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Birding Hot Spots: The Wild Side of Sarasota

Program Number: 19349RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/24/2013 - 3/29/2013; 1/25/2015 - 1/30/2015; 3/22/2015 - 3/27/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Sarasota, Florida
Price starting at: $848.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

A major stopover on the Eastern Flyway and the unique, myriad subtropical ecosystems makes the region around Sarasota a premier birding destination in the United States. With expert ornithologists, explore brackish estuaries, scrublands, mangrove forests, marshes and sandy islands as you increase your list of bird-species sightings. Observe the rare Florida subspecies of Scrub Jay and unique birds such as the Marbled Godwit, Reddish Egret and Long-billed Curlews, all amid the warm-weather splendor of Florida’s Gulf Coast.


• Join a birding expert at Fort De Soto Park, an internationally famous and premier birding location on the East Coast.
• Embark on a private boat across the estuaries of Roberts Bay to see the wading birds, mangrove forests and a major bird rookery.
• Discover the unique flora and fauna with your ornithological expert, and learn how she added Celery Fields to the state’s repertoire of birding locales.

Activity Particulars

Walks up to two miles over varied terrain; some stairs.

So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.

Coordinated by the Friendship Centers.


Situated on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico on Florida's west coast, Sarasota is rich in cultural treasures and recreational attractions within a short driving distance, including the outstanding John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Ringling Museum of the Circus, art galleries, golf courses and beaches.

Modern hotel with swimming pool, Jacuzzi and fitness center on Lake Osprey.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Owen Comora

Owen Comora’s passion for birding began in his teens, and that passion has only grown since he and his wife moved to Sarasota in 1998. As a senior volunteer bird interpreter at Sarasota’s Myakka River State Park, Owen has devoted more than 3,000 hours at one of the oldest and largest state parks in the state. Owen is president of The Friends of Myakka River and also a member of Sarasota Audubon Society, the Crowley Nature Museum and the American Birding Association..
Jeanne Dubi

Jeanne Dubi moved from New York City to Florida in 1997 and has since immersed herself in birding and the conservation of birding habitat in Sarasota County. In 1997, she began a survey of the birds of the Celery Fields, a storm water retention site near the interstate. After tallying 132 species, Jeanne approached the Sarasota Audubon Society with a proposal to protect the Fields from intense public use. The Fields were designated for passive use, and the bird count has grown to 206 species.
Lynn Jakubowicz

Lynn has been a birder for more than 30 years. She holds a bachelor’s in education from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. She has been the membership chair for The Sarasota Audubon for the past five years and is also active in conducting bird surveys of Sarasota's parks. The team she leads has completed a two year study of Red Bug Slough and is currently doing surveys of Urfer and Rothenbach parks. She has been a member or leader of Christmas bird-count teams for more than 30 years.
Kathryn Young

Kathryn received her bachelor’s in education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for many years as a computer technology instructor for the Nortel Communications Corporation. She later obtained a nursing degree and worked as a professional nurse in a variety of medical areas. Since moving to Sarasota in 2004, she has been active in leading Audubon Field Trips. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Sarasota Audubon.
John Ginaven

John earned his master’s in nuclear physics at the University of Wisconsin. He is a retired teacher and naturalist from several nature centers. John worked at Tyler Arboretum, near Philadelphia and Ashland Nature Center near Wilmington, Del. He also served on the board of the Valley Forge Audubon Society and the Sarasota Audubon Society. John has been a bird watcher for 39 years in states throughout the U.S., as well as in Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Trinidad and Australia.
Jerry Sandy Ulrikson

Jerry and Sandy Ulrikson moved to Sarasota in 2005 and are avid birders and wildlife enthusiasts. They served as volunteers for several years with the Whooping Crane reintroduction program, joining the migration crew in bringing Whooping Cranes from Wisconsin to Sarasota behind an ultra-light aircraft. The also volunteer in other wildlife non-profit organizations.
Meals and Lodgings
   Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
  Sarasota, FL 5 nights
 Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Hotel is located on Lake Osprey in the Nationally Renowned Master Planned Community of Lakewood Ranch, minutes from many of the area attractions. Close to restaurants, a hospital, pharmacy, grocery stores, movie theaters, hair salons etc., some within walking distance.
  Contact info: 6231 Lake Osprey Drive
Sarasota, FL 34240 USA
phone: 941-782-4400
  Room amenities: In room coffeemakers, refrigerator, microwave, hair dryers, iron and ironing board, data ports, 2 two-line phones, desk, ergonomic chair, high speed Internet service, plug in or wireless, color TV/remote, in-room pay movies, cable/HBO, alarm clock radio.
  Facility amenities: Hotel has a heated outdoor swimming pool/spa, fitness center, full service restaurant, cocktail lounge, room service, on site laundry facilities, free parking.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: $119-$149 AAA Rate Please make reservations as soon as possible this hotel fills up quickly during season. Please call the hotel directly at 941-782-4400 not the national toll free number in order to receive the AAA discounted rate.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: $119-$149 AAA Rate Please make reservations as soon as possible this hotel fills up quickly during season. Please call the hotel directly at 941-782-4400 not the national toll free number in order to receive the AAA discounted rate.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
HOTEL CHECK-IN is from 3:00pm. PROGRAM REGISTRATION is between 3:30-4:45pm in our private meeting room (information will be posted). You will be staying at Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch that night.
  End of Program:
HOTEL CHECK-OUT is by 12:00 Noon. Program concludes at approximately 11:30am. Box lunch is provided and available for those who need to depart. Those who wish to have lunch on site may do so. You will be staying at Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. The required Road Scholar Health & Safety Information form must be mailed to Senior Friendship Centers no later than three weeks prior to commencement of the program.
  Parking availability:
To Start of Program
  Location:  Sarasota, FL
  Nearest city or town:  Sarasota
  Nearest highway: I-75
  Nearest airport:  Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport SRQ
  From End of Program
  Location: Sarasota, FL
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Tampa International Airport


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Starlight Limousine
phone: 941-923-1896
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Approx $85 to hotel
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 hr 10 min 




65 miles


They use executive town cars and SUVs, please ask for Rick.


Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport


From Airport




Diplomat Taxi
phone: 941-365-8294


Per Person/One Way:


Approx $30
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 min. 




5-6 miles


Taxis are readily available 24hrs a day at the SRQ Airport.


Tampa International Airport


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Sarasota Tampa Express
phone: 800-326-2800 x9413558400
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$35 to SRQ Airport or office of Sarasota Tampa Express
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 hr 20 min 




65 miles


Please call in advance for reservations. You will then need to call a taxi to get yourself to the hotel. They can tell you who to call.

Driving Directions
  I-75 and SRQ Airport, Sarasota, FL From I-75 North or South take exit 213 University Parkway, East, right on Lake Osprey Drive, Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch is on the left. From Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, East on University Parkway - 7 miles, right on Lake Osprey Drive, Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch is on the left.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival & Check-in, Registration & Orientation, Getting to Know You
(Sunday, March 24)
 Afternoon: HOTEL CHECK-IN: 3:00pm. Rooms may be ready earlier.
PROGRAM REGISTRATION: Come over to the Road Scholar desk in the foyer between 3:30-4:45pm to register with the program staff and pick up your arrival packet that we'll review during orientation.
ORIENTATION: Beginning at 5:00pm in our private meeting room, we'll have an overview of the program ahead and review the up-to-date schedule, responsibilities, safety, guidelines, emergency procedures, and any other administrative issues. Please be aware that local circumstances may be require adjusting program elements. In the event of changes, we will notify you as quickly as possible. We appreciate your understanding.
 Dinner: Dinner is catered by the hotel restaurant in our private room beginning at approximately 6:00pm. We have worked with the chef to provide meals that are both tasty and nutritious. (Special meal requests must be made in advance via your Health & Safety Information form.)
 Evening: GETTING TO KNOW YOU: After dinner we'll spend some time becoming better acquainted with participants and program staff. Find out what you have in common beyond a love of learning! The rest of the evening is yours to continue making new friends or just to relax and prepare for the full day of activity ahead.
You are about to embark on a new birding adventure in beautiful Sarasota. Hundreds of migrating species pass through the region during the peak migration periods and many regularly spend the winter months here. Led by experts, explore “hot spots” that have made this area a veritable gold mine for birders.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Identification Characteristics, Lake Osprey Walking Field Trip, Oscar Scherer State Park and Endangered Scrub Jays
(Monday, March 25)

Note: Walk behind hotel to Lake Osprey, limited walking. Oscar Scherer; walk on uneven surfaces up to two miles at a 2.0 mph pace over the course of the day.

 Breakfast: Continental breakfast in our private room.
 Morning: PRESENTATION: Our birding expert will provide an overview of key identification characteristics of birds in the area through a power point presentation. Then a review of binoculars and field guides. (Bring your binoculars to this class.)
FIELD TRIP: Birding begins with a short walk to Lake Osprey to search for Common Moorhens, American Coots, Pied Billed Grebes, herons, ducks and terns. Learn how incursions by nature and man have affected the lake's wildlife. Lake Osprey is located behind the hotel.
 Lunch: Lunch is catered by the hotel restaurant in our private room.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Oscar Scherer State Park. We'll hike into the park to search for the rare and endangered Florida Scrub Jay - a bold, curious bird restricted to the rare oak scrub community, a habitat under constant threat of development. The Florida Scrub Jay is classified as "Threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Oscar Scherer State Park is one of the few places in the state with sufficient scrubby flatwoods to maintain a healthy population of Scrub Jays. The park focuses on preserving Florida's pine and scrubby flatwoods, once widespread throughout Sarasota County.

Learn how efforts of volunteers and professionals are helping these birds to survive. In addition to wildlife viewing, 15 miles of trails through these beautiful natural areas provide opportunities for hiking and bicycling. Other birds you may see in the park are Bald Eagles, Ospreys, warblers, woodpeckers, egrets, and the Great Blue and Little Blue Herons. Don't be surprised if you see an alligator in the 3-acre fresh water Lake Osprey. (Please note this Lake Osprey is in Osprey, there are two Lake Ospreys.)

 Dinner: Dinner is catered by the hotel restaurant in our private room.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Our resident birding expert will discuss upcoming field trips sites and the birds you are likely to see during the rest of your adventure: Roberts Bay Rookery, Fort De Soto Park, Oscar Scherer State Park, Myakka River State Park and the Celery Fields. Plenty of time for Q&A.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Field Trip: Fort DeSoto State Park, Free Evening
(Tuesday, March 26)

Note: Participants must be able to walk on uneven surfaces up to two miles at a 2.0 mph pace over the course of the day.

 Breakfast: Hot breakfast buffet will be available in our private room after 6:00am. Please be ready to depart on our field trip by 7:15am.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Rise early to begin your adventure this morning as you travel to Fort De Soto Park which has become internationally famous as one of the premier bird watching locations in the eastern United States. This park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands.

A log of bird sightings is kept in the park's administration building. The checklist is based on documented bird sightings from the area over the past 60 years. A total of 328 bird species has been reported as of August 2008 and new bird species are being added practically every year. Such rarities as Bananaquit, MacGillivray's Warbler, Kirtland's Warbler, Purple Sandpiper, Heermann's Gull and Brown Crested Flycatcher have been recorded recently.

Understand why this County Park has become an outstanding migrant bird trap. Before our trip, your guide will peruse the Internet Rare Bird Alert looking for reports of special sightings at Ft. De Soto. If rare birds have been sighted, we will attempt to track them down.

 Lunch: Picnic lunch at Fort DeSoto State Park as we watch and listen to the waves lapping on the beach. Fort De Soto was named Americas Top Beach for the second consecutive year by the world's largest online travel community, citing a spectacular combination of soft white sand, calm, clear water and a laid-back atmosphere
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Our Fort DeSoto birding field trip continues. Many species of shorebirds winter here along the Gulf Coast including Long Billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Short Billed Dowitcher, Reddish Egret and others. In fact, wintering birds start arriving as early as late July. North Beach and the end of East Beach are good places to look for them. A small variety of hawks and ducks also utilize the area as a wintering site. The puddle ducks, however, are most often reported at the pond a half mile before reaching the park entrance. Occasionally in winter, sea ducks, gannets and jaegers can be seen from the Gulf side of the park. (If time permits possible trip to Felts Preserve.)
 Dinner: Dinner this evening is on your own to explore your local cuisine preferences. A bus will take those who wish to go to a Lakewood Ranch area restaurant.
 Evening: FREE EVENING: You'll have about three hours for dinner and exploring on your own, then the bus will return to the hotel. Get some rest before tomorrow's full day of activity!
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Field Trip: Gulf of Mexico Beach, Roberts Bay Rookery Boating Field Trip, Evening birding video "Flight of the Whooping Cranes."
(Wednesday, March 27)

Note: Beach field trip participants would need to be able to walk on uneven sand conditions, wet, dry or loose. Ride aboard the Carefree Learner, must have good balance to board pontoon style boat with benches.

 Breakfast: Early morning continental breakfast available at 6:30am. Please be ready to depart for the field trip by 7:45am.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: We'll board our bus and drive to a local Gulf of Mexico beach of one of Sarasota's islands (depending on what's hot at the time) in search of shorebirds such as the Snowy Plovers, Willets, Red Knots, Black Skimmers, terns and gulls. Learn how groups are attempting to protect beach nesting birds from predators.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch at a park.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: FIELD TRIP: We will board our bus and drive to the beautiful Sarasota Bay where we will board the Carefree Learner for a private boat ride to Roberts Bay Rookery to see breeding birds. Learn how the efforts of one group have saved the rookery and made it possible for birds like American Oystercatchers and Roseate Spoonbills to nest there.
 Dinner: Enjoy dinner catered by the hotel restaurant in our private room.
 Evening: EXTRACURRICULAR: You’ve had a full day of birding so relax with a movie "The Flight of the Whooping Cranes," in our private room. Discussion led by actual participants in the endeavor. Then get ready for tomorrow and another early morning start!
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Field Trips: Myakka River State Park
(Thursday, March 28)

Note: Trip to Myakka, participants must be able to walk on uneven surfaces up to two miles at a 2.0 mph pace over the course of the day. Canopy walkway involves a swinging bridge and five stories of stairs. There are benches if participants do not wish to climb the tower.

 Breakfast: Early morning hot breakfast buffet available after 6:00pm. Please be ready to depart for the field trip by 7:30am.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: We will spend the morning exploring Myakka River State Park. shallow lakes, wetlands and diversity of habitats account for well over 100 birds species are recorded as common or abundant on the park's bird list; including Roseate Spoonbills, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Red Shouldered Hawks. Shorebird species including Long billed Dowitchers, Black Necked Stilts, Caspian Terns, Forsters Terns are seen frequently as well as some diving and dabbling ducks. We will visit the aptly named Alligator Bridge, the Weir, the Fishing Pier and the Birdwalk. Understand how invasion of plans and animals species has affected bird life on the lakes. Explore the Canopy Tower Trail. When you reach the structure, you'll walk up to 85 foot long canopy suspension bridge, then climb above the treetops to reach the 76 foot high tower to seek raptors below. (If you have a problem with heights, there are opportunities for viewing along the nature trail.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch with views of the Upper Myakka Lake and the inlet nearby.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Continue at Myakka State Park.
 Dinner: Enjoy a farewell dinner catered by the hotel restaurant in our private room.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: This night is for the birds! We’ll gather to compare notes with our birding expert on the birds we’ve seen on this program, other Road Scholar programs, and rare birds you may have seen on your own travels.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Celery Fields Field Trip, Program Concludes
(Friday, March 29)

Note: The Celery Fields require less than 3/4 of a mile walking.

 Breakfast: Early morning continental breakfast available after 6:30am. Please be ready to depart for the field trip by 7:30am.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: We rise early and travel to the Celery Fields to observe waking birds, marsh birds, ducks, and raptors. In early 2001, Sarasota Audubon began conducting bird surveys at the Fields where, to date, 206 species have been recorded. Mainly consisting of open marshlands, deep ponds, shallow pools, and canals, the Celery Fields are edged by oaks, willows, and pines on the eastern and southern boundaries.
Wintertime offers particularly good birding, hosting up to eight species of sparrows, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, and several species of rails, including Sora and Virginia. The Fields also host breeding birds, including Black-neck Stilts, King Rail, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Eastern Towhee, Barn Owl and Eastern Meadowlark. Least Terns breed on nearby buildings and use the ponds as a primary food course. Rarities can show up from time to time, including Upland and White-rumped Sandpipers, Short-eared Owl and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. A flock of wild Monk or Black Hooded Parakeets is always a possibility.
WRAP-UP: After returning to the hotel, we’ll have a wrap-up discussion of birds observed at the Celery Fields and say farewell to new-found friends.
The program concludes with this final presentation by approximately 11:30am. Hotel check-out is by 12:00 Noon.
 Lunch: Box lunches are provided and available for those who need to depart early. If you wish to stay and have your lunch after the final presentation, you may eat in our private room or on the patio by the pool.
We hope you have enjoyed this new learning adventure and will join us for other rewarding Road Scholar programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Sarasota, FL Sarasota attractions
Sarasota is known as the cultural arts center of Florida. The area has a plethora of activities: Selby Botanical Gardens, Ringling Museum of Art, Mote Marine Aquarium, Historic Spanish Point, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Florida WestCoast Symphony, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Sarasota Ballet Co., Asolo Theatre Co., Golden Apple Dinner Theatre. The area also offers several high quality beaches, boat rentals, water skiing, canoeing and kayaking. Hiking in two local state parks. Sarasota Polo grounds are close to hotel. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Birds of Eastern and Central North America

Author: Peterson, Roger Tory

Birds of Florida

Author: Pranty, Bill et al

Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Author: National Geographic Society


Author: P. J. Benshoff

Description: Explore Myakka River State Park as each page takes you into the shady hammocks of twisted oaks and aerial gardens, down the wild and scenic river. When you visit the park, the adventures described here are sure to awaken your primate instincts to explore the unknown. The possibilities for new and exciting experiences are unending. If you return to the same places at different times of the year, you'll find enough adventures to last a lifetime.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida

Author: National Audubon Society

National Geographic Birding Essentails

Author: Alderfer, Jonathan & Jon L. Dunn

Pete Dunne on Birdwatching

Author: Dunne, Pete

Shorebird Guide

Author: O'Brien, Michael et al

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