coming to the intersection with SR-9336 I found some Common Mynahs right by the road. Turning right onto SR-9336 brings you towards Everglades National Park (signposted). Following the signs I only stopped to turn right into SW 209th Ave., then left and again left on SW 212th Ave. which brings you back to SR-9336. Along SW 212th Ave. I easily found 5 Western Kingbirds and a marvelous male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on the wires and in the gardens (N, W
BoardwalkThen I went straight to the Everglades National Park. Since the Coe Visitor Center was still closed (open 8 am to 5 pm) I went directly into the park to Gumbo Limbo Trail (nothing around) and the adjacent Anhinga Trail. The latter is extremely good for watching birds closeby and taking pictures. Besides lots of Anhingas there were also Purple Gallinules and a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. Going towards Flamingo some stops along the road produced little. At the parking lot to Mahagony Hammock was an early Gray Kingbird, Paurotis Pond showed no Roseate Spoonbills which are supposed to breed there, the other ponds along the road like Nine-Miles Pond and others had some Blue-winged-Teals and 3 American Wigeons (at West Lake ?).
1.6 miles after West Lake I took the Snake Bight Trail (1.8 miles long) to the Snake Bight. On the trail itself was little around, besides 1 Prairie Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler and 2 Raccoons, probably due to the warm early afternoon, but in the morning lots of warblers were seen here. In the Snake Bight I found a "Wurdemann's" Heron, some Gull-billed Terns, a Greater Yellowlegs, 2 American Avocets, American White Pelican etc..
Behind Flamingo is Eco Pond at which I spent most of the late afternoon and evening. Best birds on and around this pond were a female Painted Bunting, an overflying Roseate Spoonbill (the only one I saw in the Everglades), a beautiful Sora and finally an Ovenbird.
Around the Campground Flamingo which is a good place to stay I found 2 Savannah Sparrows.

I got up early and found two Raccoons at Flamingo. At dawn (ca. 6.30 am) I was already at Nine-Miles Pond since I heard this might be a good time and spot to find White-crowned Pigeon, nevertheless I didn't but saw some Roseate Spoonbills flying by. I left the Everglades and went on US-1 south towards the Keys (I missed Card Sound Rd...). Along US-1 were some wading birds including several Roseate Spoonbills. Unfortunately there was too much traffic to stop.
Once on the Keys and still on US-1 my first stop was on North Key Largo at John Pennekamp State Park with little to no birds around. Maybe this area is better later in the year. 8.2 miles further west is the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, a rehabilitation center for injured birds. Although the smell is hard to stand the place turned out to be good for birding since I found several wading birds including Reddish Egret and also a flock of Black-necked Stilts.
Going further west a stop at Lake Edna on Grassy Key (turn right for about 0.2 miles at MM 57.9, Miles before US-1 ends according to green signs along the road) produced some Lesser Yellowlegs and another Roseate Spoonbill (I saw some of them along US-1). Eventually I found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on one of the backroads north of US-1 on Boca Chica Key.
Key West, Fort ZacharyBefore entering Key West I turned right just before the bridge to visit Key West Botanical Garden, where I found a Broad-winged Hawk. Key West itself was irritating since it took me some time to find the Dry Tortugas Ferry Office to book on a trip for the following day. After managing this and already having my very expensive campground, I drove in the evening to Fort Zachary State Park where I found Prairie Warbler and some other nice birds. On the way back to the campground - while trying to find my way out of Key West - I found finally somewhere a White-crowned Pigeon perched on top of a Cypress Tree.

Today I went with Dry Tortuga Ferrys to Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, a small island of the Dry Tortugas. The ferry ride to and from Garden Key was already worthwhile since I saw several Northern Gannets, Dolphins and even Sea Turtles (probably Loggerhead Turtles). Ask the captain or the naturalist (Jack).
Fort Jefferson, Garden Key, Dry TortugasAround Garden Key Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Noddies and Sooty Terns are easily seen in big numbers. The terns nest on the adjacent Bush Key. Inside Fort Jefferson was good for some Warblers, although there were also lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers on the beach. In the trees and bushes I also found a Gray Kingbird, a Short-eared Owl and even an American Kestrel. Above the Fort were two Barn Swallows.
As I went on the roof of the Fort, which is only possible on one side, I had sufficient views with my scope of some Masked Boobies on the far (ca. 2 miles) away Hospital Key, not much more than a sand bar. On the way back to Key West the ferry went closer to this sandy island to get better views.
The sandy beach between Garden Key and Bush Key turned out to be good for Shorebirds since I found a Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, Whimbrel, Turnstones, Killdeers etc.
As the ferry left Garden Key in the afternoon a White-winged Dove landed on the beach. We were back in Key West at about 5.15 pm.
Since I found no affordable accomodation on the Keys I went back to Homestead to spend another night in the Greenstone Motel.

Everglades, Pine ForestsToday I found the Card Sound Road (CR-997) and went on to Card Sound Bridge. On the mainland side of the bridge I found a Northern Waterthrush in the bushes aswell as a Yellow Warbler. Once on the Keys again I headed southwest on CR-905 till I came to Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site (just before entering US-1 again) where I had a walk and had some very nice views of White-crowned Pigeons.
Since I still had some time left I also went again into the Everglades National Park. First to Anhinga Trail, with only very few photographers due to the cloudy weather and then to Gumbo Limbo Trail where there was another White-crowned Pigeon and a pretty Least Flycatcher.
Afterwards I headed towards Miami to give my rental car back and to catch the flight back to Munich.

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