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RFI: Birding around Orlando April 11 to 25, 2012 (1 Viewer)


Hello Forum,

I will be visiting Florida from April 11th to the 25th 2012 for a family holiday.

I have negotiated a days birding and would like any suggestions on which areas would be best to visit in April to see a good range of species.

We are staying near the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom, just south west of Orlando, so any areas near here would be ideal. I do have a car so could venture further but I don't want to spend the whole day driving.

Also, can anyone recommend a good map of the area which shows footpaths, similar to our ordnance survey - all of the maps that I can find relate to driving.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Leeds, UK
I think you're probably going to need to drive. Disney World is sort of an enclave, there aren't any trails or walking paths to get in and out of Disney property. Even getting from a hotel to a park or another resort generally means driving. I don't think there are any great birding locales within walking distance of any of the Disney resorts.

So if you are willing to drive half an hour or so, you've got some great birding locations in the vicinity. Check out Orange and Osceola Counties on the Florida Birding Trail:

This isn't to say you can't see great birds on Disney property, within walking distance, because there are really cool birds all over the place in Central Florida in April. If you take a walk around your resort in the morning there will undoubtedly plenty of warblers, flycatchers; northern mockingbirds, grackles, blue jays, cardinals are ubiquitous. In the retention ponds and canals on Disney Property you can see pretty much any kind of Florida herons and egrets (except Reddish Egrets). Just watch out for gators! And I've had good luck spotting birds at the parking lot of Epcot, where they have several lines of trees between the segments of the lot. And you'll see red shouldered and red tailed hawks atop street signs, kestrels and shrikes on power lines, as well as swallow tail kites in the sky.

So you shouldn't have a problem seeing 20-30 of the most common species of Florida birds right near your hotel. But if you want to see some of the less common species you'll need to drive a bit out from a Disney property.

I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend Merritt Island. It's an hour or so drive from where you will be, but well worth it if you've only got one day for Florida birding.
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Within the Disney properties, I'd recommend one of the best spots to be Saratoga Springs Resort, and the lake between Saratoga Springs and Disney Springs. That lake, the canals that run off it, the small pine forest on the Saratoga Springs side of the bridge between those two places, and all the trees in front and behind the buildings of the Congress Park section are almost always filled with birds - warblers & various migrators, as well as nearly all the water birds and waders, plus raptors (several hawk species, and bald eagles) plus ospreys, and kingfishers. I've probably spotted and photographed 35-40 species just in that one area. Other good Disney spots are the Wilderness Lodge hotel grounds, and Fort Wilderness Campground (where you can also spot other wildlife like deer, opossum, raccoons, rabbits, armadillos, and wild turkeys)...and the central lake at Coronado Springs Resort. Remember, even if not staying at the resort, or even staying off Disney property, you can travel freely to any resort property just by jumping a Disney bus from the parks or shopping districts...or walking over to some of the resorts that are close to the parks.

Outside of Disney property, one of the closest spots would be the Gatorland rookery, about 10-12 miles away to the east of Disney - it's a section of Gatorland park that was meant to be a breeding pond for alligators and not part of the park itself, but birds decided it was a great nesting spot, and it's now a great place to get up close with a dozen nesting species - egrets, herons, spoonbills, cormorants, anhingas, and more.

Another good spot would be the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive - as you can tell by the name, it's a drive-though wetland and scrub area just about 25 miles north of Disney.

As Proavis mentioned, you'll probably do very well checking a lot of species off right at the Disney property - both the hotels and even in the parks themselves.
I will say as the others... you can see an awful lot right on WDW property. We have seen plenty of bird species and wildlife species over the years of staying on property.

For off WDW property suggestions:

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is about 30-40 mins away depending where on property you are staying. It is a drive through area, but also has trails for walking and biking. just a heads up though... the drive is only open Fri-Sun so plan accordingly(it is well worth doing this drive). great way to see gators, birds and much more from your car.
Orlando Wetlands in Christmas, FL is also about 40 minutes away. While not a drive through, you can walk around the marsh and pond trails to see the many bird species as well as gators(we have had gators cross the path about 30 ft in front of us!)
Joe Overstreet and landing in Kenansville, FL is another good spot. You just drive along the road and stop at the different habitats along it for different species(sod fields and flooded fields, old pines at begining used to be home to red-headed woodpeckers, fields alongside are good for Meadowlarks, Stilts, Sandhill Cranes, among others. Wires and posts usually support Kestrels and other raptors. we have always had Caracaras somewhere along the rd. At the very end is an airboat company with a dock... look around there for Purple Galinule and sometimes even Snail Kites.
Disney's Wilderness Preserve in Kisimmee is about 20 mminutes and has a short drive into the parking(maybe 2 miles?) many bird species seen along this drive in. Then there are paths from the parking lot around the pond and along the lake and fields.
Merritt Island NWR in Titusville is a 60-75 minutes away. It has a great wildlife drive(Black Point Drive). I know it is currently closed for the replenishment of the berm road but i am not sure when exactly it will be done. I certainly would hope by your visit since it is the start of migration. This is also a very good spot to find the Florida Scrub Jay. We always see a few along the road(402) past the toll booths for the playa linda/canaveral seashore. They also have a few manatee areas between both places.
Another good spot is Circle B Bar reserve in Lakeland, FL is about 45 minutes away. many walking paths, much wildlife and bird species, but no driving routes.

Lastly, if you have specific species you are after... shoot me a list and I can help. While I do not live in FLA...I have visited all the places I have listed over the years and many others.
Central Florida Birding

I agree with most of the previous suggestions.

Merritt Island NWR is on the Atlantic Coast. A similar drive to the Gulf Coast (via I4 would take you to Tampa and Fort De Soto. Both are great places for shorebirds. Fort De Soto might be really good for other songbirds, etc, during migration.

A bit north of Orlando is Lake Louisa State Park. The Florida Scrub Jay is there.

Most if not all the drives are toll roads (that's how the state avoids taxing locals, they tax the tourists). Enjoy

Green Nature
I live less then 45 minutes drive from Disney. My favorite spot to bird other than my backyard is circle B bar reserve. This is old Florida. Lots of bottom land plenty of trails and a great place to go. As a local I highly recommend it. Cheers.
About the best place at Disney for birding is inside the Tiki Room |:D|

New here, but Florida native. I mirror what Birdbrain22 listed.

Lake Apopka - https://www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation/lake-apopka/wildlife-drive/
Merritt Island NWR - https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/
Circle B Bar Reserve - https://polknature.com/explore/circle-b-bar-reserve

April can be hot (sunscreen) but it's our dry season. The dry weather dries up the shallow lakes and will concentrate the fish and therefore the birds in the remaining water.

Are there certain Florida specialties you're looking for?
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