I spent some time in Florida this past February which was a welcome break from dreary NYC winter, and saw over 83 species of birds. Some were birds we are used to seeing here in spring and summer (Red-Winged Blackbirds, Myrtle and Palm Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Laughing Gulls) but many I had never seen before.
One of the top sightings was of a rare Krider's Red-Tailed Hawk. The other, and possibly the highlight of the trip, was this male Vermilion Flycatcher.
The St Mark's National Wildlife Refuge, about 25 miles south of Tallahassee, is a fantastic place to go birding and to enjoy the beautiful natural environment. On the day we visited, a major thunderstorm complete with dark skies, thunder, lightning and pouring rain made me doubt I'd get to see any interesting birds, let alone photograph any of them. However, the storm did not stop this little blazing red ball of fury from catching insects and posing for the camera. I think he looks pretty fierce with his spiky wet hairdo!
On this dark day, this intensely bright bird really stood out.
In the Tampa Bay area, Nanday Parakeets flew around in very vocal flocks, attracting a lot of attention with their animated chatter.
Monk Parakeets also traveled in loud social flocks.
The Wood Stork was one bird I really wanted to see and I found one at Crescent Lake in St Petersburg.
This was my first sighting of a Limpkin foraging for snails along the water's edge.
White Ibises were fairly ubiquitous, being present at nearly every natural area we visited. At sunset, they could be seen flying in huge flocks to their roosting places.
Common Gallinules can be found all along the east coast, but they are a rare bird for me and I love their giant yellow feet and their gray/blue/purple coloring.
Brown Pelicans are huge and gorgeous, and fascinating to watch as they dive into the water for fish.
This is an immature pelican chilling out on a piling.
Ft De Soto Park was another great place to visit wildlife. We were able to observe two Great Horned Owl chicks on their nest. They look like they might be staying warm on a frosty winter day, but the weather was actually 78°F with 81% humidity and thick fog. My glasses steamed up while taking this photo.
One of the parents nearby:
It was nesting season for Florida Ospreys, so they were present everywhere we went.
I was hoping to see an abundance of Red-Shouldered Hawks during my visit, but I only saw two. This one was hunting in the St Mark's NWR and really blended in with its natural habitat. The other sighting was of a hawk hunting along a highway.
We had an unexpected surprise at an urban food market one morning when an immature Bald Eagle flew low over the busy crowd.
As much as I love NYC, it was good to get a change of scenery and to see so many new bird species. I was happy to put away my thermals, boots and gloves, and prance around in the warm winter sun like this Snowy Egret if only for a few days.
You can see more of my Florida bird photos over on Flickr.