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Birding

(ALSO SEE NATURE TRAILS and PRESERVES and NATURE TOURS)

Sarasota County is a haven for birdwatchers who come from all over the world to see any of the 179 species that breed in Florida or the 300 species that migrate here in the winter. A few of the rare species include the Florida Scrub Jay, Roseate Spoonbill, and Brown Pelican.  When it comes to bird watching, Florida is blessed with the richest diversity of birds in the nation. There are more than 480 species and about half of those can be found on Florida’s Gulf Coast. That's pretty impressive!  In fact, the Sarasota area is nationally recognized as one of the top birding areas in the nation.

The Sarasota Audubon Society (www.sarasotaaudubon.org) has published an excellent resource entitled Birding Hot Spots in Sarasota and Manatee Counties - you can pick up a copy for under $10 at the Sarasota County Convention and Visitors Bureau.  This informative guide provides details on 70 local places to experience nature and great birding. The book includes site maps, directions, bird illustrations and a checklist of area birds.

Check It Out!

Audubon Society (Sarasota County)

Phone: 941-364-9212
www.sarasotaaudubon.org

Each local Audubon Society offers a wealth of knowledge about local and migratory birds. Best of all, each offers special programs, day trips and overnight tours — a great excuse for families and friends to get outdoors. Call for schedules and activities.


Brohard Beach
1600 Harbor Drive
Venice FL 34285
http://www.scgov.net/ParksandRecreation/Beaches/BrohardBeach.asp

Developed sandy beach between Venice Municipal Airport and the Intracoastal Waterway and Gulf of Mexico, connected to Caspersen Park Beach. Total beach area is three miles with 4,800 linear feet of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico. 740-foot public fishing pier, great bird watching (for visitors from Great Britain, we mean the kind with wings) parking, restrooms, picnic tables, snack bar and bait shop. No lifeguards on duty.


Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-361-6511
www.myakkariver.org

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, famous for its panoramas of lakes, river, marshes, hammocks and prairies, and for its abundant wildlife populations. Deer, alligators and many species of wading birds are abundant, as well as thousands of waterfowl in the winter months. Ospreys, bald eagles and sandhill cranes are commonly seen. A visitors’ center has exhibits of wildlife and plant communities on display. Park rangers provide videos, guided walks and campfire programs according to seasonal attendance. During the winter, they offer bird watching for beginners. A 7,500-acre wilderness preserve resembles Florida as it looked before the arrival of Europeans. A limited number of visitors are allowed to visit this preserve each day on foot or by boat. All plant and animal life is protected in state parks. Intoxicants are not permitted in any area of the park.

Park Highlights: Over 28,875 acres of pristine area, wildlife trails, canoeing, biking, camping, visitor’s center, elevated tree canopy walk, snack bar and highly recommended airboat rides and tram tours; each ride and tour takes about an hour, and no walking is required.

Canoes and bicycles are available for rental, picnic tables are located near boat and tram tour rides. If you are planning to take one of the tour rides, getting there early is a good idea. No reservations are accepted. Group rates and charters are available.

Tour Highlights: Extremely knowledgeable and entertaining tour guides; ranger-guided walks Sat. mornings at 9 a.m.; “Gator Gal” (the world’s largest airboat); alligators, deer, bobcat and bald eagles in the wild; plenty of fresh air. Fares: Adults $10; children (6-12 years) $5; toddlers (5 and under) free if held in lap.

A Brief History of Myakka River State Park
In the early 1920s, A.B. Edwards, a prominent resident and Sarasota’s first mayor, launched a movement to set aside a natural area for recreation and preservation. Edwards persuaded the Florida Internal Improvement Fund to buy more than 17,000 acres (at 37.5 cents an acre!) from the A.C. Honore Estate. A few weeks after the purchase, Honore and Potter Palmer donated more than 1,900 acres to the state — a memorial to their mother Bertha Palmer. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (one of many federal relief agencies established through President Roosevelt’s New Deal to help ease the Depression) brought in 200 men to make the 26,000 acres usable. From 1934 to 1941 the crew built roads, bridges, cabins, dug drainage ditches and planted over 100,000 trees. Everything constructed was done with native materials. The park opened to the public June 1, 1942.


Oscar Scherer State Park
U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trl.)
Osprey Florida
Phone: 941-483-5956
www.floridastateparks.org/OscarScherer

Hours: 8 a.m. until sunset
Admission: $4 per car (up to 8 people), sunset entrance $3
This park includes The Lester Finley Nature Trail, a special hiking trail constructed in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The park originally consisted of 462 acres of scrubby flatwoods and mesic flatwoods; South Creek, a blackwater stream, flows through this area. An additional 922 acres acquired in 1992 contain tracts of depression marshes, pine forests and additional flatwoods on the banks of a small tidal creek. The park is noted for its population of Florida scrub jays, a threatened species (some will land on your outstretched hand). Bald eagles, as well as bobcats, river otters and alligators, are often seen in the winter months, as are many birds. The rare gopher tortoise, gopher frog and indigo snake are occasionally seen here. Pick up an animal identification booklet at the entrance.

Highlights: Self-guided nature trail, voicebox information stations, freshwater lake swimming, picnic area, canoe rentals, fishing, both freshwater in the lake and saltwater in South Creek, campsites with water and electric hookup, plus the very impressive Lester Finley Nature Trail for outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities — a sight-impaired-adapted and wheelchair-friendly hike with touch-activated audio speakers that provide interpretive information.


Sarasota Audubon Society
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-351-1554
www.sarasotaaudubon.org

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