Oh, there are many things I will (and already do!) miss from our former northern Illinois home. But there are also things to look forward to here in central Florida. Especially bird-wise.
I started keeping track* of my life’s birds in April, 2005. In late April, Arthur and I visited Florida together for the first time. That’s how 27 of my first 31 life birds were recorded in the great state of Florida, starting with a Black Vulture at Oscar Sherer State Park and ending with a meager six species found along the Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The entrance to the wildlife drive on a late April afternoon
After a few more visits to the state, none primarily for birding, my state list stands at 116 (as of early July 2011). 66 of my life birds were recorded in Florida. Before we moved last month, I made a very rough list of life birds I hoped to find during our time in Florida. The first one, Gray Kingbird, became lifer 561 on June 23rd at Merritt Island. The other birds on that rough list were: Burrowing Owl; Red-cockaded Woodpecker; American Oystercatcher; Snail Kite; Rails Clapper, King, and Black; and Doves White-winged and Common Ground. Some of these will be hard, I’m sure, but some will be easy. And they’ll all be fun.
Getting to know
There are plenty of birds here about which, while already on my life list, I know far too little. So I have a few bird species in mind that I’m hoping to get to know a little better here in Florida. Families of birds that seem to be more confiding here, like herons and egrets, top that list. I hope I never become bored with Tufted Titmice in my back yard (!!), Turkey and Black Vultures soaring over my neighborhood, and Ospreys everywhere.
An Osprey takes off as we wait for the shuttle to lift off, April 29, 2011
There is also an abundance of Barred Owls, my favorite bird. We heard our first ones the other night at the Highbanks boat ramp, about 4 miles from our house; eBird tells me they are found in our neighborhood. And I’m very excited to live in a state where seeing this blog’s namesake bird is much more likely than back in Illinois.
The first bird I saw from our yard was a flyover Swallow-tailed Kite. Regular back yard visitors right now include birds I struggled to see back in Lake County, Illinois: Northern Mockingbirds, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice. The different birds are fun to watch and get to know.
There’s a lot to look forward to in terms of birding spots. Arthur and I have been exploring new preserves and I’m trying to figure out what our new “local patch” will be. Being within striking distance of popular hotspots like Lake Woodruff NWR, Merritt Island NWR and Viera Wetlands is pretty exciting.
Viera Wetlands on a beautiful late April day
Within and immediately surrounding our county there are numerous state parks, a national forest, county parks, plus access to natural springs, freshwater lakes and Florida’s longest river, the St. Johns. True pelagic trip opportunities are also here.
While the birding right now, at the height of summer, is a bit slow, early migrants are starting to make their way to central Florida. Finally, I’m looking forward to having more birds during the winter.
*A few Colorado birds from a September, 2004 trip are the first birds on my list (added from photos, though these were birds I knew from many previous trips to the area).