North Shore Birding Festival

Friday, Dec 4, 2020 at 6:00am

McDonald Canal Boat Ramp
24600 County Rd 448A
Mount Dora, FL 32757

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The North Shore Birding Festival, December 3-7, 2020, is perfect for visitors interested in learning more about local wildlife. The festival highlights the St. Johns River Water Management District’s 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore, a birding hotspot. There are with 42 field trips over 4 days, with built-in COVID-19 precautions. Trips allow driving into parts of the North Shore otherwise inaccessible except on foot or bicycle, while other trips explore other areas of Central Florida in search of local specialty birds. There are three Sunrise Photography and Birding trips, and this year two owl and Whip-poor-wills walks, as well as a star walk at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Each trip has a charge of $10-70, which supports Orange Audubon Society’s nature and environmental center fund or related educational programs. There is no additional festival registration fee. Visit to see details and register. If you have any questions, email or call (407) 637-2525."


Trip 1

Sunrise Photography and Birding – Mostly driving, some walking

McDonald Canal Pavilion, 24600 CR 448A, Mount Dora, FL 32757. $40, includes box lunch. Leaders: Mark Hainen (Wildlife Impressions) and Lorri Lilja (Orange Audubon Society). 6:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Maximum participants: 10.  Lake Apopka has remarkable opportunities for sunrises from northwestern locations like Clay Island. Sunrise will occur at 7:06 a.m. on this date. It takes a while to drive on the dirt roads of the North Shore, so we will meet at the McDonald Canal Pavilion at 6:00 a.m. and drive through normally locked gates to the Clay Island observation tower overlooking beautiful Lake Apopka. From there we will explore other areas. Your trip leaders will provide both photo and bird identification tips at sunrise and throughout the morning.  See Trip 2 for possible sightings.

Trip 2

Early Birding Lake Apopka North Shore – Mostly driving, some walking.

McDonald Canal Pavilion, 24600 CR 448A, Mount Dora, FL 32757. $70, includes box lunch. Leaders: David Simpson (Birding with David Simpson) and Larry Martin (Orange Audubon Society). 7:00a.m.-4:00 p.m. Maximum participants: 10.  The trip will traverse the canals and wetlands of the Lake Apopka North Shore in search of ducks and wading birds and then explore the North Shore’s sandy upland edge near Ranch Road. Possible sightings include Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Wood Stork, Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Wood Duck, Mottled Duck, Sora, American Bittern and Sandhill Crane, along with most of North America’s wading bird species and other waterfowl listed under Trip 5. Raptors usually seen are Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Barn Owl, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon. We are likely to see Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated, Yellow-rumped and Black-and-white warblers, American Redstart, Orange-crowned and Prairie warblers and Ovenbird.  While most of our breeding Black-necked Stilts and Least Bitterns are on their more southerly wintering grounds, we'll be looking and listening for the few that are recorded each year on Christmas Bird Counts. Other possible sightings are Roseate Spoonbill, Black Skimmer and American Avocet. As many as 13 sparrow species are seen, including rarities like LeConte’s and Clay-colored. Western flycatcher species like Ash-throated and Vermillion are seen most years and Scissor-tailed, Least, Western, Cassin’s and Tropical have been seen. White-faced Ibis are out-of-range birds that are seen many years. Groove-billed Anis from the Southwest were seen each winter between 2015 and 2017, and a Smooth-billed Ani from South Florida was an exciting find in winter 2019. With such a large restoration area on the shore of Florida’s 4th largest lake, in the middle of the Florida peninsula, off-course rarities frequently show up. Past rarities have included Say’s Phoebe, Rough-legged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Eurasian Kestrel, Wilson’s Phalarope, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Whooping Crane, White-cheeked Pintail, and Ross’ Goose. With skilled leaders and many eyes, we will be searching for what has turned up. See the bottom of the front page of the festival website for lists from past festivals.

Trip 3

Wekiwa Springs Sandhill Specialties   – Walking

Wekiwa Springs State Park, 1800 Wekiwa Cir, Apopka, FL 32712. $30, no lunch. Park entrance: $4 per single person, $6 for 2-8 people or free for Youth Camp overnight guest and annual pass holder. Leaders: Craig Watson (USFWS, ACE Basin, South Carolina) and Kathy Rigling (Orange Audubon Society). 7:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Maximum participants: 10. Wekiwa Springs State Park is a 7,000-acre state park that is considered one of the crown jewels of Florida’s award-winning state park system. This will be a walking trip. Possible sightings include pineland specialties, including Brown-headed Nuthatches, Bachman’s Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, Eastern Bluebirds, Pine Warblers, Red-headed Woodpeckers and overwintering songbirds.

Trip 4

Ferndale Preserve: Sparrows, Buntings, and other Wintering Birds  – Walking

Ferndale Preserve, 19220 County Rd 455, Clermont, FL 34715. $40, includes box lunch. Leaders: Gallus Quigley (Lake County Parks and Trails) and Beck Smith (Archaeopteryx Tours).  7:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Maximum participants: 10.  Ferndale Preserve is a 192-acre Lake County Preserve on the western shore of Lake Apopka, a few miles from Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest point in peninsular Florida. We will bird on foot from the parking lot to the lakeshore and back. With a mix of red maple-dominated wetlands, remnant oak hammocks, and other habitats in various stages of restoration, over 190 bird species have been recorded in the area. Possible sightings include Savannah, Swamp, Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrows. With luck, we may see Le Conte’s, Clay-colored and more of the 12 wintering sparrows, as well as other wintering songbirds.

Trip 5

Waterfowl ID Field Workshop – Mostly driving, some walking.

McDonald Canal Pavilion, 24600 CR 448A, Mount Dora, FL 32757. $40, includes box lunch. Leaders: Sam Mitcham and Mary Soule (Orange Audubon Society). 7:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Maximum participants: 10. We will traverse the canals, wetlands and shore of Lake Apopka in search of ducks and other waterfowl. Your trip leaders will point out ?eld marks to identify each species and distinguish the often brightly colored and distinctly patterned drakes from the often plainer and not-always-so-easy-to-identify hens. Information about migration and molting cycles will be shared. Possible sightings include Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Wood Duck and Mottled Duck, seen in the North Shore wetlands throughout the year, plus overwintering ducks like Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Shoveler and less common Ruddy Duck, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead and Lesser Scaup. We will see Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, American Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, along with Limpkin, American Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Heron and other wading birds on this morning trip. We may also turn up a Horned Grebe or Common Loon.

Trip 6

Birding by Kayak – Paddling

Wekiwa Springs State Park, 1800 Wekiwa Cir, Apopka, FL 32712. Starting at the canoe and kayak launch near the spring at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Trip fee: $10. Each participant will rent a canoe or kayak from the concessionaire – $19.98 plus tax for 3 hours. You can also bring your own. Park entrance: $4 per single person, $6 for 2-8 people or free for Youth Camp overnight guest and annual pass holder. Leaders: Deborah Green and David Marano (Orange Audubon Society). 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Maximum participants: 10. The Wekiva River is a beautiful federally designated Wild and Scenic River. Possible sightings include Limpkin, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Common Yellowthroat, and other wetland and water birds.

Trip 7

Caracara Quest in E. Seminole County – Mostly Walking

C.S. Lee Park, 4600 E State Road 46, Geneva, FL 32732. $30. Leaders: Mitchell Harris (Florida Ornithological Society) and Scott Simmons (Learn Outdoor Photography). 12:30 p.m.–4:00 p.m. The Little Big Econ State Forest includes the 1,646-acre Kilbee Tract, which abuts the St. Johns River near its confluence with the Econlockhatchee River. Caracaras have been seen in the area so the group will split up to check two locations, then reunite. You will be emailed your exact start location. Possible sightings include Crested Caracara, Bald Eagle and Wilson’s Snipe.

Trip 8

Raptors of the North Shore – Mostly driving, a minimum of walking.

McDonald Canal Pavilion, 24600 CR 448A, Mount Dora, FL 32757. $30. Leaders: Luis Gles (Birding Ecotours), Mariah Hryniewich (Florida Keys Hawkwatch) and Jack Horton (Orange Audubon Society). 12:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Maximum participants: 10.  The Lake Apopka North Shore, with marshes and grasslands that support rodents, gallinules and other prey, hosts many wintering and resident raptors (birds of prey).  Possible sightings include Osprey and Bald Eagle plus American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. Other possible sightings include Short-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks. Past rarities have included Krider’s Red-Tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Eurasian Kestrel and Golden Eagle.

Trip 9

Scrub-Jays and other Pineland Species   – Mostly driving, a minimum of walking

Seminole State Forest, south entrance, turn north off SR 46 just west of Wekiva River bridge, approximately 14 miles west of Sanford. $30. Leaders: Ralph Risch (Florida Division of Forestry) and Gigi DelPizzo (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Maximum participants: 10.  The endemic Florida Scrub-Jay is restricted to Florida’s ever-decreasing sand pine scrub habitat. The 25,812-acre Seminole State Forest hosts the nearest relatively stable population of this friendly and charismatic bird. After everyone gets up close and personal with scrub-jays, the group will search for other species throughout the afternoon. Possible sightings include Sandhill Crane, Wild Turkey, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Bluebird and pineland specialties such as Bachman’s Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Brown-headed Nuthatch.

Trip 10

Get to Know the Night Sky   – A minimum of walking

Wekiwa Springs State Park, 1800 Wekiwa Cir, Apopka, FL 32712.  Meet at the Youth Camp. $30 plus park entrance: $4 per single person, $6 for 2-8 people or free for Youth Camp overnight guest and annual pass holder. 5:00 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.  Maximum participants: 20.  Leaders: Derek Demeter (Seminole State College) has been Planetarium Director at Seminole State College of Florida since 2007. Using a laser pointer, he does a fantastic survey of the planets and constellations. A colleague from the Central Florida Astronomical Society will bring a telescope and the group will rotate through the telescope station to look at some of the planets and closer nebulae. Suitable for families. The park gate will open automatically for exit.

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