Snowbirds for Snowbirds
Pleasant winter weather also attracts northerners of the feathered sort throughout Nature’s Place to Play. Thanks to our coastline, wetlands, parks and sprawling forests, migratory and resident birds find places to gather that are also enjoyable for human snowbird viewing.
Many birdwatching enthusiasts prepare by browsing the Hernando Audubon Society website, attending a meeting or joining a field trip. Check our calendar for frequent birdwatching events. And plan your adventure by locating Hernando County sites along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Be sure and visit again in different seasons; migratory species ensure the view is always different.
So, grab your binoculars, a bird identification guide, camera, comfortable close-toed shoes and try these coastal spots to catch sight of some remarkable birds and other wildlife.
Coastal Bird Watching Sites
Head out to Pine Island Beach Park to check for Piping Plovers, a Lesser Back-head Gull and Gull-billed Terns that have been spotted here previous winters.
Photo: Belted Kingfisher by RJ Wiley, floridaaudubonsociety.com
Belted Kingfishers are frequent sights around Pine Island.
Photo: Clapper Rail by Melanie/Flickr, Creative Commons from Audubon Field Guide
Visit nearby Linda Pedersen Park next. Check what time Low Tide is and look in the marsh grass on the eastern side of the road for best viewing of the Clapper Rail and possibly other, less common species of Rails such as the King Rail, Black Rail and the rare Yellow Rail.
You may also see Manatee swimming in this coastal area. In the winter, mother manatees are typically inseparable from their single calf, dependent upon her for up to two years. These gentle marine mammals seek warm, shallow coastal waters and thrive in both salt and fresh water.
Another popular spot for a variety of bird sitings is the Weekiwachee Preserve. Access this 11,000 acre preserve for walking or cycling through the main entrance at 2345 Osowaw Boulevard, Spring Hill. The vehicle gate there is open on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month. On those days, visitors can drive in and park at the end of the 1.3-mile paved road.
Winter is the best time to spot ten different species of winter sparrows and wrens at the preserve. Photographed during an organized sparrow count above, the Grasshopper Sparrow is a federally endangered bird found nowhere else in the world. From the Fall 2017 edition of Audubon Magazine: Inside the Race to Save the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, North America’s Most Endangered Bird
All that fresh air builds up a healthy appetite. Head over to the waterfront community of Hernando Beach for Casual Classy Comfort at The Cove Restaurant, 3192 Shoal Line Boulevard, Hernando Beach. Try the Hawaiian Pork Chops or Chicken Ala "The Cove" for lunch while taking in the canal view from the deck.