Babcock–Webb National Preserve
Birding started well, as we were about to get into the vans in the motel carpark, two Brown Thrashers were found. First stop of the day was in the Babcock area. As we entered the preserve, an area of hydric (wet) pine flatwoods, we had another two Brown Thrashers on the road and were soon listening to and watching singing Eastern Towhees. Two Eastern Bluebirds were soon located and then we heard singing Bachman's Sparrow and quickly located a nice male in a nearby tree. Another Bachman's Sparrow was found, quickly followed by first one then a second Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Other birds seen included Eastern Meadowlark, Pine Warbler, Great Crested Flycatcher, Sandhill Crane and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Farther on, we made another stop and picked up Brown-headed Nuthatch and Common Ground-dove plus Common Yellowthroat and Blue Jay.
Continuing our journey east, we made several stops in a more prairie-like habitat where, as well as the common species, three Northern Caracaras, numerous Turkey and Black Vultures, four Swallow-tailed Kites, two Red-shouldered Hawks and Burrowing Owls were seen.
Now heading north towards Orlando, we birded around Avon Park specifically looking for Short-tailed Hawk. Stopping in some scrubby habitat, we spotted some distant Florida Scrub-jays. They clearly heard us and were used to humans because they flew straight towards us. Within minutes some people had Florida Scrub-jay perched on their hands as these trusting birds assumed we were food-providing tourists!