SIB Travels: Central Florida for family reunion

We decided to join Dean’s snowbird cousins for a quick afternoon reunion near Bradington, Florida. You know I can’t go anywhere without working in a little birding so I researched what birds were in area so we’d be prepared. I gave Dean my “wish list” of birds so he’d be prepared to help me look and to understand when I yelled “STOP” as we drove down the road. My list included the Nanday Parakeets, Monk Parakeets, White-winged Doves and Black Swans to name a few.

As we stopped at each rest area, we saw the usual suspects…lots of Boat-tail Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, etc. As we drove down the interstate, LOTS of Turkey Vultures seemed to be leading our way. At the Florida Welcome Center, we were briefly excited…could that be one of my target birds, a White-winged Dove? No, it was 5 Eurasian Collared Doves which we often see at Bohicket Marina. We never did see a White-winged Dove which were “common” birds in Central Florida.

Sandhill Cranes – Dean Morr

As we drove state roads between Lakeland and Bradington, we finally saw a “Florida Bird”… a Sandhill Crane. On the return trip, we stopped for pictures of flocks of these large noisy birds. We also saw lots of Cattle Egrets, White Ibis and of course Turkey Vultures.

We had never seen so many Osprey on nests! It seemed like every other power poll had a nest. Some were in the joints of the power poles but some were on the platforms the power companies wisely placed at the top of the poles or sometimes even extra poles installed for no purpose other than to contain a platform for nesting purposes. A Google search told us that the debris (or chicks) falling from poorly placed nests caused power outages so the power companies proactively placed platforms to be used for nesting.

Osprey at New College of Florida – Dean Morr

As we visited with the cousins, we saw American Robins, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. Two hawks were hunting in the leaves of the golf course rough but I couldn’t confirm they were Coopers Hawks.

The New College of Florida campus on the Sarasota Bay looked like a promising eBird site for White-winged Doves and possibly the Nanday Parakeets and Monk Parakeets. We saw Double-breasted Cormorants swimming around fishermen in hip waders, Ring-necked Ducks, Great Egrets and more Osprey but none of the target birds. I MAY have seen a pair of Nanday Parakeets but they flew by too fast to get my binoculars up so I can’t be sure. Nearby, we did briefly stop at a lagoon at the Manatee Convention Center for Mallards, and Common Gallinules.

On the return trip across Florida, we stopped at Lake Morton in Lakeland. This isn’t officially a zoo so I think the birds I saw are reportable but I’m not sure. The city puts caution tape around the Black Swan nests and there are vending machines where you can buy seed to feed the various birds. About 50 White Ibis approached us as we exited the car, begging for food…a good clue they were tame. At this relatively small lake in the middle of town we saw Black Swans, Mute Swans, Muscovy Ducks, and Peking Ducks (aka domestic white ducks). I also saw the Anhingas, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, White Pelicans, Lesser Scaup, American Coot and Osprey which were definitely “wild”.

It was a good visit with cousins but the only “life bird” was the questionable Black Swan. I did learn more about Osprey nesting habits and had a closer look at Sandhill Cranes. I think a return visit is needed for another reunion and better birding.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

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