Saturday 9 May 2020

Florida IV - Logistics and Itinerary

  • A four day trip in mid November (16th – 19th); This is the fourth time I've been to Florida and very similar to the dates in 2015 and 2018. The weather is typically excellent, and there are lots and lots of birds. This was supposed to be a pure photography trip with Mick S but he was unable to make it so I converted it into a birding and photography trip. I have worked out a new bag packing method which fits the tripod and scope as well as a large lens.
  • Flights with British Airways to Miami were amazingly cheap, however no nice flat bed for me this time and I did miss it. As always other airlines are available, though post Covid-19 possibly not as many.
  • Car hire from Avis was my preferred Ford Escape. Heaps of room, including the ability to lay my tripod flat for rapid birding.
  • I spent the first night in said Ford Escape on the Florida Keys, the second night in a Miami AirBnB, and the two nights on the Gulf Coast, firstly in a Travelodge in Fort Myers and finally a nicer motel on Estero Beach so that I could have a well-earned drink watching the sunset. Lots of driving.
  • I visited loads of sites, spending the first two days birding in the Everglades and around Miami, and the the final two days over on the Gulf Coast, including two mornings of photography at Bunche Beach.
  • The first two mornings were relatively cold and overcast, which was fine for general birding. After that it brightened up and was as nice as expected, a far cry from Wanstead. Sunshine and blue skies were perfect for photography. 
  • Insects were not a problem in 2019. Probably because I invested in some repellent....

  • Day 0: Afternoon flight to Miami arriving at 9pm and then drove slowly down to Marathon in the Florida Keys - a twitch! Arrived after midnight and found somewhere quiet to park up and sleep, though strictly this is not permitted.
  • Day 1: All morning on Sombrero Key Golf Course waiting for the ABA code 5 Antillean Palm Swift to show up, which it refused to do in overcast weather. Only after the sun came out did it appear and what a moment that was! Afternoon exploring the Keys on the way back to Homestead and the Everglades. I then birded Lucky Hammock/Frog Pond WMA on the 9336 road that heads out to Flamingo at the south-west tip of the 'Glades, as well as the famed Anhinga Trail.
  • Day 2: After an overnight stay in Miami I started birding at first light up at Sparrow Fields, right on the edge of the swamp. It was terrific birding. I returned to Lucky Hammock and then on to Flamingo which was largely flooded out. Afternoon seeking out White-crowned Pigeon in Miami, and then Snail Kite in the Everglades along Route 41 on my way to Fort Myers.
  • Day 3: Bunche Beach at dawn in perfect conditions, I had an absolute ball. Afternoon down in Naples, including the lovely Botanical Garden. Beers on Estero beach for sunset as promised.
  • Day 4: Bunche Beach again in the morning, followed by Big Cypress Bend and other sites in the Everglades before an early evening flight to Heathrow.

Main Sites visited

1) Sombrero Key Golf Course  - only for rarity value, ABA area's second Antillean Palm Swift.
2) Key Largo - usual southern Florida fare.
3) Lucky Hammock/Anhinga Trail - truly excellent birding at both locations.
4) Flamingo NP - flooded grassy areas were carpeted in waders, and the Eco Pond was good value.
5) Sparrow Fields - an amazing site with huge numbers of egrets, ibis, waders and other birds, including American Bittern.
6) Everglades Route 41 - there is a certain point near a very slight bend which is excellent for Snail Kites.
7) Bunche Beach - a wonderful photographic location when the conditions are right.
8) Naples Botanic Gardens - beautiful landscaped gardens and ponds, quite birdy.
9) Big Cypress Bend - a boardwalk leading into the swamp, but visited at a bad time of day.


  1. I'm assuming the Antillean Palm Swift twitch was a purely fortuitous turn of events...or did you honestly work the trip around that one bird? Coz that would be quite ridiculously mad, crazy and just plain stupid. Not to mention massively impressive!!!

    1. Yes, complete luck that it appeared around a month before I flew. I never base foreign trips around specific waifs, I just have a quick look at what has been seen shortly before I leave. Was the same with that Wallcreeper in Spain.