Our first destination on Sunday, May 11, was a location in Polk County that was known for nesting Short-tailed Hawks. We arrived there about 8:30, having added White-winged Dove to my ABA list along the way and seeing some Wild Turkeys as well. We waited a while, meeting up with another birder who had driven out from Arizona, and ticking off Tufted Titmouse, Pine Warbler and Northern Parula for our trip list, all the while scanning through kettles of vultures for a smaller, dark raptor. Finally, at 9:30 AM, a dark morph Short-tailed Hawk soared over head, my first life bird of the day!
We then headed off to Lake Arbuckle State Forest, where the Arizona birder had seen mating Limpkins the night before at the campground. We did in fact get our only good Limpkin (life bird #394) sighting of the trip here, as one was poking around the weeds and walking about the shore. We were treated to more great views of Swallow-tailed Kites and Red-shouldered Hawks as well. Then it was on to the state forest in search of pine woods specialties. We did a bit of searching in the woods, which were fairly quiet. We finally managed to get a Bachman's Sparrow to respond to a tape (#395) and headed south towards Miami, bidding farewell to the Arizona birder.
On the way over to the Florida Turnpike, I saw a Crested Caracara being harassed by smaller birds - not a great look at 60mph but good enough for an ID and number 396 on the list! We made a stop in Palm Beach County at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, and got a load of great photos of Purple Gallinule, Tri-colored Heron, Great Blue Heron, and Common Moorhen, among others.
After the thrill of close-up experiences with wading birds at Wakodahatchee, we headed into Ft. Lauderdale to find the breeding Smooth-billed Anis, which were nesting in a low-income neighborhood just south of the airport. We had no luck at first, so we cruised the airport looking for the birds and possibly burrowing owls (picking up Muscovy Duck, life bird 397, which is countable in Florida, even though it's the duck equivalent of Rock Pigeon), then went back to the neighborhood, where a helpful and friendly resident told us that they were being seen routinely at 7pm. So, off to dinner at Quizno's to kill time, and then back to the ani spot. We parked, got out and started scanning. A dark, grackle-sized bird flew up behind us into some trees, and I thought "probably a grackle, but better look at it" and voila! there's the bird! I thought at the time it was a life bird, but have since recalled that I had seen it in Puerto Rico (for some reason I was recalling the Puerto Rican anis as Groove-billed, but they don't occur there). We had some great looks at the bird, which was carrying food, and then headed south again to Miami. Along the way, a Hill Mynah flew across the highway, but it's not a countable bird right now.
We hit the parrot/oriole spot near the Miami airport once we got in, and did see some (uncountable) Yellow-chevroned Parakeets and found some Monk Parakeet nests, but no "quakers" were there. So, we drove around trying to find an affordable and non-crappy hotel, finally settling on a Sleep Inn after deciding we wouldn't find anything for less than $100 a room. This would be the only hotel with a coffee maker we would stay in. The following day was to be devoted to Urban Birding: parrots and Spot-breasted Oriole were our targets.