Florida! -- Osceola County

Last post!  Deciding where and how to spend my one obligation-free day in Florida was tough but eventually I concluded that Osceola County was the way to go.  Three hotspots offered a nice variety of birds and habitats to visit and so I headed out at 5 a.m. to Joe Overstreet Road.

Pee spot view. 

Joe Overstreet Road is about five miles of open fields and cattle, and ends at Joe Overstreet Landing where one could hop on an airboat for a Kissimmee Swamp Tour.  Birding along the road was decent despite missing the Whooping Crane that has been in the area, and not seeing a single caracara.

 Common Ground-Doves

At one point a Loggerhead Shrike flew to the fence right next to me where it had a grasshopper thing stuck on the barbed wire.  It did not care when I pulled up a few feet for a better view.  I have never seen a shrike this close up before and it was kind of amazing.


Wild.  The rest of the drive...

Vultures and Wood Storks

 Another pee spot view


 Cattle Egret, cattle

I realize branding is common and legal, but that X on that cow cannot be regulation branding.  That is just fucked up and there's not a polite way of saying it.

Cattle, crow

 Boat-tailed Grackle

At the landing at the end of the road, a pair of Sandhill Cranes had a nest going with what appears to be an egg in it (by the left foot of the bird on the right).




A flying Snowy Egret showed off for me...

Poopin

There were a handful of Glossy Ibises around here but I never got a great photo of one.  I kept thinking I would get a better view eventually.  Nope.


After Joe Overstreet Road I headed down to Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, hitting up the Prairie Lakes Unit first.


I stopped to admire a Red-shouldered Hawk and heard among the Eastern Meadowlark songs, a singing Bachman's Sparrow.


After fifteen minutes of walking up and down the dusty road, trying to get a glimpse of the sparrow, I finally located it singing from the shadows on a low pine branch.


I was prepared to accept this terrible view as my only view, but thankfully hours later as I paced a road in search of woodpeckers, a most amazing thing happened:  a Bachman's Sparrow popped up onto a branch in far better lighting and way closer to me.

Oh you pretty thing. 

In between sparrow sightings there was plenty to see...

Turkey & Black Vultures (#floridapals)

 Zebra swallowtail

 Snake

I am scared of plenty of things, but for some reason not snakes.  This leads me to do stupid things like lying down in the middle of the road to photograph them before identifying them.  So yeah, I found this snake in the middle of the road, and did just that.  Then I did a little google search and learned it was a rattlesnake.  Oops.

Dusky pygmy rattlesnake

 White-eyed Vireo, long time no see

 White-eyed Eastern Towhee!  So cool.

A major reason I visited Three Lakes was to look for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.  I found none.  They even mark their nest trees with white paint to make it easier, but since it wasn't quite nesting season, and it was mid-day, it just didn't happen.  But...  I heard a little tapping sound at one point as I pulled over at this interesting sign:


Gut pit you say?  Count me in.  I walked down that mucky road to the actual gut pit:  a hole filled with water and death, bones strewn around everywhere, a stink filling my nostrils.  Hunters' discards.


But there were birds and that nagging little tapping coming from one of those dead snags.  To get closer I had to creep around the edge of the gut pit, up onto that back dirt pile, and then I could go no further.  The source of the tapping was not apparent, but after ten minutes of frustration a little head poked out of a little hole:  a Brown-headed Nuthatch.


The little tapper was another target bird at this location, and after dipping on woodpeckers I was pretty happy I braved the gut pit for this guy. 

I headed back north after this to get a burrito and check out Lakefront Park in St. Cloud.  This place, according to eBird reports, was a reliable spot for Snail Kite.  It was also a fantastic place for Limpkins.


There's a grassy trail bordered on one side by a duck pond and on the other the marshy edge of the lake, and this is where I found a dark blob perched in the reeds.  A Snail Kite!


Shortly after locating her, she took off cruising the marsh for much of the next hour or so while I was there.  A couple walking the trail let me know there were at least two pairs that hang out here, including a couple just up the trail.


I walked to the end of the trail, not finding any more kites.
 
So tame.  So weird. 

 Muscovy Ducks

I walked back and found the kite still cruising...


A pretty awesome day in Osceola County. 

The final installment of Florida! blogging is over.  If you decide you should go (and how would you not come to this conclusion?) I highly recommend the the book, A Birder's Guide to Florida, as suggested to me by Seagull Steve.  Combined with eBird reports, you can't go wrong.  Seriously.  There's no "going wrong" in Florida.  There's just spoonbills. 

I can't wait to go back to find all the birds I missed this trip.  Good times!!