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.
I was cutting through the woods at Chesnut Park to get to the big lake and caught movement off to the side. I stopped and saw a big family of deer feeding along the small pond. They checked me out for a few seconds but then kept eating. I stood for a few minutes just watching them, glad no one else was around to spook them for the little time I was trying to take some pictures.
I caught this phoebe in the bushes with a bug in his beak.
Another phoebe out in the open.
Little flying critters. I don’t see red ones often.
I think I woke this guy up. A harmless black racer was sleeping near the trail.
It was starting to look like fall in late November. You could see a glimpse of red.
The Sora rail was the talk of the reserve back in early April. I’ve only seen a few rails and they were all at Circle B Bar Reserve. This was a rare sighting for this area so a handful of people were coming to the park to find him. There were actually 3 there and they stayed for a few weeks. They stayed close to the reeds and were digging around in mud looking for food. Since then we’ve had some rain so the ponds are filled back up. Maybe that’s why they eventually left.
The Virginia rail on the left was a nice surprise. I had heard one was there but didn’t see it. I saw the sora on the right far out in the marsh heading towards the reeds and snapped a shot of him and when I cropped this up I realized the Virginia rail was behind him.
Lately there’s been a glossy ibis hanging around the pond. This is another bird that I usually only see in central Florida so it was weird to see him here.
Out on the nature trail at Honeymoon Island, there had been a prescribed burn recently. I didn’t see a date on the sign but green was already starting to sprout.
There are a lot of dead trees all along the trail now. The pine trees seem to dying quickly. This trail use to be shady but now it’s mostly in the sun (although there wasn’t much sun the morning I was there).
I saw very few osprey. Years ago I would walk down the trail and see 20 to 30 osprey. Most of the nests were gone as well. They should change the name of the trail from Osprey trail to Dead Tree trail.
There was still a lot of color though. It was a quiet day. No sign of the eagles or owls. Only the 3 osprey I saw and a few catbirds. Maybe I just hit it on a tough day.
I had my first real close encounter with a big one recently at Circle B Bar Reserve. I’ve been visiting this park for over 10 years and until recently, I always joked that the gators were fake. They never seemed to move, just sleeping on the other side of the pond. I was at the park early and the water levels along the trails were high. The first picture was taken with my 300mm lens so I wasn’t that close. The second one was taken with my phone. That’s my shadow at the bottom. There were people coming up behind me and once the big guy crossed the trail, we all headed down together. Our theory was safety in numbers. By the time we got to were he had crossed, we saw him swimming half way across the lake.
Another big one on the same morning, taken with my 300mm lens.
A few tiny ones on the trail.
One of the “really” big ones across the lake, on the other side of the bank.
Otherwise, it was a slow morning with the usual turtles and warblers.
Lots of cute little birds around the nature center in mid February: palm wabler, blue gray gnatcatcher, female indigo bunting and several female painted buntings.
Of the course everyone wants the shot of the male painted bunting. We knew there was at least one there but after searching over an hour, I was about to give up when this guy above stopped for a second before taking off again. I snapped this quickly before he was gone only to get a blurry shot.