My binoculars are old and I can’t figure out how to use them with glasses. Simultaneously? Just binoculars? That’s even blurrier. Better to find big birds up close and personal.

Luckily, this is easily done in St. Petersburg. Rigid original city planning resulted in a necklace of parks around the downtown waterfront. Fort DeSoto, a 1,000+ acre county park dangling between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, is the bird version of Orlando so everyone visits. But look slowly. They’re here, there, everywhere.

Not to brag, but St. Pete has over 150 parks protecting 2,400 acres. Some are postage-stamp small. Some have historic mounds and middens. Others offer miles of boardwalks over marsh, swamp, through hardwood hammocks and out again to pine flats in palmetto scrub. And everywhere, birds. Comprehensive info on all of the parks here.

When the Pandemic descended in March of 2020, locked down and locked off our 35 miles of beaches, droves of locals headed for the parks. I was not alone in discovering a slew of new favorites. When the beaches reopened, the parks emptied but not to pre-Pandemic levels. While I seek isolation, this kind of beauty must be shared. Especially with laughing, delighted children.