(Check out “Lake Kissimmee Area – November 2012” in the Gallery for additional images of today’s trip.)
Anticipation is defined in several dictionaries as: “the act of looking forward; especially: pleasurable expectation”. On Thursday night, Gini and I made plans to visit a new park and re-visit some familiar areas around Lake Kissimmee. I had difficulty falling asleep due to anticipation of the coming day. I used to have the same problem as a child when a fishing trip was in the offing. (Okay, I still have the same problem, and, yes, I know I’m still a child emotionally!)
We crawled out of bed at O-Dark Thirty and decided it was definitely too early for breakfast. We downed a glass of liquid sunshine (orange juice for those who may be unfamiliar with Florida-speak), loaded the truck and motored east in the inky blackness. It was quite cool so I actually had to take a jacket and included a blanket in case The Boss got chilled while guarding the truck later. A brief stop for a large coffee and hot chocolate and we made it to Lake Kissimmee just as the sun was breaking the horizon.
It’s as if Nature’s alarm clock sounded. Birds seemed to suddenly be everywhere. An adult and juvenile bald eagle were overhead. Limpkins were calling across the grass beds announcing that snails were abundant. Coots, moorhens and gallinules chattered and grunted from the lily pads. A flock of smallish ducks, probably Teal, whizzed past in the fast lane of the sky. In the distance, Sandhill Cranes trumpeted their arrival. A breeze sprang up and I realized it was cold out here at the edge of the day.
My beautiful Navigator handed me the hot coffee and together we watched a new morning begin. I had only taken a couple of sips when an Eastern Phoebe took up a lookout position atop a fence post in front of the truck. Well, how could I NOT take his picture? Three sips of coffee later, a Red-shouldered Hawk materialized from the lakeside grass and staked his claim on another nearby fence post. I sure drink a lot of cold coffee.
We were enjoying a Polk County park that opened late last year. Coleman Landing is on the southwest shore of Lake Kissimmee and although small, it offers three very nice boat ramps, lots of picnic tables and pavilions, rest rooms (portable type) and an information kiosk. While here, we photographed the Phoebe, Red-shouldered Hawk, turkeys, fox squirrel and American Kestrel. Oh, and the sun coming up.
On the back roads near the lake, we found a Bald Eagle perched on a tall utility pole and another Red-shouldered Hawk on a utility line. We drove to the southeastern side of the lake and explored Three-Lakes Wildlife Management Area and the adjacent Prairie Lakes Unit. Part of this area is a “dry prairie”, with lots of palmetto, grass, sand and a few scrub oak trees. When one finds a source of water out here, it’s usually crowded. We found one where “white” was the color of the day. Lots of Great Egrets and White Ibises.
A favorite launching area for fishing is on the east side of Lake Kissimmee at the end of Joe Overstreet Landing Road. It’s also a good birding area. Today we saw more eagles, lots of water fowl, Palm Warblers galore, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels and the very common winter migrant for the area – the Snowbird. (Snowbirds are extremely welcome and we try to feed them well during their stay as they prepare for the return trip to much colder climates.) We recognized the Snowbirds by their plumage – short pants and short-sleeved shirts – as they were boarding an air boat for a tour of the lake. Since the air temperature was below 60 degrees (F), we knew that no native species would attempt such a feat without having first girded themselves in full winter down.
I made one side trip on a trail within the Three Lakes WMA and was fortunate to find a Barred Owl watching me from a large oak tree. What a magnificent creature! How amazing to watch as it glided through the thick understory of the swamp on wings spanning almost four feet. This one never made a sound but its cry is one of my very favorite in the wild. (Listen to it here: Barred Owl Call.)
(NOTE: If you visit the Three Lakes WMA, check their website listed below for hunting dates. If you venture afield during scheduled hunting times, be careful and wear an orange vest! Be safe!)
We made it home late in the day, tired but quite content. How blessed we are to be able to visit such wild places and see so many different wonders and still sleep in our own bed at night. I’m waiting in eager anticipation of our next adventure!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.