After our successful run through Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Doug and I were confident we could find some more of our target birds along Joe Overstreet Road, a dirt road that runs from Canoe Creek Road to Lake Kissimmee in Osceola, Florida, which is a bit south of Kissimmee and St. Cloud. Birds we were hoping to track down included Crested Caracara, Whooping Crane (not really countable because they are not an established wild population as of yet but, come on, Whooping Crane!), Purple Gallinule, and Snail Kite. I’d never seen a Whooping Crane at all and the other three birds would have been new birds for me in the ABA. We drove slowly, scanning for birds, and enjoyed some of the expected species like Savannah Sparrow and American Kestrel.  There were also a host of Sandhill Cranes way back out in a field but I much preferred the two that decided that the road suited them better. Any place that has Sandhill Cranes that wander along next to your car is an awesome place!

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

Despite our best efforts, Sandhill Cranes would be the only crane species we would spot for the day, leaving a void in my life list but not as big a void as there would be should the Whooping Crane ever slip from existence, as it came so close to doing.

One thing that amazed me about every stretch of open habitat in Florida was just how many Loggerhead Shrikes there were. It seemed like every time I turned around there was another shrike. Joe Overstreet Road was no exception and we enjoyed shrikes on palm trees, fence posts, and wires. Somehow, the image below is the best shot of one I got all week, odd considering their ubiquity.

Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus

Eventually we reached the end of Joe Overstreet Road and were confronted with Lake Kissimmee from Joe Overstreet Landing. Doug took the north side and I took the south, and each of us had a blast seeing the host of birds that the lake edge habitat supported. First, I paid attention to the big wading birds.

Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea

White Ibis Eudocimus albus

Then I paid attention to a Boat-tailed Grackle that flew in to forage.

Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major

Then a Red-shouldered Hawk took my attention.

Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus

Eventually, I pulled my eyes out of my viewfinder and put them into my scope and I started scanning the extensive marshes for either Purple Gallinule or Snail Kite. Finding neither I put my attention back on the Little Blue Heron when I saw some movement well behind the heron and, wow, a distant but easily recognizable Purple Gallinule! That was easy!

Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica (image is heavily cropped)

No Snail Kites showed and the gallinule came no closer so Doug and I reluctantly packed up and took the slow ride back out Joe Overstreet Road to Canoe Creek Road, stopping as we went to scan for more birds. We found nothing of note until we stopped to see what another birder was looking at and were rewarded with this:

Red-headed Woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Now that is one heck of a beautiful bird!  Of course, it couldn’t make up for our failure to find Crested Caracara, Snail Kite, or Whooping Crane, but we still had more daylight left and one more spot to stop before we were done.  Come back soon to read the third and final post about a day spent chasing central Florida specialties!

10,000 Birds is a Scrub Jay-level sponsor of the 15th Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.


Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.