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62. Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area, Punta Gorda, Florida

Find Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman's Sparrow and many other species in this vast wilderness between Port Charlotte and Fort Myers.
By Jeff Bouton | Published: 2/20/2009

An early-morning trek through the Webb (outside of hunting season) is a serene experience. I often find I have the whole place to myself, which is terrific because it’s the most accessible and reliable spot in southwest Florida to see three pine flatwoods specialties: Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman’s Sparrow, and the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. I pay the minimal entrance fee and then begin slowly working my way toward the woodpecker roosts with windows open, listening to birds singing and calling from dew-laden saw palmettos: towhee, meadowlark, thrasher…

From the fee station, drive about two miles east, and then turn left on Oilwell Grade. In less than a mile, you will see well-marked roost trees with wide white paint bands about chest high on both sides of the road and a small green sign reading “RCW.” Remember, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a listed species, and use of playback and other forms of harassment can and will result in fines. It’s best to listen to the shrill call before you arrive so you recognize it as the birds leave or enter the roost. — Jeff Bouton ­

Jeff Bouton is a contributing author to the American Birding Association birdfinding guides to Florida and Alaska.

 

62. Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area, Punta Gorda, Florida

Directions

The Fred C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area is a 79,000-acre wilderness between Port Charlotte and Fort Myers, Florida. From either city, take I-75 to exit 158 and drive east 0.25 mile to the self-pay station on your right at the first ponds.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
26°51’29.70″N 81°57’21.82″W

Habitat

Pine flatwoods, freshwater marsh, ponds.

Terrain

Flat 21-mile dirt road loop with hiking trails.

Birds

Specialties: Northern Bobwhite, Limpkin, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman’s Sparrow, white-eyed form of Eastern Towhee. Spring and summer: Chuck-will’s-widow, Common Nighthawk, Great Crested Flycatcher. Winter: American Bittern, King Rail, Rusty Blackbird, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers. Year-round: Anhinga, Tricolored, Great Blue, and Little Blue Herons, Great, Snowy, and Cattle Egrets, White and Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Mottled Duck, Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, Great Horned Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Pine Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Eastern Meadowlark.

When to go

February through August for Bachman’s Sparrow. Year-round for other specialties. Avoid during hunting season (early fall to early winter).

Amenities

Canoeing, kayaking, primitive campgrounds. No restrooms. Downloadable bird checklist (pdf).

Access

State wildlife management area. Open dawn to dusk, except Mondays and Thursdays, when it opens at 10 a.m. Fees: $3 per person or maximum $6 per vehicle at self-pay station.

Tips

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are easily seen near their roost trees around first or last light. Look for Limpkins at ponds on the south side of the entrance road or in the channel that goes under the road just past the fee station.

For more info

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, (863) 648-3200.
Peace River Audubon Society

Sites nearby

Ponce De Leon Park
4000 W. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda. Chance for Mangrove Cuckoo along boardwalk trail and Burrowing Owl just outside the entrance.

Harbour Heights
In this town north of Babcock-Webb and east of I-75, look for Florida Scrub-Jays in scrubby lots between residences.

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