It’s a Bird Thing in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, Florida

Florida Scrub-Jay Spotted at Tippecanoe Environmental Park, Port Charlotte, Fla.opens IMAGE file

Florida Scrub-Jay Spotted at Tippecanoe Environmental Park, Port Charlotte, Fla.

“Be vewy, vewy qwiet. I’m hunting wabbits*,”  I thought to myself while walking through Tippecanoe Environmental Park in Port Charlotte, Fla., one Saturday morning last month. Instead of wabbits, err, rabbits, we were on the lookout for Florida Scrub-Jays.

Why Are Florida Scrub-Jays Special?

Why are these birds special? Well, their habitat is pretty limited as they live in scrub and scrubby flatwoods and that type of habitat is disappearing in Florida. Southwest Florida’s Charlotte County  is one of the best places to spot them. Something else that makes them pretty unique is they live in family groups, suppose you could call them clans as the “children” tend to hang around with the parents for a year or two.

What I found fascinating during this walk was in one season, a Florida Scrub-Jay can bury up to 6,000 acorns to consume during the winter. And, the depth to which they bury them is dependent upon the type of acorn.

How could a bird know that? I’m not sure but those are some of the things making Florida Scrub-Jays unique so seeing one is a treat.

Anhinga Dries Its Wings During Babcock Wilderness Adventures Buggy Touropens IMAGE file

Anhinga Dries Its Wings During Babcock Wilderness Adventures Buggy Tour

Yup, This Was a Work Trip

Having seen the movie opens in a new window“The Big Year” starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, based on the book (The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession) by Mark Obmascik I was totally pumped to find birds during this media weekend. Yup, this was a work event in which I hosted six members of the media on a nature-based familiarization trip throughout opens in a new windowCharlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands (geographically, it’s Charlotte County and includes the areas of Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Englewood, Cape Haze and Placida), which has seven segments of the Great Florida Birding Trail. opens in a new windowVISIT FLORIDA, the Sunshine State’s official source for travel planning, contributed some financial support to the program through a reimbursement grant.

Over the four-days, we saw more than 30 species of birds including what I consider to be common birds as White Ibis, Anhingas and Great Egrets to the rarer birds as Florida Scrub-Jays, American White Pelicans and Wood Storks. We also saw a host of seabirds including Sandwich Terns, sandpipers and gulls (sorry, I forgot their specific names!)

Osceola Turkeys Seen Along Babock Wilderness Adventures Tour, Punta Gorda, Fla.

Osceola Turkeys Seen Along Babock Wilderness Adventures Tour, Punta Gorda, Fla.

After spotting the first bird and checking it off the list, I was hooked. More than 485 species of birds have been spotted in Florida and thinking about the three plus years I spent living and working in Everglades National Park, I’ve seen some cool birds in my lifetime.

Of course, the trip wasn’t all about birds, although I was spotting bird hood ornaments at opens in a new windowRick Treworgy’s Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda. Most of the time was outdoors but the group also experienced the destination’s urban amenities such as dining, learning about opens in a new windowPunta Gorda’s murals and opens in a new windowFishermen’s Village, a resort, dining and entertainment complex.

Birding at Rick Treworgy's Muscle Car City Museum, Punta Gorda, Fla.

Birding at Rick Treworgy’s Muscle Car City Museum, Punta Gorda, Fla.

Birding in Charlotte County, Florida

Want to experience what the group did? Check out these bird-centric and nature-based activities:

Babcock Wilderness Adventures – Enjoy a 90-minute buggy tour through a working cattle farm and Telegraph Swamp. We spotted Anhinga, Wood Stork, Red-Shouldered Hawk and Osceola Turkey. As a bonus, pet a juvenile alligator and chances are pretty good you’ll see a few gators along the way. Florida cracker cattle are abundant, too. And pay homage to Lulu, the three-horned cow. ( opens in a new, 8000 State Road 31, Punta Gorda; Tel: 941-637-0551)

King Fisher Fleet – Best way to appreciate the destination is a Charlotte Harbor cruise with King Fisher Fleet. A variety of cruises are offered throughout the day including a sunset cruise which is a great way to watch birds return to their rookeries each evening. ( opens in a new, 1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda; Tel: 941-639-0969)

Palm Island Beach Walk – Palm Island Resort is located on the northern end of Knight Island and only accessible by car ferry, water taxi or private boat. Guests staying at the resort can stroll the beach to spot shorebirds and comb the beach for treasures such as fossilized shark’s teeth. On site is a restaurant which serves up fresh seafood fare but also has amazing ribs! ( opens in a new, Tel: 800-824-5412)

I Think This is a Plover; I Know It's at Palm Island Resort, Floridaopens IMAGE file

I Think This is a Plover; I Know It’s at Palm Island Resort, Florida

Peace River Wildlife Center – See the tender care administered to native Florida wildlife including birds, mammals and most reptiles. Patients are either orphaned, displaced or injured and those fully recuperated are returned back to their native habitat. If they can’t return to the wild, they have a permanent home at Peace River Wildlife Center. Schedule your visit around the 2:30 p.m. daily pelican feeding frenzy! ( opens in a new, Ponce de Leon Park, 3400 W. Marion Ave. Punta Gorda; Tel: 941-637-3830)

Tippecanoe Environmental Park – “Migratory fall out!” That’s a line from the movie indicating a storm grounding migratory birds. A similar thing happened the morning of our trip to Tippecanoe, a storm passed through the night prior and October is the beginning of the bird migrating season. Some of the birds seen that morning include Florida Scrub-Jay, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher and Belted Kingfisher. Walk the park alone or check with the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center’s schedule ( opens in a new for a guided hike. ( opens in a new windowTippecanoe Environmental Park, 2400 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte)

Jeweled Spider Webs at Tippecanoe Environmental Park Following Rain Storm, Port Charlotte, Fla.

Jeweled Spider Webs at Tippecanoe Environmental Park Following Rain Storm, Port Charlotte, Fla.

Birding definitely works up an appetite and I made sure no one left hungry. Where did we dine? Check out this post by outdoor travel writer/blogger Erika Wiggins called opens in a new window“Eating My Way Across Charlotte County.”

Resources for Birding in Charlotte County

When planning your visit, be sure check out opens in a new

Two guide books I like when exploring the local great outdoors:

* opens in a new windowSource: IMBD, Elmer Fudd character 


Author: Solo Travel Girl Admin

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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  1. Wordless Wednesday: 2012 Florida Scrub-Jay Festival, Oscar Scherer State Park, Osprey, Fla. | Solo Travel Girl - [...] In my post about birding in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, I blogged about some of the cool…

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