I awoke to another unseasonably cold morning in southern Florida. I drove west from my AirBnB to the edge of the Everglades and a site called Sparrow Fields. To reach this drive to the very end of SW 168th street, past the pump station on the left and park at a small turning circle when you can go no further - probably about another kilometer or so where a yellow gate blocks the road. Take the trail to the left, there is a short bend and then it straighens out. Sparrow Fields is now to your east. I walked the large loop here, cursing my decision to wear shorts and flip-flops. The birds made up for my discomfort though, hundreds of White Ibis, loads of different herons and egrets. I was on the lookout for American Bittern, an ABA tick, and this site was known to have a few. And remarkably I found one, I have no idea how. It was only just off the path and the camouflage was astounding - if I took my eyes off it I lost it, and indeed searching for camera angles that is exactly what happened. One minute there, the next simply vanished and I could not pick it up again. Other birds of note here were 200 Blue-winged Teal, two Northern Harrier, two Belted Kingfisher and two Merlin.
|Great White Egret|
|American White Ibis|
By now it was 9am and warming up a little, so I drove the short distance south to 322st St to the Shiny Cowbird stakeout. This is a normal residential area so be sensitive to that, but an eBirder lives here somewhere and posts repeated sightings of this new Florida resident. Sure enough after about half an hour of waiting a group flew into a large hedge in a garden. I was also able to add a few suburban birds to my list like Northern Cardinal, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Blue Jay.
After some breakfast I returned to Lucky Hammock. Here I encountered the Smooth-billed Anis again, three of them this time, and managed to get a photo. As it turned out the only photo I got that was decent turned out to be a Groove-billed Ani, later proved to be silently associating with two Smooth-billed, so a bit of an ABA listing result really.
|American White Ibis|
My first stop was the Eco Pond, and as it is not very big I walked the trail all the way around it. Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, hundreds of Turkey Vulture and two Osprey made up the big birds, and in the bushes I found Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula, Least Flycatcher and Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. My plan had been to walk the Coastal Prairie Trail for a few miles, but this was flooded out and I could only add Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in the trees before the trail disappeared under water as it emerged from cover. Shame, as the walk is described as very birdy when you get out to the real coastal swamp.
|The end of the Coastal Prairie Trail!|
Back in the main parking area I met an incredibly helpful birder who I think was called Raul. We watched some waders together, and whilst doing so he gave me some wonderful gen on where to find Snail Kite and White-crowned Pigeon - both of these spots turned out to be rock solid later in the day. The heavy rain had flooded the picnic area here, and a variety of waders were feeding in the large puddles - Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs mostly, but also some Least Sandpiper and a Dunlin. On the beach there was a Grey Plover, two American Avocet, and rather surprisingly a Franklin's Gull. Two Wood Stork flew over the car as I returned to get my camera for the gull.
By now it was gone 2pm, birding days do tend to just vanish when they are going well. I drove the hour up to US 41, and stopped at the very slight bend just west of Coopertown, and where the raised section finished. Looking south into the swamp I easily found my first Snail Kite quartering the marsh. As I watched, a further four birds were noted. What a spot! I even managed to get an OK image when one of them came a little closer, and I also added Limpkin. Although it meant retracing my route, Raul's gen had been so good that I decided to also try for the Pigeon now, rather than on my way back to the airport in a couple days when I would no doubt be running short on time. I had been given a number of blocks along SW 72nd Street, from 110-90 working west to east. Scan the overhead wires I was told. It took a while to get there, but he was spot on. At SW 100th Avenue I found two birds on some wires across the creek. It took a while to make my way over to the other side, but I had been looking at the Kendall Tennis Training Centre. So if you can't find this species in the Florida Keys, then suburban south-west Miami is decent bet! My last target had been found, and so now I could concentrate on photography. I pointed the car west and drove back across the Everglades to the gulf coast.
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