Big Fun at Big "O" Bird Festival

It was a wild time at the Big "O" Birding Festival last weekend near Lake Okeechobee in South Central Florida. A real adventure for us newbie birders was the field trip out to the J-Seven Ranch where third-generation owner John Ward gave my group an up-close-and-personal safari around his cattle ranch.

Cattle may have been king, but we were as happy as pigs in mud enjoying sitings of the many  burrowing owls, swallow-tail kites, snail kites, red-shoulder hawks, glossy ibis, woodstorks, and other feathered friends who habitate the 5,800-acre ranch.

Lots of excellent field trips, including photo shoots, boating on the Big O, and biking on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail combined with wonderful camaraderie to make this a very enjoyable weekend. If you plan a visit to the area, be sure to stay at the historic Clewiston Inn in Clewiston, a charming 57-room inn built in 1938 and registered as a National Historic Site (  To check out the festival schedule, go to

Below, two of the more exotic species spotted during the weekend included the Crested Carcara and the Happy Getaway Girl!