Typical View (21)
Accuracy: Read me
On Big Map: Click map
(or on google maps
6800 Palmer Ave., Sarasota, FL, Sarasota, USA, 34240
It was farm land that was turned to several squarish large ponds and a half football field sized 85ft tall hill. At the parking area is a successful bunch of bird feeders and a building for... well not sure what they do there.
Very varied. Certainly wading birds, gallinules, grackles. Cowbirds, red winged black birds, hawks.
Snakes. Otherwise I wouldn't expect much here - too urban to have deer etc.
Bathrooms. Bird feeders / garden. Boardwalks. Gift shop of sorts in cooler months.
Right off I-75 Fruitville Road - exit 210. Go south and you park on the south side of the hill off Palmer Ave. Or drive around and park at the other ponds. There are other ponds north of here along apex road.
Sarasota Audubon society is the only one I've seen that 1) required you purchase a list of area hotspots 2) instructed you to buy it at this location (rather than on the website) and 3) closes the location half the year. It's a very Sarasota thing to do.
The better spots are all pretty close to parking. I'd assume at least a half hour and would be getting sick of the place after a full hour. As discussed - walking around the hill takes time and has never panned out for us.
This is one of those places that I wouldn't go if it didn't have good birding often enough to make it of interest. It's very exposed to the sun and traffic noise would be my main complaints. It does seem to be a hit or miss spot though. Sometimes you'll see something unusual - other times nothing. Though not large it does have a few distinct areas:
One north side of street:
* The big hill - we haven't been here 100 times but our experience is that we've run into a few birds seen flying around it (they seem to like the updrafts?) - but it's generally not worth the hassle.
* The butterfly garden and building by parking lot - The birdfeeders often bring in interesting birds. We've seen parrots, cowbirds, red winged black birds, it's pretty random. In the parking lot we saw a cooper's hawk and we didn't realize until months later but there was a caracara flying by. But you have to look up and pay attention here - it seems like there will be nothing. Because many times we've stopped and seen nothing much more often than been wowed. Also people like to hang out here and drink apparently - lots of empty liquor bottles.
* Ponds on this side of field. I'm guessing these serve the original purpose: to biologically filter the agricultural runoff from this area before it gets to filthy phillipe creek. That said - it is worthless for birding. Every time we've looked at or walked towards these things it has been pointless beyond spotting a lone heron. BUT - who knows... maybe we just had bad luck. 5 times. Throughout the year. At different times of day.
South side of the street.
* Entrance 1: Walk across the street from the parking lot and there is a short boardwalk. You hear lots of gallinules here but the only other things we've seen is a red shouldered hawk, some egrets/herons. It's always been kind of disappointing.
* Entrance 2: When facing the road (Palmer Blvd) from the parking area to the left is Raymond Rd going around the ponds. It goes straight like 400 ft then turns right and again turns left. Right around there is a pull off for another short boardwalk - there's a gate near there as well. This area is pretty nice for birds. As soon as you park if you look at the power lines across the street you often see loggerhead shrike and sometimes kestrel. Past the gate is Cari's favoriate grassy area - see below "The Snake That Ate Everything". The boardwalk itself we've always had some luck on. How high the water level is changes things but generally if you look in the grass as soon as it is under some water and pay close attention you'll see some birds. Usually there are gallinules to the left - we saw one of our first purple gallinules here (though never again since). Sometimes ducks, usually herons/egrets/limpkin. Bittern once or twice.
* The bad thing about this side of the road - and again maybe their mission is to clean water not to make it accessible - BUT - you can't see the vast majority of the lakes that actually have birds in them. No places to pull over etc along the lakes on this side of the street for the most part.
The Snake That Ate Everything
On one of our first visits we walked into the tall grass beyond the gate to get a better view of the pond. Soon after I hear Cari run for her life while emitting an unrepeatable series of noises conveying urgent fear and disgust. I ask what's wrong and she very vocally tells me "SNAKE!" with a tone of voice that heavily implies I should be very concerned with my location. We've seen quite a few rattlesnakes without problem so she had my strict attention. I say "where!" and she says "right there!!" without pointing. We repeat this last exchange without much variation until she finally describes the snake to me and we figure out it was what should be everyone's favorite snake: The Indigo snake! Indigo snakes are huge black snakes. One lived under my house as a kid and though they can be terrifying they are completely harmless (except to rattlesnakes - which they eat). Images.
Other parks in the area - none amazing but worth stopping if so inclined:
- Ackerman park up Apex road often has ducks.
- the pond by the library further up apex road sometimes has things.
- Lake osprey is right at the next exit north - again more ducks
- Up the road is the Lake Palmer area - they are building houses all over but we saw ducks and shorebirds
- Myakka State Park - I take it back this one IS amazing. Pretty close as well.