Important Bird Areas

Walton County Beaches

Florida

Camp Creek Inlet, 40 ha;
Deer Lake State Park, 806 ha;
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, 664 ha;

Two separate areas between U.S. Highway 98 and the Gulf of Mexico in southern Walton County. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is between Four Mile Village and Beach Highlands, Deer Lake State Park is about 11.5 miles (18.4 km) farther east, and Camp Creek Inlet is just east of Deer Lake State Park.

Three parcels (two adjacent) along the Gulf of Mexico that preserve significant portions of some of the most scenic and diverse coastal habitats in the region, including several freshwater lakes just inland of the coastal dunes. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and Deer Lake State Park are part of a much larger South Walton County Ecosystem CARL?FF Project, which also includes Point Washington State Forest (15,101 acres; 6111 hectares) that is not contained within this IBA. The State Parks were acquired through eminent domain, which explains the high cost of acquisition ($223 million). Annual visitation for the state parks is 10,000 for Deer Lake State Park. No information other than avian data was provided for Camp Creek Inlet and Topsail Hill State Park.

The sites support ?Choctawhatchee? beach mice and sea turtles. The coastal dune lakes are unique to Florida, and are a critically imperiled habitat. The CARL?FF Project contains 13 rare plants, 6 rare animals, 14 natural communities, and 7 archaeological sites, and many of these occur within the two state parks. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park preserves about 3 miles (4.8 km) of coastline and two coastal dune lakes.

Ornithological Summary

Two of the three sites within this IBA supports significant populations of Snowy Plovers. Deer Lake State Park supports no Snowy Plovers currently, but the habitat is suitable, and the site is adjacent to Camp Creek Inlet, which is used by plovers. Only a rudimentary bird list is available.

Conservation Issues

*development, *human disturbance.

Deer Lake State Park contains no designated trails, which causes people to walk all over the dunes. Boardwalks over, or specific paths through, the dunes should be developed, to protect the fragile dune ecosystem. The park contains no breeding Snowy Plovers even though the habitat is suitable; human disturbance may be a factor. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park contains remnant Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavities, but no woodpeckers currently. The Park management plan emphasizes restoring flatwoods habitats that can support a reintroduced population of woodpeckers.

+Gore and Chase (1989) found 4 pairs of Snowy Plovers at Philips Inlet, just east of the Walton/Bay county line; preservation of this area should be investigated.

Ownership

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Deer Lake State Park and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park), private owners (Camp Creek Inlet)

Habitat

*coastal strand, *coastal lakes, pine flatwoods, sand pine scrub, sandhills, basin swamp, tidal marsh, and freshwater marsh.