This 795-acre park allows close access to Wood Storks, herons, egrets, ibises, terns, and other waterbirds.
By Mark Kiser and Selena Kiser | Published: 6/15/2015
This urban birding oasis has great scenery that keeps the two of us coming back all year long. We love the many bird species that we encounter each season. More than the name implies, the park encompasses 795 acres of wooded and aquatic habitats, and it offers an excellent multi-use trail system that connects to two neighboring parks. A paddling trail links two lakes, allowing close access to Wood Storks, herons, egrets, ibises, ducks, terns, and other waterbirds in the park and an adjacent environmental area.
We enjoy watching resident Osprey fishing, Anhingas sunning on bald cypress limbs, and myriad songbirds singing amid the massive live oaks. Our favorite route leads east toward an earthen dam, where we often encounter breeding Orchard Orioles and Purple Gallinules in summer. Just north of the dam is a new 40-foot-tall Canopy Walkway; it provides superb bird’s-eye views of Piney Z Lake and the surrounding forest. The walkway continues north to J.R. Alford Greenway, another excellent birding destination. On the west side of the park, the landscape shifts to hillier terrain, where Northern Parula, Great Crested Flycatcher, and other migrants brighten our day. — Mark Kiser and Selena Kiser
Mark Kiser is a park and recreation planner with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Selena Kiser is a wildlife biologist for the state. They described birdwatching at Stormwater Treatment Area 5 in our April 2009 issue. Mark Kiser also wrote about Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, Christmas, Florida, Hotspot Near You No. 37, and the Kisers wrote about Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, Decatur, Georgia, No. 92.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Mixed upland forest, spoil islands, lakes, wet prairie, live oak/riparian woodlands.
Mostly flat around Piney Z Lake. Fairly rugged and steep in the western portion. Most trails not wheelchair-accessible.
Year-round: Wood Duck, Wood Stork, Anhinga, herons, egrets, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Forster’s Tern, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireo, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Boat-tailed Grackle. Fall through spring: Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Bald Eagle, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler. Spring and summer: Least Tern, Great Crested Flycatcher. Spring through fall: Purple Gallinule. Summer through winter: Belted Kingfisher. Rarities: White-winged Scoter, Limpkin, American Bittern, Brown Pelican, Bay-breasted Warbler.
When to go
Year-round. April and October best for maximum species diversity. Mornings and evenings best.
Apalachee Audubon Society and Tallahassee Bird Club conduct bird walks. Two observation platforms, seven “fishing fingers” (grassy berms extending into Piney Z Lake), kayak/canoe launch, Canopy Walkway, and paddling trail guide. Restrooms and drinking fountains.
City park. Open sunrise to sunset. No fees. Evergreen bus route stops at intersection of Connor and Heritage Park boulevards.
Use a scope to find birds on lakes. Bring hat, snacks, sun protection, and water. Watch for cyclists on trails.
For more info
Lafayette Heritage Trail Park, (850) 891-3866.
J.R. Alford Greenway
2500 S. Pedrick Rd. Connects to Lafayette Heritage Trail Park via a hike-and-bike trail that crosses the railroad tracks.
Elinor-Klapp Phipps Park
About 25 minutes northwest of Lafayette Heritage Trail Park on Miller Landing Rd. Outstanding for fall warblers; good for waterbirds.