John Chesnut Senior Park
JOHN CHESNUT PARK
Always a delightful park to bird, especially during fall migration when all the typical and expected species for our area seem to drop in. The park is located along the SE section of Lake Tarpon, the largest lake in Pinellas. There are many boardwalks and trails throughout the park meandering through cypress and maple swamps sprinkled with majestic oaks. Large live oaks greet you as you enter the park from East Lake Road and overhang the mile’s worth of park road. Take a left after entering and drive past the boat ramp to Peggy Powell Trail, always a good spot for migrant warblers and resident Barred Owls. Continue straight through the 3-Way stop as you first enter the park and you’ll see a large parking lot on your left. Park here and check the oaks for migrants and/or drive on further until you reach the several unpaved parking lots that are lake side. Anywhere along here migrants may be awaiting you from late August through October. Park rarities have included Canada and Wilson’s Warblers, Least Flycatcher, Snail Kite, Cave Swallow and Red-breasted Nuthatch.
FALL: As described above it’s important to check any oak-filled location (in which there are many) for flocks of migrants. Cerulean Warbler is an annual occurrence during late August-early September, and expected are Hooded, Prothonotary, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided and Worm-eating Warblers. Listen intently for the quiet call note of Acadian Flycatcher and most certainly you’ll hear an Eastern Wood-Pewee or two, or three. Check out over the lake for swallows and Black Terns. Forster’s Terns will be the most expected.
WINTER: Along the lake shore and amongst the cattails Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroats, American Coots, Common Gallinules and the occasional American Bittern lurk. Few ducks are found on the open lake as there are lots of boaters, especially during the weekend. Woodland species you should see include Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Robin and House Wren amongst others.
SPRING: A walk along the lake shore should produce calling Least Bitterns, Marsh Wrens until mid-April, Boat-tailed Grackles and Limpkin, a nesting species. Though not as many migrants are found here in spring as there are in fall, Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula and Pine Warblers are found. All three nest in the park.
SUMMER: A highlight during the fall of 2017 was the discovery of a pair of Purple Gallinules with two young. Chances are they’ll be back in the future. Check along the lake shore, especially by where the little fishing dock extends out in the water by shelters 9 and 10. Other summer breeders here include American Crow, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher and the warblers mentioned in the spring section.
INSIDER TIPS: There are plenty of restroom facilities at the park and a designated Dog Park seems to have prevented people from walking their dogs unleashed on the trails and boardwalks. If there is a storm system hovering over Pinellas during the fall season get to John Chesnut Park as soon as the rain stops. Most certainly, there’ll be migrants.