A few days birding in South Florida

John van der Woude  -  www.jvanderw.nl  

On our way from Europe to Mexico we birded two days in Southern Florida in mid-November in 1999, and I had asked on BirdChat where I could best find the Florida Scrub Jay and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker now, as a sort of update to the ABA/Lane 1996 guide for Florida. The area West of the village of Venus, near the intersection of SR-70 and US-27, seemed to fit best for both species. This is an area of woods, pastures and scrubs. We saw several groups of the jay, exactly where Bill Pranty says in the ABA guide, so along the road called Old SR-8 which parallels the US-27, S of Archbold biological station. They sat as frozen on the tops of the bushes and on the wires. For the woodpecker you have to be a bit further South along Old SR-8, along an unpaved side road to the West (Sheppard Road). Here a square wood plot of special pines stands out clearly.

For the RC-woodpecker your best chances are here at dawn or at dusk, they say. We had left the pleasant Ramada motel in nearby Lake Placid early enough before dawn, but we reached the woodplot a bit late because we took the wrong shortcut from the US-27. We saw many common woodpeckers at the woodplot, but not the right one. Moreover the reserve appeared to be no longer accessible on foot, so you have to stay on the dust road alongside it. Nevertheless, we liked this general area, including the trail at the Archbold biological station. The ABA guide info about this station can be read as if the trail is closed in the weekends, but it is always open (we were here on Saturday). Along the short trail through the nice scrubs with many dead trees, we saw Carolina Wren, Red-headed Woodpecker, a single Florida Scrub Jay, Eastern Towhee, Northern Flicker, Northern Bobwhite.

Another update to the ABA guide: there are exits now from the I-75 to the SR-29 and reverse, so the quickest way from Miami/Ft. Lauderdale to Immokalee and the Corkscrew Swamp sanctuary is via the I-75 now. We found Corkscrew the best and nicest site we visited in those few days, although we liked the other sites as well. These other sites besides Corkscrew and Venus were Loxahatchee NWR (at Lee Road entrance), the nearby Burrowing Owl site #3 (none seen), bits of Big Cypress National Preserve and Northern Everglades NP (US-41, SR-94, and the splendid county road circuit 841/839), Sanibel island (Ding Darling drive through mangroves with Ospreys, Roseate Spoonbills), and the beach near the Holiday Inn at Fort Myers (7 additional waders).

Trip list:

Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Am. White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Striated (Green) Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Mottled Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, American Kestrel, Northern Bobwhite, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Limpkin, Grey (Bl.-bellied) Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Wilson's (Thick-billed) Plover, Killdeer, Fantail Snipe (Common Snipe), Hudsonian Curlew (Whimbrel), Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Sandwich Tern, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, Grey Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Florida Scrub Jay, Blue Jay, American Crow, European Starling, Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Northern (Baltimore) Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle.