Birding Trail site highlights is a Kite Tales newsletter feature that provides our readers with information about 4 trail sites, one for each section of the trail. Here are the 4 trail sites featured in the recent winter edition of Kite Tales.
Winter is here and the snowbirds have arrived. Large numbers of birds from the North, particularly ducks and songbirds, will now reside in Florida until March and April, when the urge to migrate takes them back North. Lakes, marshes, coastal bays and rivers will play host to over 20 species of duck, while our hammocks, forests, prairies, scrub and backyards will host phoebes, kinglets, warblers, catbirds, sparrows and finches. There are plenty of trail sites that offer excellent winter birding and we have chosen four of them to provide you with ideas on where to go over the next three months.
Pine and hardwood uplands with big, old live oaks and loblolly pines characterize this park on the south shore of Lake Seminole. This lake is actually a reservoir created at the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, where they form the Apalachicola. The opposite shoreline lies in Georgia. The lake itself plays host to the largest wintering population of Canvasback (up to 500 most years) in the state. In winter, it is not unusual to see over 15 species of duck from the park’s shoreline, as well as Common Loon and Horned Grebe. The picnic area often has wintering Brown Creeper and Golden-crowned Kinglet, and the steep slopes and gullies along Lakeside Trail and Half Dry Creek Trail are good for Winter Wren. Occasionally, both Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin can also be found. The park is also a great place to see Fox Squirrels and White-tailed Deer, so keep an eye out for them alongside the roads.
|drake Canvasback - as many as 500 can be seen on Lake Seminole in January|
Phone: (850) 402-9006
Open: 8 a.m. to sunset (full facility campground)
Nearby trail sites: Torreya State Park (#56) & Sneads Park (#58)
As you drive down Joe Overstreet Road, look in the pastures for Whooping Cranes, Sandhill Cranes and Wild Turkeys. The latter can often be seen in good sized flocks of over 20 birds during mid-morning hours, particularly after a recent rain. Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, Loggerhead Shrikes and Eastern Phoebes vie for attention as they perch on roadside fence posts. Crested Caracaras are seen frequently from the road. Check areas with cabbage palms and cattle. At the end of the road there is a small park-campground that affords views of the eastern side of Lake Kissimmee. This area is good for Limpkins, Bald Eagles and Snail Kites. In winter there is often a small flock of Black Skimmers, and ducks, such as Blue-winged Teal, are typically present.
|Eastern Meadowlarks can often be seen perched on fenceposts along Joe Overstreet Rd|
Nearby trail sites: Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area (#103)
The long entrance road passes through private land on an unimproved road until you reach the management area, so take your time; the wait is well worth it, once you reach this truly wild area. Good dike roads surround the impoundment and offer fine vantages of the brackish marsh, scattered islands of palms and oaks and the many wintering ducks and shorebirds. At high tide, ducks such as the Redhead and Lesser Scaup fly in from the Gulf and marshes to bathe and preen in the impoundment water. Mixed shorebird flocks roost and feed in suitable areas. The southernmost edge of the dike overlooks neighboring saltmarsh, affording opportunities to view Seaside Sparrows and Clapper Rails; the northernmost edge tunnels through thick, gorgeous coastal hardwood swamp, where songbirds, such as Blue-headed Vireo, abound. Hunting at Hickory Mounds is typically low key. Check the site website for information on hunting seasons.
|At Hickory Mounds WMA large flocks of shorebirds congregate at high tide|
Phone: (850) 838-9016
Open: dawn to dusk
Nearby Trail Sites: Aucilla WMA: Aucilla Sinks Trail (#21)
This excellent and often overlooked site has a little bit of everything: hardwood hammock, freshwater swamp, prairie, and pine flatwoods. Drive or bike Hilliard Grade and walk the reclaimed cattle penning lanes watching for Burrowing Owls, Sandhill Cranes, Wild Turkey and Crested Caracara. Look for Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks & Purple Gallinules in wet areas. Oak hammocks at the end of trails offer refuge for wintering songbirds, and sparrows; meadowlarks and shrikes perch in the roadside brush. Seasonal hunting does take place here. Check the site website for seasons before planning your trip.
|Purple Gallinules can be spotted at Dinner Island Ranch WMA|
Phone: (863) 228-7238
Open: dawn to dusk
Nearby trail sites: Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest & WMA (#45)