Driving down the Overstreet

September 30, 2017

Joe Overstreet Road and Landing are among Osceola County’s most interesting birding “hotspots”. The road heads down to the northeastern edge of Lake Kissimmee, through ranch and farm lands. At the landing, wading birds are common, and the lake’s resident Snail Kites are usually around. Last weekend was a good opportunity to check them out.

Joe Overstreet Road.
A White-tailed Deer in the morning mist.

The trees and shrubs along the road edges are often a good place to stop and watch for warblers or other small songbirds. Sometimes the early morning light can be a challenge, especially if the birds are back-lit. But I had some good luck this time around for some White-eyed Vireos and friends.

One of several White-eyed Vireos, going about morning duties.
This first year male Common Yellowthroat doesn’t have his complete mask, or “domino” yet.

Wherever small birds are (or other prey items, like large grasshoppers or katydids), you have predators. There were Loggerhead Shrikes staking out the road edges, and further out over the fields I could hear Red-shouldered Hawks calling out.

This Loggerhead Shrike was looking quite interested at the Common Yellowthroats down below.

During Spring and Summer there are usually a large number of Cattle Egrets along with the cattle, but with the advent of Autumn there were very few of any sort of heron or egret species.

“What are yoooou looking at?”

Barn Swallows were working the open land and pausing in little groups on the wires and fence lines. Many were youngsters themselves, and trying to beg off of the adults who, to their evolutionary credit, were ignoring them. The young birds were certainly capable of feeding themselves.

This Barn Swallow is nearly in adult plumage.
This is a younger Barn Swallow, with some downy feathers still remaining, and a little more tail to grow.

In addition to the Barn Swallows, there were a few Cliff and Bank Swallows in the mix as the birds swooped and darted around, catching insects.

The wet sod fields near the midpoint of the road had produced reports of shorebirds, including some American Golden Plovers and various sandpipers. I did not see any plovers (besides Killdeers) on the way to the lake, but  I did see some Least and Pectoral Sandpipers

Quite a few Least Sandpipers were making use of the flooded sod fields.
Pectoral Sandpipers are larger than the “peeps”, like Least Sandpipers, and can usually be distinguished by the sharp transition of their breast markings to their bellies.

At the landing, I was almost immediately greeted by a family of Limpkins. The youngsters were almost full grown, and still looking a bit gangly as they ran to catch up with the adults.

A pair of “teenage” Limpkins, running by.

One could liken these birds to “teenage” birds, and it won’t be long before they leave the proverbial nest (they left the actual one weeks ago).

This bird was legging it, to catch up with its siblings.

A few of them decided to take a rest on a nearby picnic table, fairly unconcerned with the people and boats. They even had a squirrell join in!

Limpkin picnic.

The trees around the boat ramp usually have a Yellow Warbler or two around, and I was happy to see both a female and at least two males. One male hadn’t lost his bright yellow breeding colors quite yet. It always amazes me how a bird this bright yellow can be hard to find in a green tree. But they are.

Female Yellow Warbler.
A male Yellow Warbler, in the sun.
In the shade, even these bright birds can blend into the green foliage.

Snail Kites were catching a large invasive variety of Apple Snail that seems to have taken over the lakes in central Florida. At least they (and the Limpkins) seem to be having no trouble with them. Ecologically, the invasive snails can do a lot of harm and are outcompeting the already threatened native snails.

A Snail Kite departing with a large Apple Snail.

One the way back up Joe Overstreet Road, I stopped one more time to scope out for American Golden Plovers. It took a while, and the help of two birders with a more stable and functioning scope (my Audubon “Light” scope had some failures), several of these somewhat rare visitors were seen and identified! This is the best photograph I could obtain.

It’s hard to see here, but this American Golden Plover’s identifying features were clear in a scope.

As a final treat, I made it a point to stop on the “main road” by the Double C Bar ranch, in case a Whooping Crane was in view. My life-sighting of this species was on my first Central Florida Specialties trip with David Goodwin at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, several years ago. Since then, I’ve unsuccessfully tried to find these birds at this ranch (and elsewhere). Fortune favors the prepared, I suppose!

This crane is one of the last survivors of a non-migratory Whooping Crane flock. The establishment and management of that flock was a failure, with resources now being put into a migratory flock that winters in the panhandle and spends the summer in Wisconsin.

That seemed like the cap on a pretty good birding day. While neither the American Golden Plovers nor the Whooping Crane were life birds, it was a thrill to see them, along with the other resident birds.

Here are the various eBird lists, for those who care.

Joe Overstreet Road (inbound to lake):

Joe Overstreet Landing:

Joe Overstreet Road (incidental, outbound from lake):

Double C Bar Ranch:

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