Watch for Great Florida Birding Trail signs in the Panhandle

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Signs marking Great Florida Birding Trail sites will be popping up all along the trail during December and January. The 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding Trail reaches another milestone with the installation of the Panhandle section road signs this month. Signs will mark each of the designated sites along the trail.

The Great Florida Birding Trail is a conservation program initiated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in response to the rapidly expanding sport of bird watching.  More than 485 exceptional sites throughout Florida have been chosen based on their quality and compiled into trail guides representing four geographic regions.

The sign installations should be completed by early next year and will help bird watchers find the designated sites throughout the Panhandle. Gateway sites at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, near Tallahassee, and Big Lagoon State Park, in Pensacola, provide extensive trail-related resources, with loaner optics available on site.  They also act as hubs of regional birding information.

Field guides in both English and Spanish also are provided to enable visitors to identify which birds they are viewing.  Additional materials for beginning bird watchers also are available at each gateway site.

The Florida Panhandle offers remarkable birding experiences and fewer crowds, with sought-after species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites, snowy plover, Swainson’s warbler, Sprague’s pipit and a remarkable diversity of winter visitors (including hummingbirds) not typically found in the peninsula.  The Panhandle’s coastline is an important migration corridor for waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds and birds of prey.

A sign-dedication event, complete with birding hikes, will be held at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 17 at 1 p.m.