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Christmas 2006

Part 11:  Joe Overstreet Area & Kissimmee Prairie State Preserve

Headed up to Joe Overstreet first thing for their specialty birds, noticing a couple of access points to Three Rivers WMA on the way up that I hadn't noticed before.  (What’s even more interesting is that I apparently said the very same thing in my trip report of several years ago…) Several Sandhill Cranes were right by the county road on the way up, which was a nice omen!

  The habitat along the road is mostly agricultural and grazing land, great for the cranes and other open-country birds.  The morning chorus consisted of the usual fare, and as I scanned the fields every half mile a couple of large groups of Turkeys got added to the list!  Sandhills were here and there along the road, and several Savannah Sparrows popped up on the wires.  A pair of Caracaras were hanging around the oaks, and at one spot a subadult Bald Eagle sat by himself in the middle of the field, sporting an Osprey-like mask!  But the stars of the show were about four miles in: three beautiful Whooping Cranes stalked the field on the north side of the road amongst the cattle, oblivious to the delight they were causing the humans!  They all appeared to have radio-tracking devices on their legs; that would drive me nuts, but the birds apparently aren't bothered by them.

       

Whooping Cranes with what I’m assuming are radio transmitters...

Headed on down to the landing, where there were more people there than I've ever seen (but then again, I've never been there on a weekend before...)!  Scanning the lake added Ring-billed and Herring Gulls to the list, as well as Forster's Terns and a complaining Lesser Yellowlegs.  A Bald Eagle nest (complete with both eagles) was across the lake, and a suspicious-looking raptor sat on a long pole way out there.  Another fellow was doing some photography (he wasn't really a birder so he couldn't quite tell what my bird was, either), so we chatted while I waited for the bird to fly, which she finally did, confirming her to be a Snail Kite.  (You're hoping the person doesn't consider you rude because you're talking with your eye glued to the scope...)  Immediately after the guy left two more kites showed up, one with a big snail in her beak!

Joe Overstreet Landing, on the eastern edge of Lake Kissimmee

I had told him about the cranes, and sure enough, they were still there on the way out (even a little closer), but there was a fourth bird even closer to the road that he was shooting (with the camera)!  Another guy from Boston wheeled in about then, so he was very happy to see the birds as well!

              

The cranes are closer on the way out!

    

With a cow (which was pretty big), to give you an idea of the size...

Headed down to the Sunset Ranch Nature Trail, one of those new accesses I had seen, and hiked just about to where the two-mile loop starts.  It goes through some beautiful live oak woodland and has a blind where evidently the cranes sometimes show up (they had a picture of a Whooper to entice you).  Much of the trail goes along this huge barren, sandy "field", so that part of it wasn't very pleasant, and there weren't many birds to boot besides a singing White-eyed Vireo and a mewing sapsucker (plus a towhee and bluebird I picked up at the trailhead).  I ran into another couple from Michigan who was very excited to hear about the Whoopers, so off they went! That was another interesting thing: they were old enough to be my parents, and had done the whole thing (which I believe was a two-to-three mile hike) without walking sticks or water! And I was knocked out by the time I got to the beginning of the loop!!

      

Entrance to Sunset Ranch and Picnic Area

    

Nature Trail, near the "sandy field", and boardwalk through the marsh

                                      

Silhouetted Golden Orb Spider and Barred Yellow

From there I headed over to Kissimmee Prairie State Park, recommended by a local butterfly lady and so new it isn't even on the Florida state map yet (at least AAA's)!  The place is huge, and literally has over 100 miles of trails you can hike, and if you want to see the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow here, be prepared for a several mile jaunt!  The area really reminded me of Laguna Atascosa in Texas with all its open prairie, palmettos, and isolated trees—almost expected a White-tailed Hawk any moment!  But caracaras and White-tailed Kites are to be expected there, even though I didn't see any.  They have a terrific little nature trail that goes through a hammock; although it was rather quiet I did pick up Blue-headed Vireo and Downy Woodpecker for the day.  It was windy and partly cloudy again, so it wasn't great butterfly weather, but the trail was full of Carolina Satyrs!  I might have even had an Appalachian Brown, as something flew by that was about twice the size of the satyrs but with a similar pattern when it sat briefly (not long enough for a shot, naturally).

      

Scenes along the Kissimmee Prairie Nature Trail

        

Carolina Satyr; some show bolder eyespots than others

I hiked a little bit of another trail that went out from the equestrian area; things were really quiet and my feet were shot, so I decided to call it quits (but not before shooting a cooperative shrike and meadowlark out the window). 

     

Equestrian Trail and Central Florida prairie habitat

                                 

Loggerhead Shrike and Eastern Meadowlark

Click here to continue to Merritt Island NWR, here to return to Loxahatchee NWR

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