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Hi all

Ross McGregor and I set off for an 1100 mile round trip on sunday to sample the avian delights south west Florida has to offer.
We left Tallahassee at 5am high on caffeine armed with a copy of "Where to watch Parrots in Florida" and a DeLorme in the hope of boosting both our year and life list as well as partaking in a spot of photography here and there. 
Our first port of call was Hillsborough County and the Cinnamon Teal, which despite a careful search wasn't around, but we did see a group of American White Pelicans and a splendid "Gray Ghost". Undeterred by a minor dip we headed for Sweat Loop Rd to search for tyrannids. We drove around in circles for an hour but didn't see a single kingbird or flycatcher! Either they had migrated or we need new bino's. Still high on caffeine we charged across to the coast through traffic and arrived at "The Cape May of the South" aka Fort De Soto CP mid-morning and headed for the beach on the NW side of the park. Unfortunately every man and his dog and their relatives had descended onto the beach and there were very few shorebirds to be seen. The obligatory Reddish Egret fished in typical fashion and there were a few gulls and terns but not much else. To make matters worse several moronic teenagers thought it would be fun to run around chasing the birds thus ending our short visit. (Menta!
 l note: in future stick to birding "The Cape May of the Panhandle" aka St George Island). (Mental note2: never bird the Gulf Coast south of St Marks NWR during spring break again!) On the way off the island we stopped at the small pond not far north of the toll booth to watch a few ducks. There were 3-4 Ruddy Ducks, lots of Redheads, Lesser Scaup and a few Ring-necked Ducks but nothing out the ordinary really. Thanks to the cage bird trade we did see quite a few Monk Parakeets and a couple of Black-hooded. Nothing like a few plastic ticks to get the pulse racing eh!
Even my enthusiasm was waning at this point but we carried on south and headed for the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in Sarasota. Huzzah success we finally saw something! At least 81 were flying around near Ackerman Park and they dropped down onto a pond inside the industrial complex and splendid views were had.
Oscar Scherer Park was the next stop and we spent a good hour or so taking pictures of the typically shy Florida Scrub-jays! Interestingly as we were taking pictures, two of the jays starting mimicking the camera shutter. Everytime we took a picture the two jays bobbed up and down and repeated the shutter noise. Does anyone know if this has been noted before? Not quite up to the standard of a Lyrebird but a pretty good imitation nontheless. Hoorah for scrub-jays they are awesome.
With daylight fading we sped on down to Cape Coral and watched a total of 6 Burrowing Owls on the edge of the ballpark mentioned in WTWPIF.
Next morning we returned to watch the Burrowing Owls and take some pictures and then headed to Corkscrew. We nearly got into a severe accident on I-75 which really did get the pulse going and saw several Swallow-tailed Kites en route. Sadly the whole area has changed dramatically since the last time I approached the sanctuary from the west, which was over 3 years ago. How many retirement communities are going to be built before sanity takes control, the amount of development spreading east from the coast is very depressing. 
Anyway we pushed that to the darkest corner of our minds and arrived at Corkscrew in good spirits. Our first circuit of the boardwalk yielded a ridiculously confiding American Bittern, a Red-shouldered Hawk eating a crayfish of some sort, Pileated Woodpecker excavating its nest hole, a Barred Owl sat chilling, a splendid Black-throated Green Warbler and a few Swallow-tailed Kites drifting overhead. A sandwich and coke was consumed before we dawdled along the boardwalk for a second time. The only new birds added was a female Painted Bunting and an Ovenbird, which sat sunning itself at the feeding station.
Time was passing us by so we headed north towards Lake Okeechobee, spotting 3-4 Crested Caracara's on the way. At Lock 7 we spent a while photographing Black Skimmers.
Next morning we arrived at Dunedin Causeway and admired the many shorebirds feeding along its edge. A nice Whimbrel was a surprise. It was a very blustery day which didnt make for good photography but we did get some nice shots of Wilson's Plover on Honeymoon Island.
By now we were getting very tired of the marauding sun worshippers so we decided to head for home via Fred Howard Park, Green Key and Spring Hill/Hernando Beach. At around 2pm we arrived in Little Australia aka Hernando Beach and started a slow methodical search for plastic tick # 3, Budgerigar! The windows were lowered and we crawled along the streets listening for distinctive chirping sounds. At one point Ross asked me 
"Did you hear that?"
"No", I replied
"I could've sworn I just heard something say "Who's a pretty boy then"
Yes it was all rather silly and we couldn't believe that we had resorted to driving round Florida looking for a bird that was only here because we like to have pets. Anyway a ticks a tick I suppose! Not long after we happened upon a flock of cowbirds and starlings (yay another exotic!) and flying around with them was a group of 5 Budgies. We drove to where they landed and there sitting in an exotic tree in a garden was a couple of Budgies, one was playing with a bell and the other was staring into a mirror.........sorry! 
So after all that I did manage to increase my Florida list by two species, I'd like to thank Petco and all the other pet suppliers for making it possible.

We had a great time really and I got some fantastic pictures with my new camera so it wasn't a wasted journey but I definetly won't be heading to SW Florida anytime in the next 20 years unless you find a Red-necked Stint Jeff!

all the best

Andy Wraithmell & Ross McGregor

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