As the New Year approaches, birders everywhere are out and about completing their final yearly bird counts. National Bird Day is January 5, 2020, and Northeast Florida offers some of the best birding in the country!
To get the most from your birding adventure, begin with a good pair of binoculars to see the birds clearly, a reputable field guide to identify birds, such as Sibley’s Guide to Birds or one of Peterson’s Field Guides, and a camera. These items are not necessary, but will help provide you with an awesome experience.
Bird apps are available for download to your smart phone for easier bird identification. I recommend Merlin Bird ID, a terrific bird identification app for everyone from beginning bird watchers to experienced bird enthusiasts.
Want to keep track of what you see? Ebird.org is a free site from Cornell Lab of Ornithology where you can set up a personal account and log the birds you see. The site keeps track of all your listed species by date and location. The website also tells you what birds are being seen wherever your travels take you.
Three of the top birding hotspots in the Jacksonville area are:
Huguenot Memorial City Park
Little Talbot Island State Park
Fort Clinch State Park
Huguenot Park is prime habitat for year-round resident and migratory birds. Many birds stop off at this beach while travelling from South America to Canada during the spring and fall migrations. Beyond the rock wall separating the beach from the inlet, you will often find an uncommon Purple Sandpiper during the winter months! Depending on the tides, you can drive onto this beach for a bird’s eye view of many magnificent shore birds. Check this website for daily tide information or call the park at 904-255-4255. Don’t get stuck in the sand!
Little Talbot Island is an undeveloped barrier island off A1A where you can hike the Dune Ridge Trail from the island’s entrance to the north end of the beach. This trail takes you through a canopy of trees where you may observe song birds such as warblers, sparrows, and buntings. With over five miles of sandy beach, you can bike or walk along the shoreline to discover various species of shorebirds. Brown Pelicans are often seen riding the waves! The park is open from 8 am until sundown, 365 days a year. Entrance fee is $5 per vehicle.
With a history dating back to the Civil War, Fort Clinch is a wonderful place to go bird watching that includes miles of trails featuring huge live oaks, salt marshes, and the Atlantic Ocean. Because of its diversity and 1,400 acres of nature waiting to
be explored, Fort Clinch has earned the reputation as one of the top three birding spots in Northeast Florida. The trail system has easy to navigate paths that can be enjoyed by the whole family!
Camping is available at all three of these parks.
Some of North America’s most beautiful birds call Florida home.
Get ready for incredible birding all year long!
Author: Lisa Coleman, Holmes Custom Content Team