Where Can I Go Birding?
It’s possible to see birds anywhere in the area at any time, but local experts recommend the following local hot spots along the Great Florida Birding Trail (GFBT):
Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area
Babcock/Webb is the seventh largest wildlife management area in Florida at more than 65,000 acres. An easily accessible park, it boasts driveable trails through pine flatwoods and freshwater marsh habitats. Birdwatchers can expect to spot brown-headed nuthatches, American and least bitterns, king rails, sandhill cranes and sedge wrens, among many others. Its two star attractions, however, are the Bachman’s sparrow, which nests in the spring, and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park: Old Datsun Trail
Inside of the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park the Old Datsun Trail hosts two secluded wetlands as well as pine flatwoods interspersed with oak/cabbage palm hammocks. This diverse blend of habitats yields prime viewing for birders. A trail through the uplands offers opportunities to see red-shouldered hawks, white-eyed vireos, and screech and great horned owls. Spur trails lead to the wetlands, where wood storks, green herons and ibis – both white and glossy varieties – live.
Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center: Alligator Creek Preserve
Established in 1987 and adjacent to the 30,000 acre Charlotte Harbor State Park Preserve, Alligator Creek Preserve is the most well known and most frequently visited nature park of the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, Inc. Encompassing four (4 ) miles of nature trails, year-round volunteers offer interpretive trail walks to the public free of charge. The Charles E. Caniff visitors' reception center offers an excellent view of native Florida habitat. The Center overlooks an uplands ecosystem, including a pond area offering a first-rate opportunity to see many of Southwest Florida’s bird life. Exhibits describing the natural ecosystems in the area, such as a Native American exhibit, a bald eagle’s nest, and several informative books are located inside the Center. Birders can anticipate espying downy and red-bellied woodpeckers along the flatwoods trail, and sparrows, warblers and flycatchers, while the marsh and hammock loop often produces sightings of wren, vireo, belted kingfishers, wood stork and, in the winter, dabbling ducks.
Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center: Cedar Point Environmental Park
Cedar Point Environmental Park is one of the last remaining tracts of undeveloped land on Lemon Bay in Charlotte County. At 115 acres, it is one of Charlotte County's more ecologically unique and diverse parks. Lemon Bay is a long, narrow estuary that together with numerous creeks that flow into it forms the Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve. Lemon Bay is also an Outstanding Florida Water and part of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. Today, these designations afford the Bay a great deal of protection. 7 marked Trails are open from sunrise to sunset. This site is a great location for bald eagle nesting which means that at certain times of the year (October through May) trails may be closed to protect their nesting habits. They will be clearly marked and we ask that you respect the closures. Cedar Point Environmental Park also attracts waterfowl such as snowy egrets and great blue herons year ‘round, and common loons and bay ducks in the winter. Other frequently seen birds in the park include killdeers, rufous-sided towhees and mockingbirds.
Charlotte Flatwoods Environmental Park
Charlotte Flatwoods is 487 acres of mature pine flatwoods, hydric pine flatwoods, depressional marsh wetlands, dry prairie and permanent freshwater ponds. A variety of birds are abundant including several species of wading birds, great horned owls and bald eagles. A diversity of reptiles and amphibians can be observed in and around the wetlands; bobcats, otters and deer can also be observed within the park.
Ann Dever Memorial Regional Park
Ann Dever is a 225 acre preserve made up of unique scrub, pine flatwoods, marshes and other beautiful areas. Ann Dever is traversed by two significant wetlands. They are havens for several species of wading birds, including glossy ibis, roseate spoonbills and snowy egrets. Two boardwalks lead to observational platforms on Lemon Lake, where people can enjoy the amazing variety of birds who inhabit the lake and the surrounding areas.
Tippecanoe Environmental Park
This 380 acre preserve consisting of oak scrub, scrubby flatwoods, pine flatwoods, coastal hammock, floodplain forest, salt marshes and mangrove swamps. The lake attracts common moorhens and mottled ducks, while the tidal creeks bring in black-necked stilts and ibis. Birders who want to check Florida scrub-jays and prairie warblers off their life lists should look carefully as they walk through the flatwoods and scrub habitats.
Additional 'Must Visit' Birding Sites
Although these additional locations are not necessarily part of the GFBT, unique habitat, wonderful settings and diverse avian populations make the list below list worthy of adding to your birding itinerary.
About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands
Florida's premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is known for its pristine, unspoiled beauty. The area has hosted seven major feature films, been featured on SAIL magazine's list of the "10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States," ranked by Golf Digest as the "Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America," and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the "Best Places to Live in the South." For information about area events, activities and attractions, contact the Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands Visitor and Convention Bureau, 18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B-104, Port Charlotte, FL; 941-743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor's Guide; or visit the Web site at CharlotteHarborTravel.com.