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|Book before 23 May 2018
Birding the Sunshine State
23 Nov - 4 Dec 2018
Florida has long been one of the top birdwatching destinations in North America, offering outstanding birding as well as a temporary escape from the British winter! We will visit many of Florida's wetland and coastal habitats as well as areas of woodland and open prairie. From Merritt Island, south to the famous Everglades and then north along the Gulf Coast, the easy trails and boardwalks provide superb birding at a relaxed pace. Specialities include Snail Kite, Limpkin, White-crowned Pigeon, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Burrowing Owl and the endemic Florida Scrub-Jay. Additionally the many outstanding wetlands hold impressive concentrations of waterbirds including Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Reddish Egret, Tricoloured Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork, as well as West Indian Manatee and thousands of American Alligators. Florida is bursting with great wildlife which can often be amazingly tame... don't forget your camera!
Fly to Orlando and transfer to the Atlantic Coast, where we spend 2 nights. Time permitting, we may have some time for birding close to the hotel, where we begin to see a few common Florida birds such as Fish Crow, Boat-tailed Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Loggerhead Shrike and Northern Mockingbird.
Today we will spend all day on Merritt Island NWR, home of the Kennedy Space Centre as well as a staggering amount of wildlife. We will visit a number of wetland habitats, including freshwater pools, brackish lagoons and sandy beaches, all of which literally teem with birds. Huge flocks of American Coot should be present, amongst which a good selection of wildfowl including Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup and Hooded Merganser can be found. We will also no doubt encounter many waders, herons and egrets amongst which American Avocet, American Bittern and Reddish Egret are all possible. Away from the wetlands, large areas of scrub provide a home to perhaps the region's most sought-after bird, the endemic Florida Scrub-jay and we will make a dedicated effort to locate them before leaving. Meanwhile Bald Eagle, Osprey and both Turkey and American Black Vultures can be seen soaring overhead and sometimes Great Horned Owl may be found at a daytime roost. There is also a very good site on the island for viewing West Indian Manatee, while American Alligators are also common!
Today we move south visiting a number of sites along the way, including the excellent Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Here, a three quarter mile elevated boardwalk offers the chance to get amazing close views of usually shy species such as Green Heron, Least Bittern, American Purple Gallinule, Sora and Common Yellowthroat, while others may include Limpkin, Mottled Duck, Greater Yellowlegs and Belted Kingfisher . Like many of Florida's birds, Anhinga, Snowy Egret and Tricoloured Heron are remarkably tame and often perch on the handrails. Eye-candy birding at its best! Finally we visit a site renowned for its Burrowing Owls before we continue to Homestead, our base for two nights.
We will start by checking an area of agricultural land close to the hotel where wintering flycatchers, most notably Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher and Western Kingbird are occasionally joined by Vermillion or Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Savannah Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbird and Common Grackle are also possible, while amongst the many Mourning and White-winged Doves we hope to locate the tiny Common Ground-dove. Raptors are also likely to be a feature, with Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier and American Kestrel all expected and if we are lucky perhaps the rare Short-tailed Hawk. Afterwards we will drive through the southern section of the Everglades National Park all the way to Flamingo, where birds such as Sandhill Crane, Wood Stork or White Ibis will no doubt cause many unscheduled stops by the roadside. Along the way we will visit Mahogany Hammock, where we will look for wintering Blue-headed and White-eyed Vireos along with numerous warblers including Black-throated Green, Northern Parula and American Redstart. Moving on towards Flamingo, we can hope to encounter a good selection of waders, along with Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican and Osprey. We will also spend some time searching the Mangroves for the rare and elusive White-crowned Pigeon.
Today we head west through the central everglades ecosystem towards the Gulf Coast, making several stops along the way at sites such as Shark Valley and Big Cypress National Preserve. Here birds may include Snail Kite, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill and many more. The Park is also an important home to many mammals, including the Florida Panther - one of the most endangered mammals in the United States. Just an estimated 100-130 cats live in the state of Florida, 30-35 of which call Big Cypress home. Meanwhile River Otter, Bobcat and Black Bear can occasionally be seen from on the Preserve's back roads and trails. As dusk approaches we reach Naples, our base for two nights, but not before visiting a regular site for Barred Owl close to the hotel.
Today we will visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where the largest stand of Bald Cypress in the North America is found, and the birds love it! Passing beneath the ancient trees festooned with Spanish Moss, bromeliads and ferns is a raised 2.25-mile boardwalk across the swamp offering superb viewing. Barred Owls and Red-shouldered Hawks will watch you from low perches as you walk, while Limpkin, White Ibis and the whole menagerie of egrets and herons pick their way through the shallow swamp waters. Small birds also love it here and form feeding flocks often containing several species such as Yellow-throated Warbler, Black & White Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Blue-grey Gnatcatcher amongst others. After lunch there'll be an opportunity to shop for souvenirs in the well-stocked visitor centre, where the feeders frequently attract Northern Bobwhite, Northern Cardinal and Painted Bunting. Later we will drive some of the quiet back roads nearby, thoroughly birding as we go in search of raptors including Short-tailed Hawk, Northern Caracara and Northern Harrier, while other species may include Pileated Woodpecker, Buff-bellied Pipit and Grasshopper Sparrow.
We will spend the whole morning visiting the nearby Ding Darling NWR and nearby beaches, where we can expect to find a good selection of waders including Least and Western Sandpipers, Piping Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Marbled Godwit and Willet etc. Gulls and Terns are also likely to be present in good numbers and should include Laughing, Ring-billed and American Herring Gulls as well as Black Skimmer and Caspian, Royal and Forster's Terns. Other highlights may include Reddish Egret, Yellow-crowned Night Heron and American White Pelican. In the afternoon we will visit the Babcock-Webb WMA, where a rich mix of habitat including freshwater marsh, hardwood hammocks, dry prairie and Longleaf Pines give us an excellent opportunity to see the rarer pine-wood species including Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman's Sparrow. Other special birds in this area include King Rail, Sedge Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Northern Flicker, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhee and many, many more. Afterwards we transfer to St Petersburg for two nights.
Today we will spend the whole day in the Tampa Bay area, visiting a handful of sites including Florida's number one birding hotspot - Fort De Soto Park. Amongst the many species already encountered, this site offers the chance of many additional species, amongst them Magnificent Frigatebird, Bufflehead, Clapper Rail and both Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sparrows. It is also excellent for scarcer waders, including American Oystercatcher and Wilson's Plover. Although migration will largely be over by the time of our visit, a few migrants often linger and may include a host of warblers such as Tennessee, Magnolia and Bay-breasted, in addition to the overwintering Palm, Prairie, Yellow-rumped Warblers.
We'll spend the morning birding Tampa Bay again, giving us another chance of any species we missed yesterday before heading to Kissimmee for our final two nights. On the way is another excellent site for Florida Scrub-jay, and in the unlikely event we still need it, we can spend as much time as required to ensure we succeed. Otherwise, we will continue to another of the region's premier birding hotspots at Lake Hancock, where large numbers of wildfowl gather for the winter. These include Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal, amongst which we will search for others such as Redhead, Wood Duck and Ruddy Duck. It is also a very reliable site for Black-bellied Whistling-duck and often holds significant numbers of Limpkin. Snail Kite is also possible here.
We spend or last full day in the Kissimmee area, where our plans are kept open in order to try and catch up with any species still missing, although there shouldn't be too many! This may involve spending time looking for Snail Kite, a few of which can usually be found close to our hotel. Perhaps we will visit a pine wood in search of Red-cockaded Woodpecker or Brown-headed Nuthatch, or maybe a nearby prairie for Northern Caracara. In fact, Kissimmee has several habitats within easy reach and many birds such as Wild Turkey, Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Bluebird can be easier to see here than elsewhere on the tour. November is also a good month for rarities and we'll keep an eye on the local bird news to see what's around.
Our final morning will be spent birding close to Orlando, where birds not already mentioned could include Killdeer, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, American Robin and American Goldfinch. After lunch we will head to the airport for our return flight, arriving back in the UK early on day 12.
|Total Cost £1710
Single room supplement £300
Air Price £400
Ground Price £1310
All Flights, All ground transport once Florida, 10 nights B&B, Reserve entrance fees and Guiding services throughout.
Food and drinks other than breakfast, Insurance and Items of a personal nature.
Maximum of 10, including leader Dave Read.
This tour will be run at a moderate pace, with a comfortable amount of walking over easy terrain. The climate at this time of year is excellent, with warm and sunny days (average 25ºC), although nights can be cooler (average14 ºC). Rain is always possible in Florida; however November is typically the driest month. Accommodation will be in medium quality hotels with private facilities. Food is excluded from the tour price but is relatively inexpensive; allow around £20 per day depending on your needs. Transport will be by air conditioned minibus. There are no special health requirements. A visa is required.
Many of the flights and the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL certificate go to www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
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