Brooker Creek Preserve
BROOKER CREEK PRESERVE
Containing over 8,500 acres the Brooker Creek Preserve is Pinellas County’s largest tract of public land. Most of the property is open to the public and accessible via marked trails starting at the preserve’s Environmental Center (EC), located nearly a mile south of the entrance along Keystone Road. Please read the INSIDER TIPS section at the end of this account for adjoining areas a visiting birder might want to explore. In fact, read it first before reading the seasonal accounts and what species can be seen when. Choice species to look for within the preserve and its outskirts include Wood Duck, Mottled Duck, Wild Turkey, Sandhill Crane, Swallow-tailed Kite, Barred Owl, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Eastern Meadowlark. Over 220 species have made the preserve’s checklist.
WINTER: The grassy areas and fence lines offer Savannah, Chipping, Swamp and occasionally Grasshopper Sparrows in winter. Look for perched Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Bluebirds and, of course, there are the usual wintering passerines to see; Yellow-rumped, Palm, Pine and Black-and-white Warblers, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and American Goldfinch. Always check the ponds in the large field across from the preserve’s main entrance for wintering Wilson’s Snipe, the occasional Water Pipit, Blue-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebe.
SPRING: By late February Northern Parula’s and Yellow-throated Vireos are on territory and singing away in the hammock and woodlands near the EC. Swallow-tailed Kites arrive by mid-March and are seen soaring over the woodlands all spring while Chuck-will’s-widows are heard throughout the season at dawn and dusk. Listen for calling Wild Turkey, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-eyed Vireo, Brown Thrasher and hooting Barred Owls from March through May.
SUMMER: Swallow-tailed Kites become more evident as summer sets in. A good place to watch for them is from the EC parking lot. Red-bellied, Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers are busy raising young at this season and are heard/seen throughout the preserve. Occasionally recorded within the preserve is Brown-headed Nuthatch and Summer Tanager. Learning their calls/songs is “key” to finding one.
FALL: Like all sites in Pinellas migrating passerines can be found regularly from late Aug thru October at Brooker Creek Preserve. The trees over the EC is the best place to find them. Fence lines and woodland edges harbor Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings when fall conditions are right.
INSIDER TIPS: The only restroom facility within the BCP proper is at the VC building. The preserve opens promptly at 7 AM when the entrance gate automatically opens. Its closes at sunset. A few hundred yards NW of the entrance to Brooker Creek Preserve is Old Keystone Road. Following this road to the west you'll soon see a little league baseball/soccer complex on your right. You can turn here and check the unmarked road edges for sparrows, Wild Turkey, hawks, bluebirds and other species. Just past (west of) the complex along Old Keystone Road is a pond on the right at the entrance to the Horse Trails. Look here during any season for rarer area species like Glossy Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Mottled Duck. The latter presents an identification problem because of the high number of mixed feral Mallard and Mottled Duck hybrids in Pinellas County. North of the preserve's entrance is a large field with several ponds. Be careful pulling off the road to view these ponds. Keystone Road is a busy highway. Be very careful.