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Beverly Abbott – Trip to Sunny, Warm Florida? (NOT), part 1

Hoping to escape the winter weather, my husband and I decided to leave for Florida a week before the Florida Miniature Art Show opening weekend Jan. 16-17, 2016 in Dunedin, Florida at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.  The first activity we enjoyed was visiting the World War II 8th Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA.  It is a beautiful museum dedicated to honoring the pilots and support staff who were so successful in defeating the enemy during the war years when England was being bombed.

Traveling on we visited the Jacksonville Zoo where we both rented scooters to drive around in comfort and ease.  It was a cold, gray and damp day.  Some of the animals did cooperate and show themselves.

Egret in Flight by Beverly Abbott

Egret in Flight by Beverly Abbott

On the fourth day we reached Sanibel Island.  This is the location of the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge which is a four mile long drive through mangroves, roadside canals and tidal saltwater ponds.  Once again it was a cold, windy day and not many birds were around that time.  Many times the birds are only a few feet away.  The bird photography is often fantastic.  Even people with only a phone camera can obtain great photos.  In all, we drove through the refuge four times and each time were able to see different birds doing interesting activities.  The most commonly seen are Egrets, Ibis, Snowy Egrets, White Pelicans, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Brown Pelicans, Yellow Crowned Night Herons, Sanderlings, Dundlins, Anhinga, Double Crested Cormorants, and of course the beautiful Roseate Spoonbills.

We next drove Rt. 41, the Tamiami Trail, across to the Everglades National Park.  Along the roadside we were able to take excellent photographic reference material of Woodstork, Kingfisher, Ibis, Egrets, and Little Blue Herons in the wild.  Once again it was cold, cloudy, and damp.

The Everglades were not as productive as they have been in the past years as the water level was high, so the birds were more scattered, and it was cold and windy.  We did see Purple Gallinule and a cooperative Great Blue Heron along the Anhinga Trail who was only about five feet away.  Ira watched and photographed an Egret stalk and catch a tiny lizard along the Anhinga Trail.  Further into the park a Woodstork posed for me then went walking slowly through the roadside pond to give me more compositions to photograph.  While in the park we did photograph a Red Shouldered Hawk and a Short Tailed Hawk that were new birds to add to our Birder’s Life List in spite of the cold weather.

As the weather was deteriorating, we drove back across the Tamiami Trail and stopped at the Clyde Butcher Photographic Studio to enjoy his black and white giant photos of wild Florida landscapes.  We arrived at Sanibel Island in time to drive through the refuge one last time.  It is such an interesting birding area, there is always something new to see and the people are friendly and share their love of birdwatching.

Our December on the east coast was so warm, it was a surprise when the cold weather came down from Canada and extended throughout Florida.  It did have a detrimental effect on the number of birds we saw, but the variety was still present.  We just had to be a bit more patient.

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