11th ZELLWOOD/MT DORA CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT  Friday 21 December 2007

Merry Christmas All,

Some people have asked me about the name of this count. There was 
for a number of years a Mt Dora Xmas Count. In fact, over 20 years
ago the first date I had with my now wife was participation in the
Mt Dora count. Our area in the southern part of the count circle 
included the northern part of what is now the Lake Apopka 
Restoration Area. In 1998 the St. Johns Water Mgt. District bought
out the farms in the area & left the agricultural fields in a 
flooded state for weeks. This condition led to unprecedented
numbers of species & individuals. The Mt. Dora Christmas Count
by that time had become defunct, so I decided to create a new count
that would include almost all of the North Lake Apopka area.
Because so much of the old Mt Dora Christmas Bird Count falls 
within the Zellwood count area the powers that be in N.Y. said
the the old name needed to be incorporated into the new counts
name. The center of the Zellwood - Mt. Dora Xmas Bird Count is the
intersection of Highway 441 & Jones Ave. on the north side of the
town of Zellwood, which is exactly one mile south of the center of
the old Mt. Dora Christmas Bird Count.

The first Zellwood - Mt. Dora Xmas Count took place in 1998. At that 
time, the only inland Florida Xmas Count to crack 150 species was 
Lake Placid, & they did it twice. I guess I should say we did it,
because I had the pleasure of participating in both counts. Well,
that first year not only did we join Lake Placid as the only other
inland Florida count to crack the 150 mark, we totaled 174 for the
best inland count in the history of North America. Since that time
Gainesville has become the third Florida inland count to top 150
species. A few days ago they did it again!

In the past decade the Zellwood count has always been in the high 
140s-170s. But all was not rosy, please check out the following web 
site, & look about half way down the page:

Last year Florida had 8 counts that broke the 150 species mark.
mark. The Zellwood count recorded 160 species, tied with
Jacksonville for the forth highest count in the state. The big
hit was the state's fourth documented record of Say's Phoebe that
was found by perennial count participant Gian Basili. That bird
also made history as the individual that tied Andy Bankert with
his long time mentor David Simpson for the best ever Florida year
list. Andy went on later in the month to tally two more species
& take the record. Gallus Quigley in now over 350 species for the 
year & moving in on the record. The Say's is back again this winter
& so are Andy, David & Gallus!! 

Three years ago the big highlight was the first Fork-tailed Flycatcher
ever recorded on a North American Xmas Count. Many thanks to Trey 
Mitchell!! Two years ago there were 11 Florida Counts that recorded 150 
or more species. For only the second time in 9 years we broke the 170
Mark. Our 170 finished second to Bill Pranty's West Pasco count that
recorded 171 species.

This is an invitation to all past Zellwoodiens, & all other
experienced birders to be a part of something really grand, one of the 
very best Christmas Bird Counts on the continent.

This year the Zellwood count will take place on Dec. 26, 2008. 
As last year we will be meeting at 6:00 AM on the property of Laurie 
Marsell. Laurie's connection to the area goes back many decades, as her 
grand parents started farming in the Zellwood area back in the 1920s. 
Part of the Lake Apopka Restoration Area was at one time farmed by her 
family. Her family still owns land that we will have access to within 
the count circle. The building where we will be meeting in the morning, 
and for some of us at noon as well, and for the count-down dinner is 
located just three tenths of a mile from the center of the count circle. 

>From Jones Ave. & US 441 go South three tenths of a mile. You'll see 
an Advance Discount Auto Parts store on the East side of 441 at this 
point. Turn right & cross the RR tracks. You will be on Ponkan Rd. There 
is a street sign on the other side of 441 but not where you will have 
turned right. If you will be coming from the South, Ponkan Rd, is 5.2 
miles north of the intersection of US 441 & SR 429. After turning West 
onto Ponkan the third house on the left is a two story with a red tile 
roof & a sign that reads "The Old Nest". Drive past the house to the 
next driveway & turn left. The second building behind the house is where 
we will be meeting. & there is plenty of parking. The building has a 
complete kitchen, plenty of seating & a bathroom.

Bring breakfast fixins with you that you don't need to cook, any time
before 6:00 AM to the meeting place, & eat there. Things like sticky
buns, donuts or prepared breakfast items from a convenience store.

For those of us who will not be birding through lunch, be back at The 
Old Nest at noon to compare bird lists. There are also fast food places 
in town. If you plan to bird through lunch you need to bring it with you,
& please have someone call my cell phone to report what you have, bird
wise, up to that point.

Dexter's Restaurant will be providing us with a great meal at the count 
down. Try to be back at The Old Nest at about 6:00 PM.  If you're out 
looking for Owls, don't worry about being late. My wife Bettye is at 
this very moment preparing deserts. 

Overnight Accommodations:
The best deal I found is Motel 6 #791 in Winter Park which is 10.2
miles from Robinson's Restaurant, & 16.6 miles from "The Old Nest".
Call the 800 number for the best rate, 800-466-8356. I was quoted
$35.99 for a one person Queen + 12.5% tax, & $41.99 for two people
in a room with two double beds. There is a discount for those with
an AARP card or anyone over 60 years of age. To get there from I-4 
just north (west) of Orlando take exit 88, Lee Road & go west for
about a quarter of a mile to Adanson Rd., the motel is on the right.
To get to the restaurant from the motel go west on Lee Road for
1.6 miles to US 441, (Orange Blossom Trail)& turn right & go 8.6
miles to Robinson's or 15 miles to "The Old Nest"

There are other motels in Apopka & Mt. Dora that would be about 5
miles closer but cost twice as much. In Apopka try Crosby's Motor 
Inn on US 441, 407-886-3220, rate $69.00 + 12.5% tax. And, Ho. Jo.
Express Inn also on OBT, 407-886-1010, rate $59.99, & AAA & AARP
discount. In Mt. Dora again on 441 the Comfort Inn & Suites, 
352-383-3400, rate $79.99 + 11% tax & 10% AARP AAA discounts. Also 
in Mt. Dora on US 441 is the Hampton Inn, 352-383-4267, rate is
$99.00 with a 5% AAA discount & a 10% AARP discount. A little 
north of Mt. Dora in Tavares on US 441 is the Day's Inn,
850-584-5311, rate $59.00 for a one bed room & $66.00 for a two
bed room + 11% tax, & a 10% AAA & AARP discount. 

Each party should have a screech owl tape for attracting birds. If you 
have one please bring it. Also please bring your cell phone..

See you all soon,

Wes Biggs
Home 407-384-9766
Cell 407-376-6967

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