Loxahatchee, Wakadohatchee and Markham Park
Our first stop was Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. As we drove down the entrance road we spotted two Wood Storks in a field, which we stopped to view. Fortuitously, we had stopped right next to a family of Limpkins who seemed unbothered by us and the two adults and three juveniles continued to feed within a couple of metres of the minibuses. Many photos were taken in the next few minutes!
We had heard that water levels at Loxahatchee were low and we didn't intend to stay long. We took the boardwalk through a Cyprus swamp and picked up Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Common and Boat-tailed Grackles, six Anhingas, a close Green Heron, Blue Jay and Broad-winged Hawk. On the way out we came across a Monk Parakeet – accepted by the ABA as having an established feral population and so countable.
Next we visited Wakadohatchee Wetlands and birds were everywhere: Purple Martins and Least Terns were constantly in the air above us and were also seen close up sitting either on nest boxes or building roofs respectively. Anhingas were abundant and the calls of displaying Boat-tailed Grackles filled the air. We saw three male and a female Least Bittern, 6+ Green Herons, Tricolored Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets and three juvenile Black-crowned Night-herons. Purple Gallinules put on good shows as we walked along the boardwalk, three Monk Parakeets screeched as they shot past, a Palm Warbler was found in a bush and showed well for us and three Mottled Ducks lazed in the water.
Next stop was Markham Country Park where, after a short walk through a birdless coniferous woodland, we reached a large dyke. Clambering up, there were tremendous views over very flat-looking Everglades marshland from the top. 'Scopes were set up, we began scanning and it was only seconds before our first Snail Kite was spotted; later there were 26 Snail Kites, males and females, in the air at one time! We picked up our first Belted Kingfisher of the trip here and had five Common Nighthawks in the air. Returning to the vans, we were distracted by White-winged Doves.
With a possible site for Eastern Screech-owl, we moved on to a wooded area by a small lake and checked the trees. No owl was found but new for the trip was a nice Blue-headed Vireo, kindly feeding in an almost leafless tree, and two delightful male Black-throated Green Warblers.
The final stop for the day was one of those places not usually famed for birds – an airport. In this case it was Fort Lauderdale Airport which is bordered on the south side by Griffin Park, a narrow strip of trees and saw grass, and an unlikely looking place for many birds. As we drove off the main road onto the road that leads to a small carpark, the front van stopped to say that they had just seen an oriole fly past. We piled out and searched the area. A juvenile Broad-winged Hawk flew over and scared up a Spot-breasted Oriole! Next we drove slowly along the airport perimeter road to find a special Florida bird and we were soon admiring two Smooth-billed Anis on the perimeter fence. Returning to the park, we had had close views of a superb Spot-breasted Oriole and four more close anis, whilst a Prairie Warbler was found in the bushes close to the vans.