Although you can’t tell by its name, Circle B Bar Reserve is a spectacular place for viewing Florida wildlife and is just a stones throw from the Polk Parkway. With hardpan Ranch roads as the trail, Circle B lends itself to birdlovers of all ages. On our first visit we counted 17 species of birds including Roseate Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Green Heron, and clouds of Tree swallows flying around.
Parking is available at the visitor center and you can begin the journey from there or stop inside and view the exhibits as the little ones climp the mock moss covered Oak. The Center is the hub of the Reserve as several trails lead you in various directions disecting the swamp and then circling back.
One of the most exciting walks is down Alligator Alley, where you are sure spot an alligator…if not many. There are also several different species of turtle including Red Bellied, Cooter, Slider and the prehistoric looking softshell turtle. Several species of wading birds co-exist amongs the reptiles while feeding on insects.
Our favorite trail was Marsh Rabbit Run to Wading Bird way. This trail proves the most exciting for the bird watchers! Glossy ibis, flocks of White Ibis, and Cattle Egrets feed and flutter about. Great Blue Heron hide in the tall grasses while little blue heron and Green Heron wade through lotus, duckweed and water lettuce fishing for food. Roseatte Spoonbill and Sandhill Cranes make an occassional appearance as flocks of Cooter, Morehen, and Blue winged tern duck are scattered about. Hundreds of tree swallow dart overhead inexhaustabley.
Once drained to support an old cattle ranch land, Circle B has recently been restored to is natural wetland state. The land was purchased in 2000 as a joint venture between Polk County and South West Florida Water Management, SWTFMD, to help increase the water quality into Lake Hancock. This parcel also plays a key role in the preservation efforts of the Upper Peace River restoration.
In this short time, it has become a natural haven for wildlife, reptiles, and wading birds as well as a winter home for migrating birds. The old ranch roads provide a nice place to hike/walk while still allowing you to experience the wildlife up close. Great place for family members of all ages!
See Circle B Bar Reserve on Flickr for more spectacular photos!