A Favorite Florida State Park

After the previous post about early spring in Ohio we thought we’d travel back in time to late January and explore the natural beauty of Florida’s Lake Kissimmee State Park. After our third visit we now consider it a cornerstone for any winter camping trip to Florida.

Live Oak

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An advantage to many of the parks we visit in Florida is that they’re not separated by great distances so it’s an easy matter to pull up stakes in one and head down the road to the next. Lake Kissimmee SP is not far from Little Manatee River, is a much larger park so there is plenty of nature to explore without ever leaving the park. The greatest variety of birds can be seen if one quietly paddles the lake shore, Zipper Canal, or Tiger Creek but birding is also very rewarding along the hiking trails. When not observing warblers, gnatcatchers, or kinglets. the trails are a great way to see the park’s many Red Headed Woodpeckers and there are rumors of Scrub Jays although that’s one we have yet to see.

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Folks sometimes ask if we’re concerned about taking expensive camera equipment in a canoe. The answer is yes, but we’ve been blessed to see many birds that we wouldn’t have otherwise and are sometimes lucky enough to get a picture so we feel it’s worth the risk. Within reason the canoe doesn’t limit the amount of equipment one can take and while you may get lucky from time to time don’t expect tack sharp “tripod” images. Where the canoe fails as a photography platform is when wind and water conditions create excessive motion or make the boat hard to control leaving little opportunity for pictures. Although some might not agree, a bonus when exploring overgrown Florida shorelines in a small boat is wondering if around the next bend one will startle a large gator. It’s an experience of “wildness” not availible in places further north. With that intro, below are some of the “canoe” birds seen during our two weeks at the park.

A favorite Lake Kissimmee perch for a group of Anhingas

A closer look at a male.

Paddling Zipper Canal between Lake Kissimmee and Rosalie Lake.

A Bald Eagle along Tiger Creek which flows from Tiger Lake to Lake Kissimmee.

A Bald Eagle peers down at a prospective meal . .

. . then dives.

Hundreds of Tree Swallows in an early morning feeding frenzy on Lake Kissimmee.

A few take a break from the hunt, (Donna).

Clouds over Lake Kissimmee.

Immature Snail Kite along the Lake Kissimmee shoreline. The kites were a real treat because during last year’s visit, which was right after a hurricane, there were none to be seen.

Mature Snail Kite with snail, (Donna).

Mature Snail Kite.

A Glossy Ibis reveals how it got it’s name, (Donna).

Rosalie Creek between Rosalie and Tiger Lakes.

Young Alligator along Tiger Creek.

Tri-color Heron along Tiger Creek, (Donna).

Black-crowned Night Heron along the Zipper Canal, (Donna).

Great Egret with fish, (Donna).

Little Blue Heron, (Donna).

Lily pads, Lake Kissimmee.

Swallow-tailed Kite over Tiger Creek. Observing them it appears that they often catch their prey in their talons and proceed to devour it on the wing.

Common Moorhen along the grassy Lake Kissimmee shoreline, (Donna).

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The hiking trails offer a different mix of birds and wildlife. The length of hike often dictates the type of equipment one decides to take along. Lugging ten pounds of camera equipment for seven or eight miles is not fun. One solution I saw this year was to modify a light weight golf cart to haul your equipment if the trail conditions and other restrictions allow.

The type of golf cart that would be easy to modify to carry a tripod and camera with long telephoto lens.

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When hiking park trails one thing that always amazes me is how different species of birds stay together or flock. One can walk for miles and not see much of anything and then all of a sudden there will be birds everywhere. Chickadees, titmouse, kinglets, gnatcatchers, and warblers are often seen together and often there will even be a blue jay in the mix. With the Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss, the palmettos, and the pines, the landscape is enchanting so if the birds aren’t cooperating there is always something to appreciate.

Tufted Titmouse often alert us to the fact there may be warblers in the area. (Donna).

Sure enough, a Black and White Warbler makes an appearance.

Along the trail.

Another view showing tail and flight feathers.

We weren’t quiet sure what this Red-bellied Woodpecker planned to do with the acorn, (Donna).

White-eyed Vireo.

Eastern Phoebe, (Donna).

Sandhill Cranes. As common as they are we did not have the many opportunities to photograph them.

Pine Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Bald Eagle and nest on Buster Island near the Cow Camp.

The Great Crested Flycatcher showed up near our campsite. It’s the largest of the flycatchers, (Donna).

Sunlight and Spanish Moss.

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher

A Northern Flicker shared the Red Headed Woodpeckers territory.

Buster Island trail.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are quite common in the park.

Yellow-rumped Warblers competed with Palm and Pine Warblers for most common status.

If Florida had a state hawk, it sound be the always vocal Red-shouldered.

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The other things:

Curious deer, (Donna).

Bark Anole.

A large Golden Silk Orb-weaver.

A Golden Silk Orb-weaver sun lit with a background of dark shade.

Fascinating fungi along the trail.

Female Band-winged Dragonlet

Yellow Milkwort is native and found throughout most of the Florida peninsula. Interestingly, the only place in the world it grows is Florida.

Grass highlighted by the winter sun.

The long burrows, up to 40 feet wide and 10 feet deep, of the endangered Gopher Tortoise are home to over three dozen other animal species that use them for shelter from harsh weather and predators.

Anole displaying.

The winter light often highlights the Spanish Moss and creates deep shadows.

Yellow Jessamine is a common flowering vine in January and February.

A Spiny-backed Orb-weaver suspends over the trail.

Florida Baskettail.

Oak Toad, (Donna).

Eastern Racer, (Donna).

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Lake Kissimmee SP is one place we will be returning to next year. With its long hiking trails and extensive areas to explore by canoe there is always a new adventure waiting.

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Tiger Creek

Under a clear blue sky,

with the winter sun warming skin exposed to cool morning air,

paddles rhythmically break the still surface,

as the canoe glides with anticipation along a winding creek

wrapped in sage, bulrush and lily pads.

A solitary alligator swims slowly ahead

then slides below the surface and disappears

while not far away

herons, hawks, egrets, and eagles announce their presence.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Birds of Florida on Foot and by Canoe

Our recent six weeks of hiking and paddling in Florida resulted in a lot of photographs.

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The pictures below provide a record of some of the birds seen. While lovely in their right, we are left with the feeling that they don’t come close to conveying the overall sense of wonder experienced as we explored the trails and waterways of Florida. Equipped with the knowledge that places visited were home to many fascinating living things, the wonder was with us even when we didn’t see a plant, bird or other animal that begged to be photographed. We returned home with the feeling that just being in such places had been more than enough.

(click on images for a better view)

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron 1 LL 1 031416 Estero River cp1

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, from the canoe, Estero River, (Donna)

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Ruddy Turnstones, Bald Point State Park

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Sanderlings, Bald Point State Park

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Royal Tern, near Ochlockonee State Park

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Bald Eagle, St Marks NWR.

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Brown-headed Nuthatch, Ochlockonee River State Park

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White-eyed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-shouldered Hawk, Manatee Springs State Park

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Carolina Wren, Manatee Springs State Park

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Northern Parula Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Cat Bird, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Black and White Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Swallow-tailed Kite, Shady Acres RV Park

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Little Blue Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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White Pelicans, Ding Darling NWR.

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Immature Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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Little Blue Heron, Six Mile Cypress Slough

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black and Turkey Vultures over the Suwanee River and Manatee Springs State Park. Moments before these birds were all perched in trees around the spring, Then, as if on queue, they all took flight.

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Mockingbird, St Marks NWR.

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White Pelicans, St Marks NWR.

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Pied Billed Grebes, St Marks NWR.

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American Wigeons, St Marks NWR.

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Brown Pelican with Kingfisher, St Marks NWR.

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Red-cockaded woodpecker , Ochlockonee River State Park., These birds are threatened in much of their range due to loss of habitat.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee State Park.

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Brown Pelican, St Marks NWR.

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Horned Grebe, St Marks NWR.

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Eastern Phoebe, St Marks NWR.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River NWR.

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Tri-color Heron, from the canoe, Wakulla River

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Hermit Thrush, Ochlockonee River State River.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Eastern Towhee, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Pine Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park,

P1060657use Black-bellied Plover and Dunlins

Black-bellied Plover and Dunlins, Bald Point State Park

Snowy Egret 2 best 2 further away 1 020716 Wakulla river cp1

Great Egret, (Donna). We spotted this bird as we were making our way down the Wakulla River with the current, an outgoing tide, and a fairly strong wind at our back. Managed to get the canoe swung around and slowly headed back upstream while my wife started to shoot. While never our intention the bird soon tired of our interest and flew away. In my opinion it was the best bird pic of the trip.

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Piping Plover, Bald Point State Park. A rare and endangered bird.

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Bald Eagle, Bald Point State Park.

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Laughing Gull, Bald Point State Park

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Cardinal, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vulture, Manatee Springs State Park.

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-headed Woodpecker, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Tri-color Heron and Brown Pelican, from the canoe, island off Cedar Key.

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Great Egret, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Take 2.

 

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Juvenile Ibis, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Green Heron, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Roseate Spoonbill, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Peleated Woodpeckers, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

 

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Osprey, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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American Oystercatcher, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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American Avocets, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Black Skimmer, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Least Terns, Cedar Key

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Wood Stork, Six Mile Cyprus Slough, Ft Meyers

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Sandpiper, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park

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Snowy Egret, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park.

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Brown Pelican, from the canoe, Estero River

 

White Ibis with bright red legs 1 LL 1 031216 Six Mile Slough cp1

Ibis, Six Mile Cypress Slough, (Donna).

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Now back in Ohio, we visited one of our favorite spots earlier today. While nuthatches, creepers, and various woodpeckers were present, no Bald Eagles were seen nor did any Scarlet Tanagers show themselves. But we have seen them there before and you never know about tomorrow.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

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