Day 1. Arrival
Our Florida birding tour begins with a meeting for dinner in the hotel lobby at 6:30 p.m. Night in Fort Myers.
Day 2. Ding Darling NWR and San Carlos Bay
Our first birding day is a big one, as we visit the world-renowned Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Among the spectacular array of waders and shorebirds we will search for some local specialities, including Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. With some luck we may catch a glimpse of a resident Short-tailed Hawk or Bald Eagle flying overhead. Here we will also have our first chance at the elusive White-crowned Pigeon.
En route back to Fort Myers we will stop at San Carlos Bay/Bunche Beach Preserve to look for saltwater-loving species such as Black Skimmer and Reddish Egret. In the early evening we will look for resident Burrowing Owls and Monk Parakeets in Cape Coral. Night in Fort Myers.
Day 3. Babcock-Webb WMA
On day 3 we will drive north to Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management area, a large tract of slash pine and marsh, for three pinewoods specialties - Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman’s Sparrow. Other species here include Limpkin, Eastern Towhee, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird and Eastern Meadowlark. Sandhill Cranes nest in the area, and roadside wetlands support American Coot and Common Gallinule.
In the afternoon, we search for species we may have missed and look nearby for Florida Scrub-Jay, a threatened species found only in Florida. Nearby wetlands support Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Glossy Ibis. Night in Fort Myers.
Day 4. Corkscrew Swamp and Miccosukee
In the morning we visit the famous Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. After checking the visitors center birdfeeders for Common Ground-Dove and Painted Bunting we will head out on the beautiful boardwalks in search of the swamp’s residents. Many northern warblers spend their winter months here, and Tufted Titmice forage in the cypress. If our timing is right, we may see recently-arrived Swallow-tailed Kites circling overhead.
In the afternoon we carry on across southern Florida towards Homestead, stopping in the Miccosukee area to search for the endangered Snail Kite foraging along the irrigation canals. Night in Homestead.
Day 5. Everglades
We spend the day in the Everglades, Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s “River of Grass”. We travel from Royal Palms to Flamingo, the terminus of Everglades National Park’s main road. We stop at well-known sites such as Anhinga Trail, where conspicuous residents include Purple Gallinule, “Great White” Heron, and, appropriately, Anhinga, Mahogany Hammock with its diverse tropical hardwood trees and marvelous land snails, and Paurotis and Nine-mile Ponds for Mottled Duck, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill and soaring Short-tailed Hawk. The mudflats at Flamingo host shorebirds and terns, including Marbled Godwit and Gull-billed Tern, and Eco Pond occasionally has Glossy and White Ibis, and possibly Black-necked Stilt. We will also be on the watch for American Crocodile and West Indian Manatee. Our tally of birds could include many specialties of southern Florida - White-crowned Pigeon, Short-tailed and Swainson’s Hawks, Barred Owl, Swallow-tailed Kite and even Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Night in Homestead.
Day 6. Florida Keys
We leave Homestead and head down to the keys. We begin the morning at two sites on Key Largo in search of specialties such as White-crowned Pigeon and Yellow-throated Warbler, and with luck scarcer species such as Mangrove Cuckoo and Painted Bunting. The keys are a hotspot for rarities, so we will watch for reports of any unusual visitors. Time permitting, we will end the day at Key West Botanical Garden.Night in Key West.
Day 7. Dry Tortugas
This morning we catch a boat and visit the Dry Tortugas with its plethora of pelagic species - Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, Magnificent Frigatebird and Masked Booby, with scarcer ones such as Brown Booby possible. Our route will take us swiftly and directly to the Tortugas, arriving in late morning. We spend a few hours on the islands, visiting Fort Jefferson to look for early migrants, and then we head back, keeping an eye out for Masked Booby, should we have missed it up to then. Night in Homestead.
Day 8. Miami Area
Our final birding day will be spent in the unlikely birding destination of urban Miami. Numerous exotic species have become naturalized here - various parakeets and parrots, mynas, Gray-headed Swamphen, Egyptian Goose, Red-whiskered Bulbul and Spot-breasted Oriole are possible. We will also keep track of local sightings, in case a vagrant occurs close by. There are usually one or two goodies to be found. Night in Miami.
Day 9. Departure
Our Florida birding tour concludes today in Miami. You can depart anytime for your flights home.