Site helps us discover burrowing owls in Brian Piccolo Park
Every place I love in Florida has this feature in common: Birds love it too.
That’s why I found the website for the Florida Great Birding and Wildlife Trail such a useful tool.
The Florida birding trail isn’t really a trail. It’s a listing of more than 510 great places to see birds and wildlife. Texas was the first state to create a birding trail and now more than half the states have birding trails. Few, however, can boast the wonderful birdlife Florida offers.
The Audubon Society says 516 species have been recorded in the state, including more than 100 species who stop in Florida on their migration journey.
What’s great about the Florida birding trail is its Trip Planner, which helps you choose a region and even narrow it down by whether it offers camping, restrooms or handicap accessibility.
You can also search by bird, too. So if you’ve always wanted to see a Masked Booby, you will learn the only place to go is Dry Tortugas National Park. (An outstanding adventure I highly recommend, with or without seeing a booby.)
Using the Florida birding trail website is a great way to discover small unsung wild places, as my story suggests.
My goal in trying out the Florida birding trail website was simpler: What cool places in my neighborhood have I missed?
I’ve lived in Fort Lauderdale for 30-plus years, so I didn’t expect to find anyplace I hadn’t visited before.
But I did.
I learned from the birding trail website that one of the best places in the state to see burrowing owls is an ordinary city park with soccer fields and tennis courts in Cooper City.
The birding trail website says this:
At first glance, this is an unlikely birding spot, with its assortment of baseball, football, soccer and cricket fields. Look a little closer though, and you’ll notice posts with flagging tape roping off holes in the middle of fields. Believe it or not, this is one of the best sites to easily see Florida Burrowing Owls in the state. The owl population here is doing quite well, and they’re the pride and joy of park staff, who accommodate the birds’ sometimes inconvenient choices of burrow locations. Respect their space, and you’ll get excellent views. They even hunt on game nights, when insects are attracted to the ball fields’ lights!
My mid-afternoon visit proved the birding-trail guide was absolutely correct.
We were not 150 feet inside the park before we saw our first burrow with two owls. They had picked the most public and inconvenient spot to burrow – between the sidewalk and the street in the swale, where bicyclists and cars frequently pass.
As we drove and walked through the small park, we saw more than a dozen cordoned-off burrows, and about a third had owls perched at the openings, swiveling their necks left, right, up and down with keen wariness.
They seemed unbothered by the passersby and paid no mind to the long-lensed photographers who positioned themselves the recommended 10 feet away.
The busy park was filled with food trucks gearing up for a special event. The tennis courts were full. Bicyclists and joggers were making use of the paved paths. And yet the burrowing owls went about their business.
Ten minutes away, we found a wilder, more scenic location also listed in the Florida Great Birding and Wildlife Trail — Tree Tops Park and Pine Island Ridge. We had visited this park many times, and recommend it for a walk under some of the most beautiful live oak trees you can find in overbuilt Broward County. We didn’t spot many birds (truth be told, I’m not much of a birder. I just love wild spots). But it’s probably the best place for a 2- or 3-mile-long hike in Broward County.
The website works quite well, but there are plans to add content, such as offering a printable PDF for every trail site and Birding 101 videos.
Brian Piccolo Park
9501 Sheridan St.
Cooper City, FL 33024
Tree Tops Park
3900 SW 100th Ave.
Davie, FL 33328
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.