Honeymoon Island State Park
HONEYMOON ISLAND STATE PARK
With over 300 verified recorded species Honeymoon Island is a top notch destination for visiting birders at any season. This site's rarity list is quite impressive and includes Brant, American Flamingo, Long-billed Murrelet, Black Rail, Baird’s Sandpiper, Elegant Tern, Bell’s Vireo, Northern Wheatear, LeConte’s Sparrow, Townsend’s Solitaire, Varied Thrush and Green-tailed Towhee. Unlike Fort De Soto Park where you can park your vehicle very close to the numerous birding sites, at this park you’ll have to get out and do some walking. The best place to look for passerines, especially for spring and fall migrants, is the Osprey Trail. The best place for shorebirds is at the end of Pet Beach and at the lookout (parking lot found within 200 yards of the park toll booth on the right). The mosquitoes can be quite bad from late spring through October. This island has lots of mangroves and low-lying pine woodlands, great habitat for mosquitoes – and birds, too!
FALL: If you can stand the bugs then the Osprey Trail is where you’ll want to head after an early season cold front or a late-season low-pressure system (i.e., tropical depression or nearby hurricane). Most of the birds will be at eye level (or lower) as they feed along the mangrove edges and privet bushes. You shouldn’t have trouble locating an Eastern Wood-Pewee or two, American Redstart, Prairie Warbler or Magnolia Warbler, especially late in the season. But, really, anything is possible. Walk slow and listen and watch.
WINTER: The Pet Beach area, along the park’s south shore, is a great place to see wintering Piping, Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers. In fact, it’s the best place in the county to see all three, except, perhaps, at some of the offshore islands like Three Rooker Bar and Anclote Key. During high winds from the NW the Gulf of Mexico usually offers up its usually far-out-at-sea Northern Gannets and the occasional Pomarine or Parasitic Jaeger, especially in January and February. Just pick a spot along the beach and watch. Scoters are often seen from here, too. Common Loon, Horned Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser are expected winter visitors. Sora, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wrens, Sedge Wrens and Swamp Sparrows are found at most of the freshwater wetlands edges.
SPRING: Probably just as many warblers and other spring migrants visit Honeymoon as Fort De Soto, but just not as many birders get out and check. Expect the typical warblers, vireos, flycatchers and swallows along the Osprey Trail from mid-March through mid-May. This is also a good place to look for Connecticut Warbler during the first three weeks of May, if you can stand the bugs and heat. You should see quite a few Gray Kingbirds along the Osprey Trail beginning in April – right on through August. Osprey are a dime a dozen.
SUMMER: Not many birders get out to Honeymoon Island at this season. Some of the notable nesting species found along the Osprey Trail include Gray Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Prairie Warbler, Brown-headed Cowbird (unfortunately), Eastern Towhee and Red-bellied Woodpecker. There was a time when both Black-whiskered Vireo and Mangrove Cuckoo nested at the park, but that is apparently no longer the case.
INSIDER TIPS: Pick up a trail map and map of the park when you first enter. There is a park fee of $4 for a single visitor and $8 for two or more. The park opens at 8 AM and closes at sunset. Though there is a small café at the park there are, too, several nice little restaurants on the north side of the road before reaching the Dunedin Causeway, which in turn leads to the park entrance.