TAS Snake Road, CREW Bird Rookery Swamp and Picayune Strand Birding 4/9/22

A total of 16 birders joined me today as we did this all day trip from Government Road in Broward County all the way to Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County, a short walk and lunch was had in CREW Bird Rookery Swamp which is just south of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary but it provides home to many of the same species. The weather started with a cool morning in the low 50s before going all the way to the low 80s when hiking through Belle Mead Horse Trail in Picayune.

Some of the highlights for the day included the first Common Nighthawk of the year heard only by me and Brian Rapoza in the Miccosukee Service Plaza, followed by great views of two pairs Sandhill Cranes with one colt each, close up views of Wild Turkey and Crested Caracaras in good numbers in the drive through Government Road. Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Swallow-tailed Kites and over a dozens American White Pelicans provided a great supporting cast for this part of the trip.

Before entering the swamp, we made a quick bathroom stop in a gas station, which turned out to be a great stop because on the drive out, we had a Northern Flicker acting like a mockingbird by calling on top of a metal box on the side of the road. CREW Bird Rookery was nice but not as filled with migratory songbirds as hoped for, some highlights here included some very cooperative Tufted Titmice, two occupied nests of Red-shouldered Hawks with parents flying with many snakes in their talons, close-up views of a Black-crowned Night-Heron among the common wading birds, both Louisiana and Northern Waterthrush and a small mixed flock that included White-eyed Vireo, Painted Bunting, Northern Parula, Palm, Prairie and Black-and-White Warblers.

After the lunch break at CREW, we drove to Picayune and while some of us worried about driving to the parking area in fear of being stuck, due to the very soft sand that made this habitat unique. Once everyone was together, the targets came one after the other, starting with a pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches, it was quickly followed up by a Downy Woodpecker that gave way to a beautiful pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers (we ended up seeing 4 different birds in our hour here), after finishing our time in the parking lot, we walked half a mile in, to be greeted by a Red-tailed Hawk flying in the distance and our final target of the day in a pair of very cooperative Red-cockaded Woodpeckers! After everyone had their fill with these birds, included quite a few happy individuals that got their first views of this species. We ended the day there and everyone went home with smiles on their faces.

A total of 69 species were seen/heard today, for a full species list, please read the trip checklist here