Fort Cooper State Park

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 

Snowy_Egret_m17-70-632_l_1.jpg

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. 

Barred_Owl_m50-4-005_l.jpg

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!

5 Places to Take Your Holiday Guests in Citrus County

One of our favorite things about living in Citrus County is that there is an endless amount of things to see and do.  There is always something happening right here in the Villages of Citrus Hills, and there are just as many fun attractions throughout the rest of the county.  

All of these attractions and activities are great for those of us who call Citrus County home, but they can be a little overwhelming for those who are just visiting with us for a short time. For that reason, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top five places everyone must see while visiting in Citrus County.  

5. Fort Island Gulf Beach 

Fort Island Gulf Beach is one of those places that you probably say, “We should come here more often,” just about every time you visit. It has beautiful white sand beaches, public restrooms, and a great boardwalk overlooking the water.

When your guests visit the Gulf Coast of Florida, they are definitely going to want to SEE the Gulf Coast. This is the perfect way for them to see it right here in Citrus County, and it’s also an extremely relaxing way to spend a day. 

4. The Withlacoochee State Trail 

Bicycling is a fun way to show your guests a good time outdoors, making the most of our great Florida weather. There are lots of trails to choose from around Citrus County, but the Withlacoochee State Trail is the one that is a must-see attraction. 

This is a perfect place for cyclists of all skill levels. You can take your time and cruise just a few miles, or push the envelope and explore all 46 miles of former train tracks. 

3. Rainbow River Tubing 

If your visitors are looking for something a little more adventurous that is still a great representation of life in Citrus County, taking them tubing on the Rainbow River is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Tubing is popular and with the beautiful forecast for the next week it will be the kind of experience that your visitors will be sure to tell everyone back home about! Kayaking or canoeing is another way to see the beautiful Rainbow River if the tubing is not of interest. 

2. Downtown Inverness 

Whether your guests are interested in history, shopping, or great food, there is something for everyone to enjoy just a few miles away in downtown Inverness.

Every tour of Inverness should start at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, but you might also want to explore the local shopping or grab some takeout food and head to Fort Cooper State Park for a picnic lunch.  

1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 

A lot of people who visit Florida want to get to the beach, which we addressed with number five on this list. But the main interest for many who visit Citrus County specifically is to see live manatees, and the best place to do that is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park!

Visitors can get up close and personal with live manatees from the underwater observatory. They can also learn a lot more about these local mammals from the information sessions held regularly at the park.  

Among each of these five attractions, you will definitely show your guests some of the very best highlights of Citrus County. And if you haven’t been to all of these places yourself, what are you waiting for?