Journeying On Through Florida

After leaving Lake Kissimmee State Park we headed north, ran the Orlando metro area traffic gauntlet, and arrived at Blue Springs State Park which was a new park for us. After spending a week there we would take relatively quiet back roads further north to Mike Roess State Park. The two parks couldn’t be more different. Blue Springs is a heavily used “day use” park with a small campground near Orlando while the larger Mike Roess SP was quiet and lightly used during our stay. Part of the popularity of Blue Springs can be attributed to the Manatees that inhabit the springs during the winter months and which had started to leave while we were there due to warmer weather. When one ventured away from the campground after mid-morning parking lots were pretty much full and there were always more than enough people in the park’s general use areas. However, once on the water paddling into a secluded creek or cove things changed dramatically and the area felt like wilderness.

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The big find while hiking the parks limited trails was the endangered Scrub Jay which is a bird we’ve been in search of for some time without success. Habitat destruction appears to be the main reason for its decline.

Scrub Jay.

Another look.

Yellow Star Grass occurred periodically along the trail in single blossoms.

This Eastern Towhee was seen in the same scrub habitat as the jay, (Donna).

This Pileated Woodpecker was also seen along the trail as we searched for the Scrub Jays, (Donna).

Spiderwort.

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St Johns River near Blue Springs SP.

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The extensive wildlife seen while canoeing was the big draw at Blue Springs SP. Our favorite paddle was the eleven mile loop that incorporated Snake Creek. The creek is a true celebration of the richness and beauty of nature.

A small alligator checks us out, (Donna).

An immature Black Crowned Night Heron along Snake Creek, (Donna).

A Great Egret watches as we pass by.

St Johns River.

Florida Cooters,  (Donna).

Wood Stork, (Donna).

Black Crowned Night Heron along the St Johns River.

Little Blue Heron in the thick of it.

Snake Creek provided an intimate paddling experience.

Purple Gallinule eating flower petals, St Johns River.

While paddling Snake Creek we came upon this mating pair at Turkeys. The male seemed not to be bothered by our presence.

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Cypress

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A Tree frog at water’s edge, (Donna)

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St Johns River.

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American Bittern along the St Johns River.

Osprey with fish.

Little Blue Heron preening.

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Although they are common, Anhingas always catch our eye.

Male Anhinga dries it’s feathers along the St Johns River.

Preening.

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St Johns river landscape.

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A Snowy Egret shows off its yellow feet, (Donna).

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Unlike Blue Springs which provided excellent opportunities to observe wildlife from the water, hiking was the best way to do so at Mike Roess SP. A plus was that there were no crowed parking lots or large numbers of people to negotiate when one left the campground. There were areas to explore around the park’s several small lakes and along one fairly long designated hiking trail. We enjoyed the park’s quiet subtle beauty.

Mike Roess SP landscape.

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Walking the shoreline of the parks small lakes was an excellent way to see insects. Some of the dragonflies and damselflies seen were new to us.

Vesper Bluet Damselfly, (Donna).

The Variable Dancer Damselfly is one we haven’t seen further north in Ohio.

Carolina Saddlebags, (Donna).

Female Faded Pennant, (Donna).

Male Faded Pennant.

Slaty Skimmer, (Donna).

The Stripe-winged Baskettail is another dragonfly we’ve not seen further north in Ohio.

The Blue Corporal often perches on the ground, (adult male).

The Buckeye is usually seen in late summer in Ohio.

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Pond reflection.

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In addition to the insects there were birds to enjoy:

Hermit Thrush.

A Hooded Merganser and a Wood Duck pose.

There was a sizable population of Ring-necked Ducks on the small park lakes.

A closer look.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Pied Billed Grebes

A White Eyed Vireo announces its presence.

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Shoreline grass.

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As well as other things:

Cricket Frog at waters edge, (Donna).

Unfortunately these lovely but uncommon little flowers that liked the park’s sandy soil remain unidentified.

A Fence Lizard shows it’s underside, (Donna).

Lichen on fallen branch.

A Gopher Tortoise enjoys some grass, (Donna).

Trees.

Pinebarren Frostweed.

A Five Lined Skink shows its beautiful tail, (Donna)

A Long Leaf Pine just starting out.

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Leaving Mike Roess we’d completed six weeks of exploring nature in Florida. As we looked forward to spending time at Paynes Prairie Preserve and Black River SP before heading north to early spring in Ohio we couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed.

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Lily Pads

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Thanks for stopping by.

Guess Who’s Coming to Lunch

A few days ago we had the pleasure of doing a canoe/birding trip on Alum Creek Reservoir north of  the Howard Rd. bridge with some friends. While prime spring birding has passed we were rewarded with great views of King Birds, Prothonotary Warblers, Red Eyed Vireos, Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, and Great Blue as will as Green Herons. In addition we also enjoyed observing various turtles on logs along the shoreline taking advantage of the intermittent sunshine as well as a Common Water Snake. Dragonflies and damselflies were also out in force as well as some early summer wildflowers.

The day started slow but after a couple of hours a good number of birds had been seen so we decided to take an early lunch break at a nice spot on a bluff overlooking the lake. We hadn’t been there very long when a mature Bald Eagle was spotted flying in the distance and a little later we saw what appeared to be an immature eagle.

Lunch was progressing rather nicely when my wife spotted a rather large snake patrolling the perimeter of our picnic area. It climbed up into a hollow tree and came back down and continued to check things out very near to where we were sitting. It seemed not to mind as we sat there eating our chocolate chip cookies. Turns out it was a Rat Snake and is one of the largest snakes in Ohio which can reach a length of  8 feet. It was all pretty exciting!

Below are some pics of that trip as well as other recent journeys into the wilds of Ohio. If you want a better view click on the image.

1 Black Rat Snake - Alum Creek

1 Black Rat Snake – Alum Creek

2 Black Rat Snake = Alum Creek

2 Black Rat Snake – Alum Creek

3 Black Rat Snake - Prairie Oaks

3 Black Rat Snake – Prairie Oaks

Wildflowers from the Alum Creek Paddle:

Fire Pink - Alum Creek, Donna

Fire Pink – Alum Creek, Donna

Blue-eyed Grass - Alum Creek, Donna

Blue-eyed Grass – Alum Creek, Donna

Common Water Snake seen during our Alum Creek paddle:

Common Water Snake - Alum Creek

Common Water Snake – Alum Creek

We continue to identify central Ohio dragon and damselflies:

Widow Skimmer - Prairie Oaks, Donna

Widow Skimmer – Prairie Oaks, Donna

Vesper Bluet - Prairie Oaks, Donna

Vesper Bluet – Prairie Oaks, Donna

Variable Dancer - Prairie Oaks

Variable Dancer – Prairie Oaks

Stream Bluets - Prairie Oaks

Stream Bluets – Prairie Oaks

Fragile Forktail - Prairie Oaks, Donna

Fragile Forktail – Prairie Oaks, Donna

Eastern Forktail - Prairie Oaks

Eastern Forktail – Prairie Oaks

A Pair of Stream Bluets - Griggs, Donna

On a recent trip to Prairie Oaks it was exciting to see Orchard Orioles feeding there young:

Immature Male Orchard Oriole - Prairie Oaks

Immature Male Orchard Oriole – Prairie Oaks

A Northern Flicker seemed as though it was watching as we looked for Damselflies at Prairie Oaks:

Northern Flicker - Prairie Oaks

Northern Flicker – Prairie Oaks

Finally some rather unexpected or unusual discoveries at Prairie Oaks:

Coyote Scat? - Prairie Oaks

Coyote Scat? – Prairie Oaks

Strange Leaf Parasite - Prairie Oaks

Strange Leaf Parasite – Prairie Oaks

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Thanks for stopping by.

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