Se7en Wetlands is a 1600-acre wilderness park in Mulberry accessible from Loyce E Harpe Park at 500 W Carter Rd. The wetlands are made up of seven cells of water that treats wastewater from the city of Lakeland and Lakeland Electric. The water meanders through seven retention areas, cleaning the water before it is discharged to the Alafia River or used as cooling water at Tampa Electric Co.’s Polk Power Station. The landscape drops 80 feet incrementally from holding area No. 1, adjacent to Eaglebrook golf course, to holding area No. 7, close to State Road 60. In a late morning visit, Tampa Audubon members identified 27 species including a Spotted Sandpiper, Bald Eagle and a Black-crowned Night Heron.
Se7en Wetlands has 8.5 miles of trails currently open and another 12 miles to be added soon. School visits can be made with advance coordination. No pets or bikes are allowed on the trail. Bathroom and water are available only at the entrance in Loyce E Harpe park.
LETTUCE LAKE PARK
Lettuce Lake Park consists of 240 acres, an interpretive center, a 3,500-foot boardwalk and an observation tower. Expect to see a variety of water birds and upland birds, including herons, egrets, limpkins, ospreys, woodpeckers, vireos, warblers, red-shouldered hawks, barred owls, and more. Lettuce Lake is actually a birding "hotspot" with 187 different species of birds sighted there.
The second Saturday of every month, the Tampa Audubon Society offers a beginning birding program at this park located at 6920 E. Fletcher Ave. near I-75 in Tampa. The walk is a 2-hour stroll through the park. Park entrance fee is only $2. We have binoculars to loan, and the leaders usually have a spotting scope for close-up looks at our local birds. Come and learn about the real natural Florida and why it is so important to protect it. You don't have to come on a Saturday. Volunteers are available at the Visitor Center to assist you other days of the week.
The more manicured part of the 16,000-acre Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, Flatwoods Park, lies north of the Hillsborough River. Flatwoods offers miles of hiking trails and a 9-mile paved bike trail.
This dog-friendly park provides a nature-filled getaway. The Morris Bridge wellfield is located within the Park, and well-houses can be observed along the trail. A 2-mile paved extension connects Bruce B. Downs Boulevard with the 7-mile loop road. Park activities and features include a paved bicycle loop, off-road bike trails, remote picnicking, and nature trails.
You can enter Flatwoods Park from one of two access points:
14302 Morris Bridge Road (more rural)
18205 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. (more urban)
CIRCLE B BAR RESERVE
Once a functioning ranch, cattle and cowboys once roamed Circle B Bar Ranch. Remnants of the cattle ranch days, such as pens and barns, still remain on the property and serve as a rustic backdrop for many family and senior portraits.
Now it is a reserve considered one of the best places for birding and wildlife viewing. Wetlands restoration has allowed the waters of cypress-lined Lake Hancock to reclaim the landscape. Don’t forget your camera or your binoculars! Capture purple gallinules, green herons, and the dramatic dives of cormorants into the marshes.
Circle B Bar Reserve offers options for everyone in your family. Bicycling, hiking, birding and picnicking are all encouraged, but pets are not allowed. And you can’t go wrong with a simple, quiet walk. The 1,267-acre property features several diverse Central Florida habitats including freshwater marshes, hardwood swamps, oak hammocks, creeks and lakes, which are home to a wide variety of ducks, shorebirds, wading birds, native and migrant landbirds, ospreys, bald eagles, and to more than 45-species of butterflies.
Visitors will experience a wonderful day of birding at Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve due to habitat restoration efforts. On land, you can check along the south side of Cockroach Bay Rd. for a series of trails (some trails may be inundated with water in summer). Wandering the preserve’s “uplands” will yield a tremendous diversity of wildlife, though summer months tend to be less productive and more “buggy.”
Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park is only accessible by water, meaning you have to travel by boat, kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board (SUP) to reach the preserve. The closest public boat ramp is at the end of Cockroach Bay Road, just south of Ruskin off of HWY 41. The islands do not have any facilities or fresh water, so plan your trip accordingly. Watch the weather and tides and have a safe trip.
This a great location for birding, whether you like songbirds, raptors, wading birds or shorebirds.
FORT DESOTO PARK
Tierra Verde, FL
Fort De Soto County Park is a premier birding destination in Florida with over 7 miles of trails, including almost 3 miles of beautiful white sandy beaches. More than 250 species of birds have been recorded in the park over the years. Fall migration brings neotropical migratory species to the park as well as occasional wanderers from the Caribbean and the western United States. The island’s shorebird diversity is one of the best on the Florida west coast.
About once a month, the Tampa Audubon Society offers a birding walk at this park located at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South in Tierra Verde. Park entrance fee is only $5. Come and learn about the real natural Florida and why it is so important to protect it.
The 12-inch mortar battery, located at the fort for which the park was named, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Adding to the historical interest at Fort De Soto, two British breech-loading, rapid-fire rifles of 1890 vintage were installed in March 1982. Markers showing the original building locations and a Quartermaster Storehouse Museum add to the park's historic interest.
CYPRESS POINT PARK
This active neighborhood park has a beach, a jogging trail, a sand volleyball court, a playground, a disc (Frisbee) golf course, and numerous shelters that maybe rented through out online shelter rental system, and there is NO ENTRANCE FEE! The park is a favorite spot for locals to enjoy lunch breaks and spot birds with great views of the upper bay and a shallow lagoon on the south. This location is great for spotting winter ducks, waders, terns and more. Two shaded trails wind through the length of the park offering views of nature and wildlife. One trail is paved and the other is unpaved and connect at various points along the trails. Restrooms and picnic tables available.
APOLLO BEACH PARK
Apollo Beach, FL
Located at 6760 Surfside Blvd. in Apollo Beach, this little jewel has no entrance fee and is dog firendly. This 2-acre bayside stretch of sand boasts oystercatchers, shorebirds, raptors, and shrikes. Look for manatees, ducks in the winter, and dolphins in the bay all year. Take Apollo Beach Blvd to the end, turn right, go to the end.
Originally called Pleasant Grove Park and Reservoir, Edward Medard Conservation Park underwent many transformations before it was donated to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) in 1969 by a mining company. In 1972, Hillsborough County signed an agreement with the District to develop the site as one of the County’s largest regional parks.
Among its main attractions is a 700-acre reservoir used for canoeing, boating, and catch and release fishing and home to a large wading bird colony. Also included is a 3-mile trail that offers birdwatchers, hikers, and equestrians a pleasant trip through pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks.
GOLDEN ASTER SCRUB
Purchased by Hillsborough County in 1995, this 1,181-acre nature preserve is named after resident rare yellow flowers and includes a sandy, sunny 3-mile loop through endemic and imperiled scrub habitats surrounded by pine flatwoods and pockets of wet prairie, hardwood swamp, and freshwater marsh. Rare species found here include the outgoing Florida Scrub Jay.
Located at 12121 East Bay Rd, Gibsonton. No fees. Loop trail is soft sand. One of the very few places in Hillsborough County to find scrub jays. Eagles and owls nest here too, ducks on the small lake. Click here to see some of the other birds that have been observed here.
Bring sun protection and water.
LOWER GREEN SWAMP
Plant City, FL
The Lower Green Swamp Preserve, formerly known as Cone Ranch, in far northeastern Hillsborough County includes about 13,000 acres of former cattle ranchland and farmlands that are being restored to a more a natural state.
True to its name, the Lower Green Swamp Preserve is peppered with wetlands, is home to some of Florida's rarest animals, including wood storks and Sherman's fox squirrels. Packs of feral hogs root throughout the preserve, turkeys preen and bald eagles patrol the sky.
Located at 3540 East Knights Griffin Rd, Plant City. No fees. Pine flatwoods, a lovely stream, palmetto. There are several loop paths to walk, from half a mile to several miles. Bachman’s sparrow, turkeys, bobwhites, raptors, the birds change with the seasons.
PICNIC ISLAND PARK
This municipal park on Tampa Bay plays host to shorebirds, gulls, and pelicans. Actually not a bad place for warblers and the like - it's the first land when flying from St. Petersburg across Tampa Bay. We've seen a lot of Loggerhead Shrikes here.
Located at 7409 Picnic Island Boulevard, Tampa. No entrance fee. Views of the bay, ducks in winter. Go to south tip, walk to observation deck looking at back lagoon for spoonbills, waders, shorebirds, at low tide sandbars south in bay can be full of waders, gulls, terns. Passerines in migration, gray kingbirds breed in summer.
Restrooms, picnic tables, trail along lagoon accessible at low tide, can be buggy in mangroves.
Temple Terrace, FL
If you are just getting started with birds or need a place to begin, we recommend the boardwalk at Riverhills Park, behind the Elementary School. This location is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and it's easy to see why. You will find many large, easily identifiable birds that will immediately reward your efforts. Along the boardwalk at the river's edge you will often see limpkins (with their long beaks probing into apple snails), several species of herons and ibis, roseate spoonbills (sometimes, esp. when the water is low), stilts, and other types of wading birds. There is a diorama in the North American Birds Hall at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City that shows this exact scene, and we have the real thing right here in our own backyard.
Located at 405 S Riverhills Dr, Temple Terrace. No entrance fee. Small park, boardwalk, connects to trails along the river. Winter dusk has huge roost on islands in river. Wood ducks, owls, winter passerines. Park by boat ramp, or go further east to Broxburn Ave. parking area and trails through cypress along river.
TRIPLE CREEK PRESERVE
Florida scrub is an endangered habitat that is found mainly on sand ridges throughout the state. It is relatively common to encounter a scrub in central Florida along the Lake Wales Ridge, as well as in coastal areas of eastern Florida and the state's panhandle. However, Balm-Boyette Scrub is one of a few rare scrubs in west Florida and around the Tampa area, which makes it more special than some of the scrubs on the Lake Wales Ridge. Two preserves adjacent to each other facilitate hiking access into the scrub. The main hiking trail also passes past several creeks, all of which are tributaries of the Alafia River.
Located at 13305 Balm‐Boyette Rd, Riverview. No fees. Pine and scrub flatwoods. Bluebirds and tanagers are frequent sightings.
TROUT CREEK PARK
Popular for hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and picnicking, this park is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. It’s near where Trout Creek flows into the Hillsborough River. Off-road bicyclists use the Wilderness Trail that runs through the park, and connects to Flatwoods and Morris Bridge conservation parks.
Located at 12550 Morris Bridge Rd, Thonotosassa. $2 Entrance fee. Stop just after the bridge to scan the wetlands for waders. Walk south along the canal for passerines, kestrels. Then proceed to parking area for trails along the river, through the woods to several ponds, or cross the dam and take the trail along the dike that connects through the woods to Flatwoods. Bluebirds, passerines, raptors, nesting bald eagles in the area.