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 Wet Stay At Little Manatee River SP

This year we cut our stay short at Myakka River SP so we could check out Little Manatee River SP a new park for us. It looked good on paper with a number of hiking trails, the Little Manatee River, and it was close to points of interest along the gulf coast near Tampa.  

Dude Lake, Little Manatee River SP.

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The park was a bit of a disappointment for us largely due to the fact that many of the hiking trails were flooded and even our campsite was also flooded for several days the result of heavy rain just after our arrival. The river through the park was pretty but we didn’t bother paddling it as it’s often narrow width and rain induced high flow would have made nature photography difficult if not impossible. Many of the hiking trails are also designated as equestrian with fairly heavy use and as a result were pretty torn up and muddy in spots. Despite the challenges we did find trails to explore and things to see even if we did arrive back at camp with wet hiking boots.

Zebra Heliconian, (Donna).

Moonflower, probably an escapee.

Catbird, (Donna).

Spider Lily

A fascinating fungi find, (Donna).

Beggar’s Needle.

Roseate Skimmer, (Donna).

Pond shore.

Pink Wood Sorrel, (Donna)

The Little Manatee River.

Pileated Woodpecker

Lipstick Lichen, (Donna).

Looking more like a stream than a hiking trail, this was one we decided not to take.

Small thistle like flower, unidentified.

One of the wider stretches on the Little Manatee River.

A fast flying Zebra Swallowtail takes a break, (Donna).

A small quiet pond by day but one wonders what creatures come out after dark.

Mockingbird.

Reindeer Lichen.

Armadillos are common throughout Florida. This one, sensing a potential treat, stands on it’s hind legs, (Donna).

Leavenworth’s Tickseed.

Flowering blackberry.

This fungi looked good enough to eat, (Donna).

The Little Manatee River is narrow in spots.

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A nice break not far for Little Manatee River SP was Fort Desoto Park. If you enjoy walking the beach, collecting shells, or observing birds it’s a great place to spend a few hours.

During the week in late January the beach was pretty quiet.

. . . with a few exceptions.

Willet

Least Terns and gulls entertained us.

With the exception of one rebel Sanderlings practice balancing on one leg.

Wilson’s Plover

Dunlins

This Dunlin seemed to prefer hopping around on one leg. Others exhibited the same behavior.

Beauty in motion, Dunlins in flight.

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For us the big attraction were we to return to this park would be it’s close proximity to the ocean. Other parks in this part of Florida offer more hiking and more biodiversity within the park itself. Thanks for stopping by.

It’s A Butterfly Time Of Year

Not that they aren’t seen earlier in the spring and summer but August does seem to be the time for butterflies. This year it’s been almost impossible to be out for any length of time without seeing a Monarch. In the late morning or afternoon small but beautiful Pearl Crescents make the shorter grass along the trail their playground. The beauty of some butterflies like the Giant Swallowtail is apparent to even a casual observer but others like the Buckeye reveal their beauty only after a closer look. Others like the hairstreaks are easy to miss altogether unless you know what to look for. The good news is that you don’t have to get up a the crack of dawn to see butterflies.

Sunlight filters through the woods along the Big Derby during a recent butterfly hike.

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So below is a celebration of butterflies that have been seen in the last few weeks. Much of the credit must go to my wife who tirelessly pursues these usually unpredictable creatures until she gets the shot she wants while I often content myself to photographing the more predictable wildflowers.

In late summer Bull Thistle is common in the prairie areas of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park and seems to attract it’s share of Monarchs.

The Giant Swallowtail is Ohio’s largest butterfly and not one we see every day, Griggs Reservoir Park..

A Giant Swallowtail depositing eggs, (Donna).

Great Blue Lobelia enjoying the more shaded areas of Griggs Reservoir Park.

A very small female Eastern-tailed Blue rewards Donna by opening it’s wings.

Prairie sunflowers, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

The beautiful but very small Gray Hairstreak, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are fairly common in Griggs reservoir Park and on a warm day enjoy hitching a ride on your arm to take advantage of your perspiration, (Donna).

Cardinal Flower

A small Summer Azure almost seems to blend in, (Donna).

Wingstem, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park prairie.

The not often seen Meadow Fritillary

The fairly common but lovely Orange Sulfur, (Donna).

New England Aster

Usually not seen in central Ohio until late summer or fall the medium size Buckeye is striking, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Fringed Loosestrife also enjoys the more shaded areas along the Scioto River.

A small Zabulon Skipper, (Donna).

A small but lovely Common Checkered Skipper, (Donna).

Lazard’s Tail along the Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Silver Spotted Skipper, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Tall Blue Lettuce, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Another look, (Donna).

Gray-headed Coneflowers seem to take flight.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Another look.

A somewhat faded black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna)

Black Swallowtail, (Donna).

Black Swallowtail laying eggs, (Donna).

Ironweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

The Peck’s Skipper is a very small moth like butterfly, (Donna).

Cup Plant

Monarch, (Donna).

Monarch

Trumpet Flowers, (Donna).

Mating Pearl Crescents

Pearl Cresent

Tall Bellflower

Eastern Comma

The tiny flowers of Virginia Knotweed.

Certainly not the most aesthetic setting, a Zebra Swallowtail lands in our canoe just as we finish a paddle on Paint Creek, (Donna).

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Where there are butterflies and moths there are caterpillars and no one is better at spotting them than my wife.

Brown-hooded Owlet, (Donna).

Monarch caterpillar, (Donna).

Orange Dog (Giant Swallowtail caterpillar), (Donna).

Another look.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar showing horns. Horns extend when head is touched lightly. Donna).

Without horns protruding, (Donna).

Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars, (Donna).

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the birds that continue to charm us as we walk through the woods of central Ohio.

Male Goldfinch, (Donna).

This time of year False Dragonhead can be seen along the shore of Griggs Reservoir.

A Ruby throated Hummingbird checks out the Bull Thistle at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Woodland Sunflowers offer a splash of color in the woods along the Scioto River.

A Tufted Titmouse checks Donna out as she attempts to take it’s picture.

Indigo Bunting, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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So what was I doing while my wife was taking so many excellent photographs in central Ohio? Fishing in Michigan of course.

This nice Largemouth Bas went swimming right after posing for this picture.

Fishing at sunset on Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area.

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If time spent in nature speaks to the essence of your being, your soul, you have riches greater than any material procession can offer. A wealth that grows in health, spirit, and the awareness of being part of the greater mystery. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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