Gray Day Full of Color

The wild and scenic Myakka River has its origins in northeast Manatee County and flows 66 miles to Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico.  Fourteen miles of this river flow through Myakka River State Park, one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks.  The park includes 37,000 acres of dry prairie, pine flatwoods, marshes, hammock, scrubby flatwoods, swamp, two lakes and the river itself.  There are over 39 miles of hiking trails and you can even walk in the tree tops!  The park is easily accessible from I-75 about 9 miles east of Sarasota.

I camped here as a kid along with a group of scouts a v-e-r-y long time ago.  It was here I began learning important life lessons in the sciences.  Such as physics.  When it’s raining outside and you touch the wet ceiling of a canvas tent, it will soon be raining inside.  I learned culinary arts information related to Florida cuisine and food preparation:  “sand is a condiment”.  My fascination with bird life had its roots during this trip when I discovered the Barn Owl does not produce a proper owl-like “hoot”, rather, it utters a noise more akin to deceased spirits who have returned to wreak vengeance upon young boys along a wilderness river bank in the middle of the night.

The park today bears little resemblance to the primitive sand banks I recall as a youth.  It’s a large, modern park with full facilities.  Getting off the beaten path is easy and there are plenty of experts available to help guide you to the type experience you want.

Gini and I spent several hours here yesterday and had a wonderful time.  It was a gray day, no rain and quite blustery.  I think the strong winds resulted in low numbers of waterfowl as Upper Myakka Lake was white-capped all day.  Despite the gray skies, our day was filled with color.  Yellows of wild flowers, warblers, turtle cheeks and legs of waders .  Pinks of Roseate Spoonbills.  Red shoulders of hawks and heads of vultures.  Bright black and white of warblers and butterflies.  Blues and  bright white of herons.

We encountered the official park greeters immediately after entering the park.  Turkey Vultures lingered around their roost, a few lifting off to test the strong wind currents.  We counted a little over 200 vultures by the end of our visit.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Roseate Spoonbills occupied a small watering hole where they were busy preening at the beginning of the day.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

The park is home to many types of wildlife, such as the White-tailed Deer.  This young doe didn’t let us interrupt her breakfast and only looked up briefly as the camera shutter clicked.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

One of our most abundant and visible winter visitors is the Palm Warbler.  They seem to be everywhere.  I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen one in — a palm tree!

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

This Red-shouldered Hawk appeared to be actively hunting.  He dove into the grass just as I snapped this picture and then flew out of sight with no visible prey.  Hopefully, he had better luck as the morning progressed.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

An Osprey was more successful and takes home a catfish lunch for the family.

Osprey

Osprey

We ventured off the main road and were rewarded with a yellow wall of flowers.  The Yellow Jessamine is beautiful, but handle with care as the nectar is poisonous.

Yellow Jessamine

Yellow Jessamine

We found a small stream with turtles sunning on dead logs.  This big fellow was at least 15 inches (38.1 cm) long and 12 inches (30.5 cm) wide.  I’m by no means a turtle expert but I think this is a Florida Cooter.  Any positive identification would be welcome!

Turtle

Turtle

Since the day was cool and very windy, I was a bit surprised at the number of butterflies flitting about.  This handsome specimen is Florida’s state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing.

Zebra Longwing

Zebra Longwing

Warblers were busy in the treetops gathering insects.  We saw Palm, Yellow-rumped, Common Yellowthroat and Black and White warblers during the morning.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

We parked along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake to enjoy our sandwiches for lunch and were provided a floor show at no additional charge!  (That’s the cool thing about Nature, she usually has cheap entertainment!)  A flock of Double-crested Cormorants cruised back and forth along the shoreline following schools of fish.  They appeared to be in training for some sort of synchronized swimming competition.  The leader would dive under the water and was immediately followed by the rest of the flock in unison.  They would then all surface, most with a fish they tossed in the air and swallowed, and the whole thing would repeat.  It was great fun.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Another excursion through the woods opened into a large grassy plain bordered by a creek.  A Great Egret and Little Blue Heron added a nice touch of color to the bright green of the grass.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

We observed several Lesser Yellowlegs throughout the day along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.  This fellow was very active at an  oxbow near the park entrance.  He was too busy to notice me sitting in the mud clicking away.

 

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

 

It was a good day made better by good company.  She sure puts up with a lot, all the time assuring me she likes it as much as I do.  I may keep her.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Resources:

Myakka River State Park (Official State Site)

Friends of Myakka River State Park

 

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Post navigation

38 thoughts on “Gray Day Full of Color

  1. Especially loved your 2nd paragraph and all the photos. What a rich, overflowing cornucopia of life.

  2. Such a wonderful plethora of photos!
    The shot of the hawk with its winds down showing the feather pattern is awesome. I never tire of seeing a deer. Like I said – so many wonderful shots!
    Uh, the only thing is the vultures – at least that many – just a little creepy. 😉

  3. We wanted to stay a couple nights (in our camper van) last season, but it was full full full….and I can certainly see why! What a beautiful place; we’ll have to drive there for a day trip. I think we could do it!
    Beautiful pictures of a great variety of birds (and turtles!)…..

    PS: I learned that physics lesson many years ago too — tent camping in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. Good times!

  4. Nancy

    Especially love the spoonbills (for color) and the osprey (for serendipity). Thank you for visiting!

  5. Wow, 37K acres! Sounds to me like a huge playground for a wildlife photographer! You got some incredible diversity on this trip, Wally and some very nice photos. I envy you your color – all we see around here is gray and white these days…

  6. Oh my, you got some spectacular photos! The red-tailed hawk and the osprey with his catch are simple outstanding!

  7. Gotta love that Yellow Jessamine! Wonderful post and photos

  8. I think I should love to visit this place! You got fantastic pictures of everything! I liked the flying hawk, the osprey (long to see “ours” again, but it’s too cold now) and the funny cormorants fishing and much more.
    Greetings Pia

  9. I’m green with envy as I perouse the incredible birds you saw and photographed at Myakka, Wally.
    Best you keep her is right ~:) I’ve had me keeper for 50 years so far.

    • I wish my photos did them justice, Pam! Congratulations on 50! We’ve only been at it 45 but are thinking about making it permanent. 🙂

  10. Wally, I always loved going to Myakka when I still lived in Florida, it was always interesting no matter what the weather was like. I felt like I took a journey back there by looking at your images this morning.

    BTW, I never knew that the nectar of the Yellow Jessamine was poisonous.

    • Thank you, Mia! I hope to return soon when we have a bit of blue sky. But then I won’t have any excuses for poor quality images!

  11. Great pictures. The Barn owl story reminds me of the first time I heard a koala at night – they roar and grunt like pigs! I thought there was some wild razorback stuck in the tree!

    Cheers

    Stewart M – Melbourne

    • I’ve camped in a swamp where the Barn Owls were really active and the sound echoed. It was like ghosts in stereo! Thank you for visiting, Stewart. Have a great weekend!

  12. Great image series showing 🙂

  13. What a wildlife bonanza in a place with a name that’s almost Australian!! Extraordinary colour in the roseate spoonbills; and magnificent patterns on the Red-shouldered Hawk!

    • It IS a special place! With over 37,000 acres (almost 15,000 ha.) to explore, one can always find something new here. Thank you for your visit and nice remarks!

  14. The red-shouldered hawk has lovely markings, so distinct. Great shot of the osprey, oh, they were ALL great shots. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the state park.

  15. Great post, Wally! I’ve been hoping to visit Myakka State Park, so it was nice to have a “tour” of all the great things there are to see there! It’s really neat that you were able to visit an old stomping ground and revisit some childhood memories!

    • Thanks, Tammy. It will definitely be on our list of re-visits, and soon. Once I discovered you can hike to Lower Myakka Lake and that all the cool shorebirds were there, I put it on my “to-do” list! Also, the Deep Hole, a 140 foot deep sink hole at the south end of the lake, hosts over 200 alligators. (Maybe pack a vegetarian lunch for this one!.)

  16. TexWisGirl

    some great sightings and photos! love it when the vultures cluster in a tree or whirl together like that. the cormorant w/ fish is really cool. the feather patterns in the red-shoulder are spectacular. thanks for sharing all!

  17. jimbey

    Awesome job! It is hard to convert a gray, blustery day into such beauty – And that hawk shot is superb! The final shot of the Lesser Yellowlegs almost looks artificial in its elegance. WoW!

  18. Beautiful shots! I love the vulture tree.

  19. What wonderful images…. So much life!! I’ve only been to this park once, with my old camera — lots of hiking, lots of tortoises and armadillos! I should dig up those images. The trees are magnificent here….

We value your Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: