I wasn’t happy with any of my bird photos yesterday, but I did get a couple of small American alligators.
This one had a neat spiral pattern on its back leg.
We had been out at Kitching Creek Preserve in Hobe Sound and then decided to explore a road that dead-ended at the northern side of Jonathan Dickinson State Park. The gate was closed but I hopped out of the truck with my camera because I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite. The kite whirled out of sight but I glanced down at a roadside ditch and saw first one, then another gator.
They were about 30 feet apart from each other, both holding completely still like statues in that reptilian alligator way.
I thought, if I can see two alligators right here then how many more are in the 10,000-acre state park and nature preserve just in front of me?
A quick online search reveals there are roughly 1.3 million alligators in Florida.
This one was crossing a sandy road in the section of the Savannas Preserve State Park off Walton Road, in St. Lucie County.
I parked at the Canoe Launch area. The launch ramp itself, pictured above, is closed (for repairs?) right now, but there is a small beach where it looks possible to launch a canoe or kayak.
The visitor center near the entrance is also not open right now.
Common Gallinule among the lilies.
This spot provides access to one of the park’s basin marshes. The 7,000 acres of Savannas Preserve State Park protects southeast Florida’s largest freshwater marsh system.
You can see the Canoe Launch on both these maps, posted to a bulletin board there. A few days ago I took a slow walk on the Yellow Trail, over two bridges, and looped back on the White Trail, around two miles of travel.
It looks like there was a prescribed burn maybe a few weeks ago. In Florida, we burn it before the lightning fires do.
My first “captured” bird was this Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis.
The name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus (“thorny thicket”; it thus means approximately “small thornbush-dweller” or “small bird of the thornbushes”.
I got a good look at a brown anole, near the trail. Males have dewlaps.
Brown anoles are native to Cuba and the Bahamas and an invasive species in Florida, taking over habitat especially from the native green anoles.
The weather was beautiful, warm with a light southeast breeze.
The lingering scent of the burn smelled like someone had a big campfire the night before.
Regular fires keep the understory open, preventing shrubs from becoming dominant in the pine flatwoods and scrub.
Two roads diverged in a burnt woods and I took the Yellow Trail.
I really appreciate the people who design and build bridges and boardwalks through Florida’s wet spots, so we can get a good look without getting wet.
Small flocks of Palm Warblers crossed my path a few times.
They wag their tails up and down constantly and spend a lot of time hopping around on the ground, which is weird for warblers.
I think this yellow-flowering plant near wetlands is in the tickseed/ coreopsis family.
The view from near the second footbridge.
Looking down at lily pads. Their colors now, in the dormant season, remind me of autumn leaves.
This trail is still a little wet in the dry season. My daughter and I turned around here a couple of months ago, when the puddles extended too far and deep across this way.
New growth after fire.
This eerie landscape held signs of hope.
A burn actually promotes the flowering of saw palmettos.
Returning on the White Trail, one side had been burned and the other one not.
For still there are so many things that I have never seen: in every wood in every spring there is a different green. – J.R.R. Tolkien
A Northern Mockingbird draws attention to a sign at Haney Creek Park in Stuart, FL. I took a little walk there yesterday morning.
There is a nice trail that loops through the woods. I thought I saw a strange lizard on this sign.
It’s a toy, ha! But it did draw my attention to the name of the lichen along the trail: Reindeer Moss.
Cladonia rangiferina, also known as reindeer lichen (c.p. Sw. renlav), lat., is a light-colored, fruticose lichenbelonging to the family Cladoniaceae. It grows in both hot and cold climates in well-drained, open environments. Found primarily in areas of alpine tundra, it is extremely cold-hardy.
Other common names include reindeer moss, deer moss, and caribou moss, but these names may be misleading since it is not a moss. As the common names suggest, reindeer lichen is an important food for reindeer (caribou), and has economic importance as a result. Synonyms include Cladina rangiferina and Lichen rangiferinus.
Reindeer lichen, like many lichens, is slow growing (3–11 mm per year) and may take decades to return once overgrazed, burned, trampled, or otherwise consumed.
Don’t step on it!
Did you ever look at one particular dead tree and think, that’s a good spot for a bird, and then a bird swoops in and perches there?
The American kestrel usually hunts in energy-conserving fashion by perching and scanning the ground for prey to ambush, though it also hunts from the air. It sometimes hovers in the air with rapid wing beats while homing in on prey. Its diet typically consists of grasshoppers and other insects, lizards, mice, and small birds (e.g. sparrows). This broad diet has contributed to its wide success as a species.
As you can see, my fascination with Dahoon holly continues.
Nice little pop of color in the Florida autumn landscape, here at the edge of a seasonal wetland.
Dahoon holly… Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Deer browse the young growth. Small mammals, turkey, quail, red-eyed vireos and other songbirds eat the fruits.
I’d plant it in my yard but it likes wetter soil.
Coming in for a landing! Another raptor appeared on a nearby snag.
I spotted this one in three different locations at Haney Creek during my walk.
Nice red shoulder.
I didn’t go this way. It’s just a view of the typical landscape.
I was keeping an eye out for a Scrub Jay, since I saw one at Haney Creek once when I didn’t have my camera. This was just a regular old Blue Jay playing hide and seek with me.
The jay is in a live oak tree. I see a tiny acorn.
The third time I saw the Red-shouldered Hawk it had perched in a great spot for photos – sunlight behind me and on the bird, with dark clouds beyond.
Its legs look so long.
This pose made me think of Horus, the Egyptian falcon god of kings and skies.
A came upon a large trap. I guessed it might be for wild pigs, which can be such a problem in Florida.
A pair of Anhingas.
Raccoon has been here.
This part of the trail was a bit muddy from recent rains.
Mystery track. Sort of cat-like and cat-sized. Domestic cat out for a prowl? Fox?
Sort of boring yet oddly beautiful landscape, to me.
Silvery saw palmettos between the freshwater marsh grass and slash pines.
I heard this kestrel calling before I saw it.
American Kestrels have a fairly limited set of calls, but the most common one is a loud, excited series of 3-6 klee! or killy! notes lasting just over a second. It’s distinctive and an excellent way to find these birds. You may also hear two other common calls: a long whine that can last 1–2 minutes, heard in birds that are courting or feeding fledglings, and a fast chitter, usually used by both sexes in friendly interactions.
A bit windy that day.
North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It’s one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place.