Thursday, October 27, 2005

From the Field: Birding Joe Overstreet Road, south of Orlando, Florida.

Let's go back into the wayback time machine, back before the White Sux won the World Series, before Hurricane Wilma, all the way back to September 18, 2005. On that day, I took another birding jaunt out to Joe Overstreet Road in Central Florida.

I can't give you directions, because I left my dog-eared copy of Bill Pranty's guide in Florida (btw the new edition is -- FINALLY --- supposed to be out in a few weeks; I have seen the last edition going for some pretty decent money on eBay and, but Joe Overstreet Road is a fairly popular birding spot that is only 30 or 45 minutes away (south of Kissimmee) from the Disney attractions in Central Florida. It would make a pretty nice birding spot for Disney visitors, especially Brits that are on a family vacation to Orlando and can only spare a few hours each morning to go birding.

I have birded JOR (hey, I just made up a nickname!) four or five times over the last few months, and there are always some nice birds there. The gravel road starts at a blacktop state highway, and continues through farmland and grazing land for a couple of miles before reaching a large lake with a boat launch, campground, and store. The lake itself is a possible spot for Limpkin, and on one of my first visists there I had killer views of a Snail Kite perched about 20 yards away from me.

Anyway, on this day I had a modest 20 species (can that be right? my notes are crap!); JOR is a lot of open-country birding so you won't get a lot of migrant warblers or thrushes if you bird from the car/road like I usually do.

However, I was very surprised to spot two Whooping Cranes, the first time I have ever seen them in Florida. I am not totally up-to-date on the status of the (released) birds in Florida, I know there have been a few spotted in past years near JOR, but I think that they are still a fairly unusual sight there. (Not too many people post to the Florida birding lists about JOR, even though I passed by some other birders while I was out there, so I'm not sure if anyone is regularly birding this spot year-round.)

I was also surprised, while watching a dead cow be devoured by vultures, to see a Crested Caracara, which was also a state bird for me. I know they are not impossible to find in Central Florida, but I haven't seen one in the area in the 5 or 6 times I have been birding in Florida, so that was pretty neat.

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