Honeymoon Nesting

Some may think we have been married far too many years to be considering a honeymoon, but that is exactly what we did recently.  While we didn’t do much nesting while on said honeymoon, I must admit to being a teensy bit of a voyeur, watching those who were nesting. 😯

If you winter or live near Dunedin, Florida (just outside Clearwater), you may have guessed that we spent a day visiting Honeymoon Island State Park, a mere three miles from where we are staying at Dunedin RV Resort.  On a recent sunny day (it is raining and blustery as I sit here typing 😦 ) we hopped on our bikes and headed to Honeymoon to check out what the hype was all about.

Biking the nature trail,on the hunt for osprey
Biking the nature trail, on the hunt for osprey

An unusual name for a state park, its origins began as Hog Island until 1939, when New York developer Clinton Washburn, coupled with LIFE magazine, held a contest for newly married couples.  The winners received an all expense paid two-week honeymoon in a romantic palm-thatched bungalow on Honeymoon Island.  Although the bungalows were abandoned at the start of WWII, the name of the island stuck.

Today you can bike the island, kayak around the 4-mile shoreline, throw a line in the water, or grab a beach chair and umbrella and soak up some rays on a white sand beach, lulled by the rhythmic melody of the waves.

Just another day at the beach!
Just another day at the beach!

You can choose instead to do what we found to be the most exciting, walk the 2-mile nature trail to spot osprey and eagles nesting.  This is the time of year where mom and dad are busily feeding and guarding their chicks so there was much activity on the nests and the osprey’s high-pitched whistling was an ongoing symphony as we walked along the path.  With so many nests in this section of the park, it is tough to decide just which one to focus on.  This is a place where one need not wonder if they will see wildlife, rather how many.

Osprey thrive on the island but they are not the only predators you may see on your visit.  At the far end of the nature trail, behind a protected fence, a pair of bald eagles guard a nest housing two chicks.

A magnificent regal bird guarding the nest.
A magnificent regal bird guarding the nest.
Mom feeding her two chicks
Mom feeding her two chicks

We spotted an elusive great horned owl hanging out in the canopy of a pine tree at the 3/4 mile mark.  Looking like a football wedged in the branches above, further investigation revealed a beautifully colored predator.  No nest has been spotted this season, a disappointment to those who protect this island.

Hanging out in the canopy above.
Hanging out in the canopy above.

One final gift delighted us as we diverted our eyes from the sky to the ground right at our feet…the gopher tortoise.

I am much easier to photograph, don't you think?
I am much easier to photograph, wouldn’t you agree?

We had heard there was a shy little armadillo shuffling around in the brush but unfortunately he eluded us.  Having had a fruitful day of voyeurism, we headed back home with huge smiles on our faces.

Honeymoon and its neighbor, Caladesi Island, were once part of a large barrier island, split into two during a brutal hurricane that hit in 1921.  The waters running between these two islands are known as Hurricane Pass.  We hope to kayak over to Caladesi Island during our stay, weather permitting.   Timing for the paddle is tide dependent…too low and you are stuck in the mud and oyster beds and too high, you cannot squeeze through the mangrove canopies.  Sounds like great fun.  Wish us luck!

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