It was the middle of March and news of the Coronavirus pandemic was breaking fast. We wanted to take a trip while being careful to pick a small town and Cedar Key is the place we picked.
Another reason for the trip was eBird news of a Mountain Bluebird seen off Trilby Road for almost the last few months. This is a beautiful hilly (for Florida) area and a few other birders were also on the hunt. Unfortunately, we were a day late and the Mountain Bluebird has not been seen since. We spent over an hour driving back and forth and saw 26 species. Some that we rarely see close to home are Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Meadowlark, Carolina Wren, Savannah Sparrow, and Tufted Titmouse. Finding a Burrowing Owl in a new county was nice.
Fort Island Gulf Beach is normally a great location for shorebirds. On this Saturday there were more people than birds. Cedar Key Cemetery Boardwalk had lots more birds and we added Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Spotted Sandpiper on the shell islands. The last stop of the day was the Lower Suwannee NWR–Shell Mound where we saw a Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk and the target bird, Clapper Rail.
Nightlife in Cedar Key is always a good time. Only a short walk from our room to the Big Wharf where we had dinner at the Steamers bar. A sign outside Liam & Madi’s offered to trade a PBR for a roll of toilet paper. Sunset views are great here and watching the end of day activities at the boat ramp was interesting too.
The next morning, we passed an Osprey nesting on a church tower on our way back to the Cedar Key Cemetery. We saw many new birds including Red Knots, Lesser Scaup, close up views of Clapper Rail, and two sociable Eastern Towhee checking themselves out in the car door mirrors. A quick pass by Dautry Park added 11 American Oystercatchers and 20 Purple Martins. We hoped to see a Gray Kingbird and stopped at Cedar Key City Park (2nd Street). No luck on the Kingbird but added a Eurasian Collared-Dove.
One of the best things about Cedar Key is the fresh seafood so on the way out of town we stopped at Southern Cross Seafood for clams and shrimp. Southern Cross is one of the largest producers of sustainable seafood in Florida.
We decided to take another route back so we could stop at Sweetwater Wetlands Park in Gainesville. The numerous boardwalks make it a stellar birding location. Some of the best included 250 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Sora, Limpkin, Least Bittern, and a pair of Mottled Duck. All totaled, we saw 35 species and 465 individuals. It was a hot day for March 15.
Close by is Paynes Prairie Preserve SP–La Chua Trail. This is a reliable place for Snail Kite and Limpkin. There was a Great-horned Owl perched in a tree before walking through the barn. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet was a nice addition to our Florida year list.
We love this part of Florida so much that we may be looking for property in Cedar Key. You never know what a birding trip can lead to.
Trip Birds: 77 Year Birds: 18 FL Life Birds: 0
Next Up: Birding During Covid-19