- A three day trip in early November (9th – 13th); I've been at this exact time of the year before, albeit slightly further north around Tampa Bay, so fully expected a repeat of those wonderful photographic opportunities. It did not disappoint. Accompanying me and chomping at the bit was Mick S for his first visit.
- Flights with Britis Airways to Miami were pretty cheap all things considered, and I used some of my frequent flyer built-up perks to get a flat bed there and back - the return journey was especially important as I was going straight into work and needed some sleep. Other airlines are available.
- Car hire via Avis was a fantastic Chevy Camaro convertible. God knows what engine it had but it made a lovely noise. Despite a likely dreadful economy fuel was only £50, which included driving across Florida and back again. Welcome to the land of the free....
- We stayed on Estero Beach at the Wyndham Garden Inn. A twin room was basic but adequate for our stay - we spent almost zero time in it.
- We visited a number of sites, some repeats from my first trip, others new. Ding Darling was once again disappointing for bird photography and we did not linger. The new sites, such as Bunche Beach between Sanibel and Fort Myers, proved excellent.
- Weather was stunning throughout, with highs of 31c and blue skies. This actually meant that photography ended quite early on each morning.
- Early morning and in shaded areas the midges were unbelievable. Invest in some repellent.
Day 0: A very early start at work to fit in a half day and then nipped to Heathrow for the early Friday afternoon departure to Miami. The nice shiny A380 I had booked had morphed into a knackered old 747 with no in-flight entertainment which was rather a shame. We arrived in the evening and set off for the long drive across the Everglades, attempting and failing to sleep in the car. The Camaro is great to drive but has almost no space in it so we gave up and got a motel in Naples.
Day 1: After breakfast at an all-night Denny's we were at Ding Darling for dawn, and spent the morning exploring Sanibel island. The afternoon saw a small amount of shopping and a nap, and then the early evening was spent reconnoitring Estero beach and lagoons in preparation for the following day.
Day 2: Pre-dawn start at the southern end of Estero Beach, walking north with the sun rising behind us. Mid morning we did a recce of Cape Coral for Burrowing Owl sites, and in the afternoon we sought out Florida Scrub Jay up towards Port Charlotte. Evening back at Cape Coral for the Owls.
Day 3: Early start at Bunche Beach Preserve, and an afternoon visit to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for a different selection of birds.
Day 4: Back at Corkscrew for a morning of birding and photography, and then back across to Miami for a 5pm flight back to Heathrow
Main Sites visited
Sanibel Lighthouse and Fishing Pier - tame Egrets by the pier and various other bits of habitat.
Estero Beach and Little Estero Lagoon - a series of lagoons between Fort Myers Beach and the strip of hotels, fabulously tame waders and egrets as well as Pelicans and Terns.Cape Coral - Burrowing Owls amid suburbia, no photographic opportunities but a few Owls seen.
Tippecanoe Environmental Park - a confusing series of trails, but prime Florida Scrub Jay habitat.
Bunche Beach Preserve – an almost empty and massive beach carpeted in waders and egrets with the sun in a perfect position in the morning. One to go to again.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - a long boardwalk through a Cypress swamp, magnificent habitat and various warbler and woodpecker photo opportunities.