April in Arizona and a Mexican Rarity

April in Arizona started off with a bang: Tufted Flycatcher!

This little gem from the tropical pine forests of Mexico is one of the rarest birds in North America (i.e. the ABA area). Fewer than 10 have been recorded north of the border … ever. “Our” bird was first spotted in Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Arizona, on Monday, March 28th, but since the preserve was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, we had to wait until the 31st to go look for it.

We weren’t the only ones who had that idea. When we arrived at the preserve gate, about a half hour before opening time, a line of cars stretched back at least a quarter of a mile! Once through the gate and after paying the entry fee ($6 per person; good for one week) we joined the throng hustling up the approximately one-half mile long trail to the last known location, the Bledsoe Loop.

Along the way, we met some familiar faces, including “John from Australia” whom I had met while chasing the Common Cranes in western Texas late if February. John had tried unsuccessfully for the bird in the afternoon when it was first seen and had an inkling that the bird might have moved to higher elevations, so we left the masses behind and hiked a short way up the Hamburg Trail. The reason for this inkling was that two Tufted Flycatchers had spent the summer in the higher elevations of the Hamburg Trail in 2015, and the current bird is suspected to be one of that pair or one of their offspring.

Unfortunately, despite some nice birding along the trail, we missed the Tufted Flycatcher. Not only that, but it started to snow! We certainly did not expect snow at the relatively low elevation of the preserve (5000 – 5500 feet) this late in the year, but there it was. Then, to add even more insult to our injuries, we heard a report that the flycatcher was seen down in the canyon where we had first been.

The rest of the day, (We spent seven hours at the preserve.) we walked up and down the trail visiting all of the likely locations without success. We managed to find the other rarity that has been at the preserve this spring, Flame-colored Tanager, and that certainly was a treat, but no flycatcher. We were bushed by the time we left and headed into Sierra Vista for dinner and a motel.

The next day, April Fool’s Day, we returned to the preserve once again, hoping that nature would not play any tricks on us. The volunteers at the gate to the parking lot let the waiting birders in early to avoid another long line-up of cars and the trail up the canyon was opened a little early as well.

This time the weather was perfect: no hint of snow or precipitation of any kind, calm winds, and bright sunshine. The crowd of birders was noticeably reduced. Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, the crowd of birds was lower as well. We spent several hours looking but never got a glimpse of either the flycatcher or the tanager. We also saw far fewer of the usual local birds and migrants than we had seen in the snow flurries the day before.

Late in the morning we took a restroom and snack break and returned to the visitor center. We spent about 30 minutes there and started back up the trail. Almost immediately, we ran into one of the birders we had been with earlier in the day. He had just re-found the flycatcher and was hustling back to the visitor center to spread the word! We hustled up the trail as fast as our lungs would let us and we were very fortunate to find a small group of birders still watching the bird. Amazingly, it had hardly moved from where it had been found and was still actively feeding and offering nice views. Unfortunately, it was quite distant from the trail and I was not able to get a good photo.

It is quite remarkable that the bird was re-found where it was. It is only because it was on the edge of a clearing that is was visible at all as it foraged under the branches of oaks and young pines well across a creek from the trail. Everyone we had spoken to had advised us to look for the bird in sycamore trees near the creek. No one ever mentioned hillsides of pine-oak woodland. We’re certainly thankful for the sharp eyes of the helpful birder who re-found the bird and then took the time to alert everyone!

For the rest of April we are going to be doing a fair amount of birding in Arizona and a sliver of New Mexico. We will keep a list of all we see and try to make weekly reports on our favorite birding spots. Lets hope another rarity or two come our way.

Birding Doldrums and a Note on Lumps and Splits

As with everything in life, birding definitely has its ups and downs. Since reporting on the Common Crane chase, we have been in a down phase.

Most of the reason for the lack of birding excitement is the natural consequence of the season. We arrived at our place in New Mexico on the cusp between winter and spring. Some of the wintering birds, such as cranes and waterfowl, are on their way north already and most of the spring birds have yet to arrive. Another reason for less birding action is that we have been busy working on the property and are not spending as much time afield as we would like. We’ll try to get out more and write more as the spring progresses.

There is some birding news, however. The American Ornithologist’s Union (AOU) is preparing to meet and the proposed changes to the classification of the North American bird fauna have been released for consideration. Most of the proposals involve arcane rules of taxonomy or nomenclature and will have no effect on the average birder, but some of the changes will affect the life lists of most North American birders.

Perhaps the most notable and talked about change is the proposal to lump Common Redpoll and Hoary Redpoll into a single species. Based on the latest data available, it seems as if the two former species are actually just variations of one species. Where the ranges of the forms overlap there is enough interbreeding and mixing of genes to suggest that the color variations and other field marks we see are part of a broader continuum. Bird listers hate lumps! Whenever lumping of species occurs, we lose a tick on our list just by the whim of some scientists voting somewhere. All the hard-fought effort to find and tick a species is lost by the stroke of a pen.

On the other hand, listers love splits, and fortunately for us, there are some proposed splits that will balance out the loss of the Hoary Redpoll, and even add a species or two. One of these splits is especially beneficial to us because the subspecies being proposed for elevation to full species status is found right where we are currently staying. The Lillian’s Meadowlark, a pale-cheeked variation of Eastern Meadowlark that occupies a disjunct range in Southwestern New Mexico and Southeastern Arizona, is singing on our property as I write this post. The geographic isolation of this population is the strongest evidence for its elevation to full species and removal from consideration as “just” a race of Eastern Meadowlark.

Another proposed split is the elevation of certain populations of Scrub-Jays in California to full species status. In fact, there was talk of as many as three or four “new” species of Scrub-Jays based on genetic studies, but the only one I saw in the released notes was the “California Scrub-Jay.” That species complex is certainly diverse and confusing. It hasn’t been all that long since the “original” Scrub-Jay was split into the Florida, Island, and Western species. It is not clear if we have actually seen the proposed new species in the past, (though we think we have) so we may need to travel out to California to add this bird if the proposal is accepted, much like we did when Bell’s Sparrow and Sagebrush Sparrow were split from Sage Sparrow.

There are also proposals to elevate certain subspecies of Leach’s Storm-Petrel to full species status. I know almost nothing about the merits of these proposals, but the Leach’s Storm-Petrel complex has long been among the most widespread and diverse of the pelagic birds, with seemingly disjunct populations scattered across several oceans. Whatever happens with the complex will have no effect on my new life list, however, since I don’t even have Leach’s on that list yet! (We need to do more pelagic trips!)

The bottom line for our new life list is that if the AOU proposals are accepted, we will lose one species, gain two more, and have several potential new species to chase. That’s not a bad result from just sitting here and reading an ornithological website!

So Long to the RGV. A Rarity Awaits!

After spending about 10 weeks in the Rio Grande Valley this winter, we’re on the road again!

Actually, Michael is on the road. Renee has some doctor’s appointments to catch up on before she leaves. We usually travel together, so something had to be out there to get me to leave my better half behind. That something was a trio of Common Cranes.

Last winter at least three, and maybe as many as five, Common Cranes were found near Muleshoe NWR, in west Texas, and later in the season, near Bitter Lakes NWR, in eastern New Mexico. They may have been two distinct sets of birds or the same birds moving between the two refuges, a distance of a couple of hundred miles. In any case, we did not chase those birds because we were too busy getting ready for our Alaska adventure during the summer.

This year is different. We were already planning to visit our place in New Mexico for the spring season and a detour up to crane country was doable. In fact, the birds (if they are the same birds) moved a little closer this year. They are hanging out south of Lubbock, and though that is still about 700 miles from the RGV, it is only about an additional 350 miles to visit the cranes and then continue on to New Mexico. The only real changes to our plans are that “small” detour and the fact that I left early to chase the cranes while Renee kept her appointments.

Crane spotting is a lot of fun, but it is an exercise in patience and persistence to find the needle in a haystack. There are three Common Cranes among several flocks of Sandhill Cranes that must number from 20,000 to 40,000 birds. Those odds are far better than the PowerBall lottery, but it is still a daunting task to find one of the rarities among the spectacle.

The task is made much easier by the reports from other birders and especially from the reports made by a researcher who is studying Sandhill Cranes. In fact, the researcher, Justin Bosler, was the first to find the Common Cranes last year and again this year. That makes sense, since he spends every day banding, tracking and studying the Sandhill Cranes and is most likely to spot the odd birds in the flocks.

Armed with these prior reports, and even getting useful information from the negative reports, it was not too difficult to find the foraging flocks of cranes after my drive up from the RGV. Making sense of the chaotic situation of 20,000 to 40,000 cranes over a fairly large area was more difficult. Fortunately, other crane spotters (seven, including me; in four vehicles) were present and we all exchanged cell phone numbers and headed off in various directions to search the various flocks.

The weather was cold, clear, and somewhat windy. The birds tended to feed in shallow depressions to stay out of the cold wind. That made it difficult to see many of the birds. Plus, it always seemed that any large flock of cranes was situated so that the sun was in my eyes and viewing was practically impossible. Finally, the birds tended to be a long distance away and heat shimmer was obvious. Still, we all spent the entire morning searching through every flock that presented itself, waiting for the phone call that never came. By around noon the flocks of cranes started to head off to rest on nearby shallow lakes. Those lakes are on private property so we all took the afternoon off.

Later in the day I and one other couple searched other nearby areas and managed to find about 7,000 or 8,000 birds in several flocks. The lighting and viewing conditions were much better. The wind had died down and the birds were closer than those during the morning. Unfortunately, the results were the same.

The next day I was out even earlier than the birds. While driving around the fields waiting for the birds to show, it didn’t take long to reconnect with some of the people from the day before and to add one more number to our phone list. Soon, we could see long lines and wedges of birds lifting off from the lakes and heading toward the farm fields. Many birds continued on past us but some started to settle in various places. The hunt was on again as we all headed out to try to find vantage points to scope different flocks.

It was quite a spectacle. Many of the Sandhill Cranes were starting to hop and dance. Some were even mating. There were both greater and lesser races of Sandhills in the flocks and a variety of plumages, including some nearly completely cinnamon juvenile birds and a nearly totally white leucistic bird. I spent hours looking at every single head sticking up to find the distinctive dark neck and pale cheek of the Common Crane. After seeing dozens of dark necks that turned out to be shadows; after watching 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000 cranes in a dozen different flocks; after driving the same bad farm roads over and over … finally, I received a phone call. “We met a guy who says he just saw the bird and we’re trying to re-find it. Come over to the next road south of where we last saw you!”

I must have kicked up quite a rooster tail of sand as I raced over to the next road and saw two cars parked up ahead. I set up my scope and camera next to the others and we all kept looking at every head poking up above the feeding flock of about 5,000 cranes (a flock I had been looking at from the opposite direction earlier, but into the sun). “I think I see it.” said one birder. “It’s just to the left of the water tank in the distance; near the power pole that has the transformer.” With those kinds of detailed instructions even I could find the bird! Finally, I found the dark neck I had been looking for. I saw the black crown and the white cheek despite the heat shimmer and haze. I saw the yellow on the bill despite the fact that the viewing distance was 800 yards or so. I even got some poor photos.

Tick! Number 724. One step closer to my goal of seeing as many birds as I can see.

Our Time in the RGV is Running Out

There have been lots of great birds in the RGV this winter, and nearby as well, but we are running out of time to add any more lifers to our list.

Northern Jacana started our stay in south Texas this winter and we added Flame-colored Tanager as well. There were grosbeaks, buntings, warblers and more, but none of them were new to our list. Now, our time is running out. It is likely that we will be leaving Texas in just a couple of weeks. How about one more lifer?!

The weather started out a bit odd, with alternating days in the 90s and 40s and quite a bit of rain. Lately, though, it has been beautiful. The winds have been a bit high sometimes but the temperatures have been delightful. Almost every day we take a couple of hours to do some wildlife watching. The diversity of birds has been great: tropical specialties and northern visitors, desert friends and humid neighbors, common and rare; all have put in an appearance.

But we still are waiting for another code 4 or 5. Yep, we’re getting greedy in our old age!

Another Successful Chase … but

UPDATE: We went back to Refugio and got a much better look at the tanager!

Yesterday, I drove up to Refugio, Texas and got a glimpse of the Flame-colored Tanager there.

But it was just a glimpse; a diagnostic glimpse, but a glimpse nonetheless. Needless to say, there is no photo. That’s not much to show for a six hour round trip drive and six hours of stakeout birding. I can add the bird to my list but it was not very satisfying.

On a more positive note, Lions City Park was interesting, especially since it was the first time I have been there. This small bit of habitat has hosted two mega or near-mega rarities and some other unusual birds this winter. I did not see the Golden-crowned Warbler that has been resident for several weeks, but I did find the Greater Pewee and a completely unexpected Chukar. The last bird is almost certainly an escapee from a game ranch that releases them for shooting, but it was fun to see it anyway.

The list stands at 723. I’m still hoping for more from South Texas this winter. Someone conjure up a Roadside Hawk!

The Christmas Bird Count From Hell

Yesterday we participated in the CBC from hell. 12 hours of wind, rain, mud, more rain, getting the car stuck in more mud, and rain … again.

We had agreed to take over one of the count areas in the Harlingen CBC for friends who were out of town. In years past, they had almost always managed to find more birds than anyone else, so the pressure was on for us to continue the tradition “come hell or high water.” With the nasty weather and all the flooded roads and fields, we got both.

We started the day by owling around Vieh’s B&B, where we are staying for the winter season, at 5 AM. By 5:05 we had flushed a Barn Owl from a palm tree and we thought we were on the way to a good day, despite the wind and rain. We added a pauraque about 20 minutes later from its usual roosting area in a palm nursery on the property … and then things started to slide downhill.

Almost literally. We headed to our next planned owling stop and as soon as we turned off onto the dirt road to the area it was obvious that there had been more rain than we had thought. The road was slippery. I tried to keep up my momentum and get to a drier part of the road to turn around but I misjudged just how sticky the situation was. After just a couple of hundred yards we were stuck. The clay soil was so sticky that it had built up on the tires so thick that the mud was almost completely filling the wheel wells. The car had no traction at all. We rocked and pushed the car onto the side of road to get out of the way and it slid down slightly into the roadside edge, hopelessly stuck, but at least out of the way of any other crazy people who might be out at 6 in the morning.

After a short walk back to the paved road, we managed to flag down a passing truck and I got a ride back to the B&B to pick up the van and get everyone back to the house to start over, this time in a four-wheel-drive truck. But the delay caused by getting stuck had pretty much ruined any further chances we had for owls in the early morning light. We did not see or hear any other night birds.

The early optimism of the 5 AM start quickly gave way to a sluggish plod through the gray and dreary morning rain and wind. Very few birds were evident in forested or brushy habitats and the large concentrations of water birds we had seen at the ponds and resacas during our scouting were, for the most part, dispersed elsewhere. We managed to find many of the species we expected, but their numbers were way below what we had seen earlier in the week.

The biggest impediment to finding birds was the constant rain. At times it was only a drizzle but at other times it was a driving rain that soaked through any protective gear you might have on. The rain and muddy roads made it impossible to visit many areas of our count area that had less than paved access. The rain kept our binoculars and scopes in a near constant state of foggy and wet blurriness. The rain and mud made it difficult to hike on the trails we had planned to take, and most of all, the rain seemed to suppress the activity of many species of birds. For example, we did manage to find a couple of foraging flocks of passerines in the woody areas of our count area but far fewer than we had expected and many of the birds in those flocks were wet and bedraggled.

The main consequence of all this was a crew of not-very-happy campers who were relegated to doing most of their birding from the confines of a truck on roads that were less than ideal for reaching the best birding habitat. On several occasions I went off on my own to see what I could see and left the rest back in the warm and dry truck, not the best way to ensure that we saw all that we could see.

Still, and this is a testament to how great birding in the RGV is, we managed to find 97 species of birds in our count area. Sure, this is about a dozen fewer than in some previous years, and many of the species were represented by only one or a very few individuals, but we did manage to have the highest species count in the Harlingen count circle and continue the tradition of “our area.”

So, I guess all the wet clothes, cold hands, soggy socks, I-hope-I-don’t-catch-a-cold-from-this sniffles, and the muddy, tired people were worth it … barely.

RGV in Winter – Final Tally

Despite less than ideal birding for the last few days of our Valley hotspots tour we ended our list with 188 species. That’s about 45 more than we saw in Florida.

That result is not all that surprising given the greater variety of habitats in southern Texas but the magnitude of the difference in species was more than we expected. Winter birding in southern Texas is definitely a better bang for your buck compared to Florida, especially if you are a newcomer to the area and want to add lots of birds to your life list.

Since our last post, we visited Falcon Lake and its neighboring hotspots, Bentsen-RGV State Park, South Padre Island, and Oliviera Park in Brownsville. (We did not visit Zapata as we had planned and thus missed any chance for seedeaters.) We were mostly successful at finding the target birds for each of the hotspots but there were, as always, some birds that we missed. It is certainly possible to see over 200 species in a relatively short visit to the RGV in winter!

Our best birding (as defined by the total numbers of birds and the number of species) was at these five sites:

  1. Estero Llano Grande State Park
  2. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
  3. South Padre Island
  4. Hotspots in and near Brownsville
  5. The Salt Lakes (including Delta Lake)

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park was also good in terms of species number but it was not as birdy, overall, as the top five.

Florida has its specialties and winter birding there is quite good, but our money is on the RGV as the better place for winter birding.

The Rio Grande Valley in Winter

When we summed up our early winter visit to Florida we mentioned that we did not see as many species as we had expected to see in the 10 days we had spent birding in the Sunshine State.

That led us to ask the question: How do the Rio Grande Valley and nearby areas of Texas compare at this time of year? To find out we decided to conduct a test by visiting a similar range of latitudes over a similar number of days and compare the species lists and the success at finding local specialties and rarities.

In Florida we had traveled from the wetlands of the Everglades to the pine forests of Apalachicola National Forest. An equivalent latitudinal variation in Texas would take us from about Houston to the RGV. Thus, we began our list for this comparison at Brazos Bend State Park, just south of Houston. In Florida, we had spent all or most of 10 days in the field, so we will spend the same amount of time in Texas before ending the comparison list.

Our brief stay at Brazos Bend did not turn up many species. (The more northerly parts of Florida were not that birdy either.) However, some of the species we saw at Brazos Bend are quite unlikely in the RGV, so it did illustrate the importance of covering a variety of regions and habitats to increase one’s list.

Given that we spent just one day at Brazos Bend and on the drive from there to our place in the Valley, we have nine more days to cover as much of the area as we can. What are the best places to visit during that time? Here is our list of the Top Ten Valley Hotspots. (They are listed in our estimation of the approximate order of likelihood to produce a big list at this time of year.)

1. Estero Llano Grande State Park, Weslaco. (Also visit these nearby areas during this trip if you have time: Frontera Audubon Thicket, Weslaco; the grain silos in Progreso; the Valley Nature Center, Weslaco.)

2. Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary AND The Dump, Brownsville. (The dump is on the way to the sanctuary if you take FM 511 so it makes sense to combine these two into one hotspot. Also, visit Boca Chica Road, east of Brownsville if you have time.

3. The Salt Lakes, Highway 186, west of Raymondville. (This area includes the village of Hargill, Delta Lake Park, Brushline Road, and Rio Beef Feedlot. In fact, driving just about any of the back roads through this area and visiting the small farm ponds and US Fish and Wildlife tracts will be productive.)

4. South Padre Island. (We usually go via Highway 100 and return via Highway 48. Stop along Highway 100 on your way to the island or at Old Port Isabel Road, just a short side trip from 48, on your way back to look for Aplomado Falcons, if you missed them on the Boca Chica Road.)

5. Falcon Reservoir area, Falcon Heights. (This trip includes Falcon Lake State Park, Salineno, Chapeno, and nearby areas. If you have time, visit Zapata or San Ignacio for the seedeaters.)

6. Bentsen State Park AND Anzalduas County Park, Mission. (These two areas, and the nearby NABA Butterfly Center make a nice day trip.)

7. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo.

8. Laguna Atascosa NWR, Laguna Vista.

9. Resaca de la Palma State Park, Olmito. (This is a new-ish state park and may or may not be productive, depending on water levels. Check locally before visiting if time is tight.)

10. Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen AND Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Edinburg. (These two suburban parks are worth a visit if you have time. Also, check locally on the whereabouts of the Green Parakeets and Red-crowned Parrots in the area.)

If you don’t have time to devote 10 days to Valley hotspots here are the Top Five/Must See areas we think you should go: Estero Llano; Brownsville; Falcon; South Padre; Bentsen.

We are in the midst of visiting the Valley hotspots now. So far, we have been to Santa Ana, Laguna, the Salt Lakes, Estero, and Brownsville. We have four more days left and we plan to visit Falcon, Zapata, Bentsen, and South Padre Island.

So far, our Valley list stands at 168 species. That’s more than for all 10 days in Florida.



First Day Back In The Rio Grande Valley – Northern Jacana!

One of the reasons we did not spend very much time birding on our way from Florida to Texas was that we wanted to get back to the RGV to look for a Northern Jacana.

This has been a special year for jacanas. Four have already been seen in the US since September. Two have been seen fairly regularly during that time and one was re-found, after an absence of two months, within 30 miles of our winter home.

Northern Jacana is one of the species that we have seen several times in the US and dozens of times in Mexico, but we had not seen it during our Big Year or since beginning the Eight Years to 800!? project. Thus, it is a new bird for our new list.

This individual is a first-year bird that is molting into its adult plumage. It was first found at Santa Ana NWR early in the fall and was re-found just a few days before we returned from Florida. We went looking for it during the passage of a cold front through the area and were worried that it might be hiding from the blustery weather. We needn’t have been concerned. We found it within five minutes of arriving at the stakeout location at an observation platform on Willow Lake.

What else do you think we might expect during our stay in the Valley? I’m hoping for at least one more new species to add to the list. How about a Tamaulipas Crow or a Roadside Hawk? Send us good vibes!

Florida Trip Is In The Can

That’s movie-speak for finished, in case you don’t know.

As promised last time, here are some photos of the Nanday Parakeets at Fort DeSoto Park:

I love those bright red leggings they wear! Also, how they hold food in their feet as they eat.

Now For The Trip Report

Overall, our trip produced about 140 species. That’s a little lower than I expected but still fairly respectable. One reason it is low was all the rain we had. It’s not that birds don’t go out in the rain; it’s that we decided not to. In fact, we skipped going down to the Keys entirely due to the rain. (That and the fact that there were no rarities being reported there.)

Our success with the Florida specialties was only so-so. By skipping the Keys, we did not even have a chance for about a third of all the species on the specialty list I posted before the trip. Also, many of those species were not present, as far as we could tell, due to the season. There were a few of the typical “breeding birds” still hanging around, such as a Gray Kingbird reported at Fort DeSoto, but most were gone to their winter haunts. Of the rest, we managed to see about 60% of what was there, including four lifers for the Eight to 800 list.

A summary of those follows here:

American Flamingo – coastal mudflats and freshwater marshes; south FL – Missed (M)

Bachman’s Sparrow – pine woods; north and central FL – (M)

Common Myna – parks and gardens; south FL – Tick

Egyptian Goose – city parks and freshwater wetlands; south FL – Tick

Smooth-billed Ani – (M) – but one showed up as soon as we got back to TX!

Florida Scrub-Jay – oak and shrub scrub; mostly central FL – (M)

Gray Kingbird – subtropical, coastal habitats; south and central FL – (M)

Limpkin – freshwater marshes; most of the state – Tick

Parrots and Parakeets – a variety of exotic species seem to prefer urban and suburban habitats throughout the central and southern parts of the state. Monk Parakeet, Budgerigar, White-winged Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot and Green Parakeet are listed on the ABA bird list. – Ticked 5 species

Purple Swamphen – freshwater marshes; central and south FL – Tick

Red-cockaded Woodpecker – mature pine forests; central and northern FL – (M)

Red-whiskered Bulbul – parks and gardens; south FL – (M)

Short-tailed Hawk – deciduous woodlands near water; southern FL – Tick

Snail Kite – prairie wetlands and marshes; central and south FL – Tick

Spot-breasted Oriole – parks and gardens; central and south FL – Tick

Western Spindalis – usually in urban and suburban parks along the coast; south FL – Tick

White-crowned Pigeon – coastal woodlands and hammocks; south FL – Tick

Our Favorite Spots

Our best birding luck was at these locations:

1. Markham Park in Broward County

2. Everglades National Park

3. Baptist Hospital in Kendall

4. Urban and Suburban areas of Miami and Homestead (for exotics)

5. the central “lakes district” from Okechobee to Kissimmee

6. Fort DeSoto Park

7. St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge and Apalachicola National Forest

We usually also include Sanibel Island and Corkscrew Swamp on our itinerary but skipped them, along with the Keys, on this trip.

That about does it. We’ll be birding in the Rio Grande Valley for the next 10 weeks. We’ll let you know what’s up.