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Florida family trip

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Old Monday 25th May 2015, 08:47   #1
urbandove
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Florida family trip

Hi.

We are planning our first family birding trip for next spring (three weeks between February and May). Then our toddler will be about one year so too much driving will not be reasonable. Since we have visited Western USA before, the flight to the East is not that long and the country is not too big we are considering a trip to Florida.
  • What is the best time to visit Florida (not too hot, still migrants and already breeding birds)?
  • Are there good and spacious campgrounds or any other family friendly accomodations in Florida (actually we hate motels).
  • What are the the must-have-visited sites in Florida (especially for Eastern US birding newbies)?
  • Is it worthwile to camp on the Dry Tortugas?

Regards

urbandove

Last edited by urbandove : Monday 25th May 2015 at 19:06.
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Old Tuesday 26th May 2015, 01:50   #2
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Not a Florida person at all, but a couple of comments:
1 Campgrounds are common in state parks, national parks, etc. (and all over the US). Just remember that it means you have to travel with tent or rent a camper. Private campground and some of those in parks are not really prepared for tents, they have electrical cords very shallowly buried, so they usually prefer you to have a camper.

2 I just visited the Tampa Bay area in early May and it was still nice (almost cool). A month later and the weather would be very different (according to people telling us).

3 Warbler migration was not great - we probably were a little late.

4 The Everglades area and the other birding spots around Tamiami Trail W of Miami is one really good area.

5 Birding around Sarasota/Tampa etc was better than I expected before reading up on it.

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Old Monday 8th June 2015, 02:43   #3
Proavis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urbandove View Post
Hi.

We are planning our first family birding trip for next spring (three weeks between February and May). Then our toddler will be about one year so too much driving will not be reasonable. Since we have visited Western USA before, the flight to the East is not that long and the country is not too big we are considering a trip to Florida.
  • What is the best time to visit Florida (not too hot, still migrants and already breeding birds)?
  • Are there good and spacious campgrounds or any other family friendly accomodations in Florida (actually we hate motels).
  • What are the the must-have-visited sites in Florida (especially for Eastern US birding newbies)?
  • Is it worthwile to camp on the Dry Tortugas?

Regards

urbandove
I think that, of the months you are considering, March would probably be the best month, a time when it's not too hot, and still lots of migrants around. While I highly recommend the Keys in general, camping at Dry Tortugas would not be a good idea with a toddler. The campsites are primitive. There is much more family friendly camping in the lower or middle Keys. I highly recommend Curry Hammock near Marathon for some nice campgrounds along the Great Florida Birding Trail. A day trip to Dry Tortugas would be perfectly reasonable, however. Just leave from Key West at about 6am on the American Freedom ferry and you can get in a solid four to five hours there. And if it's March or April it's a great time of year for the Magnificent Frigatebirds.

The Keys are great because you can see all sorts of birds that you're not going to find in the northern and central parts of Florida. Caribbean birds like the white-crowned pigeon are fairly common in the Keys, and you might even get lucky and see a Key West Quail Dove.

The South Florida region is really terrific because are all sorts of shorebirds, gulls, terns, herons, egrets, and raptors. Virtually every species of these birds found in Florida can be found in the southern region, and some, such as night herons, or the roseate spoonbill, are far more readily seen in South Florida than elsewhere.

There is some really terrific birding to be had in the Everglades, a little spot called Flamingo is a very nice place with spacious campgrounds. But it is not the best place for a baby, even in the middle of winter you'll get eaten alive by mosquitos. Not to mention that there are snakes, alligators and crocodiles. But you will definitely see a breathtaking variety of birds, just do so at your own risk.

Kissimmee Prairie State Park is nice as well, just north of Okeechobee. You'll be able to see some interesting birds you won't readily find elsewhere, like the Crested Caracara, which are abundant in the Kissimmee Prairie. The campgrounds here are also very nice.

Last edited by Proavis : Monday 8th June 2015 at 02:47.
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Old Sunday 28th June 2015, 11:14   #4
urbandove
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Thank you for all the detailed recommendations!
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Old Sunday 28th June 2015, 19:55   #5
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In terms of overall diversity, winter is much better in Florida than summer. Although you will miss some of the summer migrants such as Gray Kingbird and Black-whiskered Vireo, February (or even better January) is a great time to bird in South Florida. Miami-Dade recorded 25 warbler species in the 2014-2015 winter season, for example. White-crowned Pigeon, Short-tailed Hawk, shorebirds, warblers, flycatchers (10 sp in 2014-2015), and more will all be around. The Everglades is at its best in winter (and generally poor from May onward).

The artificial wetlands in Palm Beach (Green Cay and Wakodahatchee) are also great and very easy to bird. Limpkin, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and Purple Gallinule are all reliable here. In addition, Wakodahatchee Wetland features rookeries of breeding herons and egrets, which are always fun to see.

The weather is quite nice in February (and March). Very dry and mild.
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Old Monday 29th June 2015, 02:13   #6
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No matter where you go be sure to make reservations earlier at the campgrounds as they fill up quickly. March is usually a great weather month Jan/February good for south Florida or central Florida.
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