Vacation Birding Trip

Last week I took a 6-day vacation near Inverness, Florida, a few hundred miles northwest of where I live. No Internet, no cell phone! In addition to lots of hiking and birding, I met up with my birding pal Adrienne, who showed me where to see lots of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers. There were plenty of birds to see, but most of the photos are of landscapes, and some other critters. I liked some photos enough to make larger versions, and I hope you look at them. For lack of a better way to organize them, photos are sorted by venue, as I visited several wildlife management areas (WMA), a state forest and a state park.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

This WMA is about 8 miles east of Inverness. I liked it well enough to go back again.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

The birding highlight of Lake Panasoffke WMA is Red-Headed Woodpeckers, which you can see right in the parking lot. Though numerous, they are shy.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

The area around Inverness has hills! Some trails at this WMA take you up and down gentle grades, and twist and turn. What’s around the next bend?

Lake Panasoffke WMA

The Red Admiral is a migratory butterfly, so I was lucky to see this one as it passed through.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

More common is the Gulf Fritillary, which I’ve seen down here.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

A Great-Crested Flycatcher scaring up some lunch.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

Swallow-Tailed Kites catch their buggy lunch on the wing. Several kites flew over and circled for a while, then moved on.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

This squirrel had a few choice words for me as I passed.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

An interesting vine (?) that isn’t in my field guide.

Lake Panasoffke WMA

The main trail at Lake Panasoffke WMA leads to and across Little Jones Creek. Can you spot the bird?

Lake Panasoffke WMA

The bridge across the creek is guarded by this Eastern Diamondback rattler, about 3 feet long.

Half Moon WMA

I must have liked this WMA, as I see I chose more photos from there than anywhere else. It’s about halfway between Lake Panasoffke WMA and Inverness, on the opposite side of SR 44.

Half Moon WMA

A Northern Cardinal met me in the parking lot.

Half Moon WMA

Grey Catbirds are shy, too, and this one alighted only long enough for the picture.

Half Moon WMA

Here’s a bird I’d never seen before, a Carolina Chickadee. They resemble the northern Black-Capped Chickadee, but Black-Caps don’t migrate this far south. This Carolina Chickadee was near the southern edge of its travel, so we don’t see them in my area (watch someone correct me, but I’m going by the map in Sibley’s).

Half Moon WMA

Eastern Bluebirds were simply falling out of the trees almost everywhere I went. They’re scarcer down here. Our Audubon chapter has a program to monitor the population, and we’ve installed nest boxes in the western part of the county.

Half Moon WMA

Yes, it’s only a plain-ol’ Blue Jay, but it was posed so nicely I had to take its picture.

Half Moon WMA

As in all of the places I visited, there is a rich diversity of habitat at Half Moon WMA.

Half Moon WMA

Habitat diversity goes hand in hand with species diversity. I don’t know who was more surprised, but she stood still long enough for me to get the camera set. There’s a larger image of her on my gallery. Click on that image to see her in all her glory.

Half Moon WMA

As beautiful women sometimes will, she eventually ran away.

Half Moon WMA

This lovely butterfly, which seems to be staring right back at you, is regretfully called a Common Buckeye.

Half Moon WMA

Another ecosystem, with an interesting history. This wetland, which I estimate covered six acres, was formed from a gigantic sinkhole. There are many sinkholes at Half Moon WMA, ranging in size from a few feet across.

Monday Night Dinner

Alma and Adrienne

Monday night I met my birding pal Adrienne (right) and her partner Alma for dinner. Adrienne and I met at a Master Naturalist class down here. Our common interest in birds kept us in touch after she and Alma moved north. Alma doesn’t bird, but she tolerates us.

Flying Eagle WMA

I entered this WMA from an undisclosed location. The elevation is high, but there are a few ponds, which foster the hiker’s nemesis.

Flying Eagle WMA

Here in Florida, even mosquitoes have Websites.

Flying Eagle WMA

A blasted landscape, the result of a fire. The fire was probably prescribed, not wild, as most of the trees are undamaged.

Flying Eagle WMA

This dragonfly isn’t in my field guide, but it must be common, as I saw one in a parking lot here in town this morning.

Fort Cooper State Park

Fort Cooper State Park is right in Inverness, around the corner from my motel. It’s the site of a fort built in 1836, during the Second Seminole War.

Fort Cooper State Park

Judging by how possessively these Sandhill Cranes walked through the playground and onto the beach (there’s a small lake), I suspect they’re not migrants, but part of the sub-species that lives in Florida year-round.

Fort Cooper State Park

The parents wouldn’t let me get close to the chick, chasing it off into the grass just after I took this picture.

Fort Cooper State Park

Here, a Brown Anole studies up on vegetative succession. The original pine flatwoods was logged over, and the state is allowing hardwoods to succeed. Eventually, all of the pines will be gone. I guess they have a good reason for letting this happen.

Withlacoochee State Forest, Citrus Tract

Someone I know, who is waiting to see her first Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers, is going to hate me for posting these photos. What can I say? Adrienne led me to a place where RCWs seem to fall out of the sky. This is the first time I’ve seen them in broad daylight (and only the second place I’ve seen them).

Withlacoochee, Citrus Tract, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Withlacoochee, Citrus Tract, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

I have so many photos of RCWs (sorry!), it was hard to choose. They are easily spooked by humans. If one spots you, it sounds an alarm call, and off they go. That makes it hard to get close enough for a good photo. Wonder how many burgers I’d have to flip to pay for a longer telephoto lens?

Withlacoochee, Citrus Tract

Here’s Adrienne, warding off all those RCWs flying around.

Withlacoochee, Citrus Tract

Not wishing to be overlooked, this Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher put on a little show for us. There were so many birds everywhere, I could fill your browser cache with photos.

Crystal River, Cedar Key, and Way Down Upon The…

On Thursday, after an early-morning return visit to RCW Heaven, I decided to range farther afield, and headed for the Gulf Coast. First stop was Crystal River Archeological State Park.

Crystal River Archeological State Park

Crystal River Archeological State Park

These are mounds made by Native Americans thousands of years ago, for burial and ceremonial purposes. They’re right beside the Crystal River. The building in the second photo is the visitor’s center and museum, which displays some artifacts recovered from the site.

From Crystal River I drove a long distance out to Cedar Key. There’s a National Wildlife Refuge there, but it’s on an island, and I’m not sure you can land there in any event. There was good birding along the route, and this memorial to a tragic moment in Florida’s history.

Rosewood Memorial

Rosewood Memorial

If the signs are hard to read, right-click and “View Image” to see them slightly larger. I knew of Rosewood from the 1990s movie, but had no idea it was located along this road. Wikipedia article about Rosewood.

Cedar Key Historical Museum

Cedar Key is a charming little wreck of a town. One yacht in the harbor is probably worth more than all the buildings on land, but it has a certain end-of-the-earth ambience, like Provincetown and Key West. This photo of the Historical Museum gives an idea of the architecture, though most buildings aren’t in such good repair.

(We’re nearing the end of the trip, so please keep scrolling.)

Suwannee River

The Lower Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge is a combination of pine flatwoods and bottomland swamps.

Suwannee River

This is a very healthy flatwoods, populated by Longleaf and Loblolly pines, which don’t grow down here. The desirable effects of periodic prescribed burning are unmistakable.

Suwannee River

Here’s the beautiful Suwannee River. Far, far from home, but a pure delight to look upon.

Okay, we’re at the last stop, Green Swamp WMA. It’s about 90 minutes’ drive south of Inverness, so I stopped on the way home Friday.

Green Swamp WMA

There were no hunting seasons open anywhere else I visited, but Turkey Season was on at Green Swamp. I was allowed in, and I stuck close to the roads. Unlike the hunters (I never heard a shot), I saw a turkey, but she zipped back into hiding before I could stop the car. I drove more than 20 miles around the WMA, and did some hiking in places where I saw no other vehicles. Reviewing the photos, I don’t see any of the swamp. It was dark in there! The roads were mostly smooth, but this one gave me a little concern.

Green Swamp WMA

Here’s a long view across a recently-burned wetland.

Green Swamp WMA

And finally, probably the luckiest photo I’ll ever shoot. Please see the larger version on my gallery. I shot this photo out the car window. Who needs a tripod? The plant is called the Horrible Thistle.

As always, thanks for looking!

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