When you first drive into Myakka River State Park you come to a small bridge. Most people pull off and park and walk over the bridge to look for alligators. I did the same. I saw all of the above from the bridge. Fourteen alligators in the first few minutes of driving into the park (all from a far away safe distance). That limpkin in the last shot was a little too close though.
After the bridge I pulled over at the big field to get some shots of the tickseed in full bloom.
Out in the field I noticed an eagle sitting high up in a utility tower.
There’s something magical about standing in a field of yellow flowers, especially one this big. I was only standing right off the road.
After taking in the flowers I headed over to the edge of lake to see what I could find. Walking down the path from the parking lot I had to keep my eyes open. This guy was just off the path so I stayed far away.
Looking across a small creek I could see the river bank full of them. I counted 32 alligators this morning. I’m sure it’s the most I’ve seen in one day.
I was standing on the trail at Possum Branch Preserve in April and I saw the above. I wasn’t surprised to see hundreds of cedar waxwings flying across the pond there. They’ve come for a visit at this preserve for several spring seasons. They usually stay for several weeks. The trick to see them up close is to catch them feeding at the big mulberry tree on the trail.
I brought a chair and waited for them to land on the tree. They are very skittish and sometimes only land for a few minutes before taking off across the preserve again. There were several of us sitting quietly on the other side of the trail as they landed in a tree near the mulberry tree.
After a few minutes they all headed over to the mulberry tree and started feasting on the berries. Most of the time they land on the back of the tree that backs up to the pond but sometimes a few might land on the front of the tree. Since this is a short walk from the parking area I spent some time this spring sitting in my chair near the tree.
Across the pond I could see the local residents.
Pedaling by the stables on the bike trail.
I found a pair of kildeer far out in the cow pasture.
A Savannah sparrow posed for me on the fence.
I spotted some turkeys on the far side of the cow pasture.
Critters taking a nap along the pond (these were both cropped up).
This is the first time I have seen a snapping turtle on this trail.
My first ever sighting of a Sherman’s fox squirrel. They are only found in Florida and south Georgia. I have heard of sightings of them farther north of Tampa and had heard there were some seen along this trail but I hadn’t seen them until this morning. There were 2 and they stayed far on the other side of the cow pasture so these are heavily cropped. They are bigger than the abundant gray squirrels we have in our backyard.
A red shoulder hawk had something furry in his talons and when I stopped to get my camera out he turned around to hide his prey. I quickly snapped the above and then left him to his meal.
Late one afternoon in mid-February I hopped on my bike and took a spin around the neighborhood. My first stop was the eagle’s nest to see if I could see the babies yet (No, not yet) and then was stopping at all of the ponds to see what else I could find. I came across a sandhill crane couple walking along the golf course near the road. I stopped for a few minutes and watched them as they headed for the back of the golf club.
Today was alligator day in the neighborhood. Four of the ponds I stopped at had alligators snoozing along the bank. Alligators are everywhere in central Florida, if there’s water there is an alligator in there, even if you can’t see him. They are pretty skittish and would jump in the water if I started heading down the grass (no, I would never do that though). If you live here you know to stay away from the edge and keep your pets away as well.
A black crowned night heron snoozing over one of the ponds.
It was a warm afternoon and this great blue heron was already panting from the heat.
I see this great blue heron almost everyday near the entrance to my subdivision. He’s got his pretty breeding colors on his face. I kept hoping to see a nest nearby and if there is one it’s hiding far down the creek.
Far across the utility field I could see some nanday parakeets.
The sun was going down on my way home.
While I was at Myakka River State Park in early May, I did see a little bit of wildlife. This young male deer was just off the road.
I lost count of the vultures and alligators I saw. I was there early in the morning before the majority of the alligators had started to lay out on the banks but I still saw a ton.
I saw this little bird walking around near the big alligator’s tail. Zooming in I saw that it was a spotted sandpiper. I hope he has good reflexes and can get away fast if that alligator whips around.
Far down the river I could see limplins looking for food. It looks like one of them has a snack.
I got out of the car and was walking across the parking lot to head to the boardwalk and this guy came out of the bushes and ran across the parking lot.
A swallow tail kite flies low overhead.
Just down the road from the park, this old barn must have some pretty good stories to tell. I couldn’t tell if it’s still being used but the ivy is started to take over the roof.
I headed down to Myakka River State Park in mid-May. It’s about an hour and a half from my home near Tampa. I knew I probably wouldn’t see a lot of birds since the water was low in the lake and spring migration was mostly over but that was okay. I really came to see the fields of yellow. Tickseed (formal name is coreopsis) was named the state wildflower in 1991 and you can see plenty of it here. I got to the open field and got out of the car and used my phone to take the above pano. Yellow as far as the eye can see.
There was also some thistle blooming along the road which added some pink.
I was hoping to see some deer or turkey crossing the field but after waiting an hour all I got was a crow.
The sun coming through the tree.
Along a path near the lake, the thistle was growing so high I couldn’t see over it.
Besides the yellow tickseed in May, this park is known for having a lot of alligators. Looking across a river there were several sunning themselves and one swimming by from the left. The pink buds in front of the tickseed is swamp milkweed.
Before heading out I stopped at this pond and snapped the above with my phone.
The usual things to see at Possum Branch Preserve.
Alligators are also usual things there. That alligator in the first one thinks that grass is hiding him. That alligator coming up behind him knew he was there.
There were no spring migrating birds feeding in the mulberry tree but the woodpecker was getting his fill.
This female red winged blackbird had 2 snacks, a caterpillar and a dragonfly.
Another usual suspect here is a brown thrasher.
Not a usual suspect in the mulberry trees right before I left. A small flock of cedar waxwings landed on the back side of the tree. I’ve seen them here once before several years ago. It was hard to get shots of them on the back side of the tree that backs up to the pond full of gators. Standing under the tree I could see several at the top with their faces covered in berry juice. They are such an elegant bird, always so clean. I felt like I should have offered them a napkin but I left them to their mulberry buffet.
Everyone was eating breakfast at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive in late October.
A great blue heron off in the distance.
A young purple gallinule showing off his big feet.
A kingfisher sitting still. I took this from the car since I knew the second I opened that door he would be gone.
A tricolored heron guarding the sign.
A few of the smaller gators along the drive. I never seem to see the really big ones there.
More along the drive. I was having hip pain in late October so I decided to head over to the wildlife drive in Apopka and stay off me feet for a while. I ended up with hip bursitis which has slowed me down for a while in early November. It was taking forever to heal since I can’t seem to sit still very long.
One of the few animals I saw at Myakka River State Park was a deer near the big lake. She was alone and hiding in the shadow.
Closer to the water I could see some black bellied whistling ducks and black necked stilts.
A crow guarding the parking lot.
Myakka Park, just south of Sarasota, is known for having huge gators. And a lot of them although not as many as the Everglades. Timing is everything to see the big ones. They usually come out to sun themselves late in the afternoon. If it’s really hot, they’ll stay in the water most of the day. I was there early in the morning and only saw a few small ones. There is an area in the park that is off limits that has 100’s of them. The “Deep hole” is a 4 mile round trip hike out to where they are hidden but you have to have a permit to hike out there. The rangers give out 30 permits a day and I heard they are all snatched up in the first hour. I keep saying I want to get down there in the winter and hike out the hole but keep putting it off. I think this winter might be the time.
The sun was just coming up over the trees when I headed out on one trail.
This is a huge park with a lot of wide open spaces. I was out on a rare Monday off so there was hardly anyone there.
A pano with my phone of a dried up lake.
Different herons down the trail, A great blue, tricolored, a night heron and then another tricolored almost swimming.
Turtle on the trail.
Why do always get the butt shot pose? I almost never see these guys walking around and when I do they have their back to me. Usually I just see the below, snoozing and cruising.
All along the trail.
Trees and flowers along the trail.