On our regular trips to Longboat Key, Florida, we have visited a large number of State Parks and nature preserves along that region of the Gulf Coast. But, having done so for 8 years now, we just recently discovered Ted Sperling Park, at the south end of Lido Key.
Though relatively small, this Park offers a pleasant mix of barrier island ecosystems, including Sarasota Bay, a major inlet, tidewater lagoons and coastal woodlands; the latter are dominated by introduced Australian pines but also include sea grapes, Florida cedars, native palms, mangroves and a variety of sand tolerant shrubs, grasses and wildflowers. Birders will find an excellent mix of coastal species; herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills, ibis, anhingas and wood storks feed in the backwater shallows while pelicans, cormorants, terns, gulls, ospreys and red-breasted mergansers fish on the open waters of the bay.
Those of us from northern, deciduous latitudes are often disappointed by the relative lack of terrestrial birds in these subtropical habitats. Nevertheless, an abundance of insects and some fruiting plants attract mockingbirds, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, gray kingbirds, gray catbirds and a decent variety of migrant warblers. Florida anoles are everywhere and those visiting at dawn or dusk, might encounter raccoons as they patrol the Park's woodlands and shorelines.