Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Back from a quick trip down to central Florida

Reddish Egret, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Feb 8, 2015
Just back from a short trip down to sunny, warm Florida and now back in the snow hell that is Massachusetts.  We headed down there on Saturday the 7th and returned late on Tuesday the 10th.  We stayed along the beach in Melbourne and I was able to get out to a variety of locations over the course of those few days.  Overall the weather was nice with temperatures in the 70’s the first three days and then the low 60’s the last day with a bit of wind.  Only one afternoon and evening of rain so not too bad at all, especially compared to the weather here at home. 
Belted Kingfishers, Viera Wetlands, FL, Feb 7, 2015
Great Egret, Viera Wetlands, FL, Feb 7, 2015
On our way to Melbourne on Saturday we stopped off for a few hours at the Viera Wetlands where we walked the berm roads that oddly were closed to vehicles until right before we left (made for a much more pleasant experience without cars around).  Loads of typical birds around but nothing too unusual.
Tricolored Heron, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Feb 8, 2015
I headed out early on Sunday to make the drive up to Merritt Island NWR where I spent the morning into the early afternoon exploring the area.  Thankfully it was not as dry as some past years so waterfowl and waders were around in decent numbers but somewhat lower numbers of shorebirds.  As always it was a productive trip up there and one that never gets old as the variety always manages to impress.
Great Blue Heron, Viera Wetlands, FL, Feb 9, 2015
Sora, Viera Wetlands, FL, Feb 9, 2015
On Monday I was thinking of heading southwest to get some pine land related birds but when I headed out I noticed some rain in that direction and right overhead so I changed my plans and headed back to the Viera Wetlands to stick a bit closer to the hotel in case I got rained out.  Thankfully the rain stopped when I arrived there.  The clouds gave way to sun fairly quickly and I spent the morning through mid afternoon exploring the area.  I found 68 species there including a King Rail which was actually a species I have somehow never found before so I added a life bird for the day (#912).  Lots of other good stuff around and I have included the list from the day below:
Rain arrived in the afternoon and I spent the later afternoon seawatching from the balcony but didn’t find anything too unusual.

Sandhill Crane, Orlando Wetlands Park, FL, Feb 10, 2015
On the final day we started our journey back toward Orlando for an early evening flight.  Despite the wind and cooler temperatures, it was still nice to be outside.  Our first stop late morning was to the Orlando Wetlands Park.  I have heard about this location for years but it is usually closed for hunting in January when I’m usually in Florida so this was my first visit to this spot.  It seems to have great potential and I could easily spend a good part of the day exploring the nearly 1500 acres.  There had been a Vermilion Flycatcher seen in the area but I could not find it which was not too surprising as the wind kept a lot of smaller birds hunkered down.  After a lunch stop we got a bit closer to the airport but still had some time to kill so made a brief stop over to the Split Oak Mitigation Park.  After a final gasp of warmer air we headed to the airport and then to home where another foot plus of snow that fell while we were gone awaited us.

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