Tag Archives: sightsee

Florida Bald Eagle

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Gulf Coast Local Secret #14

Bald Eagles Live on the Florida Gulf Coast

Bald EagleBald Eagles are primarily a northern bird but did you know they also live in Florida? They summer in the far north and then some migrate south or gather along the coasts of Alaska and Canada in the winter. However, the ones that live in Florida enjoy the same weather as the rest of us in the Sunshine State, which means you can find them here year round. Like so many other birds, Bald Eagles nest along the Gulf Coast. Finding one of their nests is a rare treat for locals and visitors alike.

Local Pride toward Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

Homosassa Springs

Bald Eagles are no longer on the endangered species list but they are still under protection by law. A casual search on the Bald Eagle locator found over 44 nests within 15 miles of Clearwater Beach (2012.) However, you might find the local populace is quite protective of their Bald Eagles. Be sure to obey any signs posted regarding approaching the nests to closely.

Were to see a Bald Eagle

Florida Bald EagleWhile you can go to the locations listed on the Bald Eagle locator application, it might be easier to see them in a park, where you can approach on a hiking trail rather than someone’s front yard. Honeymoon Island is a paradise for birds, containing nests for Ospreys, Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles. When the Bald Eagles return to nest, the rangers are usually the first ones to notice. They will let you know where the birds are and you might also see signs along the nature trail. Be sure to obey signs in the state recreation area. The eagles in this park enjoy a fair amount of protection from park caretakers. You will not get a close up view so be sure to bring your binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens. Despite the distance, this location makes the local secrets list because it is easier to find, the nest site is fairly predictable, and it is not on private land.

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Florida Osprey

Osprey Nesting Season on the Florida Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast Local Secret #12

What is an Osprey?

Honeymoon Island (7)aAn Osprey is a predatory bird that hunts only fish. It has black and white feathers, the male and female differing only slightly. They are large hawks, most being larger than an average chicken. They range across the U.S. and beyond, wherever good fishing opportunities can be found. Osprey fish by diving down and grabbing fish that swim near the surface by using their very fish-hook like talons. They are a lot of fun to watch and are a favorite for expert and beginning bird watchers, as well as photographers.

 

Where Can I See Ospreys on the Florida Gulf Coast?

Osprey nestA better question might be, where can’t you? Osprey are not rare and visitors to Florida’s Gulf Coast can see them easily, flying through the sky or perched high in the tree tops. Any open bay or lake might attract one of these raptors so keep an eye out for them. Also known as a Fish Hawk, they often nest in the tops of dead trees, but visitors might notice large dishes or pans set on top of telephone poles. Those are for Osprey nests, which are quite large. The utility company offers these birds nesting places in lieu of the Ospreys choosing their own in less desirable locations. Along the Florida Gulf Coast, most very large nests in trees, on utility poles, or on billboards belong to Ospreys.

 

See Nesting Ospreys

Osprey nest, Palm Harbor2While you can see nesting Osprey almost anywhere, the locals know the best place to get excellent views of Ospreys building nests and rearing their chicks. This local secret is the very well-known Honeymoon Island. Aside from the great beach, Honeymoon Island has a fairly long hiking trail that loops. On the Eastern trail you will see large numbers of Osprey nests in the tall, dead, bark-free trees. A pair of Ospreys should be working each nest.

 

When to See Nesting Ospreys

Florida OspreyThe Osprey arrive to nest on Honeymoon Island some time in or near February. If you are visiting in late January through March, go to the Honeymoon Island nature trail to view these fantastic birds. If you like taking photos, they will give you great shots as they fly in with nesting materials early in the season, or fish for their chicks later on.

 

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owl chick

Where to See Great Horned Owls on the Florida Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast Local Secret #11

Central Gulf Coast Owls

Florida owlOne of the great things about the Central Gulf Coast is the incredible variety of birds. Among them are Great Blue Herons, Great White Herons, Night Herons, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Pelicans, and, of course, the Great Horned Owl. All these and many, many more thrive along the Florida Gulf Coast. Catching sight of these birds is usually quite easy. To see owls, however, bird watchers have to work a little harder.

 

Seeing a Great Horned Owl

Kapok Park (1)Great Horned Owls might be found in any forested area along the Gulf Coast. Discovering where they are hiding is another matter. They are very good at hiding and are also known as the Tiger Owl, probably due to the stripped pattern on their feathers, which helps them to blend into their surroundings. It is far more likely that you will be sighted by a Great Horned Owl than the other way around. To see these remarkable birds, the advice might seem a little too obvious. You need to look up! Great Horned Owls like to sit high up in large trees and will usually sit on a branch right where it comes off the trunk, for added concealment.

 

Sighting Great Horned Owls on the Central Gulf Coast

owl chickThe two best places to see Great Horned Owls are Kapok Park and Honeymoon Island Recreation Area. Kapok Park has wide open spaces with bike and hiking trails surrounding a lake. A pair of Great Horned Owls has been known to breed there, offering a potential sighting of chicks. Honeymoon Island is a nesting site for a variety of large birds, the Great Horned Owl included. Park rangers and locals usually know where the owl nests are so don’t be afraid to ask.

Good luck with your sightings and be sure to have your camera ready!

 

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Florida Alligator

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast Local Secret # 7

Florida Alligators in the Wild

Alligator Palm Harbor Florida

Seeing alligators in the wild is one of the thrilling sights you can experience along the Florida Gulf Coast. While you might just see them on drive down the highway, sitting on bank or swimming across a waterway, it’s more fun to see one from much closer up. Don’t worry. You can view them safely if you follow simple guidelines.

 

AlligatorSafely Viewing Alligators

The good news is that Gulf Coast alligators are generally very well fed by their natural environment and they take no interest in you as food. However, it is best not to trigger their natural instincts. All you need to do is show them respect and keep your distance. An alligator can lunge twenty feet in a very swift charge so stay far beyond of this distance at all times. Also, avoid going between an alligator and the water. Never feed alligators. Please see this link for a complete list of safety tips for viewing alligators from an authoritative source.

 

Catch a Glimpse of Florida Alligators

Homossassa Springs (5)The best places to view alligators in the wild are in Florida’s nature parks. The natural parks of the Gulf Coast are great places to take walks in the woods and along shorelines. When you are near the water, keep your eyes peeled and you might catch a glimpse of a Florida alligator. Two parks well-known for sightings are Chesnut Park in Palm Harbor and Sawgrass Park in Saint Petersburg. The secret of seeing alligators is to look for a low flat object in the water, barely above the surface. At Chesnut Park, try walking along the boardwalk next to the boat ramp. You stand a good chance of seeing baby alligators here, hiding among the brush beside the boardwalk. At Sawgrass Park, scan the main water way and its banks. You might find someone looking back!

 

Alligator Season in Florida

Homossassa SpringsAlligators like warm weather so the best viewing times are spring, summer and fall. If it is cold, you might just see one, but most are tucked away out of sight so viewing opportunities are lower. Otherwise, stay alert whenever you are near fresh water ponds or rivers. Alligators are fun to watch and make great photographs for your Florida vacation photo album. See if you can get your sighting!

Note: If you fail to get your glimpse, try Homosassa Springs where very large, live alligators are on display.

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