A total of 14 great birders and a park ranger joined me on February 3rd in the Flamingo parking lot for a day of birding around the park, unfortunately not all of them could join me for the full day that had new birds even up to the last stop, but for everyone that joined me, thank you and I hope most of you enjoyed your holidays here in Florida. Outside of 4 locals, one of which joined me on a TAS walk before, every other birder was from different parts of the country and the world, with background ranging from Australia, the UK, New York and the nearby Bahamas. The trip included a total of 67 species of birds along with the 3 big animals of the park in the form of Florida Manatee, American Crocodile and American Alligator, and while looking out at the sand bar, a possible shark was also seen.
As for the birding highlights, the Flamingo parking lot gave us great close up views of Red-shouldered Hawks from both subspecies fighting over a perch in the trees close to an occupied Osprey nest, a Common-ground Dove also made an appearance, but the winning site in the Flamingo area goes to Eco Pond with some of the nicer/rarer birds of the day including a resting flock of 14 Black-necked Stilts, 4 Roseate Spoonbills, both wintering Swallows, a pair of Painted Buntings, a mixed flock with 7 Warbler species in it, and even a Least Flycatcher for a brief moment.
The camping ground gave us views of some shorebirds including my first Dunlin within the park, a Black-bellied Plover, and a medium flock of Least Sandpiper that was pushed around by 4 Sanderlings. In the sand bar at low tide, many of the expected birds were seen including Double-crested Cormorants, both species of Pelicans, a Ruddy Turnstone, and alongside the 2 expected Gull species, we also had Royal and Caspian Tern, and a 20+ flock of Black Skimmers, and the final 2 birds of notice were a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that stuck close by when we drove in and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers that made a brief view before disappearing.
On Mrazek Pond, most of the expected birds were with the only notable highlight being not one, but two Broad-winged Hawks that were resting alongside of the road and only one showed itself for a brief moment, while the other was heard only.
Paurotis Pond was much of the same with the only highlight being a large kettle of roughly 200 Wood Storks flying in the back. And our 30 minute stop in Long Pine Key gave all of the remaining birders and me views and sounds of the Pineland trio of the park in the form of Pine Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Eastern Towhee.
The final stop of the day with my last 5 persistent birders was in Lucky Hammock, which unfortunately didn't have any of the Kingbirds or Flycatchers that are known to winter here, but instead we had great views of 4 Blue Grosbeaks of both genders showing nicely on the chainlink fence just before the actual hammock. After getting the high of those birds and the birds being pushing out by some people on their bikes (reminds me of what happened when I saw the Dark-billed Cuckoo), we decided to end the walk here and call it a successful day.
First of all, I would like to thank everyone that joined me on this trip, I hope all of you enjoyed it as much as I did, if you weren't able to because it was Superbowl Weekend, I hope you join me for my Spring trip to Corkscrew in early April. And finally, I want to apologize for this delayed trip report.