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
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.
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!