Fred Howard Park
FRED HOWARD PARK
At the far north end of Pinellas County along the Gulf of Mexico is Fred Howard Park. It is best known for hosting a Bar-tailed Godwit on two separate occasions; Sep 2013 – Apr 2014 and again for three days 16-18 Oct 2016. The park itself, because of its great location along the Gulf, often hosts migrating songbirds. There is a causeway from the park out to a small parking lot and beach that hosts shorebirds, gulls and terns and makes for easy viewing from your car. Pinellas’ only record of a Tundra Swan was one found along the causeway in Jan-Feb 1977.
FALL: As early as mid-August a few early warblers are often reported from the wooded sections of the park. These include Yellow-throated Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler. But, it’s the shorebirds everyone checks out when at the park. Most are found at the left armpit of the causeway and with them is always a good selection of gulls and terns, including many Caspian Terns, and Black Skimmers, which show up here in good numbers in mid to late October. Watch, too, for Gull-billed Tern. During the fall of 2017 a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was recorded here.
WINTER: Again, it’s the shorebirds that get the attention of locals. Expected wintering shorebirds include Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover and Ruddy Turnstone. Passerines you might encounter include Hermit Thrush, Palm, Orange-crowned, Black-and-white and Yellow-rumped warblers, Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-throated Kinglet and House Wren. Make sure to check both sides of the causeway for Common Loons, Horned Grebes, and wintering ducks such as Red-breasted Merganser, Redhead, Lesser Scaup and/or Bufflehead.
SPRING: Like the other coastal sites in Pinellas migrant passerines are expected from mid-March through mid-May. Yellow-throated Vireo is recorded here regularly each spring (especially in March) as well as Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Bunting, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The park also has a history of a good number of Yellow-billed Cuckoos stopping in during early May. By late spring watch and listen for local breeding species such as Gray Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher and Northern Parula.
SUMMER: Being at the north end of the county Fred Howard hosts a few breeding birds that other coastal spots such as Fort De Soto Park don't. These include Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and Northern Parula. Also breeding here are the three most common Pinellas woodpecker species; Red-bellied, Downy and Pileated, as well as Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Towhee (north side of park) and Carolina Wren.
INSIDER TIPS: There is no fee for birding the main section of the park, but there is a $5 fee for using the causeway or the small parking lot and beach at the west end. Restrooms are conveniently located. The park has plenty of oaks and one place is as good as another most of the time, but the oaks around shelters #8 and #9 seem to be best.