Birding

Benefits of Living in Citrus County



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Florida is a big state with a wide range of different options that appeal to different people for different reasons.  

But if you are considering relocating to the Sunshine State, Citrus County, which just so happens to be the home of the Villages of Citrus Hills, presents one of the best options you could choose for a number of reasons.  

Residents of Citrus County are in a position to enjoy all of the best aspects of Florida at the same time. They get to experience the famous Florida climate. They are right next to the Gulf Coast, while still not too far from the Atlantic Coast. Great cities like Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville are just a short drive away, and the entire region is filled with amazing state parks and forests.  

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant benefits of living in Citrus County: 

53% Will Never Be Built On 

Many people who relocate to Citrus County don’t realize this fact until after they move here, but more than half of the county is protected areas that will never see any type of construction. This assures residents that Citrus County will never suffer from becoming overbuilt the way other parts of Florida have.  

Ideal Climate 

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The location of Citrus County along the Gulf Coast near the central part of Florida gives it one of the best climates in the entire country. The average high in the summer is in the low 90’s, and the average low in the winter is in the mid-40’s. This moderate climate allows residents to avoid the cold winters without having to endure the 100+ degree summers that residents find in southern Florida and Arizona.  

Low Cost of Living 

Like all Florida residents, those living in Citrus County are not subjected to any state income tax. However, unlike some of the more urban parts of the state, Citrus County residents enjoy a relaxed atmosphere where they don’t have to worry about gouging prices that you might find in many popular tourist areas. The cost of living is very reasonable in Citrus County.  

Parks and Trails 

Whether you are looking for large state parks, great walking trails built from abandoned railroad lines, or small community parks that offer some of the best sunset views you will find anywhere, Citrus County has them all. There are an unbelievable number of different parks and trails throughout the county that all offer their own unique version of nature in Citrus County.  

Day Trips to “Old Florida” Towns 

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Mount Dora

Another advantage that the geographic location of Citrus County offers is that residents are within a short drive of quite a few different “Old Florida” towns that all make for great day trips. Many of these small towns have great historic shopping districts, outstanding restaurants, and plenty of history and art museums.  



An Enormous Amount of History 

From the historic sites of the Second Seminole War to the shell mounds of ancient natives, Citrus County is packed with tons of great history and plenty of places to learn all about it. The county also has a long history of producing outstanding thoroughbred horses, including multiple Kentucky Derby champions.  

Gulf Coast Lifestyle 

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Living in Citrus County places you right in the heart of the Gulf Coast Lifestyle. Fishing, boating, and sunbathing at the beach will all be only minutes away. You can also participate in popular local activities like collecting scallops, catching stone crab claws, or swimming with the manatees.  

Close to Tampa and Orlando 

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While the communities of Citrus County are known for their small-town environments, the big-city lifestyle is never very far away with both Tampa and Orlando being only a short drive away. This gives Citrus County residents access to great shopping, cultural events, and professional sports teams that many people like to experience from time to time.  

As you can see, Citrus County is one of the most optimal locations for an active adult lifestyle in Florida. Make sure to include a tour through Citrus County and the Villages of Citrus Hills on your next trip to Florida so that you can see the area for yourself.

Bird Watching at Flying Eagle Preserve

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Eagle

While there is no shortage of great attractions all along the Gulf Coast to the west of the Village of Citrus Hills, there are also plenty of interesting places to the east of our community. One of the best places in the area for bird watching is Flying Eagle Preserve, which is located throughout the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes.  



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This amazing string of natural bodies of water mixed with marshes, swamps, and islands is located just east of Inverness. The entire preserve includes just over 16,000 acres ranging from Inverness on its west side to the Withlacoochee River on its right side.  

The entire area is vitally important to facilitating local water drainage, and just happen to also be an amazing place for bird watching and other outdoor activities.  

Bird Watching at Flying Eagle Preserve 

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Kestrel

With more than 16,000 acres to cover, this is not a “sit on a bench and wait” type of birding experience. However, if you are willing to trek through the woods across the area, you are bound to see some fascinating birds.  

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

Some of the birds you might spot here include Anhingas, Purple Martins, Wood Ducks, Northern Harriers, Sandhill Cranes, Eastern Screech-Owls, Brown Thrashers, Prairie Warblers, Le Conte’s Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, Eastern Bluebirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, and American Kestrels.  
Whether you are a seasoned bird watcher looking to cross a specific species off of your bucket list or are more of a novice just looking to appreciate a beautiful collection of flying colors, Flying Eagle Preserve is a great place to explore the types of birds that inland Florida has to offer compared to the coastal birds you will find along much of the Nature Coast.  

Flying Eagle Nature Center 

Flying Eagle Preserve also contains the 150-acre Flying Eagle Nature Center, which is a complete group campsite.  

The property features a multipurpose building, a lodge, two residences, six cabins, and a total of 10 camping sites. There is also a large commercial kitchen, an outdoor pavilion with seating for up to 400 people, and a swimming pool.  

Most of the buildings here were built in the 1970s when the area was owned and maintained by the Boy Scouts of America. From 2006 to 2012, the property was maintained by the Gulf Ridge Council and the district is currently looking for a new long-term management partner.  

Recreational Activities

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In addition to bird watching throughout the preserve and camping at or near the Flying Eagle Nature Center, there are also a host of more active recreational features in the area. Bicyclers will love making use of the 13 miles of paved trails and hikers will want to take advantage of the 16 miles of wooded trails.  

There are also nine miles of multi-use trails that are marked as “equestrian-friendly”, so horseback riding is also a very popular activity at Flying Eagle Preserve. There are even equestrian facilities at the Flying Eagle Nature Center.  

Provided you adhere to the rules and regulations set by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Flying Eagle Preserve is also a great place for fishing and hunting. One of the best fishing spots in the preserve is the Moccasin Slough Bridge.  

It might take you days or even weeks to explore everything included in the 16,000 acres of Flying Eagle Preserve, but since the edge of the park is located less than 20 minutes away in Inverness, heading back for multiple trips will never be a problem.

 

5 Fun Things to Do in Homosassa

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Being located near small towns like Inverness and Crystal River while also being close to bigger cities like Orlando and Tampa is one of the best things about life here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. But our community is also located near some of the most amazing natural attractions in all of Florida.

When you are ready to get out and embrace Florida’s Nature Coast, one of the best places to do just that is Homosassa. Located just 10 miles south of Crystal River and about half an hour from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Homosassa offers up a world of possibilities for anyone looking to get outside.

Let’s take a quick look at five fun things to do in Homosassa.

Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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Known as the place in Florida for getting up close and personal with manatees, Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is an amazing experience with nature that never disappoints.

One of the main attractions here is the underwater observatory that lets you see the manatees from a different perspective without having to jump into the water. The park also offers plenty of education on manatees for anyone looking to learn more about our beloved sea cows.

And there is so much more for you than just manatees here. The park is also home to a stunning collection of wildlife, amazing birding opportunities, and excellent hiking trails.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

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If you like your outdoor adventures to come with a bit of history, then Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park should be the top Homosassa destination on your list.

This area was once the home of a 5,100-acre sugar plantation. Today, you can explore the ruins of that plantation, which includes a towering masonry chimney, iron gears, and a cane press.


The park also has a picnic site, which makes it a perfect destination for outdoor meals in Citrus County.

Alpaca Magic USA

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Just when you thought you had seen everything that Florida’s Nature Coast had to offer, a little place called Alpaca Magic USA showed up on your to-do list.

This working farm in Homosassa started out with two alpacas back in 1996, and they have slowly grown that number to 20 alpacas calling the farm home today.

Visiting Alpaca Magic USA is completely free, and all guests get to visit with the alpacas while learning a bit about them. Plus, there is a gift shop with all kinds of alpaca-related products.

Airboat Tours

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While visiting state parks and alpaca farms represent calm ways to spend an afternoon in Homosassa, you can also kick up the excitement level by heading out on one of the many local airboat tours.

Companies like Top Gun Airboat Tours and Native Sun Tours are always taking visitors out through the Gulf Coast marshes, and those amphibious airboats can make for quite the wild experience.

Festivals of Homosassa

One of the great festivals in Homosassa is Shrimpapalooza that normally happens in the month of March. The annual festival is hosted by the Rotary Club of Homosassa Charitable Foundations. Thousands of party goers from all over the state attend every year emphasizing the fun in fundraising. With an awesome Parade, Live Music, Tons of Great Food, there is guaranteed fun for all ages.

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The Homosassa Arts, Crafts and Seafood Festival is one of West Central Florida’s most beloved fall festivals.  The festival includes a juried art show, true crafts, live entertainment, and delicious seafood along with other tasty delicacies.

Homosassa is packed full of relaxing ways to enjoy nature without having to venture too far from home. So whether you are looking for fun with manatees, an exciting airboat tour, or a weekend on the water, you can have it all in Homosassa.

Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk and Refuge

Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk and Refuge

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We are right in the middle of manatee season here along Florida's Nature Coast, and one of the best places in the world to see them in person is right here in our backyard at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River.  

It is important to understand that seeing Three Sisters Springs from the boardwalk and exploring the area from the water are two completely different experiences. Depending on what you are looking for, either option could make for a great afternoon in Citrus County.  

Three Sisters Springs from the Boardwalk

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With 57 acres of preserve occupying this Florida wetland, there is a lot to see and do around Three Sisters Springs. And one of the best ways to take it all in is from the 1/4-mile boardwalk that connects different viewing platforms around the property.  

The fee for visiting Three Sisters Spring varies based on the season. It is $15 for a one-day adult pass during manatee season, which is double the cost during the off-manatee season. Of course, if you are interested in actually seeing manatees, the added cost for the winter season is more than reasonable. 

In order to get to the boardwalk, you have to take the trolley from the Three Sisters Springs Center. Those trolleys head out to the boardwalk about every 30 minutes, and they are operating every day of the week during manatee season.  

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On top of providing transportation between the Three Sister Springs Center and the boardwalk, the trolleys also continue on to three other destinations around Crystal River.  

Three Sisters Springs by Water

Another way to get up close and personal with the manatees during their peak season is to visit Three Sisters Springs by water. There is nothing quite like cruising through the springs in a kayak or canoe, so this should definitely be on your Citrus County bucket list.  

There are no boat ramps or access points located within the reserve, but there are plenty of options to get into the water located nearby. For most people, the best option is to launch from Kings Bay and then making your way out to the springs.  

Anyone exploring the springs by water should be careful to respect the restricted manatee habitats.  

The following is a link for the Three Sisters Springs.

http://www.threesistersspringsvisitor.org/page/By%20Boardwalk 

The Manatee Festival

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If you have been thinking about making a special trip to Three Sisters Springs, this weekend is actually the perfect opportunity. They are hosting a Manatee Festival on Saturday, January 19 and Sunday, January 20.  

The boardwalk area will be open from 9 am to 3 pm on both days and admission will be completely free to public visitors. This will allow you to see manatees from the boardwalk without having to pitch up the usual $15 admission fee.  

Whether you are a manatee expert or just someone looking for something fun to do this weekend, Three Sisters Springs offers ways to get up close and personal with manatees on dry land via their boardwalk or in the water.

 

We highly recommend taking the time to attend the Manatee Festival there this weekend.

Birding with a Naturalist at Fort Cooper State Park

With its location right in the middle of Florida's Nature Coast, Citrus County is one of the best places in the entire world for nature-lovers who are looking to hit the trails and take in the scenery. And one of the ways to get started doing just that is to participate in the monthly naturalist-guided bird walks at Fort Cooper State Park.  

Because the park is only a quick 20-minute drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills, it is considered "home base" for many of the nature lovers that call our community home. It is also "home base" for a local expert who makes herself available to guide and teach on the second Tuesday of every month from December through May.  

Meet the Naturalist 

Dee Bolton is a member of the National Audubon Society, and she has been studying birds and wildlife across the country for the better part of her life. After spending time in Colorado, California, Arizona, Minnesota, and Key Largo, she has migrated to The Nature Coast where she has worked as a guide at Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and Fort Cooper State Park.  

With that wide breadth of experience under her binoculars, Dee is one of the most knowledgeable guides you will find anywhere in the Sunshine State. Her birding walks at Fort Cooper State Park start at the lake at 8:30 in the morning, and allows everyone attending to appreciate a diverse collection of winged wildlife.  

Get to Know the Birds 

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With the walk starting along the shores of Lake Holathlikaha, visitors are likely to spot water-loving birds like Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, White Ibises, and Sandhill Cranes. 

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Then, as they make their way around the Sandhill Loop Trail, bird lovers will be on the lookout for Bachman's Sparrows, Hairy Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Common Ground-Doves. This is also an area where you might catch a glimpse of a Sherman's Fox Squirrel or a Gopher Tortoise.  

As Dee leads visitors further back into the woods, they will be looking for songbirds like Magnolia Warblers, Hooded Warblers, Red-Eyed Vireos, Yellow-Billed Cuckoos, and Grey-Cheeked Thrushes. And at the deepest parts of the walk, they might even see an Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl, or Chuck-Will's-Widow.

Equipment You Will Need 

Like any fun activity, birding is going to be much more enjoyable if you have the necessary equipment. But unlike some of the more complicated ways to spend your time out in the woods, the tools required here are relatively simple. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and maybe a set of binoculars.  

If you are looking to take your birding to the next level, you might want to invest in a reliable guidebook, and you could always spring for a nicer pair of binoculars. Assuming you are already planning to dress according to the weather, that is all you need for a successful birding walk.  

Whether you are an experienced bird watcher or someone who is just thinking about getting into it for the first time, the Birding with a Naturalist events at Fort Cooper State Park are the perfect way to get your feet wet without having to venture too far from home. See you at the park!