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Hey everyone,
 
After helping Chris Newton load his moving truck this morning, I headed out from his place on a whim and stopped wherever I could find.  Near his place, on Lake Marion Creek Road in Polk County I stumbled on this small but beautiful spot called Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve.  It was 3:15 in the afternoon by the time I was there, and activity was low, but I still got a respectable sampling of the preserve's birdlife.  I spent the majority of the time sitting on a bench at the end of the trail that has a wonderful view of Lake Marion Creek and Lake Marion itself.  The preserve starts in scrubby pinewoods near the trailhead, and descends to riparian woodland with a good amount of Cabbage Palms.  On the bench, I was just able to watch a lot of the birds come by:
 
Great Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Swallow-Tailed Kite (3-4)
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Mourning Dove
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
White-Eyed Vireo
Red-Eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Tufted Titmouse
Brown-Headed Nuthatch (2 near the trailhead)
Carolina Wren
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Northern Parula
Northern Cardinal
 
ALSO, when I got back to my car, accross Lake Marion Creek Road on a fence post was a female AMERICAN KESTREL, dining on something she had just caught.  I'm assuming this must be a Southeastern race bird; how far south do they regularly breed in Florida?
 
Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve located on Lake Marion Creek Road, east of Haines City in NE Polk County (DeLorme pg. 85).  There were TONS of butterflies and dragonflies, too.  I wish I knew them better - lots of different swallowtails for sure, and I think a Great Blue Skimmer.  Also a Six-Lined Racerunner, and a beautiful and very fragrant flower I had never noticed before, but I think I've identified it correctly as Tar Flower.    
 
On the way back to Orlando, I decided to avoid I-4 and take backroads instead.  I stopped by Brinson Park in downtown Kissimmee to see what was around:
 
Mottled Duck
Pied-Billed Grebe (with babies)
Double-Crested Cormorant
Anhinga
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
White Ibis
Wood Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Snail Kite (2, my prime target here, as usual.  This HAS to be Central Florida's most reliable place to see this species.  I've been here probably a dozen times, all times of the year, all times of the day, and I've never been skunked by this bird at Brinson)
Common Moorhen
Limpkin (at least 18, including a momma with three fuzzy little ones - holy CUTE!  Seriously, if you're a birder coming on vacation or for work here in Central Florida and you need Limpkin but don't have a lot of time, COME HERE!!  EASY, EASY, EASY, any time of the year!) 
Sandhill Crane
Black-Necked Stilt
Least Tern
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Purple Martin
Northern Mockingbird
Red-Winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-Tailed Grackle 
 
Brinson Park is on the shore of Lake Tohopekaliga in downtown Kissimmee in N Osceola County.  The weather was warm, but not too hot, especially in the shade.  There was a nice breeze off Lake Toho.  It was perfect for being out, even if it wasn't the most "active" time of the day for birds!
 
And by the way, just to throw it out there, I LOVE birding in Florida in the summer!  I think it's my favorite time of the birding year here.  I know not as many cool rare things show up and it's not the best season to add to my lifelist or Florida list.  But I like the more relaxed pace of birding that summer here offers.  Summer offers the freedom to go explore a place you hadn't heard of before, because you're not afraid of missing that Slaty-Backed Gull at Volusia Landfill or that Connecticut Warbler at Lori Wilson or that Ruff hanging out in the EAA (all species I still need for Florida, by the way!).
 
Plus, I find our summer and resident birds to be amazing!  Breeding and resident birds, for some reason, always feel like they're more "our" birds than the ones that are here in the winter or on migration.  I know that's not true, of course, and that some of the breeders don't winter here, but that's how it feels in my mind, anyway.  I like summer here because all of our "specialty" native, more-tropical birds are here to be enjoyed.
 
I also think our resident and breeding birds are pretty hard core.  Most species it seems are either temperate or tropical breeders.  There are relatively few who straddle that line, and I think Florida is one of those special places where we get to witness that tension, and appreciate the unique mix of species from either a temperate or tropical origin that can cut it at the extreme of what they would normally tolerate.  Sure, Michigan may have WAY more breeding bird diversity right now.  Sure, the West Indies to the south have WAY more endemics than we do.  But where else do you get to see the polarity of generally card-carrying temperate species like Blue Jays and Northern Parulas nesting in woods adjacent to the wetland where generally card-carrying tropical species like Snail Kites and Limpkins are breeding?  Sure, there are some other places around the world, but there are way more straight-up temperate or tropical places.  It's pretty cool to be able to see that here in our backyard.
 
And finally, SWALLOW-TAILED KITES are here!  I think the only other species here that makes me smile more is our lovely singular (for now, anyway) endemic Florida Scrub-Jay.  I always miss the kites when they're not around, no matter what rarities are out there!  Are there any other summer Florida bird lovers out there, or are we all just waiting for shorebirds to start coming back through next month? 
 
Good summer birding,
 
John Thomton
Orlando, Orange Co.      
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