Saturday, March 20, 2010

STA - 5, A Florida Birding Hotspot!

As a birder, every once in a while you come across a place that leaves you almost speechless. A place that leaves you looking in all directions and an excited stressed mess because you don't know where to focus your attention. A place that drives you absolutely nuts and gives you the feeling that you never want to leave. You want time to stop for just a little while. STA-5 is one of those places.
American White Pelicans... lots to be seen, a very picturesque bird.

Roseatte Spoonbill... who could get enough of this?

STA-5 is not open to the public so you have to pre-register with the local audubon society that sponsor's auto tours of the property about 1 time per month. The representatives from the local Audubon are great people and take the tour very serious. As you arrive, you will check in at the gate and then line-up behind a caravan of other cars. Carpooling is encouraged. Walkie talkies are shared so that the caravan can share sightings. If you wish to move a little slower around the tour, you are encouraged to stay at the back of the line.

Osprey with a HUGE fish!

Woodstork... a highlight for me. They were everywhere.

From the moment you start, you will be thankful you're there. White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseatte Spoonbills, White Pelicans, American Coots, and Fulvous Whistling Ducks fill the waters on all sides. Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures filled the sky and Norther Harriers hovered all over the place!

A Snail Kite... not a great picture but an awesome bird nonetheless. Lifer.

Turkey Vulture... with a 6ft wingspan, the picture doesn't do this bird much justice. This has been one of my favorite species since I was in middle school.

Fulvous Whistling Ducks... In this particular spot there were at least 500! Lifer.

Cattle Egret... this bird was everywhere. Not a bad problem to have in my opinion. A gorgeous bird.

All birds were highlights but the biggest highlight species for me were Limpkin, Snail Kite, Bald Eagle, Purple Gallinule, Eurasion Wigeon, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Western Kingbird, Tropical Kingbird, and Black Skimmers.

Black-necked Stilt... they were everywhere. Very nice.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Again, all over. Amazing!

Black Vultures... the dominated the sky. This was a gathering of the minds I think.

Black Skimmer.... I really liked this picture because this particular bird seemed to be playing with fire tormenting this Alligator. It went back and forth inches away from becoming supper.

American Alligator... What would Florida be without this site? STA-5 was full of these lovely creatures. Big ones too!

If you haven't been, GO! All three of our destinations, Corkscrew Swamp, Ding Darling NWR, and STA-5 are highly recommended and are must go's for anyone that loves nature - especially birders. If you go to STA-5, be sure to take your camera, sunscreen, insect repellent, scope, binoculars, and a full tank of gas. Do not get to close to the water's edge as Alligators are everywhere!

STA-5 blessed me with 6 wonderful life birds! The entire trip blessed me with 14! Can't beat the reward for going. However, lifers or not, I would definitely go back to this birders paradise.

For more information on STA-5, go to

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ding Darling NWR and Corkscrew Swamp

Painted Bunting.... Corkscrew Swamp. This bird was no doubt one of my top highlights of the trip. There was two pair in and out of the shrubs near the feeders behind the visitors center and unfortunately, they did not make picture taking very easy. This was the best out of many. It doesn't get much more gorgeous than this.

Anole? I think?? Corkscrew Swamp

My best friend John and I were able to spend some time birding the first week of March in South Florida. We made "Ding" Darling NWR and Corkscrew Swamp two of our three primary destinations. Both were winning destinations that I would highly recommend to anyone, especially birders.

Our first day was at Ding Darling NWR. From the moment you step foot into this refuge you know you are in a good spot. It just feels birdy! The main attraction is the auto tour through the refuge. The drive winds you through mangrove waters that are connected to the Gulf of Mexico so as you tour you are able to witness the tide and the change of landscape throughout the day. Everywhere you look there are Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Snowy Egrets, White Pelicans, and Anhingas. The list goes on and on.

Barred Owl... Corkscrew Swamp. This lovely creature was a great daylight surprise! Not only were we able to get some great looks but we were also able to get some good looks at its dinner. Can you see its prize?

Ovenbird... Corkscrew Swamp

Our second day was spent at Corkscrew Swamp. A property owned by the National Audubon Society, Corkscrew Swamp in nothing short of absolutely amazing. I mean, how can it not be, I got two lifers in my first 10 minutes! Shiny Cowbird and Painted Bunting. Could it get any better? Yes! We spent about 4 hours on a two mile boardwalk soaking up of the atmosphere as possible. The boardwalk takes you through several eco-systems that are each unique and all beautiful. Some of the amazing birds we saw during the visit were Black and White Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird, Yellow-throated Warbler, White Ibis, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Anhinga, and many, many more.

If you haven't been here, you have GOT to go!

Cattle Egret... near Corkscrew Swamp. There was no shortage of this species especially along the roads, in the fields, ditches, etc. I was excited every time I saw one.

Red-shouldered Hawk... Corkscrew Swamp. This was one of several Red-shouldered Hawks I saw during our visit. Each one of them seemed to be more unique than the previous. They made a ton of racket!

Osprey with prey... Ding Darling NWR. A day or two in the area and this was one of the most common sights. What a pity, right? This particular one is enjoying a rather large fish.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron... Ding Darling NWR. This was the first close encounter we had in the refuge. I couldn't believe it. The bird was so focused on food that it could have cared less about our presence.

Tri-colored Heron... Ding Darling NWR. This is one of my favorite birds to watch hunt in the shallow waters. Very sleek and very good at catching food. Awesome!

Snowy Egret... Ding Darling NWR. There were hundreds of these beauties throughout the property making all kinds of racket. They (like most of the birds) weren't at all concerned about our presence and displayed themselves like movie stars!

To learn more about these two awesome properties please visit their websites.

Indiana State Bird

Indiana State Bird
Northern Cardinal