Here are some Birding Hotspots in Our Area
Click to see: St. Johns County General Bird List
(Some birds are more commonly seen than others and many birds migrate to NE Florida in the winter. This general list contains all the birds seen in the St. Johns County at some point during an average year.)
Did Someone Say Birding? St. Johns County is lucky to have many natural areas that are great for birding! Check out some of our favorite HOTSPOTS below. Click on each for more information. (This section is being developed to give you more and better information about the area's birding hotspots.)
The GTM NERR is a northeast Florida birding hotspot. The diversity of habitats on the Guana Peninsula account for its rich variety of birdlife. The area lies in the eastern flyway, allowing for large numbers of migrating birds to be observed. See More About GTM NERR with the links below.
Description: GMT Hot Spot for Birding
Bird List: GTM NERR Bird List
Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas NERR Website
Bird Island Park opened in 2010. It is the result of hard-working volunteers who made a concerted effort to provide a beautiful nature walk and park for residents. It is a beautiful replica of bird habitats as well. A stroll through the park begins at the Gazebo and then through a turtle-shaped hedge maze of native plantings. As you pass the maze, to the right is a water feature with a bird rookery and second gazebo surrounded by a boardwalk. Continuing beyond the maze is a section of native hammock with an inviting bird bath. Many birds pass through this area every day. Bird Island is a relatively small park. However, the peaceful environment and the high likelihood of seeing birds and other wildlife makes it a very popular place for birders.
Description: Bird Island Park Hotspot
Bird List: Use the SJCA General List
Website: Bird Island Website
Google Map For Bird Island
The Nocatee Preserve encompasses 2,400 acres of land with a 4-mile stretch for up to an 8 mile out and back trail walk. Donated to St. Johns County for use as a multi-use public park, the Nocatee Preserve is a conservation area of undisturbed old Florida flora and fauna. There are some boardwalk areas, but the main trail is wide and unpaved. The trail goes through to the Intracoastal Waterway at its end and construction is underway to develop the end of the trail with added facilities. However, if you park your car at the trailhead, you will still need to walk or bike back. The Nocatee Preserve is suited to hiking, birding, photography, jogging, biking and horseback riding. Summer months can be more challenging due to insects so make sure you bring bug repellent.
Description: Nocatee Preserve Hotspot
Bird List: Use the SJCA General List
Website: Nocatee Preserve Park
The Guana River Wildlife Management Area is located within the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) oversees the Guana River WMA and manages it for both conservation and recreation. Active wildlife management is practiced in the WMA. The diversity of natural communities makes it an excellent place to view birds.
During April and October, especially with a west wind or after a cold front, this is the best place in northeast Florida to see Peregrine Falcons . More than 3,000 migratory ducks, American Coots , Common Gallinules and Pied-billed Grebes winter at Guana Lake.
White Pelicans (January and February), Ospreys and Bald Eagles often fish at the impounded lake. Look for Black-necked Stilts , Yellowlegs, Dowitchers and other shore birds at the lake’s north end when water levels are low.
At Big Savannah and other ponds, especially May through September, you are likely to see Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, and White and Glossy Ibis. The tower on Hammock Road is an excellent spot to observe birds.
Vehicles are not usually permitted access within the WMA, except for certain Thursdays. Please view the website for more information.
Description: Guana Lake & River Hotspot
Bird List: GTM NERR Bird List
SIX MILE LANDING BOAT RAMP
ST. AUGUSTINE ALLIGATOR FARM
The Alligator Farm is a modern zoo that focuses primarily on reptiles. It exhibits living specimens of all 24 currently recognized species of crocodilian. There is a wading bird rookery nestled among the alligators where birds actively roost, nest, and raise their young. The wild visiting birds are attracted to the facility because the presence of the alligators keeps the nests safe from tree climbing predators. The elevated boardwalk through the rookery allows visitors to get an intimate view of these nesting birds. Photographers regularly get award winning photos at this location.
The best time to visit is during nesting season from March through June. Birds are in their breeding plumage and actively nesting.
Description: Alligator Farm Hotspot
ANASTASIA STATE PARK
Anastasia State Park comprises more than 1,600 acres of beaches, tidal marshes, maritime hammocks, and ancient sand dunes. There is an abundance of wildlife found in the various habitats. The park is located on The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.
The park is an important migratory stopover on the eastern flyway for migrating birds. It is also an important nesting habitat for Least Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, and Black Skimmers. The park has been designated an Important Birding Area by the National Audubon Society.
Description: Anastasia State Park Hotspot
Bird List: Anastasia State Park Bird List
Website: Anastasia State Park Website
VAILL POINT PARK
Vaill Point Park
This relatively new park is proof that good things come in small packages. Paved loop trails (suitable for wheelchairs) lead through hardwood hammocks down to two overlooks on both the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and Moultrie Creek. Scan the creek at low tide for shorebirds like Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Plover. A Bald Eagle nest on the bluff is viewable from the observation deck and kayak launch. Tricolored Heron, Northern Harrier (winter) and Clapper Rail occur in the salt marsh on the ICW. Woodland birds include White-eyed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler (winter) and Pileated Woodpecker. Northern Bobwhite and Merlin have been recorded here. Take extra time wandering the trails in spring and fall migration; species such as Scarlet Tanager and Veery have been found and up to 20 species of wood-warbler have been recorded at the park, including Cape May, Black-throated Blue and Blackburnian.
FORT MATANZAS NATIONAL MONUMENT
FAVER-DYKES STATE PARK
Masters Tract Stormwater Treatment Facility
In an effort to reduce high nutrient levels, specifically Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P) in the Lower St Johns River Basin and Deep Creek the county has designed and built a system of wetlands to drain and filter stormwater runoff from agricultural and residential areas. Situated near Deep Creek Conservation Area, St Johns County staff manage water levels in the wetland to mimic the natural wet and dry seasons. Numerous wading birds, sparrows, migrating warblers, and raptors can be seen at the wetlands.
Description: Masters Tract Stormwater Treatment Facility Hotspot
Bird List: Masters Tract eBird List
Checklist available at ranger station, 107 species identified Fort Mose is a historic park located on the eastern coastal flyway where it is a critical stopping point for birds to feed and rest. It is part of The Great Florida Birding Trail and has been designated an Important Birding Area by the National Audubon Society.
The park is located along the intracoastal waterway and includes salt marsh and maritime hammock. It is an important rookery and hosts imperiled species such as Wood Storks.
For those interested in the historic aspects of the park, the interactive museum tells the complete story of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what would become the United States.
Description: Fort Mose Hotspot
Bird List: Checklist available on site.
St. Johns County General Bird List - January 2019
Some birds are more commonly seen than others and many birds migrate to NE Florida in the winter. This list contains all the birds seen in the St. Johns County at some point during an average year.
FLORIDA AUDUBON'S BIRD CHECKLIST
St. Johns County is a SPECIAL PLACE FOR BIRDS! Let's celebrate and protect it!
10 Things You Can Do To Help Birds
(Read as a pdf document)
1. Make your yard bird-friendly with native vegetation
There are many reasons to landscape with native Florida plants. Because they are adapted for our area, they require lower levels of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Native plants provide your neighborhood's birds, butterflies, and bees with seeds, berries, nectar, and nesting material. Find Florida-friendly plants here.
2. Participate in the Christmas and Great Backyard Bird Counts
The Christmas Bird Count (CBC)
The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, performed annually in the early Northern-hemisphere winter by volunteer birdwatchers and administered by the National Audubon Society. The purpose is to provide population data for use in science, especially conservation biology, though many people participate for recreation. As of 2015, the CBC was the longest running community science survey in the world, having been started by Frank Chapman in 1900.
National Audubon's 119th Christmas Bird Count will be conducted between December 14, 2018 and January 5, 2019. There are actually two counts done in our area. The first takes place December 16, 2018 for the St. Augustine area. The second, for the Mantanzas area will take place January 2, 2019. Learn more about the CBC here.
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)
First launched in 1998 in the U.S. by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count runs for four days in mid-February. We invite you to participate!
For at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 15-18, 2018, simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world, for as long as you wish! If you’re new to the count, or have not participated since before the 2013 merger with eBird, you must create a free online account to enter your checklists. If you already have an account, just use the same login name and password. If you have already participated in another Cornell Lab citizen-science project, you can use your existing login information, too.
Data collected during the event is subjected to verification by experts, in order to overcome potential shortcomings in the abilities of amateur participants. Nonetheless, data resulting from the GBBC has raised awareness about changes in population and habitats of common birds. Learn more about the GBBC or go to its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/1461267547312332/
3. Be a Florida Climate Change Messenger
Our area is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change. As coastlines erode, beach and saltmarsh habitats are lost, putting hundreds of bird species at risk. Join Audubon Florida in making it clear to Florida's legislators that habitat and wildlife protection is a priority by using this toolkit.
4. Keep your feeders clean
Bird feeders and baths are popular gathering spots for backyard birds, which is why it's so important to make sure they're in clean condition to avoid moldy seed, dried feces, and sick birds can easily spread pathogens and disease, and harm your birds. Nectar feeders especially need to be cleaned regularly to prevent fermentation. Follow these guidelines to keep your feeder setup spic and span.
5. Keep your distance
Whether you're watching a bluebird in your yard or focusing your camera on an owl in the woods, be respectful of the birds first. Keep a safe distance and look closely for signs of stress - if the bird has stopped foraging, sleeping, or moved away, you're too close! When birds are forced to fly, they use up valuable energy that should be spent migrating and breeding. Stay on trails and obey signs telling you to stay out of protected areas.
6. Buy bird-friendly coffee
Your daily cup of Joe could be helping or hurting birds, depending on where it's sourced from. Most coffee is grown in unsustainable monocultures under full sun. These plantations require vast amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and provide little habitat to native and wintering wildlife. Shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee is grown under the forest canopy, requiring fewer inputs and preserving habitat. Learn more and find bird-friendly retailers here.
7. Keep your cat indoors
Domestic cats are the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds in our country. Cats are natural predators, and even the most well-fed outdoor cat will instinctively hunt and kill the birds it wanders across. Bells on collars warn adult birds to flee, but do nothing to protect fledgling birds just learning how to fly, and a single paw swipe can be fatal. Learn how to make your outdoor kitty an indoor kitty here.
8. Reduce your plastic use
If you've been to the beach, you've probably seen all the plastic debris brought in by the tides. From bottle caps to drinking straws to empty lighters, plastic piles up fast and takes hundreds of years to decompose. This plastic waste is often mistaken for food by seabirds and other marine life, and can cause strangulation or mutilation when it becomes wrapped around beaks or bodies. Plastic bits easily absorb toxins in the water, concentrating the dosage until they become 'poison pills.' And they disintegrate into microscopic shards as time goes on, making them harder to see, but still damaging the ecosystem from the bottom up. So:
9. Prevent window collisions
Birds hit windows when they see sky or shelter reflected in the glass and fly towards it. This window collisions will often kill a bird, either instantly or later from internal injuries. To prevent window collisions, put screens up to break up reflections and keep birds away from glass. Keep your feeders and bird baths either within 3 feet of windows, where birds can't reach high enough speeds to cause injury to themselves, or 30 feet away. Use tape, stickers, or decals on the outside of the glass to break up the reflection. Turn off your lights at night. For more suggestions, click here.
10. Purchase a Duck Stamp
You may have heard of the Federal Duck Stamp (formally the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp) if you or someone you know hunts migratory waterfowl. This $25 stamp is a required purchase for waterfowl hunters, but many birders and conservationists purchase it voluntarily. 98% of the purchase prices goes to the conservation of wetlands, To order a duck stamp for yourself, visit this site.