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Florida in December


PalmWarbler
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@PalmWarbler I almost never leave Palm Beach County and usually go to the same hotspots.  Here are the places I'm most familiar with:

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L246929 - Nice 1.5-mile civilized boardwalk trail.  Lots of different species.  A couple of huts to sit and rest.  Lots of space.  Great place!  There is a gift shop on site.

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L143084 - Smaller civilized boardwalk trail, around 1 mile.  Always a challenge to count the >200 Wood Storks, and one gets to enjoy the mass calling frenzy.  Lots of species as well.  The problem with this place in December is that the small parking lot can't accommodate all the people, as it's tourist season, and you may have to wait a while in a car line on the side of the road.  Then, they limit the number of people on the grounds, so you may have to wait on a standing line as well.  No disrespect to the place, but with your vacation time limited, you may want to pass this one up.  Mentioning the place as a good hotspot, but for personal preferences, I hardly ever go here.

Now on to some slightly less civilized, awesome places:

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L635288 - The official birding trail of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.  There is a $10.00 parking fee, but if you are going more than twice, just buy a $25.00 annual pass online - https://www.recreation.gov/sitepass/1278.  The gate isn't always manned, especially early in the early A.M., but you should respect the refuge and put money in the slot anyway.  It's officially a 2.9-mile loop, however, it you take every side road inside the permitter, by the time you get back, it could be a >4.5-mile walk.  In the cooler weather, you are certain to spot a few alligators.  I've never seen any Bobcats but have seen tracks.  Folks tell me they come out early in the morning.  You may spot some deer as well.  Tons of birds and bird species.  Great place which I highly recommend.

Now, for my favorite place in the world.  Same place as the last hotspot, however, instead of taking a left to the Marsh Trail, keep going west until the road ends at the boat ramp parking lot, approximately another half mile.  There is a Levee trail that runs north and south.  There is no scarcity of birds or wildlife going north, but I'm much more familiar with the trail going south, and I suspect that the layout of the trails, and the makeup of the surrounding trees and land make going south a better path for birding.  The wildlife refuge continues on this trail for another 13-miles south, then you can go west for another 12 miles.  At some point, you can loop back.  I'm not too familiar with the stretch going west, but bicyclists take the entire 60-mile trip. From the starting point, you can take the north trail approximately 12-miles.  I don't feel like writing more of a term paper on this paradise now, but I can tell you more as the time approaches.  Tons of birds and lots of species.  Somebody should consolidate the hotspots, but these are the two main ones for the location I just described:

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L127408 - I currently have the 3 highest rated photos for the last 30 days there!

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L4081873 - Not too many checklists, but it's the same place.  

At the same place, if you take a right after the parking collection booth, you can take a small .4-mile boardwalk loop, just past the visitor center.  The trail is a little boring for me now, but in December the water level will be high, so there should be more activity.  Good birding spot as well.  I'm just getting to know it.

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1101205

In the refuge, stop by the visitor center with the family.  There is an exhibit hall with a number of displays the give a history of the everglades, and a nice gift shop that helps support the place.

This isn't a very popular hotspot, but I like it.  A lot of species have been reported here.  You can let your family have a picknick just off the shore, while you spend an hour circling the lake counting the birds.  And, if you need a Limpkin for a lifer, this is the place to go!

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1060408 

If I find other good birding hotspots before December, I'll add to the thread.  

 









 

 

Edited by dragon49
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What part of Florida are visiting. The State is bigger than it looks on the map. From where I live in Jacksonville it can take 5 hours to get through the panhandle or to the south most end of the Pennisula part. You can add another 2 1/2 hours to get to Key West.

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This is one of my favorite places to bird in Orange County, FL: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L298649  It is free but keep in mind that the wildlife drive itself is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Super easy birding drive pull over get out take photos, get back in the drive a bit pull over get out...Plan on spending  a few hours there. It is a one way road and can be slow moving. There are other parts of Lake Apopka to bird as well that are accessible daily. 

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13 hours ago, PalmWarbler said:

Hi everyone! My family is going to Florida in December, does anyone have any suggestions on where to go? I don’t have any specific target species. Thanks! @IKLland 

Hi, @PalmWarbler.   I have mostly birded the panhandle/Big Bend, central Florida, and the Tampa Bay area, so don't have personal experience with birding the east coast.  

 

1.  Panhandle/Big Bend (W to E): 

Ft. Pickens

St. Marks NWR  (as has already been mentioned); we like to stay at the lodge at Wakulla Springs SP (some birding there, also).  They give a discount to Audubon members.  There are no TVs in the rooms, which is a ++++ for us

St. Joseph Peninsula & Apalachicola area--off the beaten path (although of late it has been, unfortunately, discovered) but well worth it, both for birds and a taste of the real Florida.  

 

2.  Central FL

Sweetwater Wetlands (https://www.sweetwaterwetlands.org/)

Payne's Prairie  (https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/paynes-prairie-preserve-state-park)

 

3.  Tampa Bay area

Ft. Desoto (https://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.htm#general)

Boyd Hill Nature Park  (https://www.stpeteparksrec.org/boydhillpreserve/)

The Celery Fields (https://www.sarasotaaudubon.org/online-guide-favorite-local-birding-hotspots/#1568384830680-d03a2fe4-fc8a

 

4.  South Florida-- @Connor Cochrane can help with suggestions for this area

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (https://corkscrew.audubon.org/)

Myakka River SP (https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/myakka-river-state-park)

Dry Tortugas/Key West  We have our first trip planned for next Spring, so I can't yet give you any personal reviews, but, by all accounts, a place all birders should eventually go.  Only accessible by boat.

 

The beautiful thing about birding in Florida is that it can be a passive activity.  There are birds everywhere.  You will see flocks of White Ibis foraging in yards, Great Egrets eating snakes on house rooftops, Roseate Spoonbills caually foraging in ditches by the roadside, and Sandhill Cranes from the comfort of your car as you speed down the interstate.  Have fun!

 

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18 minutes ago, floraphile said:

The beautiful thing about birding in Florida is that it can be a passive activity.  There are birds everywhere.  You will see flocks of White Ibis foraging in yards, Great Egrets eating snakes on house rooftops, Roseate Spoonbills caually foraging in ditches by the roadside, and Sandhill Cranes from the comfort of your car as you speed down the interstate.  Have fun!

Indeed!!!

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Shell Key nature preserve (near St. Petersburg) was a cool area with lots of shorebirds. You have to pay to go over there as it is an island, but there’s also many other activities that you can do besides birding (collecting shells, kayaking, snorkelling, etc.). Sawgrass lake park was also a nice little park that I’d like to go to again. 

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10 hours ago, Aaron said:

Shell Key nature preserve (near St. Petersburg) was a cool area with lots of shorebirds. You have to pay to go over there as it is an island, but there’s also many other activities that you can do besides birding (collecting shells, kayaking, snorkelling, etc.). Sawgrass lake park was also a nice little park that I’d like to go to again. 

I may have to check out Shell Key. We haven't been there yet. Especially, since we have just added Kayaking and Snorkeling to our hobby list.

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3 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Hey, @PalmWarbler, we're still waiting to learn WHERE in FL y'all are planning to visit.  That info will make it much easier to provide useful info.

Thanks!

I think that might be what @PalmWarblerwas inquiring about, WHERE in Florida should they plan their trip for? I got the sense of a more generalized question asking for a basic destination in Florida as opposed to specific hotspots, which could help decide the destination if its not already decided. 

Care to help us better understand your question @PalmWarbler?

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7 hours ago, Clip said:

I may have to check out Shell Key. We haven't been there yet. Especially, since we have just added Kayaking and Snorkeling to our hobby list.

Last time I was there was 8 years ago, but I follow them on Instagram and they have those clear kayaks so you can see everything in the water. It looks pretty cool. 

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11 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Hey, @PalmWarbler, we're still waiting to learn WHERE in FL y'all are planning to visit.  That info will make it much easier to provide useful info.

Thanks!

Sorry! I thought I had responded earlier but I guess I forgot. We just realized the plane tickets might be too expensive so we’re still waiting to see if we have better options, if not we won’t be going. Sorry for the late notice

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On 8/28/2022 at 5:11 PM, PalmWarbler said:

Sorry! I thought I had responded earlier but I guess I forgot. We just realized the plane tickets might be too expensive so we’re still waiting to see if we have better options, if not we won’t be going. Sorry for the late notice

Have you considered driving instead of flying? My husband and I prefer to drive because you get to see the country in between destinations.

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On 8/27/2022 at 7:19 PM, Birding Boy said:

I could recommend a couple places for specific targets in the Brevard/Orange County area, if that's where you're going to be headed.

There are some really good places in these two Counties to bird for sure. Merrit Island and the wildlife drive in Brevard for one. But there are others as well. In Orange, Lake Apopka for sure.

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4 hours ago, Birds are cool said:

I drove up to NY from Georgia, and it was cheaper than a plane.

Depending on where in MA one starts and where in FL one finishes, it's a significantly longer trip, and I-95 is one long congested urban stretch until you get past Richmond.  It may well involve the added expense of a hotel stay if one is to be worth a hoot the next day.  

 

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