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Honeymoon Island - Birding

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Honeymoon Island - Birding

When Is the Best Time 

The Bald Eagle; the national emblem of the United States nests here again since 2009 from October to May. Honeymoon Island is also a great spot for ospreys and great horned owls. You may spot many birds of prey on the Osprey Trail, especially in the winter. If you'd like to know all the details read our summary of the highlights by season.

Highlights by Seasons
Winter
  • Nesting season of the great horned owl and the osprey.
  • December is the best time to spot the belted kingfisher.
  • January is the nesting season of the roseate spoonbill.
  • February the snowy plover starts nesting.
  • Manatees can be seen close to the island in winter.
Spring
  • Migratory birds come to the island; peak in April.
  • Great blue heron nesting season in March.
  • Stingrays move to the shore in April
  • In May shorebirds start nesting.
Summer
  • Frigate birds come to the island if storms are blowing on the Gulf of Mexico.
Autumn
  • Warblers, peregrine falcons, and other birds migrate to the island.
  • Bald Eagle mating and nesting season roughly from October to May.


Turtle nesting season from May to October; loggerhead from April to August. The North Beach trail can be walked best at low tide. Tide Times Honeymoon Island

Opening Hours

Daily from 8 a.m. to sundown. The exact time is shown at the entrance gate.

Worst Time to Visit

Late summer and autumn are the worst times due to the huge number of mosquitoes.

Top Tip

Don’t come here in a rush. Enjoy this gorgeous park while birding, hiking, sunbathing or swimming. Bring enough water and a picnic. There isn’t any food available in the Honeymoon Island State Park. We highly recommend staying nearby in the lovely Palm Court Motel. We’d booked a studio with a kitchenette. Don’t miss the Caladesi Island State Park.

Discover 
Birding
US
Where  
United States, Florida, Tampa
Review and Tips 

Honeymoon Island was offered for newlyweds for two weeks free honeymoon by wealthy Clinton Washburn in 1939. This is where the name origins from. It was just one island, called Hog Island before a hurricane split it into two parts in 1921. Nowadays Honeymoon and Caladesi Island are popular for its pristine beaches and collecting shells.

Both islands are barrier islands of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Caladesi can be reached by ferry from Honeymoon Island or private boat only. Honeymoon is a 3 miles long island vegetated with palm trees, cedar trees and, pine trees.

Osprey Trail

There are different trails inside the park. The main track is the Osprey trail named after the many nesting pairs of ospreys along the path. The circular trail through pine forest is 2.2 mile / 3.5 km long. Several short paths to the right and left lead to a nest in the trees. First, you come to a board with information about the great horned owl. Have a look at the top of the next tree on the right side of the board. The owl might sit in there. Continue the trail, and you get to several osprey nests. We even spotted one with a freshly caught fish out of the sea. The reason that the ospreys nest here is the abundant fish around the island. The last part of the trail is closed from October to May; the nesting and breeding season of the bald eagle. There are two benches to sit down and observe the bald eagle or wait until one of them returns. The eagle could get disturbed if visitors come to close.

You get to the Pelican Cove Trail from the Osprey Trail only. It’s a short hike less than one mile to the tidal flats. They are inhabited by shore and migratory birds. 

There are roughly 300 Gopher Tortoises inside the park, but we didn’t spot any. 

What to Bring
  • Water to drink even in the winter and a picnic
  • Binoculars and a camera with an appropriate zoom lens
  • Insect repellent or long sleeve clothes
  • Sunscreen even in the winter
  • Patient for the perfect shot
Beaches

The park is famous for its pristine beaches, white sand, and the many different shells.

  • North Beach and Oasis Beach
    To experience tranquillity, walk the whole track of 5 miles / 8 km to get to the north tip and back. At high tide, the mangroves block parts of the trail. The trail starts at the northern parking place.
    At the beginning of North Beach is a lagoon where you spot shorebirds in the morning.
    There is lots of parking, showers, and facilities.

  • South Beach and Main Beach
    with lots of parking and Café Honeymoon

  • Pet Beach at the beginning of the park
    It’s the only beach where dogs are allowed. It's less crowded, but also beautiful.

Activities

Hiking, birding, swimming, biking, kayaking (bike and kayak rental shortly before the park), collecting shells

Camping on Honeymoon Island

Unfortunately, there isn’t any campground inside the park. We’d chosen a private run motel nearby.

Must-Know Tip

Stay on the trail. There are three different kinds of venomous snakes in the park; rattlesnakes are common, and poison ivy is almost everywhere.

Venemous snake in the Honeymoon Island State Park
 

Facts about the different birds of prey
Osprey or Fish Hawk

The osprey can be found worldwide, and it is widespread. It is one of the largest birds of prey in North America. Honeymoon Island is one of the very few places where it can be found throughout the year. Anyhow, the osprey is endangered to threatened. 
Usually, it feeds on fish, but also young alligators and snakes. The reason that they always nest close to the water. The peculiarity; the outer toe is reversible. The osprey can grip with two toes forward and two back. Usually, they nest at the same site and lay three eggs.

Bald Eagle 

The national emblem of the Us since 1782. It started nesting again on Honeymoon Island in 2009. The eagle usually feeds on fish, but also on small mammals like raccoons and squirrels. The area around the nest is not accessible from October to May. It nests in the south in the winter and north in spring. Usually, they have two eggs. Bald eagles remain together for their whole life.


Click the image to look inside

Greater Horned Owl 

It is the largest of the eared owls. They are quite lazy and take over the appropriate nests of eagles, hawks, and ospreys. Females are much bigger than males. They have 2-3 eggs and feed on insects, reptiles, small mammals, and amphibians. They start nesting in December-January. The incubation of the eggs lasts up to 35 days. The young ones start to fly well roughly after 10 weeks. The parents stay year-round near their breeding area, but owls are solitary. They are staying together during the nesting season only. 

Other birds of prey on the island are Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk. 

Pileated Woodpecker 

Male and female have the characteristic prominent red crest, but males also a red cheek. They can be found quite often in hardwood forests. They feed on insects and grubs under the bark and also on berries and nuts.

Photos 
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