The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is a network of 510 sites throughout Florida selected for their excellent birding, wildlife viewing and photography opportunities. 48 of those sites are right here in Marion County.
This water reclamation site opened in 2020 and jumped to a top 10 birding location by the end of the year. A wide variety of songbirds, ducks and shorebirds can be found here. From the parking lot check the bare tree on your left for Red-headed woodpeckers. Wheelchair accessible boardwalk trail.
This park located near Ocala's quaint downtown square is a popular place to see many species up close thanks to two narrow lakes. An assortment of warblers can be found in the trees during migration. During the winter, wood storks, egrets and herons are plentiful while occasional visits from American White Pelicans are a treat. Don't miss walking to the Art Park and native plant garden where killdeer and kestrels hang out.
This park boasts one of the largest crystal clear springs in the United States. Not only birds are drawn to this gorgeous gem of a park, but you may spot alligators, manatee and possibly even monkeys. In the winter you'll find a rookery for anhingas and double-crested cormorants along the kayaking trail. Make sure to hike along the boardwalk trail thru the canopy of trees after admiring the headsprings. Birding by kayak is offered here for members. Wheelchair accessible paved and boardwalk trail.
This beautiful park in Dunnellon offers hiking trails that wander thru trees and along the crystal clear Rainbow River to a native plant and butterfly garden. Keep an eye out for hummingbirds. Bring a bathing suit if you want to jump in the springs afterwards. The water is always 72°F.
This is such a picturesque spot. Bring a lunch to enjoy on the beachside picnic bench. Park at the campground and walk the trail that circles the lake and passes a marsh. The horsetrail on the opposite side of Baseline Road is a great spot for finding warblers during migration.
In addition to walking trails, this park features a nature themed play area for children and tennis courts.
This 4 mile out and back hike is worth taking during the winter months when the temps are lower and the birds are plentiful. Depending on the month, if you start before sunrise you might be rewarded with sounds of whip-poor-wills or chuck-will's-widows calling. IMPORTANT- Enter from SE137th Ave. Park at the main trailhead parking lot. Follow the trail taking the first right and then a left. Take the bridge over the Ocklawaha River then take the trail to the right. After about a mile and a half you will come to an expansive marsh to your left. This is the perfect place to bring a scope and see what you can find. If you're really adventurous, bring your bike and ride the 11 mile loop trail.
* SE137th is a dirt road. You will want to take 40 to 314A to SE137th to be on the dirt road for the shortest distance.
This 2800 acre wetland can be explored from multiple starting points, but we recommend starting at the Blue House trailhead and hiking to the observation platform along the marsh and down the levee trail along the Ocklawaha River to see a wide variety of birds.
Adventure into the home of endanged and endemic species and you just never know what you might see. In the summer watch (not so) common nighthawks hunt where Florida Scrub-Jays hang out during the day. While driving the roads keep an eye out for deer, federally protected gopher tortoises and snakes. This is home to our resident Florida black bear, so if you can't clearly see over the surrounding vegetation, you'll want to make some noise so you don't sneak up on one.
To get to one of our favorite trails, from 40 take FR79 towards Mill Dam. Pass the turn for the recreation area. Shortly after the pavement ends, you'll see a trail to your right. Or bird from your car by driving along FR33, FR88 or taking the numerous dirt roads. Just stick to numbered roads and if you don't have 4-wheel drive, don't enter an area of soft sand.
Sweetwater Wetlands in Gainesville is an expansive habitat for an incredible amount of species. We will be taking a field trip up to walk the trails and making a stop at Heagy Burry (in Marion County) on the way home. Overlooking Orange Lake we can expect to see different species of ducks and snail kites hunting right off of the boat ramp. Wheelchair accessible.
You don't even have to get out of your car to enjoy this birding adventure. An 11 mile one way road takes you thru the home of tons of birds, bobcats, alligators and more. Hiking and biking trails are available. It's only open 7am-3pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
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