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“Joe Overstreet Road never ceases to amaze me. There always seems to be some new bird that I haven’t seen there before.” The speaker was a participant on a recent St Lucie Audubon field trip to this less well known, but excellent, birding location in central Florida on the southern edge of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes just north of Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and about 45 miles south of Orlando.
I have birded the area pretty regularly for the past 15 years and have written HartBeat columns about it twice (February 1, 2018, and July 1, 2018). We did find a couple of species on this field trip, and the scouting trip four days earlier, that I had not seen there before, or at least we saw them much better than ever before.
For example, on several prior trips we have seen Snail Kites there, but always at a great distance and only with telescopes and less than optimal viewing conditions. This time Snail Kites were close at hand and very cooperative. We also encountered a small flock of American Robins passing through feasting on Brazilian Pepper berries as they continued their north bound migration. Another new species for the road, found this year for the first time (at least, by us) was the Brown-headed Nuthatch. A tiny little bird, it was often difficult to see as it worked the large pine branches where it was looking for food.
If we ever saw Purple Gallinules there on earlier trips I don’t have any record of it or photos to show for it. But this time, there they were, right in front of the small pavilion that juts out into the edge of the lake at the end of a short boardwalk. And I don’t recall ever seeing the famed headless Limpkin before. I suspect we have seen Pied-billed Grebes at the Landing on previous trips, but I don’t have any evidence of them, so I include this one seen also from the pavilion.
Ring-billed Gulls take three years from birth to reach full maturity. On this trip we saw both first year birds, born last summer, transitioning from their first winter into their second summer, and full adults with the red ring around their eyes.
On the way back out from the Landing we found a pair of young Woodstorks with their smooth orange-colored bills which will grow gray and grizzled as they age. Also on the trip there were perhaps a hundred Sandhill Cranes around the cattle feed stations on the various farms we passed, and we diligently searched through them hoping to find the occasionally reported Whooping Crane that has been seen with them. Alas, we were without luck, notwithstanding one of our participants beseeching the “Great Goddess of Birding” for such a sighting.
Finally, there were many Bald Eagles constantly flying around all day long, including one that posed on a snag not too far from the nest where it’s mate was sitting right on Joe Overstreet Road, and a rain drenched and bedraggled adult, with two very young and blackish babies on its nest, which was the last sighting of the day at the intersection of Canoe Creek Road and Grant’s Bass Road on the way home from Joe Overstreet.
A lesson to be learned from birding Joe Overstreet Road is that there are probably many small nugget birding locations out there just waiting to be found. The landing at the lake features a small ramp for fishing boats and a lake tour boat operation which birders sometimes take to find more birds farther from the Landing itself. Consequently, birders have been traveling the road for years and could hardly help but notice all the good birding activity.
There is a phenomenon known as the “Patagonia Rest Stop Effect” named after a spot in Arizona a couple of miles from the town of Patagonia where years ago a rare bird was found. Birders found so many other either rare or unusual birds there that they began stopping by regularly to check it out. Thus, another birding hotspot, like Joe Overstreet Road, became established. I know birding friends who think their backyards qualify also, but I suspect they would soon tire of multitudes of birders appearing there with any kind of regularity. Better to stick with searching along public roads and byways until new spots are found. Good luck searching out there.