Weedon Island Preserve
Weedon Island Preserve
Back in the day, this preserve with its impressive, mature, mangrove forest was a great place to see Mangrove Cuckoo and Black-whiskered Vireo, two south Florida species that reached their northern limit here. Occasionally, a cuckoo may still be seen, but it’s been many, many years since the last reported vireo. Most of the preserve cannot be accessed by foot, so maybe those species are still around. No one knows for sure. There are a couple of meandering hiking trails (less than a mile in length) that begin at the Cultural and Natural History Center. One trail leads to a 40-ft tower that places you above the mangroves and allows for a great view of the preserve and of Papy's Bayou. From this vantage point you're liable to see wither of the two night-heron species and, perhaps, an American Oystercatcher or two. The other two trails lead in the opposite direction from the Center and take you through the mangrove forests via a boardwalk and hard-dirt trail. The preserve is the best place in southern Pinellas for finding Eastern Towhee. If you drive slowly along the main road you’ll probably hear many announcing their presence. The Cultural and Natural History Center is a cool place to spend time and learn about the First Peoples that once settled the area. .
FALL: Though the preserve isn’t really known for migrant birds, there are still a few to be seen when fallout conditions prevail. There are a couple of oak hammocks to be found on the main trail. See a park brochure for a trail guide. The last stretch of mangroves just before reaching the fishing pier is also a good choice. It might be worth your time to walk out to the tower in late October or November and just stand and watch for an hour or so. You never know what species of hawk or falcon might cruise by. Cooper’s and Red-shouldered Hawks are resident and Short-tailed Hawks have occasionally been reported. Osprey are a given.
WINTER: Typical wintering passerines such as Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers are easy to find. From the fishing pier look up and down the bayou for Red-breasted Mergansers and Forster’s Terns. American White Pelican is also a good possibility.
SPRING: This is the time of year when Eastern Towhees will be singing, roadside, and if any summering Prairie Warblers are around they’ll be heard by late April and through May and June. Other singing species you should expect include Common Ground-Dove, Great Crested Flycatcher, Carolina Wren, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Cardinal, Brown Thrasher and Gray Kingbird. The best bet for the kingbird is to watch the wires as you drive in and out of the preserve. There are usually only one or two pairs each year. Another spot to look and listen for Gray Kingbirds is from atop the lookout tower.
SUMMER: Though the mosquitoes may be bad at this time of year at, mostly at dawn and dusk, the spring time species noted above may still be singing. In fact, the Common Ground-Dove really is common here.
INSIDER TIPS: Don’t expect to finish your day at Weedon with lots and lots of species on your list, but the overall experience at this unique preserve is ALWAYS worth your time. The Cultural Center hosts Florida-centric archaeological displays and events. There is a restroom at the Cultural Center and another at the base of the fishing pier.