George McGough Park is a medium-small sized park tucked away near a bridge in Largo, Florida. Upon arrival the first thing you will see is the visitor center. The visitor center is home to a few hawks and eagles on display that are being rehabilitated. There are a few small shelters, a (rather impressive) playground, a bathroom and a butterfly garden. Next to it is a small pond that is home to a variety of turtles. Beyond the visitor center there is a short trail that goes to a instracostal area surrounded by mangroves and loops back around, cutting through a lovely oak hammock.
This is one of my favorite local parks for one reason, and as you might have guessed: it is the birds. There are some, wicked, sick, utterly nasty birds here all year round and I cannot explain why. The surrounding area does not typically have nearly as many uncommon or rare birds as this park unless you drive out of the way and go to Fort DeSoto or Honeymoon Island. During migration season, this park seems to be a hotspot for all sorts of migratory birds. I was lucky enough to see the all-powerful Worm-eating Warbler and a lovely Wood Thrush for the first time. The Wood Thrush has a unique, haunting song that I have not heard anything like before. Henry David Thoreau has a quote specifically about this bird:
"The thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Here is a bird in whose strain the story is told, though Nature waited for the science of aesthetics to discover it to man. Whenever a man hears it, he is young, and Nature is in her spring. Wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him."
It is a lovely bird but I think Mr. Thoreau was being a bit dramatic. I felt pretty good when I heard it but it was not spring and I certainly did not feel any of this malarkey about Heaven's Gate or whatever he was on about.
I was also graced with the presense of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. It was a big, heafty songbird that looked kind of like a lizard in its weird out of season plumage. These grosbeaks are somewhat common outside of Florida but they are quite rare in this county. I will check again this spring to see if any return.
Since the park connects to a mangrove-lined coastal area, you will see lots of aquatic species, like Kingfishers. I have seen several reports on eBird of various Cuckoo species but I have not seen any yet. I have also seen several confirmed reports of the very rare Blue and Golden-winged Warblers. I was not lucky enough to see one but I did embarrass myself in front of some old birder when I showed him a blurry picture a Chickadee and asked him if it was a Golden-winged Warbler. My theory as to why there are so many rare bird sightings is that the park is at the intersection of a mangrove forest, an oak hammock and a patch of scrub forest, making it suitable for almost everything. The park is not very big but it is well worth a visit, it is part of the Great Florida Birding trail for a reason.