Hotel ELEO at the University of Florida celebrates Gainesville's great outdoors with the Birding, Burgers + Brews package. The two-night package includes a $50 dining credit at Covey Kitchen + Cocktails and a map with top birding spots near the hotel (use booking code BIRDS).
Florida is part of the "Atlantic Flyway," a migratory flight path that covers more than 3,000 miles from the Arctic to the Caribbean and South America, and, of course, runs right through Florida. Thanks to Gainesville's diverse ecosystems, including wetlands hammocks, grasslands, and forests, birds – and, naturally, birders – birders, flock to the area.
Gainesville and Alachua County are a part of The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a self-guided network of 510 premier wildlife viewing sites across the state. The printed map provided by the hotel shares some of the area's birding spots to the hotel. The map on the blog includes favorite birding spots suggested by birders and the local Audubon group.
"Many of our guests enjoy watching the birds around Rush Lake," stated Charlie Keller, Executive Chef at Covey Kitchen + Cocktails, the popular restaurant located at the Hotel ELEO, which wraps around Rush Lake. "Guests who dine outside have spotted cormorants, egrets, herons, hawks and at night, owls. While it is not a large lake, it attracts a variety of feathered friends."
With birds and birders plentiful in Gainesville, visiting birders will delight in the many local programs and events. Below are a few sample events and guided tours. For more information including times and locations as well as updates on programs, visit the Alachua Audubon Society.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
- Birds and Brews (first Sunday of the month, one hour before sunset) is a monthly guided bird walk organized by the Alachua Audubon Society and First Magnitude Brewing.
- Zen Birding (fourth Sunday of the month) held at Possum Creek Park, is a combination of yoga, meditation, birding and hiking. Details here.
- Pints and Predators (held every April) an annual educational festival and fundraiser for local wildlife rehabilitation organizations at First Magnitude Brewing.
- Wednesday Bird Walks at the Wetlands is held every Wednesday morning September through May at Sweetwater Wetlands Park.
- Family Birding (first Saturday, October - April) is a guided hike on the La Chua Trial. Details here.
- Florida Bat Fest (October) bats are mammals, not birds. But if you love all things that fly, this event is a must. Organized by the Lubee Bat Conservancy, home to 200 endangered bats, the event attracts thousands of people Gainesville, which is home to more than 50,000 bats.
- Gainesville Christmas Bird Count (a set day between Dec. 14 and Jan 4, annually) is organized by the Alachua Audubon Society. Gainesville's 62nd annual Christmas bird count in 2020 tallied 77,542 birds — the highest ever for the city. The Santa Fe Audubon Society (serves Putnam, Bradford, western Clay and eastern Alachua counties) also had a record-breaking annual count in December 2020 with 28,842 birds documented.
Dr. Andrew Kratter, a Florida Museum ornithology collection manager and co-compiler of the Gainesville Christmas Bird Count, reported that the 2019 bird count documented 170 species. including great blue herons, snail kites, limpkins, black-bellied whistling-ducks, rails, warblers, sparrows and a rare gray-headed swamphen. More than 7,900 sandhill cranes were spotted and the black-bellied whistling-duck numbers exceeded their previous high count by more than 4,000. (Read Kratter's article on the 2019 count here).
The Florida Museum of Natural History, located on the University of Florida campus, is a must-visit for birders. The museum is home to one of the world's largest collections of bird specimens, which are available through an online database (https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/birds/), including bird sounds and eggs. Birders who do visit the museum in person will delight in the stunning displays and in-depth information about Florida's natural history and can explore a Natural Teaching Area behind the museum, a local eBird hotspot.
For more information about the Birding, Burgers, + Brews package at Hotel ELEO at the University of Florida, visit Hotel ELEO.com. Links to the organizations mentioned are shared below.
Audubon Society Alachua Audubon Society
Audubon Society Santa Fe Audubon Society
eBird Best birding spots in Alachua County
Great Florida Birding Trail (Wildlife Florida site)
Local bird list from Alachua Audubon
BOOKS FOR BIRDERS
A Birdwatcher's Guide to Alachua County, Florida by Rex Rowan and Mike Manetz
Birds of Florida by Stan Tekiela http://www.naturesmart.com/
The Nature of Florida by James Kavanagh
Five Star Trails: Gainesville and Ocala by Sandra Friend and John Keatley
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL BIRD DATES
National Bird Day - January 5
Black Birders Week - held in June (May 30 - June 5, 2021)
Go Birding Day - April 24, 2021 (last Sat in April)
Bird Day - May 4
World Migratory Bird Day - May 8, 2021 and October
Global Big Day Bird Count - May 9, 2021 (eBird bird count)
October Big Day - held in October