Vultures and strawberries!

Not much to see on an early morning walk at Lettuce Lake Park in north Tampa in late January. Not many birds but tons of turkey vultures hanging around.

You can really tell it’s winter here with all of the leaves gone from the cypress trees that line the lake. And by winter, I mean I didn’t need more than a long sleeve tshirt to keep me warm.

Before heading home, I stopped at Medard Park to see if there was anything there since I hadn’t been in a long time. It was quiet there as well. A great blue heron preening was all that I could find.

Medard Park is in Plant City, in the middle of “strawberry” country.  Hillsborough county produces around 15% of the nation’s strawberries with over 11,000 acres. Chances are if you are eating strawberries in the winter, they came from here. There’s a farm right outside of the park and I pulled over for a few minutes and took a couple of shots of the almost-ready berries.

This is the view for miles before hitting the highway.

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The “rapids” of Tampa

After several days of rain in late December, we had a break in the weather so I decided to go to the Hillsborough River State Park for a walk. The water was coming through pretty heavy and this is the only place in the Tampa bay area to see “rapids”. Not too bad considering the area is almost completely flat.

 

Fall was just starting to hit. The cypress trees had all turned colors and were starting to lose their leaves.

 

The trees along the trail have a lot of personality.

The bridge over the river. Down at this end the river is calm.

Colors on the ground.

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The old trees at the Reserve

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.

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Rapids in Tampa??

Yes, if you can call the above rapids, then we do have them in Tampa. At Hillsborough River State Park. According to the Florida State Park website, these are Class II rapids. I visited for the first time in mid-June after several days of heavy rain.

The elevated bridge that crosses the river.

The water in some of the swampier areas of the park looked like tea.

Lots of beautiful old trees along the trails.

The park’s purpose it to preserve the “real Florida”. It was hot, muggy and buggy in June and that’s exactly the real Florida. I had 2 layers of DEET on and still came home with lots of bug bites. I didn’t see a lot of wildlife the morning I was there. Not like all of the other parks I frequent close by. Very few birds but I’m sure there were lots of snakes hiding. It’s about 45 minutes away from my house so not a long drive but I don’t think I’ll go back until winter (which around here means January).

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In the fog at Lettuce Lake Park

The view along the boardwalk and observation tower at Lettuce Lake back in late February. It was just foggy enough that you couldn’t see the other side of the small lake. I love mornings like these. Not many people out so it was very quiet. All above taken with my phone.

I could just make out the grebes swimming close to the tower.

Even in the fog, the bright colors of the azalea bushes were popping out. These were at the entrance to the park. The azalea flowers don’t bloom long here so I caught them at the right time.

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