Saturday, April 14, 2007

Trail Walking Wekiva

With a front moving in for the weekend, threatening to cancel Sunday's banding, I was thinking of heading over to Ft. DeSoto. I figured it may be a tad crowed (later reports said as many birders as birds!) and I knew I would have to work late and have to drive early.

I decided to stay close to home and check out some trails at Wekiva I hadn't fully explored. There was an earlier report of fledging Great-horned Owls down the trails and I wanted to find them.

It was a pretty hot day but I knew I needed to get in about 5 or more miles to get where I was headed. Not a problem. Most of the hike is in the shade.

Usual suspects were around and first of the season Red-eyed Vireos made an appearance half-way through the hike. Lingering warblers and singing sparrows. When I got to the area that the owls were suppose to be, however, I found little.

I was choosing which way I should head on a new trail when I saw a white-tailed deer to my right. It watched me warily and moved on. I decided to head down that way farther and soon found a break in the brush, apparently created by animals walking through.

Following that, it opened onto the shore of Lake Prevatt. Not much of a lake left. A bit of a pond and a few mud holes and a LOT of dried mud. I walked out onto the lake bed and as I rounded a clump of bushes the far side of the lake was teaming with deer. At least 12. Another deer flushed off to my left.

Soon, a bird also flushed from the bushes to the left. It turned out to be a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron! It flew over to where the deer were, near a mud hole. I followed to try and get a closer shot.

Once I got closer to the mud I began to notice a few tiny heads around the edge of the mud where the last of the remaining vegetation. Baby alligators! First a couple, then several. I stopped walking when I noticed the series of dark bumps resting in the wettest part of the mud. Mama was keeping watch and began to push herself deeper in the muck when she sensed me approaching.

I would have to change direction. I respect the power of gators enough to know better than to mess with one protecting young.

I got back onto the main trail and headed around the other side of the lake. There I found a few tom Turkeys out on the lake bed checking me out. Suddenly, 4 more popped up around the other corner. More surprising was that a couple of them decided to leave the lake bed and walked right past me.


Time was running out for my hike so I headed back. Nearing the net lanes again, I heard some birds scolding around the bushes near the trail ahead. Out popped a Pine Snake right in front of me! I was trying to get a shot of it but it turned and fled back into the scrub. The birds continued to scold and some warblers appeared before me.

Pine Warbler

I can't remember seeing female Pine Warblers before but here she was, down out of the high branches to chase away this 4 foot snake. A male joined her, as did Gnatcatchers, Prairie Warblers, and a Titmouse.

Pine Warbler

I didn't find anything spectacular today but at least I got some shots of the Pine Warbler. The most important event would happen a bit later. This long walk in 90 degree heat sealed my decision that had been brewing for years.

Time to cut off this ponytail.

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