Today we visited the world-famous Everglades National Park. En route we stopped by a field to admire a flock of at least 500 migrating Bobolinks!
First stop in the park was to check out marshland that was a site for the Cape Sable race of Seaside Sparrow. Unfortunately, only one person managed to locate one and that view was brief. Next, we stopped to check out some pine woodland where we found two huge Pileated Woodpeckers and heard singing Pine Warblers. Another stop in a mixture of woodland and marsh added Great Crested Flycatcher and Eastern Towhee, plus yet another Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Bald Eagle. Mahogonay Hammock is a small wood surrounded by marsh, a real migrant trap. From the boardwalk, we saw both an adult and a juvenile Florida-race Red-shouldered Hawk and in the hammock we found American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireos and our first Magnolia Warbler and American Crow.
Continuing on towards Flamingo, the vans became separated. By the time we discovered this, we were out of radio range so there was nothing for it but for the first van to turn around and retrace its route. As the vans re-united, an arm appeared from the second van and pointed up into a tree at a superb Barred Owl. Eileen had spotted this bird from the van at 50 mph perched on a branch over the road, completely in the open! It seemed oblivious to our presence and a lot more film was used! Eventually we had to drag ourselves away and just past the Flamingo visitor centre, we made a further short stop to check a flock of cowbirds where, amongst nine Brown-headed Cowbirds were two of the recent colonising Shiny Cowbirds.
From the two storey visitor centre, you could see right across Florida Bay with Great, Snowy and Reddish Egrets, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill and Great White Heron (the white phase of Great Blue Heron) all over the mudflats. Waders (shorebirds) were also present in the form of 50+ Western Sandpipers, at least eight Willets, Black-bellied (Grey) Plover, Dunlin, two Spotted Sandpipers and a couple of dowitchers. Both Brown and American White Pelicans sat on a sandbar alongside Royal and Caspian Terns and the ubiquitous Laughing Gulls. Ospreys were common, often four or five were flying around at one time, and Gray Kingbirds sang from telegraph wires. In the distant haze a lone Caribbean Flamingo was spotted, very hard to identify had it not flown briefly! We also picked up Sharp-shinned Hawk here.
Our next stop was to prove a talking point for the rest of the trip, Snake Bight Trail. Our aim was to walk the trail through the woods to the end where it opened out to the mudflats of Florida Bay, where we hoped to get better views of the flamingo. We did have some great birds as we walked the trail: pairs of Indigo Buntings, 3 American Redstarts, 6 Black-and-white Warblers, a male Blackpoll Warbler, 2 male Northern Parulas, Worm-eating Warbler, a pair of Black-throated Blue Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Palm Warbler and Prairie Warbler. Even better were the White-crowned Pigeons (very flighty but eventually seen well) and very good views of Black-whiskered Vireo. The only problem was the billions of mosquitoes, all determined to suck as much blood as possible from us. Everyone suffered to some degree, some more so than others, but unless one was wearing a full body protection suit being bitten was unavoidable. Despite the adversity of the mosquito attacks we did finally reach the end of the track, only to find that the path ended at a wall of mangroves and was, as yet, unfinished! Most people started on the long walk back but a few of us clambered through the muddy mangroves and got to the shoreline. There were no flamingos present as a reward but we did see two (American) Black Terns, Wurdemann's Heron (Great White x Great Blue Heron) and a Greater Yellowlegs. This walk is definitely off the itinerary for future trips!! Back at the information centre we added our first Baltimore Oriole to the list, saw four Common Mynas and watched a close Osprey on a flagpole eating a fish.