5 Things We Love About Florida

There are a lot of things to love about Florida, but here are five favorites of most all of the Floridians I know. Myself included.

5 Things We Love About Florida
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4 Florida Places to Visit

I’ve had a chance to wander all over the State of Florida, but there are a few places that I haven’t spent as much time as I want, so here is my “to explore further” list:

Everglades National Park – Florida Place to Visit

Lake Okeechobee – Florida Place to Visit

The Battle of Okeechobee Reenactment from Into Nature Films on Vimeo.

Tallahassee – Florida Place to Visit

Fort Walton Beach – Florida Place to Visit

There is so much to see in Florida that doesn’t include the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, I included Fort Walton Beach, but only because that was where I landed when I first got to Florida and camped. I’ve never been back, and that’s been 36 years ago. I think it’s time to see if the little fish camp that fed me catfish long after dining hours were over is still there. I think the sand is still white and the waves still crash.

Grab a map and make your own list of Florida places to visit.

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Birdwatching in Florida

Roseate Spoonbill at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Roseate Spoonbill at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. ©jcleveland

Florida is home to so many birds waiting for you to come check them out. The diverse habitats include beaches, wetlands, forests and grasslands that attract a variety of species, which makes birdwatching in Florida a great hobby.

Here are some popular locations for birdwatching in Florida and the types of birds you can expect to see in Florida:

Everglades National Park:

You’ll find many species of birds calling the Everglades home. Those species include wading birds, including herons, egrets, and ibises. You may also spot the Roseate Spoonbill, Anhinga, and the endangered Florida Snail Kite. I’ve seen the Roseate Spoonbill along the road eating from the culverts in the Indian River County area, as well as at the next stop on our tour.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge:

This refuge, located near Cape Canaveral, provides a habitat for over 300 bird species. During the winter months, you may encounter migratory birds such as American White Pelicans, Northern Pintails, and a variety of shorebirds. This is also one of the few locations where you can see the Florida Scrub-Jay. I wanted to explore the painted bunting nesting area, but no matter how far I hiked or where I went, they were not to be found. As it turned out, they showed up in my front yard the following month, so you never know what birds are around.

I have seen a lot of Scrub-Jays around my home, so they are also out in some of the Brevard County uninhabited areas. Those areas are quickly being developed, so it won’t be long before they are gone from here.

This is the feeder I use in my yard, but I have it on a pole with a baffle on it to keep the squirrels out. This makes it really easy to see the birds. The only problem is that the mourning doves are ground feeders, so they plant themselves in it and refuse to move. They are pigs.

Dry Tortugas National Park:

Accessible by boat or seaplane, this park is a group of seven islands located about 70 miles west of Key West. You can spot seabirds such as Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies, and Magnificent Frigatebirds. It’s also an important location for migratory birds during spring and fall. Put this on the list of places to do birdwatching in Florida.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge:

Located on Sanibel Island, this refuge is home to many wading birds, such as the Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbill. The White Pelican can be seen here on their migratory path.

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary:

Situated near Naples, this sanctuary is known for its boardwalk, which takes you through a variety of habitats, including cypress forests, wet prairies, and marshes. You may spot Wood Storks, Limpkins, and Barred Owls, among other species.

Fort De Soto Park:

This park, located near St. Petersburg, is a popular spot for shorebirds such as Piping Plovers, Red Knots, and Black-bellied Plovers. You may also find warblers and other migratory songbirds during spring and fall migrations.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands:

Located in Delray Beach, you’ll find many wading birds Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Green Herons. You can also spot Purple Gallinules, Least Bitterns, and Black-necked Stilts here while birdwatching in Florida.

In addition to wading and shore birds, don’t overlook the raptors that inhabit the state and some migratory hawks. We see red-shouldered hawks, falcons, red-tail hawks, owls and so many other raptors that like to eat the squirrels and fish around my home.

Be Prepared to Hike

Buy a good pair of binoculars and a zoom lens for your camera, so you can take longshots without getting off the trails. You can use a field guide on your cellphone (or the Merlin app from Cornell University, which is an amazing app that I use all the time), but you may find cellphone coverage spotty depending on where you’re hiking. It doesn’t hurt to have a small bird guide for your pocket.

These are good guides. I like that the Birds of Florida Field Guide has a painted bunting on the front.

Make sure that you dress for the weather and don’t wear open-toed shoes. Hiking boots with ankle coverage might be best. We do have rattlesnakes and other bitey kinda snakes.

Mosquitoes will try to make you their lunch no matter what time of the year you go birdwatching in Florida. They never go away. Ever.  So, wear whatever protection you need to keep from getting eaten alive, as well as sunscreen for sunny days.

Seriously, don’t be a hero.

Additionally, follow birdwatching ethics, such as not disturbing nesting birds and staying on designated trails.

If you’re lucky and live in Florida, then look out your front window and see if you can find a good place to put in a bird feeder that will bring birds to you. I enjoy my annual visit from the painted buntings. If you don’t live here, then come on down and do some birdwatching in Florida!

Photo of the Month of May 2022

I could only hope that this was not another one of those hateful, poison-filled caterpillars that crawls all over the porch and my flowers because the face was too cute to be dangerous.

Sure. Sure. The saddleback is a delightfully colorful caterpillar, too. However, this guy seems to be a moth caterpillar.

It is called a Laugher Moth Caterpillar because the adult moth appears to have a man laughing on the wings. I have seen the adults around, but I don’t see anything remotely close to a laughing man on the wings. They are more marbled in muted tones than anything. 

Photo of the Month of September 2021

This guy has been hanging around lately looking for birdseed, birds or whatever he can find. We have chickens in the neighbor’s backyard, so I suppose he snacks on eggs now and again. He looks fairly healthy, so I will say he’s probably getting enough to fill his belly and keep his coat smooth and silky. Check out that tail. 

Photo of the Month of November 2020

Apparently, it is hard work to be a squirrel. This little guy was up in the railing at the top of our front porch. Maybe he just got tired of eating all the birdseed, or maybe he was tuckered out from scampering with his friends. No matter which one it is, he was in for a nap. He spent several hours like that. 

Photo of the Month of September 2020

While not exactly a standoff, it was a moment of zen for someone. The little fox had  been busy wandering around the front yard looking for something to eat. He spent a lot of time just staring at the birdfeeder as if his stares would make birds magically appear.

Then he set to strolling around the rest of the yard. In the meantime, a very nervous squirrel was hanging down to either see what that orange animal was or doing a death defying balancing act.

​Apparently, my yard squirrels are not acquainted with the bouncing and leaping that foxes are known for. In the end, the fox wandered off and the squirrel went back to foraging under the birdfeeder.