After reading about how Joe Overstreet Road is such a great place for bird photography, I’ve been meaning to get there all winter. But I didn’t get the opportunity until this morning. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. But I did end up with some fun pictures!
I wanted to visit Joe Overstreet for Eastern Meadowlarks, Crested Caracara, Swallow-tailed Kites, and maybe even a Snail Kite. It seems that the kites are my nemesis bird this vacation. I keep seeing them when I don’t have a camera in hand! Not fair. I didn’t see the first one today. Actually, about 20 minutes down the road, I was shooting the sunrise mist in the fog, wondering where the birds were. I even shot an empty post, to put on the blog in case I didn’t see any birds! But as I drove down the road, I did finally start to see some.
My first bird of the morning was an American Crow. He posed on the road in front of me, making me wish I could customize a car for photography without a windshield! But I was happy to have my windshield a few seconds later, when a big truck came whizzing down the dirt road, leaving lots of white dust in his midst. That happened periodically throughout the morning. It left my car all white and scared the birds away. :-p When I looked up through the white cloud, I spotted a pair of Sandhill Cranes feeding on my right.
I started to hear Eastern Meadowlarks, but at first they stayed low in the fields. Their calls carry well, and you’ll think they are right next to you when they are in fact tens of yards away. Finally a few started to make appearances on the fence posts that line the road (the fence is to contain that cattle that graze on both sides of the road). The Meadowlarks are skittish, and they fly quickly when a car approaches or when you aim a Beast at them. I got better at being stealthy, and they got used to me, and I finally got some pictures. The first is of an adult, in his characteristic singing pose. The second is of a juvenile bird, who had a sweet short call to answer the long trill of his parent.
Loggerhead Shrikes had quite a presence on the electric lines, and I did witness a funny encounter when a shrike chased off a crow. But I think I have better pictures of shrikes from my own backyard.
When I made it down to the boat ramp, I saw lots of Northern Mockingbirds and grackles. A few White Ibis and several egrets flew over the lake, but no kites. This Killdeer paused by the car for a few minutes, giving me an opportunity for a close-up. I didn’t stay at the lake long, as they were mowing and scaring away the birds. Besides, airboats were getting ready to launch and those things are loud!!
The sun angle is such that the passenger side of the car has the best light on the trip to the ramp, and finally I got the good light on the driver’s side as I drove back. But it was late enough in the morning that there wasn’t much to see. I was about to put my camera away when I spotted a Great-Crested Flycatcher fly across and land on the fence not too far away. Begging him to stay still, I eased the car up to where I could point the camera at him. Amazingly, he stayed long enough for a few frames. Then he spotted his breakfast, and I headed off to find a snack, too.
So I’m glad I went, and I think I’ll try it again next winter. The green prairies and tall fenceposts are quite nice for birdie portraits. I want to try Three Lakes, too, when it’s not so hot. But in the meantime, if you know of a reliable place to go and photograph Swallow-tailed or Snail kites, please e-mail me or post a comment! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Joe Overstreet Road?
Check out my Joe Overstreet Road page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
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I’ve been meaning to get over there as well but it’s a hike from Tampa. You got some great shots! Love the killdeer and flycatcher. We should do a meet-up there next winter.
Dina: Thanks! We should definitely plan some trips next winter. I’m so ready for fall already, hehe.
Glad to hear you made it out to Joe Overstreet. Winter is definitely a better season to go out there, but it’s nice to see you got the juvie Meadowlark. If you’re looking for Snail Kites, lake Toho is the place to go. 4 of us rented a pontoon boat to get our shots. We’ll do it again next year and I’ll make sure you’re in on it. As for the STKs, if I knew where they were roosting and nesting, I’d already be there!! :-) If you’re up for a drive (and it seems you are), Riverbend Park in Palm Beach County has roosting/nesting STKs.
Michael: Oooh, the pontoon boat sounds awesome! I was impressed by your blog entry about the snail kites.
You know that the STKs nested at Gatorland last year, right? They were in the tall pine trees overlooking the early entrance parking lot. I got shots of the fledglings. I haven’t heard if they are there again this year. Check the next time you go.