Roseate Spoonbill
Merritt Island NWR


Winter in Florida
22 Jan -25 Feb 2006
by Henry Detwiler

During a five-week DOD class at Patrick AFB, I spent my weekends and a couple of evenings searching out what birds I could find in this diverse  state.
species--bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

The first Sunday after arriving in sunny Florida I was able to tour Cocoa Beach and some of Merritt Island NWR.  This raccoon was drinking and taking a bath at Lori Meyer Park.  The fine white beaches which spread north and south of Patrick AFB harbored a fine assortment of gulls, terns, and waders.  And off the jetty north of Cocoa Beach I watched Northern Gannets diving into the ocean.

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Cocoa Beach

Raccoon, Cocoa Beach

In one mixed flock of terns and gulls, I was happy to see two Sandwich Terns and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  This European visitor has become a regular along the East coast, and often visits far inland, too.  I've even seen two of them back home at the Salton Sea.

Shorebirds were common along the beaches, the piers, and the rock jetties.  My first uncommon one for the trip was a Purple Sandpiper along a rock jetty north of Cape Canaveral.  It, and this close-by Ruddy Turnstone, pretty much ignored the crowds of sightseers and fishermen, flying off only when folks were about to step on them.

Purple Sandpiper, Cocoa Beach

Ruddy Turnstone, Cocoa Beach

Florida Scrub Jay
Merritt Island NWR

Originally this species was know simply as the Scrub Jay, but in the 1995 it was split into three species: Florida, Western, and Island.  The Florida Scrub-Jay is restricted to the oak scrub land of central Florida, the slightly brighterl Western Scrub-Jay is common throughout the far western states, and the highly localized Island  Scrub-Jay, which resides on the Island of Santa Cruz, offshore from Santa Barbara, California. 

The following weekend I joined Don Chalfant on a tour of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The premier bird here is the Florida Scrub Jay, and Don took us to some spots where they had family territories.  Perhaps because they were looking for hand-outs, or maybe because they were just curious, they came right out to my pishing, and I was able to snap portraits to my heart's content.

Florida Scrub Jay
Merritt Island NWR

Another of the refuge's favorite attractions is the American Alligator, and we saw many fine specimens.  It was also neat to see some of their babies--and just the right size for wrassling.

American Alligator, Merritt Island NWR

Bald Eagle
Viera Wetlands

Luckily for me, the Viera Wetlands was only 1/2 hour from Patrick AFB, so I made several trips there over the course of my stay.  During my first trip I met the resident Bald Eagle, and then again on each subsequent trip.  The raised dikes provided great vantage points from which to view both showy waders and less obvious marsh denizens like moorhens and rails. 


It's an excellent spot to view wintering waterfowl, such as these showy Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovelers, and Blue-winged Teal.  Hooded Mergansers were a little skittish, but nonetheless quite observable through my spotting scope.

Common Moorhen & Ring-necked Duck
Viera Wetlands


Common Moorhen & Ring-necked Duck
Viera Wetlands

Roseate Spoonbill and Tricolored Heron
Merritt Island NWR

Red Knots, Cocoa Beach

Loggerhead Shrikes are common in the West, just as they are in Florida.  I saw quite a few on the Air Force base, and took this close-up photo through my spotting scope with my new Sony DSC-W7 digital compact camera.  I also got a picture of the bird eating a beetle, but the setting sun rendered it too dark for much detail.


Loggerhead Shrike, Patrick AFB

Palm Warbler, Patrick AFB

Florida is well known for its wintering warblers, and almost all the birding spots I visited sported several varieties of these species.  The brush and scattered trees on Patrick AFB was no exception, and provided cover for Palm, Yellow-rumped, and a few Prairie Warblers.


Viera Wetlands


On to Page 2, Everglades & Loxahatchee NWR

Florida, 22 Jan - 25 Feb 2006
# Species
1 Common Loon
2 Pied-billed Grebe
3 Horned Grebe
4 Gannet
5 American White Pelican
6 Brown Pelican
7 Anhinga
8 Double-crested Cormorant
9 American Bittern
10 Least Bittern
11 Great Blue Heron
12 Great Egret
13 Snowy Egret
14 Little Blue Heron
15 Tricolored Heron
16 Reddish Egret
17 Cattle Egret
18 Green Heron
19 Black-crowned Night Heron
20 Wood Stork
21 Roseate Spoonbill
22 Glossy Ibis
23 White Ibis
24 Sandhill Crane
25 Mottled Duck
26 Snow Goose
27 American Wigeon
28 Blue-winged Teal
29 Mallard
30 Northern Shoveler
31 Northern Pintail
32 Green-winged Teal
33 Redhead
34 Ring-necked Duck
35 Lesser Scaup
36 Bufflehead
37 Hooded Merganser
38 Red-breasted Merganser
39 Ruddy Duck
40 Limpkin
41 Osprey
42 Snail Kite
43 Bald Eagle
44 Northern Harrier
45 Sharp-shinned Hawk
46 Cooper's Hawk
47 Red-shouldered Hawk
48 Red-tailed Hawk
49 American Kestrel
50 Merlin
51 Wild Turkey
52 Virginia Rail
53 Sora
54 Purple Gallinule
55 Common Moorhen
56 American Coot
57 Black-bellied Plover
58 Semipalmated Plover
59 Killdeer
60 American Oystercatcher
61 Black-necked Stilt
62 American Avocet
63 Purple Sandpiper
64 Greater Yellowlegs
65 Lesser Yellowlegs
66 Willet
67 Spotted Sandpiper
68 Marbled Godwit
69 Ruddy Turnstone
70 Red Knot
71 Sanderling
72 Western Sandpiper
73 Least Sandpiper
74 Dunlin
75 Short-billed Dowitcher
76 Wilson's Snipe
77 Pomarine Jaeger
78 Turkey Vulture
79 Iceland Gull
# Species
80 Greater Black-backed Gull
81 Crested Caracara
82 Black Vulture
83 Laughing Gull
84 Bonaparte's Gull
85 Ring-billed Gull
86 Herring Gull
87 Lesser Black-backed Gull
88 Caspian Tern
89 Royal Tern
90 Sandwich Tern
91 Forster's Tern
92 Black Skimmer
93 Rock Pigeon
94 White-winged Dove
95 Mourning Dove
96 Common Ground-Dove
97 Eurasian Collared Dove
98 Monk Parakeet
99 Eastern Screech Owl
100 Barred Owl
101 Belted Kingfisher
102 Red-cockaded Woodpecker
103 Red-bellied Woodpecker
104 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
105 Downy Woodpecker
106 Northern Flicker
107 Pileated Woodpecker
108 Eastern Phoebe
109 Ash-throated Flycatcher
110 Great Crested Flycatcher
111 Western Kingbird
112 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
113 Loggerhead Shrike
114 White-eyed Vireo
115 Blue-headed Vireo
116 Blue Jay
117 Florida Scrub Jay
118 American Crow
119 Fish Crow
120 Purple Martin
121 Tree Swallow
122 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
123 Tufted Titmouse
124 Brown-headed Nuthatch
125 House Wren
126 Carolina Wren
127 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
128 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
129 Eastern Bluebird
130 American Robin
131 Gray Catbird
132 Northern Mockingbird
133 Brown Thrasher
134 European Starling
135 Prairie Warbler
136 Black-throated Blue Warbler
137 Common Yellowthroat
138 Yellow-rumped Warbler
139 Palm Warbler
140 Orange-crowned Warbler
141 N. Parula
142 Black-and-white Warbler
143 American Redstart
144 Yellow-throated Warbler
145 Pine Warbler
146 Eastern Towhee
147 Savannah Sparrow
148 Swamp Sparrow
149 White-crowned Sparrow
150 Cardinal
151 Painted Bunting
152 Red-winged Blackbird
153 Eastern Meadowlark
154 Common Grackle
155 Boat-tailed Grackle
156 Brown-headed Cowbird
157 American Goldfinch
158 House Sparrow

Photos Henry Detwiler