DAY 1 – Orlando to Circle B Bar Reserve
Noon pickup from the Orlando International Airport (MCO). Heading south, our only birding stop of the day is a great one at the Circle B Bar Reserve in central Florida. It boasts over 200 bird species including many of our targets. We hope to see Roseate Spoonbill, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Sandhill Cranes, Pileated Woodpecker, Palm Warbler, Swamp Sparrow and many water birds. Overnight in Kissimmee.
DAY 2 – Merritt Island and Canaveral National Seashore
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore provide miles and miles of outstanding birding. We will spend the whole day exploring this rich habitat by birding the Black Point Wildlife Drive, Indian River Lagoon, Playalinda Beach and a variety of short trails through Pine Flatwoods, Oak Hammocks and Florida Scrub. Our targets include Florida Scrub-Jay, Northern Gannet, Eurasian Wigeon, Long-tailed Duck, Black and Surf Scoters, Common Loon, 4 species of rails, both night herons, Brown Pelican and 5 species of Terns. We could also add up to 4 species of wrens, 12 species of warblers and 12 species of sparrows. Overnight for a second night in Kissimmee.
DAY 3 – Pine Flatwoods
Our big day starts by heading south into the heart of the Carribean and Sub-Tropical rarieties. This is what makes Florida birding so special. First stop is the prestine pine flatwoods in search of Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Bachman’s Sparrow and Brown-headed Nuthatch. Traveling further south, Crested Caracara will be sitting along the ranch roads. Driving down the heart of the Lake Wales Ridge towards Lake Okeechobee should give us study of both Swallow-tailed and Snail Kites. After a few more stops where we should add Grey-headed Swamphen, we will end our day at a parrot roost. Target species here include Spot-breasted Oriole, Orange-winged parrot, Red-masked and Yellow-cheveroned Parakeet. Overnight in Coral Gables.
Day 4 – The Southeast coast
Matheson Hammock and Bill Baggs Parks almost always have a rariety this time of year. Incidentally, I’ve seen Western Spindalis and Bananaquit here in previous winters. In addition, we will look for White-crowned Pigeon, Common Hill Myna, White-eyed, Yellow-throated and Blue-headed Vireos, shorebirds and any winter rarity. With multiple stops in town and the edge of the Everglades Conservation Areas, our targets are Red-whiskered Bulbul, Monk Parakeet, Cave Swallow, Gray Kingbird, Grasshopper Sparrow (Florida subspecies) and Common Myna. Overnight in Florida City.
Seaside Sparrow “Cape Sable”
DAY 5 – Everglades National Park and surrounding areas
We will delight in exploring all that the Everglades can offer. This 1.5 million acre habitat has boardwalks, canals, trails, the river of grass, hammocks, dwarf cypress, pine flatwoods, fresh water ponds and the salt water Florida Bay. Our targets include Mangrove Cuckoo, “Cape Sable” Seaside Sparrow, Barred Owl, Swallow-tailed Kite, Snail Kite, American Bittern, Purple Martins and up to 17 species of wintering warblers. We also have a great chance of seeing Manatee, Alligators and Crocodiles. Overnight for a second night in Florida City.
DAY 6 – The Florida Keys
From Key Largo down to Key West, we will bird our way south for the truely rare birds.
DAY 7 – Fill in the trip list
We have two options this day. First choice, chase a rare bird somewhere in the central or southern part of the state. Some of the birds that have shown up during the winter over the last several years are Zenaida Dove, Eurasian Wigeon, White-cheeked Pintail, Common Eider, American Flamingo, Key West Quail-Dove, Thick-billed Vireo, Black-faced Grassquit, Purple Sandpiper, La Sagra’s and Fork-tailed Flycatcher. Second option, bird our way up the gulf coast as we head towards Orlando. No worries, we’ll have plenty of really great birding spots to choose from.
DAY 8 – back to OIA
Return to the Orlando International Airport for flight home. We should arrive by noon.