The Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area arguably boasts the best inland birding in the State of Florida. But until recently most of the area has been closed to the general public most of the year. During the annual Christmas Bird Count, birders are granted access to the restoration area, but most of the area has been off limits for most of the year.
However, earlier this year God smiled up on the lowly birders of Central Florida and opened up a Wildlife Drive that takes you through the heart of the restoration area. This has opened up a huge area for birders and wildlife enthusiasts to visit during the weekends (and national holidays).
The drive is 11 miles long, and I normally take about 4 hours to get through from one end to the other.
So this morning my father and I arrived around 6:15 am and took our time making our way through the drive until we left around 10:30 am. We saw a Great Horned Owl on a tall post near the eastern end of Lust Rd. The biggest highlight was seeing a Gray Kingbird. One was seen here in early June, but it has been really hard to find after June 20th. I tried several times in June to see it, but it successfully hid from me until today. Unfortunately it was a little too early in the morning for photos.
The second best highlight of the drive was all the swallows. We saw dozens of Barn Swallows, which are expected, but we also saw another dozen Bank Swallows, a juvi Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and several Purple Martins.
Herons and Egrets also abound. I’m amazed at how many Green Herons and Least Bitterns we see when we’re there. At least 20 Green Herons flew by the road, and several Least Bitterns were calling. This one posed very briefly before flying out of sight.
Throughout June and July we’ve had the opportunity to see Shiny Cowbirds (both a male and a female) in a sod field along the drive. Earlier in July I sorted through about thousand of these:
To find one of these:
Today we searched through these same fields looking for shorebirds. We had about 100 Killdeer and at least one Least Sandpiper and one Semipalmated Sandpiper. Here’s my eBird checkist for the morning.