Florida's Special Places: Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary

Audubon of Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuary staff member Mark Rachal sends us his nomination for Florida's Special Places: the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary. Mark recently was the guide and narrator on a cruise of over 130 Audubon of Florida supporters through this truly amazing coastal habitat. Did you attend this cruise or have you visited this bird sanctuary before? Post YOUR nomination on our Facebook Page and connect with others who love Florida as much as you! Enjoy:

Last night, Audubon of Florida and Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries staff and many of the program’s devoted supporters were treated to a sunset cruise around the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary in Hillsborough Bay. Departing from the dock in Tampa, the participants made their way south aboard The Florida Aquarium’s tour boat, the Bay Spirit II.

We were treated to a pod of dolphins that played near the boat as Audubon of Florida’s Executive Director, Eric Draper, greeted the cruise passengers.

The birds of Florida’s most important colonial wading bird colony did not disappoint. Many young Roseate Spoonbills, White and Glossy Ibis and Brown Pelicans covered the sandbar as the adult birds streamed in from every direction to feed the eager chicks. A family of American Oystercatchers patrolled the shoreline with the chick in tow scrambling to snatch every bit a food that the adults picked up. Nearly fledged small herons, including Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, and Snowy and Cattle Egrets perched in the mangroves calling and flapping wildly.

An unexpected surprise included about 25 American White Pelicans resting along the southern shoreline. Least Terns hovered near the second deck, allowing all on board great views, before plunging into the water and carrying their catch off to waiting broods. Though the sun made a premature exit behind a wall of clouds, everyone enjoyed their time with Audubon on the Bay Spirit II.

After a perfect evening on the coast with the birds of Florida's most important colonial wading bird colony, it's easy to see how amazing our state can be. I am thrilled to nominate the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary as one of Florida's Special Places.

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