Yesterday, May 15, 2002, Joie Clifton and I took up Parks
Small's open invitation to visit Kissimmee Prairie Preserve
State Park to see the nesting White-tailed Kites. The
following is a trip report about the preserve/park, which is
a two hour drive south from Orlando and a one hour drive
west from Ft. Pierce.

Located in central Okeechobee County (DeLorme p.101, A-1)
this huge tract of approximately 50,000 acres is the home to
the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow  an endangered subspecies.
These secretive little birds can be easily seen in April and
May when they are in full song - but you have to be there in
early morning. Arriving at 9:00 a.m., we saw only one.

There are now four active White-tailed Kite nests on the
property. The nearest and easiest one to get to requires a
one mile hike through prairie grass to an oak hammock.
Seeing the kites soaring over the nest site was well worth
our hot and sunny walk.

The park is also home to many Bachman's Sparrows. I was
accustomed to seeing this species in its classic habitat of
mature pine forests, but it also resides in brushy fields
and is quite at home on the prairie. We heard and saw many,
its long tail quickly distinguishing it from the Grasshopper

A pair of Eastern Kingbirds have a nest in the gutter of the
headquarters building. They are jealously guarding this
site. We were able to see their orange median crown stripes
because they were so agitated at us for being there.

Other species heard or seen there were: Northern Bobwhite,
Common Nighthawk, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher,
Northern Mockingbird, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee,
Red-winged Blackbird and Eastern Meadowlark.

If you crave to be out in the wild, away from the usual
Florida crowds, then Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
is the place for you! There is a very nice newly constructed
campground in an oak hammock which has good water from deep
wells. The park is the perfect location for stargazing - you
will have a 360 degree view of the night horizon, minus any
glow from city lights - just you, the starry, starry night
and Florida Grasshopper Sparrows singing in the early morning.

Best Wishes,
Dot Freeman, Orlando

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