I left the house in the dark in early October, heading north to Chinsegut Wildlife trail. It’s only an hour away but feels like a completely different place. I made some quick stops along the way, taking shots of the light coming up over the trees and through the fog.
Right before the trail I saw this old building. At first I thought it was a house but it might have been some type of small factory or type of barn. There were trees growing in the middle of the building. I had to stop and get a shot of it. As I was taking some pictures with my phone, some crows flew out of the building. I thought “Is it Halloween already?”
When I got to the conservation center to park the sun was just coming up. I hadn’t been out for a long walk in a while and it felt good to be out in the woods.
Due to a lot of recent rain, things were pretty swampy. I had on a lot of bug spray so I was able to linger a while and listen to the swamp sounds.
It looked a little like fall with a few red leaves but I would suspect that they are really from the trees being so flooded for a while.
I found a sandhill crane family near the parking area and junior was almost grown up. He didn’t quite have a full red head yet though. They walked around for a while, picking off some bird seed in the ground feeder and then eventually headed into the woods.
The lake was low in early June. The summer rains weren’t in full swing yet. The birds above were standing knee deep and they were pretty far out in the lake.
A few spoonbills were feeding close to the boardwalk.
Other birds along the boardwalk were storks and a tricolored heron, posing on a snag.
I saw this northern parula singing his heart out.
A very young titmouse.
Black bellied whistling ducks were cruising by the overlook tower and landing in the trees. They kept hopping from tree to tree, calling out to each other. I saw them when I first got to the park and was on the boardwalk. They were gone 20 minutes later so timing is everything.
My first robber fly sighting. What a cool bug. Although I probably would have freaked out at first if he flew on me. I saw him land on this branch and was wondering what it was.
Views from the boardwalk, not so early in the morning. Although I was there right when it opened at 8am and before there were lots of people on the boardwalk. It was so hot. I can’t image being out here after 11am in June.
I had only recently heard about Lake Dan Preserve through a hiking group. It’s only 30 minutes north so I decided to check it out in early February. It was a colder morning but the sun was warming up. The parking lot was small and hawk was sitting in a tree right over my car. There wasn’t a lot of birds when I first got there. Only a few yellow-rumped warblers. Probably because that hawk was sitting there out in the open. I hit the trail and walked across the bridge over the lake.
Out on the edge of the lake I could see deer getting a drink.
As I got farther down the trail, I came across a deer that was standing right in front of me. She stared at me for a few seconds before taking off across the field. She did stop and look back for a few seconds before heading into the woods. There were a lot of deer up here roaming around. All females that I saw this morning.
The only thing I didn’t like about the trail here was that most of it was soft sand which didn’t help my hip. Even walking on the edge didn’t help. I could feel my hip starting to hurt. I really need hard dirt or paved trails for now to keep my hip from going back out again so I didn’t walk as much as I would have liked to.
I found this interesting swamp pond about half way on my walk on a side trail. It was very quiet and I could barely make out deer getting water on the far end. I’m sure lots of critters use this instead of the big lake close by. It was kind of cool to be out here in the quiet and the bald cypress trees in the middle made it feel like winter. It’s amazing what you can find a half hour out of Tampa. First shot is out of the camera, the second I added a filter to make it look more like winter. I wasn’t sure which one I liked better.
I always forget that there’s a park close by that has a lake lined with cypress trees. In late fall the cypress trees turn orange before they lose their leaves and it’s a little bit of fall leaves that we get in central Florida. I stopped by Kapok Park in late November and missed the peak orange but caught it at the end. It was a cool morning out so it was a few minutes of feeling like fall season.
Panos taken with with my phone. I wished I had remembered to come a few weeks earlier.
This tree was pulled over during a storm several years ago. It’s still alive and many birds and critters live in it.
I use to set my alarm to get up early on the weekends but lately my internal alarm has been going off early and I got out of bed one Saturday morning in November and headed to Circle B Bar Reserve. Although, not that early since the sun was just peaking out as I hit the trails. It’s the perfect time to be there, quiet and not many people there yet. You can hear the birds starting to talk and the whistling ducks were starting to fly back and forth.
One of my favorite views in the morning.
There wasn’t a lot of different birds out. The usuals were there (moorhens, whistlers, herons, egrets, cormorants) but I didn’t see many uncommon birds. The above are fairly common in the winter (female common yellowthroat, house wren and the purple gallinules) but sometimes a little bit harder to find.
Some of the smaller critters along the trail.
The eagle’s nest is pretty far away but I could still see both eagles on the nest. Maybe she’s looking at her eggs in the nest? Might have been a little early but soon.
In early March I hurt my back and ended up with a compression fracture. I had to take it easy for a while and after two weeks without long walks in a park I decided to take a road trip across central Florida to look for the whooping cranes. I figured it was easy to sit in a car and I’ve been saying I was going to go over there but just never took the time. This was also right before the big lock down. On the way home I decided to stop at Circle B Bar Reserve for a quick walk even if it was just a few minute in the parking lot. I felt pretty good (was wearing a back brace around my waist) so I walked a little ways down the main trail. It felt good to be out. I’m glad I made the effort because they closed the reserve down the next week for a while. I found the whooping cranes, more on those later. Above are sandhill cranes that were right up on the trail.
Lots of the usual birds there including the great blue heron yelling at an intruder.
It must have been soft shell turtle day because I saw three different ones on my short walk. They were up on the trail. They are usually skittish but one stopped for a pose.
I’m going to miss the tree twins.
A small part of the marsh at Circle B Bar Reserve on a beautiful day.
I was looking through some old folders recently and came across some pictures I had taken of the great old trees at Circle B Bar Reserve. Some have changed a lot, some have not changed at all and some are gone. The ones above were taken in December, 2010. They were full of wood storks and the marsh was full of coots. We rarely see coots there now.
The same tree, taken this past December.
Same trees as the first two pictures, taken in January of 2013.
The trees in the fog, taken in December of 2017.
This was taken in 2009. I loved the old tree full of moss.
My first trip to the reserve was in October 2009. The marsh and trees were full of birds.
A very rare time I was there for the sunrise, back in November 2011.
Taken in 2011, some of the frequent visitors called this the “Magic” tree. It use to always have birds on it.
The same tree in 2013. Not long after this, the tree disappeared. It must have fallen down from old age.
A recent picture of the tree that greets you on main trail. It’s rare to not stop and take a picture of some bird on it.
In the same day at the same park it can look like several different seasons. The white plants are blowing in the wind and it looks like snow. The cypress trees were turning orange and it looked like fall. The marsh still had yellow flowers so it looked like spring. All at Circle B Bar Reserve in early December.
Lettuce Lake Park has an observation tower on the boardwalk that is several stories high. On the top level you can see into the tall trees that have been growing there forever. The park has some great really old trees that you can only see the bottom of the trunks from the boardwalk. You have to climb up high to see the tops. It’s worth the climb.