Hey guys, welcome back and happy spring! As I mentioned in my last article, today I will be telling you about one of the three trips I took last summer, this one being to Disney World in Orlando Florida in August 2019. This was my very first trip to Florida, my first time at Disney, first amusement park and sadly we were only going to be there for one long weekend. Now, of course, I was over the moon to experience the excitement and magic of Disney for the very first time but I do have a very one-tracked mind and when you mention Florida to a birder a bit of tunnel vision sets in.
As stated by Audobon.org, ” Sooner or later, every birder visits the Sunshine State. The subtropical habitats of its southern peninsula provide homes for several species found nowhere else in the United States, from Snail Kite and Limpkin to White-crowned Pigeon. ”
The whole idea of this trip is credited to Steven’s Aunt, who was kind enough to organize it as a bit of a family reunion to celebrate his Step-mother, Janice’s, 60th Birthday! We were so excited that not only would we be experiencing this amazing trip, but doing so and staying with so many people that we love so dearly.
For a three day vacation, I must say, we planned to pack in as much as we possibly could. However, our first day did not go quite as planned. Our flight was scheduled to arrive in Orlando in the early afternoon. Four major delays, a thunderstorm, and two switched-out planes later we finally arrived at our hotel well after 2 am the following morning. My plans of waking up at sunrise for some birding was quickly thrown out the window as we crawled into bed for some much-needed sleep. It would not be until I pried my eyes open the next morning that I first saw how amazing everything was around me.
We were staying in a beautiful room in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Giraffes walked slowly past our open balcony window and the excitement rushed through me. I raced to throw fresh clothes on and unpack my camera so I could finally sit out in the fresh Florida air and soak up the magic. Remember, birds in captivity do not count towards any lifelists, but they were fun to watch none the less.
After some breakfast, we spent some time exploring the hotel and left to meet up with the rest of the family at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, where we would be staying for the rest of our trip. Any hope of visiting a park was quickly dashed as the heaviest rain I have ever experienced poured in buckets from the sky accompanied by rolling thunder and bright jagged flashes of lightning.
Later that night we had reservations to go to dinner to Celebrate Janice’s birthday at Trattoria al Forno on the Boardwalk. Just running from our hotel to the restaurant, which was within sight of one another, the rain was heavy enough to soak us through, despite many of us having umbrellas. Entering the restaurant the group of us looked as though we had just taken a family jump in the river. Luckily the hostess was prepared with a basket of towels for us to dry off with!
The next day was the day, this was it, our one and only chance to go to a park and we were going to make the most of it; after all, tomorrow we would already be flying back home. Steven, who had been to Disney many years before, as a child, suggested that since we would only have time to see one park, and my medical issues were preventing me from riding any of the more intense rides, we should spend the day at Epcot. I am about to say something I hardly ever say, I left my camera behind, and off we went. (we figured going on rides with an expensive camera was not the best idea, but steven would have his phone if there was anything I really needed to get a shot of.)
What an amazing park! We managed to go on every ride (with the exception of two that we thought would be better to skip) my favorite of which was the new Frozen ride! We spent the entire day exploring and experiencing everything we could, even stopping in Paris for a romantic dinner.
The Final morning and this was my chance to get up before the sun and find a spot along the water to do some birding- better late than never. I was on a strict time limit since we had to check-in for our flight before noon but I was determined. I set up on a grassy area beside a dimly lit gazebo and waited for the sun to rise (my excitement may have sent me out a little sooner than was really practical). I sat and watched as the shadowy figures of Double-crested Cormorants glided over the water’s surface and House Sparrows hopped about my camera bag searching for a snack. When the sun finally rose high enough to light the area I noticed that I was sitting beside a sign warning of snakes and alligators and quickly decided to relocate a bit further from the water (like I said, first time in Florida lol).
Given the limited amount of time I had to dedicate to really focusing on my birding, I am happy with the list I managed to come up with. It does not compare to the nearly forty species I was able to spot on my Alaska trip, but the circumstances were far different. I was also very happy with the quality of photos I was able to get on this trip! Being on land is so advantageous compared to being on a cruise ship.
Arrived 2 am on Friday morning, departed from resort 10 am Sunday, here are all the species I managed to spot:
#1 Anhinga (Lifebird #1)
#2 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Lifebird #2)
#3 Boat-tailed Grackle (Lifebird #3)
#5 Eurasian Collared-Dove (Lifebird #4)
#6 Great Egret
#8 Limpkin (Lifebird #5)
#10 Mourning Dove
#12 White Ibis (Lifebird #6)
So, for being in Florida for less than three days, with really only a few dedicated hours of birding time, I ended up with twelve species; six of which were lifers for me! I’m going to consider that a win! However, I have definitely been bitten by the Florida birding bug and seriously hope I can return one day in the future to give it a real chance to see what amazing southern species I can find. And needless to say, Disney was AMAZING and I cannot wait to experience ALL that it has to offer next time we return!
Before I go for the day, on an unrelated note, I just want to check in with you all regarding the COVID19 Virus and current state of affairs we find ourselves in. Please be careful, avoid going out unnecessarily to areas that will put you or your loved ones around others but also very important, remain calm. The biggest threat we face is panic. Birding is a great activity to get you out of the house, enjoying the fresh spring air, while still keeping safe distances from others. Remember that though things may have changed for the time being, life has not stopped and there is a beautiful world right outside your front door. Until next time my friends stay safe, stay healthy and Happy Birding!