Florida Wrap-up

After a week at Mike Roess State Park  we travelled a short distance to what has become one of our favorite parks for wildlife viewing, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. After a week there we would travel to Blackwater River State Park which was a new park for us and recommended because of the beauty of the river. We planned on being there for a week before traveling home to Ohio for what we hoped would be just a brief period of winter before spring arrived.

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Paynes Prairie is not a great paddling destination but does offer good hiking within the park and good bicycling opportunities in the park as well as on nearby roads and bike trails. The park offers great opportunities for viewing nature and is highly recommended if that is your passion. Just a short drive away the Bolen Bluff Trail, Barr Hammock PreserveSweetwater Wetlands Park, and the parks north entrance with a boardwalk along Alachua Sink are an added bonus. We had no problem keeping ourselves busy during our one week stay.

Remember: you can click on the images should you desire a better view.

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The Bolen Bluff Trail turned out to be a great “wildlife” trail but in our case did require use of the car to get to the trailhead.

The area contained excellent habitat for a variety of birds.

Bald Eagle

A young Sharpe-shinned Hawk with a Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Donna).

Meal time!

. . . and feathers fly.

There were also a number of Red-headed Woodpeckers looking for something to eat.

Found a bug! (Donna).

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There is no need to get into the car as we found plenty to see on park trails that can be accessed right from the campground.

On a trail not far from the campground a Barred Owl is spotted.

There is a huge expanse of wetland in the park which among other things is home to bison and wild horses.

Cloudless Sulphur on a large thistle.

Palamedes Swallowtail, (Donna).

Giant Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail.

Eastern Towhee.

Pileated Woodpeckers are often seen on the park trails.

A large katydid visits our campsite.

Northern Parula.

A Northern Parula sings it’s heart out in the woods near our campsite.

Another look.

A paradise for large wading birds.

Always fascinating to watch, a Great Blue Heron stalks its next meal.

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Paynes Prairie Preserve north entrance, Alachua Sink was another excellent natural area just a short drive away.

A Live Oak casts shadows on the waters surface near Alachua sink.

Graceful and beautiful an Anhinga preening, Alachua sink.

Alachua Sink.

A very small (and cute?) Alligator enjoys the sun.

Looking across the wetland, Alachua sink area.

Immature Little Blue Heron.

Mature Little Blue Heron.

It was a real treat to see these immature Great Horned Owls, Alachua sink area.

With mom nearby.

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Finally another excellent area that is even a shorter drive is Barr Hammock Preserve. The preserve trail consists of a large loop circling what used to be farmland but which is now at least partially flooded.

Landscape.

A Tri-color Heron tidies up, (Donna).

Patterns in tree bark.

Immature White Ibis, (Donna).

Reflections

Largeflower Primrose-Willow

Little Yellow, a butterfly we don’t remember seeing before, (Donna).

American Bittern

Alligators large and small.

No hike in Florida would be complete without a turtle, Florida Cooter.

Swamp.

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Compared to other parks visited, wildlife sighting were not nearly as common at Blackwater River SP. However quality made up for quantity with a rare wildflower sighting and the pleasant surprise of a Red-cockaded Woodpecker sighting. Also the river did live up to its reputation for being a beautiful and during our one paddle a bonus was enjoying the many turtles that had taken up residence on shoreline logs. Our stay in the park was a quiet one so walking along a park road or a trail offered an equal opportunity to see wildlife.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s habitat is the Southeast’s once-vast longleaf pine stands. They also occur in stands of loblolly, slash, and other pine species. The birds dig cavities in living pines and live in family groups working together to dig cavities and raise young. Due to habitat loss the species has declined drastically and was listed as Endangered in 1970.

Not far from the woodpecker, but in the brush at ground level, a Brown Thrasher made an appearance.

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Patterns in the sand, Blackwater River.

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.   .   .  and at river’s edge:

River Jewelwings, in this case males, were a real treat to see, (Donna).

Female

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Enjoying the river’s beauty.

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In the order of carnivorous insects, Odonata, we were also fortunate to see a beautiful Green Darner one of the larger dragonflies.

Green Darner

Another view.

.   .   .   and also a pair of mating Cypress Clubtail Dragonflies.

Cypress Clubtails

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Some low-lying areas along the trail required boardwalks.

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Dragonflies weren’t the only insects mating, a pair of Carolina Satyrs were also seen, (Donna).

A beautiful Queen butterfly, (Donna).

Dubious Tiger Moth, (Donna).

Where there are butterflies there are often wildflowers.

Yellow Butterwort, a very rare sighting for us, this carnivorous plant is a Florida threatened species.

These purple flowers (False Rosemary?) were relatively common during our hikes.

Sky-blue Lupine

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Due to weather and river flow conditions we only paddled once but it was energy well spent.

Tannins color the otherwise clear water.

A peaceful view.

The low winter sun highlights budding trees.

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The next post we will be back in Ohio in search of Ohio’s spring wildflowers but whether it’s nature in Florida or Ohio we remain amazed and enchanted.

Blackwater River

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Celebration of Florida Birds

It’s been a while since our last post so after almost two months bumming around some of Florida’s most beautiful natural areas in sunny 70 degree weather we now find ourselves back in central Ohio looking out the window as a 25 F wind blows snow around our front yard. One way to celebrate the trip, and perhaps to feel a little warmer, is to post pictures of a few of birds seen while while hiking and paddling. Perhaps no one species expresses the diversity and beauty of nature like birds, each with their own unique appearance and behavior. Florida gives one an excellent opportunity to witness and perhaps photograph that diversity and beauty.

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For those that are curious, our stay in Florida consisted of time spent at Myakka River SP; great hiking, big gators, and great wildlife photography, Lake Kissimmee SP; great hiking, paddling, fishing, and wildlife, the Chassahowzitka River Campground;  great paddling, fishing, and wildlife, and Ochlockonee River SP; great hiking, paddling, and wildlife.

 Click on images for a better view.

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Salt Creek, Chassahowitzka River

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Great Blue Heron, Myakka River SP.

Limpkins, very common in Myakka River SP.

Cardinal, Myakka River SP.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Myakka River SP.

Osprey, Myakka River SP.

Osprey, Myakka River SP.

A Brown Thrasher serenaded us early every morning, Ochlockonee River SP.

Green Heron, seldom seen, Myakka River SP.

Roseate Spoonbills, Myakka River SP.

Common Moorhen, Myakka River SP.

Pileated Woodpecker, Myakka River SP.

Greater Yellowlegs, Myakka River SP.

Little Blue Heron, Myakka River SP

Sand Hill Crane, Myakka River SP.

Black-necked Stilts, Myakka River SP.

Great Egret, Myakka River SP.

Black-necked Stilt, a closer view showing eye color, Myakka River SP.

Least Sandpiper, Myakka River SP.

Great Egret, breeding plumage, Myakka River SP.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron, Myakka River SP.

Roseate Spoonbills, Myakka River SP.

American Avocet, Myakka River SP.

Glossy Ibis, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Tri-colored Heron, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Snail Kite, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Bald Eagle, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Snail Kite, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Eastern Phoebe, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Yellow-throated Warbler, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Wood Thrush, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Carolina Wren, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Bald Eagles were almost always overhead, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Red-shouldered Hawk, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Tri-colored Heron, Chassahowitzka River.

Pied-billed Grebe, Chassahowitzka River

Brown Pelican, Chassahowitzka River

Blue-winged Teal, St Marks NWR.

Vermilion Flycatcher, St Marks NWR.

Female Kingfisher, Wakulla River.

Mockingbird, Ochlockonee River State Park

Black Skimmers, Mashes Sands Beach near Ochlockonee River SP.

Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

Pine Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

Red-cockaded woodpeckers, endangered, Ochlockonee River State Park

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ochlockonee River State Park

White Ibis, Myakka River SP.

Red-shouldered Hawk, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Red-headed Woodpecker, one of eleven sightings that day, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Anhinga, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, not as common as The Black-crowned, Chassahowitzka River.

Eastern Towhee, common, Ochlockonee River State Park

Laughing Gull with Least Tern, Bald Point SP.

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Along the trail, Myakka River SP.

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Given the weather we came back to we may decide to stay longer next year. There’s always something new to discover. Thanks for stopping by.

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,

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Black-bellied Plover and Dunlins, Bald Point State Park

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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

 

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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.

 

A Visit to Six Mile Cypress Slough

One of the interesting places we visited during our recent too short trip to Florida was Six Mile Cyprus Slough near Fort Myers. It’s a beautiful area which uses a mile long boardwalk to facilitate views of many types of birds as well as frogs, turtles, snakes and alligators.

On this particular day we were more interested in being there than in taking pictures so my wife opted for her Panasonic Fz150 and I my Canon Sx40. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, for me it’s always a trade off when it comes to the cameras I use. The more equipment I carry the more it’s about the photograph which often takes me away from just being there.

So much for my philosophizing, below are pics of just some of the things you might see while visiting Six Mile Cypress Slough in February:

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Male Anhinga

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Young Alligator

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Redbelly Cooter

 

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Female Anhinga

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Eastern Black Racer

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Northern Parula Warbler

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Northern Parula Warbler

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Young Raccoon, Donna

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White Ibis, Donna

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Palm Warber

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

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Redbelly Cooter

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Bald Cypress

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A view of the slough

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Black-crowned Night Heron

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Black and White Warbler, Donna

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Black and White Warbler, study 2, Donna

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