King Rail, Osprey, Roseate Spoonbill, and more than 200 other bird species have been spotted at this Great Florida Birding Trail site.
By Jeremy Ford | Published: 2/22/2017
Built in the 1990s on a former agricultural site, Celery Fields is one of southwestern Florida’s premiere birdwatching locations. It’s featured on the Great Florida Birding Trail and has a checklist of more than 220 species. More than 200,000 aquatic plants and trees have been planted, and 100 acres of wetlands have been restored.
I love the variety of opportunities the site offers. I can walk up the observation mound and see raptors glide just above my head or look down upon their extended wings as they swoop below the summit. On the top of the mound, look for Northern Bobwhites and Tree Swallows among the recently planted palm, oak, and cedar trees.
You can also stroll two 300-foot-long boardwalks and scan open ponds for Osprey, Roseate Spoonbills, and, in winter, up to 20 duck species. The ponds and marshes are also great for egrets, herons, Sandhill Cranes, wrens, rails, and sparrows. Every morning from 8:30 to 10:30, from November through April, a naturalist equipped with a spotting scope is available at the end of each boardwalk.
My favorite time to visit is during breeding season, when many of the birds are dressed in their most colorful plumage. — Jeremy Ford
Jeremy Ford is a freelance writer from New Orleans whose work has appeared in the online newspaper Nola Defender. He birds throughout the Gulf region.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Forested wetland, freshwater marsh, open water.
Flat, except for observation mound, which peaks at 65 feet.
More than 220 species. Year-round: Bald Eagle, Turkey and Black Vultures, Osprey, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White and Glossy Ibises, Great Blue, Little Blue, and Tricolored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, King Rail, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane, Laughing Gull, Red-winged Blackbird, Barn Owl, Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-necked Stilt, Roseate Spoonbill, Northern Mockingbird. Fall through spring: Brown Pelican, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Belted Kingfisher, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, warblers. Winter: Up to 20 duck species, American Bittern, dowitchers, sandpipers. Rarities: Upland and White-rumped Sandpipers, Short-eared Owl, Nelson’s Sparrow.
When to go
Year-round. Morning is best.
Observation mound, boardwalks, trails, restrooms, nature center, boat ramp for kayaks. Bird walks offered on fourth Monday of the month, October-March, at 9 a.m.; meet in the parking lot. Downloadable checklist on Sarasota Audubon website.
County stormwater-collection site. No fees. Open daily, 6 a.m. to midnight. Sarasota Audubon Nature Center open 9-1, October through May.
Wear sunscreen and good walking shoes, and bring a camera.
For more info
Red Bug Slough Preserve
7.6 miles southwest of Celery Fields off S. Beneva Rd. Mesic hammock habitat. Warblers, Limpkin, Belted Kingfisher, and Least Tern.
About five miles west of Celery Fields on Gilbert Ave. Canopy of elm and oak trees attracts thrushes, warblers, and other songbirds.