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Lake County BCC
315 West Main St.
P.O. Box 7800
Tavares, Florida 32778

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Rare bird sighting brings flocks of visitors to Lake County

RELEASE DATE: January 2, 2008

TAVARES — A rare guest to Lake County is attracting curious sightseers from throughout Central Florida.

A Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) bird, which is more commonly found on the western portion of North America from Alaska to Mexico, was spotted during a Dec. 21 Christmas Bird Count in the Zellwood-Mount Dora area. The Christmas Bird Count is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society. It is an early-winter bird census, where volunteers, following specified routes, count every bird they see or hear all day. All individual Christmas Bird Counts are conducted in the period from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 each season, and each count is conducted in one calendar day.
Say's Phoebe

"The last known record of the Say's Pheobe in Florida was January 2003 in Pensacola Beach," said Lake County Park Ranger Gallus Quigley. "There are only 10 accepted records in Florida of this species."

According to local birdwatchers, the Say's Phoebe is typically spotted in Florida about every dozen years. The last time the bird was officially spotted in the Central Florida area was in 1975 near Lake Apopka. Since the Say's Phoebe's spotting about two weeks ago in Lake County, birdwatchers can routinely be seen off the side of Ranch Road in Astatula looking for the bird.

"It's a big deal if you are a birdwatcher," said Wes Biggs, who has coordinated the Zellwood-Mount Dora Christmas Bird Count for the past 10 years. "Every year there are new birdwatchers and if something doesn't show up for 10 or 12 years, people are going to come from all over Florida to see this bird. This bird being found Dec. 21 has probably been here a month or so and will probably be here another month or so. It definitely is wintering here."

According to Greg Mihalic, Director of the Lake County Department of Tourism & Business Relations, Lake County is getting a reputation as a birdwatcher's vacation destination. Biggs agrees as the Zellwood-Mount Dora Christmas Bird Count consistently records more than 100 different species making it "the most astounding inland place for birds in the North America continent."

In 2005, the Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society partnered with the County to produce a 20-page brochure that includes a birding list, detailed bird descriptions, colorful images and maps to bird-watching locations. The Lake County Bird-Watching Guide is available free by stopping by the Lake County Welcome Center, 20763 U.S. Highway 27, Groveland, or calling (800) 430-LAKE. In addition, Lake County's park rangers schedule regular bird-watching hikes. For more information, call the Lake County Parks & Trails Division at (352) 742-0992.


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