RVing bird watchers have wonderful opportunities awaiting them in Florida any time of year. But just as snowbirds flock south in their homes on wheels, many bird species from colder climates make Florida their winter home as well. The state’s diversity of habitats, the many migration routes that pass through, great numbers of wetlands, and climates ranging from temperate to tropical make it the perfect place to take to the field with binoculars and Audubon spotter books.
With the third largest number of different bird species in the country, this birder’s paradise offers adventures from the Panhandle to the Everglades to the farthest southern spots in the Keys. Birding gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy Florida’s natural beauty away from the bright lights and neon of its most popular and better known tourist attractions.
One of the most popular birding destinations is the Nature Coast, including the areas around Homosassa Springs and Crystal River. Other popular locations include the vast wildlife habitat of the Everglades, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Myakka State Park. But anywhere you go in Florida, a sharp-eyed birder can find adventure.
One favorite bird that is common to Florida is the pelican, and both the brown and white can be found in many areas. Serious birders and casual observers are delighted by their antics as they soar over the state’s waters, raising a wild splash of water when they land.
Snowy and great egrets, ibis, and great blue heron are other popular species that are frequently spotted. While the uninformed may think of bald eagles as a northern or western species, they are commonly spotted in Florida.
Birders on the Nature Coast north of Tampa are thrilled with the success of an experimental program to bring whooping cranes back to the region. In the fall of 2001, seven young cranes left Wisconsin and flew 1900 miles to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River. The birds were led south by an ultralight aircraft they had been trained to recognize as a parent. In April 2002, the birds returned to Wisconsin on their own, their migration route implanted. The goal of this unique project is to re-establish a migrating flock of whooping cranes in Florida. The state already has a growing year-round crane population. Nearly extinct, under the care of conservationists the whooping crane population is now well over 400. For more information on this important project, log onto the Internet and visit www.bringbackthecranes.org.
Many resources are available to help beginning birders. The Audubon Society conducts field trips and educational programs throughout the country. A field guide is a must, and most birders will tell you the Peterson’s Field Guides are the best for neophytes. The company produces two guides, one for the eastern half of the country and another for the western half. They also publish Peterson First Guide: Birds of North America for young birders just entering the hobby. As birders get more experienced, many turn to the National Geographic Field Guide To The Birds Of North America. An excellent online guide to the hobby is www.birding.com. Here you will find a wealth of information for both beginning and advanced birders.
Birding is a hobby that fits perfectly into the RV lifestyle, giving you the mobility to seek out new habitats and species that those anchored in one place might never get to see. Of the many places where you can set off in search of new species to add to your Life List, Florida is among the very best. Wherever you go in Florida you will find a great range of RV accommodations, from upscale to basic, and wherever you venture with your binoculars, camera, and spotter’s list, you will find birding adventures.
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Thought For The Day – I feel I am strange to all but the birds of America. – John James Audubon