Point Washington State Forest is a bird lover’s delight By Erika Zambello, Audubon Florida
If you take a drive through Walton County, you will inevitably pass through one of our region’s most precious natural resources: Point Washington State Forest.
Encompassing more than 15,000 acres, the state forest was purchased in 1992 and today is managed not only for timber, but also for wildlife, the restoration of native Florida habitat, and outdoor recreation. While the forest is dominated by pines, the land boasts 10 distinct natural communities, including cypress swamps, wet prairie, and more.
Because of its diverse habitats, Point Washington is a birding hotspot. By taking a stroll on one of the forest’s many trails, visitors can spot some of Florida’s cutest songbird species.
Pint-sized, curious, and feisty, these kinglets are olive-gray but sport a bright red crest. In fact, Ruby-crowned kinglets are so small that they only burn 10 calories per day. Most common in the winter, they like to perch in dense woods or shrubs.
Coming in at just about four inches and weighing only 0.3 ounces, brown-headed nuthatches stick to pine trees in order to find their insect-prey. While difficult to spot, birders can zero in on this tiny species by listening for their mouse-like squeaks. Fun fact: this nuthatch species has been observed using tools to pry bugs from beneath bark.
Spring brings neotropical migrants from South Florida, Central, and South America as they journey north for their summer breeding season. Northern parulas are one of the most colorful warbler varieties, the males covered in blue feathers, with bright yellow and orange chests. Listen for their buzzy calls, and prepare to fall in love with their unique hues.
Are birds not really your thing? The forest is also home to carnivorous pitcher plants, White-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, flatwoods salamanders, and more. Land managers use regular prescribed fires to keep the woodlands healthy, and so there is always something new to see in this changing landscape.