This year I decided to try my hand at a little competition, called a 12 day big year. You pick one day per month for 2014 and count as many species that you can find within those 12 days within the State of Florida. I decided to join January 30th, giving me one day to get my January totals in, and it rained that day. Then in February, I picked a day when I needed to be home by a little after lunch. So I began the year woefully behind the leaders. Not that it would matter much, since even on my best days I can't do a lot of traveling, and there are some very experienced birders in the competition. I'm not really in it to win it; it's just a fun little competition to participate in. I enjoy the atmosphere of friendly competition embodied by the competition. But yesterday was a pretty great day. I totaled 103 species on the day and added 27 to my total for the year, giving me 131 so far. I started out at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, which is the closest reliable place to my home for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. This area was also good for Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman's Sparrow, and a few other birds I needed on my list.
A little up the street I went to the Joe Overstreet Landing, which seems like a strange place for great birding, but it often is. Here I added Snail Kite to my list and photographed a few others just for fun. I also went to nearby E. Lake Toho, mostly because we needed to take some time before I picked up my wife from work. I found a Least Bittern here.
From there I went to Orlando Wetlands Park. Here I was able to add several rail species, including Virginia and King Rail (I already had Sora on my list), plus Purple Gallinule, Marsh Wren and several others. The Mute Swan below doesn't count for the competition, since it's an exotic species, but they are pretty so I photographed it anyway. The Sora below may be my best photo of the species. Usually these birds are seen mostly obstructed or surrounded by mud. At least with this one, it's standing on reeds.