Seasons of Wildlife

Roseate Spoonbill pair / L Woodward

In this old Florida setting, visitors can see an array of shorebirds, wading birds, and migratory birds throughout the year. The Gulf islands that make up the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge are perfect resting and nesting areas for wading birds, shorebirds and migratory song birds. The Refuge hosts open house events on Seahorse Key throughout the year; another, soon after the rookery closure is lifted in July, so visitors can get a closer look.

  • Spring

    flying ibis / USFWS

    Blustery spring days don't keep birders indoors along the naturecoast. The Seahorse Key rookery is in full force from March 1st through June 30th; therefore, the island and 300 feet around it are posted CLOSED for that time period.  Parent birds must fly to freshwater sources to find fish that won't dehydrate their offspring. They can be seen coming and going throughout the day as they hunt for food.

  • Summer

    dolphin half out of the water

    Summer's heat and humidity inspires everyone to swim like this dolphin.  The best spots are those with white sand visible beneath the water like the point of Atsena Otie, Snake Key, and the point at Seahorse Key. (Reminder:  Seahorse Key is closed from March 1 - June 30).  Paddle out with a picnic and enjoy the day the way locals do it.

  • Autumn

    fritillary butterfly on a puple flower / USFWS

    Brisk breezes bring migratory songbirds and shorebirds to the coast. White pelicans return just in time for our annual National Wildife Refuge Week Open house at the Cedar Key Light Station.  Ospreys and eagles fly overhead as anglers cast their lines.  Butterlies are seen in large numbers in late September and October; frittilaries in particular love the Lighthouse garden.

  • Winter

    waves licking at a beached kayak

    Chilly temperatures here don't last long. Once the sun is up, marbled godwits, oyster catchers, avocets, and other beauties gather on mudflats, and shorelines within camera shot. Paddle or motor out into the Gulf where white pelicans kettle over land masses from one fishing site to another.  You'll see usual residents like ospreys, night herons, cormorants, egrets and ibis flying overhead.

    Paddle out to Atsena Otie  to see the first Cedar Key, the ruins of the Faber pencil factory, Main Street and the picturesque 19th-century cemetery with hand carved headstones - evidence of yellow fever and a hard life on the Gulf.  Before Tampa, before Miami, this was the only port after the Mississippi River and before Cuba.