Updated: Apr 16
A Christmas trip to Florida two years ago—specifically, a 12/20/14 kayak trip on the Chassahowitzka River—is what initially motivated me to take up birding beyond-the-backyard. Obviously, birding has spiraled out of control since then. A four-day family trip to Florida for Christmas 2016 provided some excellent birding opportunities on the gulf coast.
Among other locations, I visited Caladesi Island (by kayak, ~10 miles); Honeymoon Island (on foot); Fort de Soto (on foot); Chassahowitzka River (by kayak, ~5 miles); and Crystal River NWR (by kayak, ~5 miles). Of the 94 bird species encountered, 3 were life birds (Magnificent Frigatebird, Loggerhead Shrike, and Sedge Wren). I also got excellent looks of other awesome species that I’ve only seen once or twice before—for example, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Marbled Godwit, Piping Plover, and Common Ground-Dove. The birds in Florida, especially the waders and shorebirds (some of my favorite families), seem to be considerably less skittish than their counterparts here in NC. This made for a more exciting, relaxing, stress-free birding experience (no squinting through a spotting scope at tiny birds hundreds of yards away). It also allowed for some excellent photo opportunities. All told, I took 883 pictures, the vast majority of which were of birds; of course, only a handful were worth keeping…
The nonavian fauna was also especially exciting. Notable mammals included: ~9 West Indian Manatee (they winter in large numbers at Crystal River NWR); 2 River Otter; many Bottlenose Dolphin; and 2 Marsh Rabbit. Notable reptiles included American Alligator, a young Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (almost stepped on it!); massive Gopher Tortoises (including one in its underground burrow); and Florida Box Turtle. Also 2 new butterflies for me--the Queen and the Zebra Longwing.