On the way to Panama, we got slightly sidetracked by the Space Coast Birding Festival. I've heard of this festival for years but have never been in Florida at the right time. This year, we took a pit stop on the way to Panama and spent two days on the Space Coast, looking for Red-cockaded Woodpecker and other winter birds, and taking a morning to go horseback riding at Forever Florida. By the time we were done, we had seen 68 species including the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. We had to wade through some typical Florida Swampland on a chilly morning to find it, but when we did, we were able to see two of them, mostly spending time cleaning their nest holes, before heading off to work for a day of foraging for their daily diet of insects, berries and nuts. There are only a few places left in the North American south where fewer than 11,000 individuals inhabit the pine forests of Louisiana and Florida.
One of the trees where the woodpeckers set up housekeeping:
Doing a little morning nest hole cleaning:
Last check before flying off for a day of foraging:
Nearby we found a couple of Florida Scrub Jays:
An organized outing led in part by Florida bird expert David Simpson, to a beach near Daytona, where an estimated 30,000 gulls, along with a bunch of Sanderlings, stage on the beach...
... before heading out to sea, only to be harassed by Jaegers. In this case a Parasitic Jaegers:
At the Merritt Island NWR Visitor's Centre we got a close look at the Painted Buntings:
We also drove the Blackpoint Wildlife Drive and enjoyed many hundreds of birds, including a Reddish Egret and a Roseate Spoonbill: