Beach, wetlands, and a mangrove swamp attract waterfowl, rails, spoonbills, warblers, and many other birds.
By Howard Altman | Published: 12/22/2015
This small park on the Gulf of Mexico is part of the Coastal Pasco Important Bird Area. At any time of year, you might see Clapper Rails, Reddish Egrets, and Roseate Spoonbills. In winter, shorebirds, gulls, and terns populate the beach, and a wide variety of ducks occur just offshore. An eye-popping flock of at least 15,000 Redheads was here a couple years ago.
Winter also brings Common Loon, Bufflehead, Black Skimmer, Sora, Merlin, and Belted Kingfisher. Birders scoping from the beach have seen distant Cory’s Shearwaters. In April, the area near the entrance gate (nicknamed the “Green Key Funnel”) can attract warblers and other migrants. Best viewing is before 9 a.m. In summer, Gray Kingbird and Prairie Warbler breed at the park.
A 1,000-foot stretch of sand and a tenth-of-a-mile boardwalk through a mangrove swamp are especially beautiful. I enjoy visiting about an hour before sunset to watch Reddish Egrets, terns, and other birds on the beach. And I love seeing dolphins frolicking and mullets jumping across the water.
The birds, many palm trees, and sunsets are simply gorgeous. Don’t forget your camera.
Howard Altman is a journalist and photographer. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Daily Beast, and other publications.
At a Glance
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Beach, wetlands, and mangrove swamp.
Nearly 1,000-foot beach. Boardwalk wheelchair-accessible. About a 100-yard walk from parking lot to beach.
More than 230 species. Year-round: Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue, Little Blue, and Tricolored Herons, Great, Snowy, and Reddish Egrets, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Common Ground-Dove. Winter: Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Loon, Northern Harrier, Caspian and Royal Terns, Black Skimmer, Eastern Screech-Owl, Lesser Scaup, Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, American Kestrel, American White Pelican. Spring: More than 25 species of warbler, Brown Thrasher, swallows, thrushes. Fall: Red-shouldered Hawk, Blue-winged Teal, Sandwich Tern, Pileated Woodpecker.
When to go
Observation deck, picnic tables, water fountains, restrooms, bicycle rack, and benches. Boat ramp for launching canoes and kayaks.
County park. Open year-round, dawn to dusk. Parking fee $2. Annual county park pass $60.
Bring insect repellent. Park closes promptly at sunset. Gulf breezes keep temperatures cooler in summer and warmer in winter, but you may need a sweater in December and January.
For more info
Key Vista Nature Park
8.7 miles south of Rees on Baillies Bluff Rd. Pine forest, mangrove stands, and beach attract shorebirds and woodland birds.
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park
A 320-foot-deep salt springs about 7.5 miles north of Rees on Hwy. 19. Look for raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds.