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Lack of Florida birds?

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Old Wednesday 5th June 2019, 11:06   #1
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Lack of Florida birds?

(Apologies if this has been raised before)

We've been fairly regular visitors to Florida, usually in January, for the past few years. Over that time, we have seen a reduction in the number and variety of birds we've seen, and this was especially noticeable when we were there last December.

For example, a walk round the Anhinga trail revealed a single anhinga, a couple of green herons, and that was about it. Even the black vultures that used to eat bits of cars had disappeared (as had the tarpaulins to deter them).

Over to Ding Darling, and not a single night heron of either species was in evidence (and didn't see a single turtle either).

Maybe December rather than January made a difference, but what is going on?

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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 15:51   #2
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It could just be a regional thing, combined with the extremely slow starts to winter we've been having down here in Florida. In general, wintering birds used to be very populous here starting in mid-November, but we haven't had any respectable form of winter since 2010, and it's been staying ridiculously hot here well into January - that seems to have shifted the patterns of the wintering species to later. Even January is a little thinner than it was years ago, but still you'd have seen much more population in those spots in January. The birds really fill out in late January and February, with March & April key nesting months, and the nests not emptying out until well into June now.

There's also been some reports that the southern parks and the west coast spots have been a little thin lately, while parks just below Lake Okeechobee and on the east coast have seen some pretty solid populations. Some could be birds not heading as far south into the state as before due to warmer climate, and some could just be adjustments to new spots on the east rather than west coasts. My local parks in Palm Beach County were quite filled this year and very active, and we now see more species that used to be west coast staples, with lots of roseate spoonbills and night herons and all the regular heron & egret more sightings of things like reddish egrets, swallow-tailed kites, and a few rails that we rarely get on our side of the state. Turtles, gators, snakes, frogs & toads, etc are all doing very well on the east coast. You may consider next time shifting your birding/wildlife spots to farther north and east on your next trip, with places like Wakodahatchee Wetlands and Green Cay Wetlands having very good winter density and population, and at least 5-6 other parks within 20 minutes' drive of those two.
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Old Saturday 15th June 2019, 00:38   #3
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Sorry to hear about that, David! It sounds like bad luck to me more than anything. I remember a few years back I went kayaking through the Everglades in January to a Chickee hut near Flamingo, and did not see a single bird the entire day. Same goes for Sanibel Island, sometimes you can even have bad luck there, regrettably. But I can tell you from driving around South Florida that Black and Turkey Vultures are everywhere, and Anhingas and Green Herons are plentiful in retention ponds and canals. And that's in the summer.

I think I would go in January if I were you, but I don't think that was likely the reason for the bad luck. South Florida's "winter" is late-December through early-February. I second the above recommendation to check out Green Cay and/or Wakodahatchee to look for night herons, but even there it's just going to be right place, right time. I spotted a juvenile night heron on the side of the road way out in west Pam Beach County a few weeks ago.

Also agree with Zackie that further north might be a good bet. Have you spent much time at Merritt Island? That's one of my favorite places to go in January, great for birds and for cold weather. It might be 80 degrees down in South Florida and 40 up in Titusville on a good January morning. And you get a good variety of species on the Black Point Wildlife Drive.
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