My Florida Photo Favorites

It’s been several weeks since our return from Florida. For the last few years we’ve been blessed to travel to various state parks exploring nature and the area’s natural beauty. I’ve chosen to post a few of my favorite photos from this years trip. A following post will include some of my wife’s favorite photos. Photos are favorites, when they capture the unique beauty of a creature, are of something not seen before, or contribute in some way to the story. Favorites need not always be great photographs.

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The parks visited over a period of eight weeks were: Myakka River State Park, Kissimmee Prairie State Park, Lake Kissimmee State Park, Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park,  Ochlocknee River State Park, and Three Rivers State Park. The idea was to start south and work our way north as the weather warmed going into early spring.

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This year we used bikes for the first time to initially explore trails which we could then hike if they looked promising. This coupled with the use of a canoe allowed us to spend time in a number of different Florida environments. On long hikes or bike rides our “go to” camera was the Panasonic FZ200. In the canoe or on shorter hikes we used DSLRs with telephoto zooms.

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Along the trail, typical of many of the parks visited.

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Myakka River State Park has been a favorite for the past two years primarily because of the potential for nature/bird photography. Paddling can be enjoyable if you and your partner(s) don’t mind being in close proximity to some rather large gators. The distance one can paddle within the park may be limited depending on water conditions and your determination. Hiking is good with some trails traversing more diverse habitat than others.

This Glossy Ibis gives ample reason for the name, Myakka River SP.

A Little Blue Heron strikes a rather exotic pose, Myakka River SP.

These Roseate Spoonbills were taking full advantage of the concentrated but temporary food source caused by a recent hurricane that flooded a substantial portion of the park trapping fish and other edibles in depression pools left as the water receded, Myakka River SP.

Wood Storks and Whistling Ducks seem to get along just fine, Myakka River SP.

A Wood Stork shows off it’s catch, Myakka River SP.

Momentarily startled, birds take a break from the depression pool feeding frenzy, Myakka River SP.

The Whistling Ducks in a better light, Myakka River SP.

Red Shouldered Hawks (FL morph) are very common, Myakka River SP.

This Snowy Egret provides ample proof as to why these birds were almost driven the extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s all for the sake of fashion, Myakka River SP.

White Pelicans over Myakka River SP. Something that must be witnessed in person as a photograph does not capture their graceful flight.

Florida Tassel Flower, Myakka River SP.

Peaceful coexistence in Myakka River SP. At least until the gator grows up!

If you love gators take the hike (permit required) to the Deep Hole in Myakka River SP. A hiking partners count indicated that there were 151 along the shore and 18 in the water the day we were there.

An Anhinga dries out and in the process makes a beautiful picture, Myakka River SP.

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Kissimmee Prairie State Park was a new park for us this year. The main draw was the chance to see Crested Caracara as well as Burrowing Owls. The trails, while extensive, were often under water. A trail capable bicycle is almost essential if you really want to explore the park. While no Burrowing Owls were seen, a Black-crowned Night Heron rockery as well as other bird species made the stay worthwhile.

Numerous creatures call the park home.

While looking for the Crested Caracara we were delighted to see this Loggerhead Shrike, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

Eastern Meadowlarks were quite common in the park. Getting close enough for a really great photo was always a challenge.

A beautiful White-eyed Vireo.

Trail in Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A side by side comparison of a Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Black Swallowtails almost never seem to land but then one afternoon, as I looked at some distant birds, there it was right at my feet..

A Black-crowned Night Heron rookery of perhaps 30 or 40 birds was discovered along one of the trails. They scattered as soon as we got close.

Exploring the trail near the rookery, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While reconnoitering a new trail we found this Florida banded water snake, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Probably the most interesting bird seen during our stay was the Crested Caracara. Common in SW Texas it’s range is very limited in Florida, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

 

Can you find the insect? Kissimmee Prairie SP.

An immature Little Blue Heron casts a lovely reflection, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Sometimes we only saw evidence of wildlife, a Bobcat, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

One wonders how many birds fall prey to alligators, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A lone sentinel, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While many miles of hiking trails were advertised not all were suitable for that purpose.

Numerous White Peacock butterflies graced the trail edge as we hiked, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

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Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite offering fairly extensive paddling and hiking opportunities. Nature viewing, while not as concentrated an experience as Myakka River, is very good. Campsites are some of the best in Florida. The only downside is airboat noise on the weekend and make no mistake they are load.

There are many lovely trails in the park.

A Tricolored Heron poses as we paddle Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP

Not many Green Herons are seen in Florida, perhaps due to their excellent camouflage, but his one was spotted along Tiger Creek.

Take 2.

Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP.

A Snowy Egret along Tiger Creek.

While bicycling on one of the park trails this Eastern Towhee posed for a picture.

Along the lake shore this Red-shouldered Hawk almost eluded the camera’s lens.

One of the most beautiful birds in Florida, the Purple Gallinule seen along the shore of Lake Kissimmee. Supposedly not all that uncommon but we haven’t seen many over the three years we’ve been going to Florida.

A Pine Warbler seems to be checking something out.

Sure enough!

Some distance away, a solitary Bald Eagle watches as we paddle by.

In a quest to get a dramatic picture of this rather large gator we paddled a little too close. It wasn’t happy and neither was my wife!

A Northern Parula Warbler proves difficult to photograph.

Along the trail in Lake Kissimmee SP a rather large Yellow Rat Snake makes itself comfortable in the morning sun.

A closer look.

A Gopher Tortoise ambles along a park road. They can live for almost 60 years and their borrows provide habitat for numerous cretures including Burrowing Owls. Days will go by and we won’t see one and then .   .   .

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Payne’s Prairie Preserve State park was a new park for us this year. With it’s extensive area we hoped to see a variety of wildlife. Of interest is the fact that the park maintains herds of Spanish Horses as well as Bison. Many waterfowl had already departed on their journey north when we were there.

I had been trying for several days to get a good picture of a Northern Parula Warbler as they seemed to be everywhere. Then one morning sitting outside while visiting a local bakery for breakfast one just about landed on my nose, thankfully I had my FZ200.

Blue Winged Teal, Sweetwater Wetlands Park near Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Green Winged Teal???  Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A mother’s love! Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Osprey, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Palmetto reflections, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

The Spanish horse is considerably smaller than a typical quarter horse. All have the same coat.

A Song Sparrow catches a spider, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A very small anole, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

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For a number of years Ochlocknee River SP has been one of our favorite parks due to it’s potential for paddling as will as the close proximity of other areas of interest for the birder and nature lover; Bald Point SP and St Marks NWR. Hiking in the park itself, while not extensive, does provide the opportunity to see the threatened Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

The white morph of the Gray Squirrel comprises a charming part of the park’s welcoming committee.

A small active bird, the Brown Headed Nuthatch is a challenge to photograph.

Oystercatcher, Bald Point SP near Ochlocknee River SP.

Royal Terns, Bald Point SP.

A juvenile Bald Eagle flexes it’s wings, St. Marks NWR.

Brown Pelicans, Bald Point SP.

Least Terns, Bald Point SP.

Taking a break during an eight mile paddle exploring a side creek to the Ochlocknee River, Ochlocknee River SP.

A group of Sanderlings take a great interest in something, Bald Point SP.

A Ruddy Turnstone checks out what’s left of a Horseshoe Crab, Bald Point SP.

This Brown Thrasher was a regular visitor at our campsite.

The Ruddy Turnstone is thinking; “Let someone else do the work and just as they retrieve the morsel, steal it!”

Rain Lilies along the road, Ochlocknee River SP.

Snowy Plover, St Marks NWR.

Marbled Godwit, St Marks NWR. A life bird for us!

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ochlocknee River SP.

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Three Rivers SP was a new park for us this year and was selected primarily for it’s paddling potential. The lake was fairly open and much of the shoreline was shallow and weed choked making it less than ideal for paddling. Due to the lakes huge area wildlife was well dispersed making viewing a bit of a challenge. It was an excellent area for butterflies with some good, if not extensive, hiking trails.

Red Buckeye was in bloom at Three Rivers SP.

Taking a break during a long paddle on Lake Seminole, Three Rivers SP.

Immature Common Loon, Three Rivers SP.

A closer look.

Rain Lilies, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtails on Bull Thistle.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtail.

An almost constantly in motion Pipevine Swallowtail

Osprey on nest, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Crimson clover, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Lily pads, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

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That’s it for this post. Many other pictures could have been posted but if you made it this far I’m impressed with your forbearance. Looking back on our experience, we’re reminded what an unbelievably beautiful but fragile resource Florida’s natural areas are. As one drives the highways of the state signs of new or proposed development are not uncommon so pressure on limited resources continues.

Sunset, Myakka river SP.

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When I started out taking pictures years ago I was fascinated with light and composition as subjects of interest were photographed. It was rewarding to make the effort to capture what was being experienced when looking at a scene. A big fringe benefit, and true blessing, has been a heightened curiosity about the world around me. What is that bird or bug that was just photographed, what is significant about it, and why does it matter. The world is much bigger now.

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Thanks for stopped by

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park Enchants

We’re in the process of preparing for a hiking trip in Scotland and what better park than Battelle Darby to go for a long walk. Besides, who knows what flowers, birds, or other wildlife might make an appearance, or what follow bloggers we might meet along the way. My wife cautioned that we shouldn’t stop too often to look at “things” or the walk would lose it’s training effect. As you can see from the photos we weren’t entirely successful in meeting that goal.

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Trail at the south end of the park

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Our route:

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The route

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The first thing we noticed was an Eastern Meadowlark:

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Eastern Meadowlark no far from the Nature Center

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Eastern Meadowlark

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Not long after that wildflowers started to appear:

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Log and Appendaged Waterleaf

Oxeye Daisy Duet

Ox-eye Daisies, (Donna)

Miami Mist - J Petranka's Flickr Site

Miami Mist, new to us, seen but not photographed due to technical difficulties – picture is from J Petranka’s Flickr Site. This flower is interesting for reasons other than it’s beauty. As my wife found out, if touched it can produce a fairly severe burning itching sensation in the area that comes in contact!

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Yellow Flag Iris

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White or Red Baneberry, new to us.

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Daisy Fleabane

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Virginia Waterleaf

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Wild Geranium

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Violet Wood Sorrel, new to us, perennial plant is up to 6″ tall. It consists of a small cluster of trifoliate basal leaves on long petioles that emerge directly from the ground. Individual trifoliate leaves are about 1″ across and they open up during the day. The leaves may turn purplish in response to cold weather or strong sunlight, otherwise, they tend to be greyish green. (from the web)

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Black Cherry

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Foam Flower

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Goats Beard

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White Violet

Appendaged Waterleaf best 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Appendaged Waterleaf, (Donna)

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Spiderwort

Spiderwort trio 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Spiderwort, (Donna)

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Wild Cucumber

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Where there are flowers:

Northern Pearly-eye 2 best 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Northern Pearly-eye (Donna)

Pearl Crescent 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Pearl Crescent , (Donna)

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Not to be outdone the birds started to show up.

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Eastern Wood Pewee

 

Eastern Bluebird 052514 Battlelle Darby cp1

Femal Eastern Bluebird, (Donna)

Red-winged Blackbird on post 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Red-winged Blackbird, (Donna)

Rosebreasted Grosbeak 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, (Donna)

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In a tree along a meadow a Indigo Bunting sings.

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At one point along the trail we heard a fairly loud buzzing/whirring sound coming from the nearby woods, like a sound that might be made by many small wings. We headed over to investigate and found a swarm of bees! Have you ever seen such a thing? Neither had we. After pictures were taken we didn’t stick around.

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Bee Swarm!!!!

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As the trail returned to the river’s edge we collected ourselves and noticed a Common Water Snake relaxing on a rock. A  little later a Rat snake was seen but not photographed until another one was seen at the nature center.

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Common Water Snake on a rock in the Big Darby

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Back at the nature center Tim shows us a Rat Snake

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A immature Gray Squirrel seems curious as is watches from a trailside tree.

Red Squirrel 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Young Gray Squirrel

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From what we could see on the trees, the park isn’t home to a rich variety of lichens but we did see a very nice shelf fungus.

Polypore fungi vertical stack 052514 Battelle Darby cp1

Polypore fungi, (Donna)

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Our walk was made all the more special because we had the opportunity to meet and take a few minutes to chat with Tracy of Season’s Flow. We left the park tired from the long walk and the many investigative side trips but so much richer for our experience.

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The Big Darby in spring.

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