Article written by Tracy Smith, Panama City Resident.
Lake Caroline has gone to the birds! A new birding trail consisting of 10 signs now encourages locals and visitors alike to take a short walk around Lake Caroline and learn more about our feathered friends. The trail was the brainchild of Dave Smith, resident on Lake Caroline. “We constantly see people stopping to view the ducks, geese, and waterfowl that inhabit Lake Caroline. Why not help others learn about the wonderful wildlife we have here?” Dave and his wife Tracy collaborated with the local Bay County Audubon Society’s members, who identified some of the birds that most often frequent Lake Caroline.
The Lake Caroline Birding Trail is situated between 11th Street and Beach Drive’s Asbell Park, which is already popular for its swings and sunset viewing. With this in mind, the Smiths worked with the City of Panama City’s Quality of Life Department to install the “Laughing Gull” sign at Asbell Park with simple maps in a brochure box as the start of the trail.
The remainder of the signs were eagerly installed by residents around the lake, resulting in a loop trail that is an easy ¾ mile walk. Some of the birds on the signs inhabit the lake year-round, such as the Greylag Goose (pictured here), Mallard Duck, and Muscovy Duck, while others like the Bald Eagle usually migrate during the year and can be spotted periodically at the lake.
Bettina Mead, a resident at Lake Caroline as well as Retired Marketing Director for the Northwest Florida Regional Library System, commented, “I am truly honored and excited to be a part of the new Lake Caroline Birding Trail. The Lake Caroline area is full of wildlife, and what could be more special than having a Bald Eagle in your front yard? I encourage you to join the Bay County Audubon Society and help us preserve the wonderful blessings we have here.”
Brenton Hitchcock, resident at Lake Caroline, claimed the Great Egret sign for his property and explained, “I personally like birds, but I chose to be a part of the bird trail not to attract just birds, but to get my dad over to my house more often. That man loves a good bird sighting! He has already been over so much more!”
Teri Floore, co-president of the Bay County Audubon Society (BCAS) commented, "This is a great addition to the St. Andrews Bird Trail, and it reminds us of the importance of birds in our lives. To join with others who love birds and nature, we invite people to check our website at baycountyaudubon.org for information about meetings and field trips."
BCAS members also provided photographs of birds for the signs. Ron Houser contributed photos of the Laughing Gull, Bald Eagle, and Red-winged Blackbird. Donna Cronwell photographed the Osprey and Belted Kingfisher, while Gail Casteel captured the Great Blue Heron in her photo. Dave Smith snapped the photographs of the Greylag Goose, Mallard Duck, Great Egret, and Muscovy Duck for the signs.
Be sure and help our feathered friends by NOT feeding them bread, which does not provide birds adequate nutrition. Instead, chopped lettuce, cabbage, half cut seedless grapes, birdseed, peas, corn (not popcorn), rice, broccoli, tomatoes, and oats are suggested.
If you have a moment, stop by Asbell Park, pick up a map, and follow this new Lake Caroline Birding Trail to learn about our feathered friends!