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FLORIDA

FLORIDA
North America

Whilst winter descends on the USA multitudes of birds escape to Florida where  the exotic Painted Bunting can be seen.

North America

This is a true wildlife haven with birds everywhere. Winter sees multitudes of herons, ibises, egrets and wildfowl gathering at various reserves, joined by raptors.  A wide array of exciting habitats includes mangroves, prairies and primeval-looking cypress swamps with ancient buttressed trees provides refuge for birds of almost every imaginable form. Exotic bromeliads festoon trees dripping with Spanish Moss where the colossal Pileated Woodpecker forages. In addition to a wide variety of residents including the rare Florida Snail Kite and Florida Scrub Jay, birds which have escaped the North American winter find balmy conditions here and we will look out for hummingbirds, flycatchers warblers and tanagers. From the vast coastal wetlands in the east we explore the northern prairies before heading west to the bird paradises of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. Our final few days are spent in the vast wilderness of the Everglades before returning home for Christmas.

For bookings contact WildWings 0117 9658333.

Date of next tour to be confirmed
14 days
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Economy class flights, accommodation with private facilities, full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner), transport by private minibuses, tips and services of Wild Insights leaders.

Travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry and phone calls.

This tour takes us on a circular route around Florida.

Day 1-2.  Depart UK late a.m. Arrive Orlando late p.m. From here we travel east to Titusville which will be our base for the next two nights. This gives us a chance to pay our first visit to Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral, both of which are brilliant sites for waders and wildfowl which winter in Florida. In addition we will expect to see a good cross-section of the herons and egrets with the possibility of Wood Stork and Bald Eagle. Brown Pelicans plunge into the sea just off the highways while grebes and divers are numerous in these fish-rich waters along with the ever-present Ospreys. The Florida Scrub Jay is a speciality of the state and we have our best chances of seeing it here. Overnights Titusville.


Day 3-5. We head north today, to our base at the university town of Gainesville. On route we will call in at Blue Spring State Park which is probably the best place in Florida to see Manatees, gentle giants of the clear waters. We will devote the next full day to the fabulous Paynes Prarie State Park which is a vast open area of scrub and woodland, typically quartered by Northern Harriers. It is also feeding ground for thousands of Sandhill Cranes whose evocative bugling call can be heard miles away. The forested areas attract woodpeckers – up to five species plus sapsuckers plus Barred and Great Horned Owls. Various species of New World sparrow forage the tracks and even more elusive Marsh and Sedge Wrens scald from the wetter areas. Our second day will take us to some local birdwatching areas well-known for woodpeckers, warblers, tanagers and flycatchers. Overnights Gainesville.


Day 6-8.  Our journey now takes us south and west to the Gulf Coast where, from our base at Fort Myers we will explore some of the best birdwatching and wildlife sites in the whole of Florida. On the way we will visit Myakka River State Park – an excellent site for Limpkin as well as a plethora of waders and wildfowl. From Fort Myers we will explore the great beach which hosts vast roosts of terns and skimmers, with prehistoric-looking Magnificent Frigatebirds sailing overhead. We will make a full day-trip to Sanibel Island which is a magnet for herons, egrets and spoonbills plus warblers, raptors and rails. Another day will be devoted to the utterly wonderful Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, an 11,000 acre reserve complete with two-mile boardwalk. Here, primeval buttressed cypress trees encrusted with bromeliads emerge from dark waters where Alligators lurk. Here flycatchers and warblers find shelter while the thunderous drumming of the mighty Pileated Woodpecker echoes through the forest. Psychedelic Painted Buntings visit the feeders from time to time. Overnights at Sanibel.


Day 9-11.  Before leaving Fort Myers we will visit an area which has been colonised by Burrowing Owls. It is a most unlikely setting, the owls being apparently entirely at home between large expensive houses and marinas. From here we will take the Tamiami trail eastwards and south to the Everglades. This route is one of the best areas to see the endangered Florida Snail Kite which feeds exclusively on Apple Snails which it finds in the marshy wetlands. We will also explore Shark Valley where Alligators bask, unconcerned by passers-by. It is also a good area to see American Bittern, American Purple Gallinule, Short-tailed Hawk and the occasional over-wintering Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Our remaining time in the south will be spent exploring a number of spots within the vast Everglades National Park which is one of the finest wildlife havens in the whole of America. Overnights Homestead.


Day 12 - 13.  To complete our circuit we head back up to Titusville today for our last two nights, stopping at the small but surprisingly productive Castello Hammock State Park where flower gardens attract hummingbirds and warblers and then the much larger Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge where Smooth-billed Anis are regularly recorded along with Short-tailed Hawks and Florida Snail Kites. For our last full day we will re-visit Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral where we have found that one visit is nowhere near enough. Overnights Titusville.


Day 14. Today, following some local birdwatching we make our way back to Orlando for the overnight international flight back to the UK

Louisa Thompson 0207 3864682
www.theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk