SOUTH FLORIDA SPECIALTIES
Florida spring bird watching offers many advantages. Many birds found in the Caribbean and subtropical regions can be found in isolated populations in Florida. These restricted range species will be our targets for this Florida Specialities Tour! This time of year the breeders have already established territories and in some cases, nests. They are in their finest plumage and singing. The mild climate, mid 70’s and sunny skies, provide a nice thawing out from the winter cold.
Bring your camera as the boardwalks, swamps and wetlands will provide fantastic opportunities for up-close viewing of waders and other terrific birds. There is nothing like seeing a Wood Stork landing in the mangrove just 10 feet from you! Birding the hardwood hammocks and pine flatwoods should provide a stunning list of late wintering and early migrants including warblers and vireos. There is usually at least one special out of place bird in this area that we will try to find. And finally, we’ll also keep an eye to the sky for Eagles, Hawks and Frigatebirds.
Plan on visiting a stunning list of premier birding destinations on our trip. The first, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, is contained within a 35 mile long barrier island right along the Atlantic Flyway. Many birds call this area home both throughout the year and as a wintering ground. The Canaveral National Seashore is also part of this amazing ecosystem. The shore will provide miles of quiet sandy beaches and a healty dune to look out to sea. Both were established as a buffer zone to the John F. Kennedy Space Center. This region is also home to one of three larger populations of the Florida Scrub-Jay. We will spend a whole day exploring this phenomenal habitat.
The Everglades National Park is a destination in itself with 250 bird species seen in the last several years. It boasts as a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere and a Wetland of International Importance. We will spend one whole day birding in North America’s largest wetland and the habitat just north of the park. We will target isolated hammocks, pine flatwoods, and riparian edges along canals. The saltmarsh, estuaries, sea shore and the river of grass will be enjoyable to search for our target species. May of these can be accessed via boardwalks and elevated areas.
We should expect to identify 180-200 bird species on this trip. With the great spring weather, easy terrain, moderately paced days and good accommodations, this trip is a must for every birder and photographer.
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.
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.
Day 4 and 5 – The Southeast coast
Matheson Hammock, Bill Baggs, other areas around town, and the Everglades Conservation Area will give us plenty of birding stops for our targets. Our list of birds in this area is expansive. However, we’ll focus on White-crowned Pigeon, Common Hill Myna, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Spot-breasted Oriole, Monk Parakeet, Cave Swallow, Gray Kingbird, Gray-headed Swamphen, and Grasshopper Sparrow (Florida subspecies). Many other possibilites await in this area.
DAY 6 – 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.
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 spring 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 explore.
DAY 8 – back to Orlando
Return to the Orlando International Airport by noon for your flight home.
DATES: March 20-27, 2024 (one spot remaining)
DURATION: 8 days/7 nights
INCLUDES: airport pick-up/drop off, all Florida transportation, all meals, park fees, 7 hotel nights and expert guide
ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE: Orlando International Airport (MCO)
DIFFICULTY: moderately easy
EXPERIENCE: All levels welcome
FOCUS: birding, photography
SOLO SUPPLEMENT: $550
FINAL PAYMENT: Due 90 days out
GROUP SIZE: 3-7 people (plus 1 guide, Sue Riffe)
EXPECTED BIRDS: 180-200 species
- Florida Scrub Jay (endemic)
- Bachman’s Sparrow
- Black-whiskered Vireo
- Bronzed Cowbird
- Cave Swallow
- Common Myna
- Crested Caracara
- Egyptian Goose
- Gray Kingbird
- Grey-headed Swamphen
- Mangrove Cuckoo
- Monk Parakeet
- Purple Gallinule
- Red-cockaded Woodpecker
- Red-whiskered Bulbul
- Seaside Sparrow “Cape Sable” (endemic)
- Shorebirds 20+ species
- Short-tailed Hawk
- Snail Kite
- Spot-breasted Oriole
- White-crowned Pigeon
- Wood Stork
- White-winged Parakeet
- Rarities currently around
- Plus many more!