Thursday, November 17, 2005

Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival 3

The Central Florida Specialties field trip began at 5 a.m. with Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area as the destination. Bus trouble prompted a quick stop at a gas station and allowed for a sunrise photo. Aaaahhh...

Continued bus trouble prompted another stop that yielded a lot of great birds. I enjoyed seeing Loggerhead Shrike, Sandhill Crane, Belted Kingfisher, Crested Caracara, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Black Vulture and American Kestrel.

Two cranes were eating in the nearby field, and four more flew in and scared off the original pair. The four called repeatedly, and one bird stood sentry while the other three began eating. It was my first time seeing Sandhills do anything other than stand in a field or ditch, so I really enjoyed the show.

We finally made it to Three Lakes, where I saw Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Robin, Downy Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. We had lots of time to explore the area while waiting for a replacement bus.

I also had time to chat more with a fellow whose letter and picture of him and his daughter appeared in The Lister's Forum department of a previous issue of WildBird. I really get a kick out of meeting readers who participate in the magazine (c:

At Joe Overstreet Landing, the group saw and heard many species, including White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Whooping Crane(!), Great Egret, Snail Kite(!), Loggerhead Shrike (such a dapper-looking little predator), Palm Warbler, Greater Yellowlegs, Sandhill Crane, Red-winged Blackbird, Pied-billed Grebe, Cattle Egret and Wilson's Snipe.

The four Whoopers were eating in a grassy area for a while and let us approach rather closely. Each had radio transmitters and colored bands on their legs. At one point, they flew with three Sandhills to another spot in the grass, allowing a good view of the species' size differences.

We saw Double-crested Cormorant, Wood Stork and Black Vulture at Lake Marian before eating lunch at Forever Florida Wilderness Preserve's Cypress Restaurant. The hot chocolate felt wonderful after the chilly morning, and the meal--BBQ sandwich, coleslaw, beans and peach/cherry cobbler--hit the spot.

Forever Florida's logo is a Swallow-tailed Kite, which I saw for the first time about six years ago during a Birder of the Year trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples. In fact, the Birder of the Year was Ken Behrens, who participated last April on the Swift WildBirders team in the Great Texas Birding Classic.

You can find details about Forever Florida, Three Lakes and Joe Overstreet Landing in the east section guide of the Great Florida Birding Trail.

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