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Christmas in Florida

Part 10:  Joe Overstreet Road

Saturday (New Year's Day) was Chore Day, so got that taken care of, picking up my first paid-attention-to bird of the year in the Albertson's parking lot: a very boisterous Boat-tailed Grackle!  Took an exercise walk at lovely Highland Hammocks State Park (they have a perfect two-mile paved loop), after which I got to thinking that it might be worth it to stop at Joe Overstreet after birding Arbuckle WMA with local Birdchatter Anne (whose last name I can't remember--I'm usually doing good to remember a person's first name...).  Only after church the next day I noticed my tire was about 15 pounds low, so the better part of wisdom decreed that I visit the local Goodyear place the next morning, and Anne agreed (she said she had checked out Arbuckle that day anyway and it was dead as a doornail...)  Well, on Monday morning the thing was flat as a pancake when I went out there, so called good ol' AAA, checked out, and used the waiting time to my advantage by taking my exercise walk! When the guy finally showed up he towed me to the local Goodyear place, and they fixed the thing very quickly (I had run over a screw somewhere--not surprising considering the places I take that car)!  But I still didn't get out of town until close to ten, and it was a good two hour drive to Joe Overstreet.  On the way there I had an almost adult Bald Eagle in the ditch, but unfortunately he didn't wanna stick around for pictures (good thing I was the only one on the road at that time...).  He did fly into a nearby tree with his fully-adult mate, so that was nice to see!

 

First bird for 2005: Boat-tailed Grackle in the Albertson’s parking lot!   

   

Fleeing Bald Eagle and where he fled to (mate is in upper right corner of the tree)

Once at Overstreet I started down the roads with high hopes, stopping every half mile to get out and scan and listen, and I managed to pick up quite a few things that way, in particular a few Meadowlarks, and at one productive line of bushes has Yellowthroats, a Palm Warbler, and a Towhee in addition to the tons of Butterbutts.  Several Sandhill Cranes strode along regally, one pair right next to the road, and I kept saying to them, "Where's your cousins??"  Other nice finds included at least three Caracaras, and several Wild Turkeys, both in the little groves of oaks and out by the cow pens (along with tons of grackles and more Sandhills).

 

       

Sandhill Cranes (left) and Turkeys (right) feed along Joe Overstreet Road

Finally reaching the end I found yet more Sandhills in someone's yard (what a yard bird) and swung around to a picnic table so I could scan Lake Kissimmee.  Couldn't find any Snail Kites this time around, but did add both ibis, Ring-billed Gulls and Forster's Terns, Tricolored and Little Blue Herons, and other expected feathers.  A Red-shouldered Hawk that came tearing in and landed on someone's pickup sent the grackles in all directions!  Spent a good fifteen minutes there eating lunch and just watching the lake, while I kept hearing a Bald Eagle behind me.  Finally I turned around to look for him (he sounded pretty close) and I noticed another big bunch of Sandhills over by the machinery near the grove.  I again asked, "Where's your cousins??!" when suddenly, BAM, there was one in my bins!!  Gorgeous!!  I drug out the scope and enjoyed (while digiscoping) not only him, but three other adults in there!  Presently a couple of guys with a boat wanted to claim the spot I was in to camp, so I left, but in doing so found another parking spot just a mite closer to the Whoopers where I could get knockout looks through the scope as they strode just as regally, one pair lifting their bills towards each other like a couple of saluting warriors, their bustles lifted pompously!  What a kick!  Picked up a Herring Gull in with the Ringbills on the way out.

The prize of the day: two of the re-introduced Whooping Cranes (note how huge they are next to the Sandhill on the right)!

  Everything was anticlimactic after that, although I did want to check out the other two areas I was told about, just for grins.  The spot about a half mile up from Overstreet had several Sandhills, but no Whoopers, and I arrived at Split Oak (up on SR 15) too late to really do any hiking (and there was a weird-looking guy just hanging around, so I thought the better part of wisdom...)  I wasn't sure if the Whoopers ordinarily hung out in the field along the road to the area, but if they did, they weren't there today.

  Checked into Titusville, as I again decided to throw the itinerary to the wind for tomorrow and do Merritt Island after all! I also threw my eating plan out the window and decided to have a nice dinner at the attached IHOP, and I’m glad I did; I needed some real food!

Continue to Merritt Island NWR

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