Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area
Outside the hotel in Orlando we found our first Mallards!
Driving south, we stopped by a small pinewood where we admired two fine Red-headed Woodpeckers along with the much more common Red-bellied Woodpecker. Eastern Meadowlark, Blue Jay and Eastern Bluebird were also found in the wood and nearby were Sandhill Cranes and Wood Storks, as well as a Bald Eagle feeding on a large snake. A mile or so further on we screeched to a halt as the shout of 'Turkey' went up. A lone female stood in a field so we got out to view her and then noticed another seven birds further away in the same field.
Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area was our next destination and we started well as we drove in with close views of Northern Bobwhite (we got even better views here later on). This is another area of pine woodland and we again saw the habitat specialties of Brown-headed Nuthatch, Red-cockaded Woodpecker (we even saw the red cockade!) and Bachman's Sparrow. A little further on we watched a Northern Harrier soaring over open prairie and found an out-of-habitat Bachman's Sparrow. We were still hunting for another two Florida specialties with which we had had no luck so far: Short-tailed Hawk and the Florida race of Grasshopper Sparrow. Our luck soon changed however; stopping near a wood a dark-phase Short-tailed Hawk flew overhead. Unfortunately however, the second van had just stopped to watch Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. The hawk disappeared before the second van could catch up but the first van did get to see the sparrow. Unfortunately, despite having lunch overlooking the wood, the second van never saw the Short-tailed Hawk, although we did all enjoy close views of Eastern Towhees, Black-and-white Warblers, Northern Parulas, American Redstarts, Pine Warblers, White-eyed Vireos and Carolina Wrens.
After lunch, we drove the road to Kissimmee Lake and back. On the way out, we found two more Wild Turkeys, 11 Sandhill Cranes and another Northern Bobwhite, whilst on the way back, when we stopped to check the place we'd seen the turkeys on the way out, a Yellow-throated Warbler flew in and started singing, much to everyone's delight.
The final stop of the day was at Brinson Park, the bulk of which is a huge lake. 'Scoping the area, we found a flock of 24 Ring-necked Ducks, eight scattered Pied-billed Grebes, two American Coots and a pair of Wood Ducks. Also present were Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Forster's Tern, Black-necked Stilt, Osprey, nesting Sandhill Crane, Purple Martin, Northern Rough-winged Swallow and two Monk Parakeets.
WE were back at Brinson Park next day getting in some last-minute birding before the flight home. We saw nesting Sandhill Crane, and even had cranes walking in the road and people's gardens! We had an adult and two juvenile River Otter, the pair of Wood Ducks (this time with three young), at least ten Ospreys, Swallow-tailed Kite, the usual herons and egrets and two Monk Parakeets again. The end of Birdfinders' first (but surely not the last!) Florida tour where we had seen all the specialities and much more and enjoyed a great time with a marvellous group.