March 22: If you are planning a birding trip to Florida and want to assure yourself of finally seeing a Snail Kite, you’ll want to visit Stormwater Treatment Area 5. This 6.5 square mile tract of terrific wetlands habitat is located mid-state about 25 miles south of Lake Okeechobee. It’s in the middle of nowhere and a bit of a drive to get to, but well worth the effort. STA-5 is accessible only by special arrangement in groups that go out on specified Saturdays (see above link). Expect to see anywhere between 65 to 80 species. At least six pairs of the endangered Florida Snail Kite are known to be nesting here, and you should have no trouble seeing multiple individuals.
We arrived at 8:30 and spent six hours there, birding along the berms mostly from the car, but occasionally stopping for scope views and to photograph birds inflight. Highlights among some 65 species were at least 9 Snail Kites, 7 Crested Caracaras, 11 Roseate Spoonbills, several Stilt Sandpipers and Long-billed Dowitchers, and a Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. CR 835 just before the turnoff to the wetlands had 5 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and a couple of Western Kingbirds hawking insects from perches on the roadside wires.