For all you party animals, we’re not referring to the nightlifesee “Tampa Bay nightlife heats up when the sun goes down” for that. Instead, this article examines the variety of wildlife present in the region. You may have to make some trips to find them, but it will be well worth the trek.Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, located on the shore of Lake Maggiore, is a great place to start. That’s where you’ll have the easiest time seeing one of the real Florida alligatorswell, besides wrapping yourself in Lady Gaga’s meat dress and swimming out on a lake. Make sure to look up to the skies once in a while, as well. Boyd Hill is not only part of the Great Florida Birding Trail (GFBT), but also features an annual butterfly count with the North American Butterfly Association (NABA).
The GFBT is a 2000-mile collection of over 400 Florida sites for birdwatching. Within the actual Tampa Bay (the body of water lying along the Gulf of Mexico), you may be lucky enough to see some manatees. In the winter, you’re likely to find some hanging out in the warm water from the nearby power plants. The Florida subspecies (Trichechus manatus latirostris) can live up to 60 years, so this could also count as a historical outing. This species has been historically threatened by a low population count, although a January 2010 count reported more than 5000 members statewide.
The Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge and the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge are both located within the Bay. Egmont Key lies on the mouth of the bay, but Pinellas is only accessible by boat. Unfortunately, Pinellas is closed to visitors in order to protect the brown pelicans, cormorants, egrets, and herons that nest on the islands. However, you can make your way to the Egmont Key location, which, in addition to a variety of bird species, also includes gopher tortoises. This threatened species is typically less than a foot long and has a yellow shell at birth which darkens to brown or gray as they mature.