Looking for birds? You can always count on St Marks National Wildlife Refuge

by: Andy Wraithmell, Birding and Wildlife Expert

A large flock of birds at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in FloridaIn spring 2011 I became a volunteer at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. My role there is to count all the shorebirds and wildfowl at least every 2 weeks. I'm no stranger to counting birds; I've been counting them, for one job or another for 16 years. I love counting birds; it's one of my favorite things to do.

Counting ‘em is time consuming, especially at St Marks. Within my first few months I spent 65 hours and 23 minutes counting 13,296 shorebirds. One day, during a powerful gully gusher, which lasted for 45 minutes, shorebirds began dropping out of the sky to seek shelter on Mounds Pool 3. Amongst them was a flock of 53 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better an adult Hudsonian Godwit landed 100 feet from my truck. It was only the second one I'd ever seen in Florida! The birding gods were with me that day.

A bull gator at the St Marks National Wildlife RefugeAs well as all the thousands of shorebirds I've counted, I've witnessed a 12 foot bull alligator bellowing right in front of me, a Bobcat stalking meadowlarks, Monarch butterflies decorating the lighthouse salt bushes, a 6-foot Diamondback reluctant to have its picture taken, and a 12-point Buck strutting through the mist shrouded marsh. St Marks National Wildlife Refuges is one of Florida's special places and it's a privilege to be a volunteer there. Stunning scenery, peaceful serenity and wonderful wildlife awaits the would-be St Marks visitor. I can't wait for my next visit. Hope to see you down there!


Andy Wraithmell a Birding and Wildlife Expert from Tallahassee Author:

Andy Wraithmell

Birding and Wildlife Expert


Andy Wraithmell aka Limeybirder was born in Liverpool, England in 1971 and moved to Florida in 2004. He has been an avid birder and naturalist for most of his life and has worked for The National Trust, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Dungeness Bird Observatory, Cape May Bird Observatory and the Florida Park Service. He is a graduate of Bicton College of Agriculture and Florida State University and currently works for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission promoting the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. He lives in Tallahassee with his wonderful wife Julie and daughter Maisie Lark.

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