Would You Prefer Your Woods Hydric Or Mesic?

“The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually.”
(Eeyore), A.A. Milne


Florida! The Sunshine State! Except when it’s raining.

Summer. The wet season. Wait, yesterday it didn’t start raining until after 3:00. Maybe tomorrow will be like that and we’ll have several hours to explore! Hmmm, the weather forecast is for 85% chance of scattered thunderstorms. That means we have a 15% chance of NOT getting rained on! AND – the storms are supposed to be scattered! Maybe it will actually rain somewhere other than where we are!

See what a problem my poor Gini faces? I’m an eternal optimist with no common sense at all. (She thinks “common” means EVERYONE has some sense about practical matters. Please don’t tell her.)

We had been wanting to return to Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area for some time. It’s about two hours from the house and near the gulf coast. It’s easy to find as it’s just off the interstate highway. With over 80,000 acres (+32,000 Ha.) it’s also easy to quickly forget how close to that highway you are. That’s a good thing, in our opinion.

A large portion of this land was purchased by Mr. Fred Babcock in the 1930’s for raising cattle, timbering and hunting. For awhile, the area was famous for a thriving pineapple industry. The state bought the land in 1941 and somewhere along the way they added the name of one of the fish and game commissioners with Mr. Babcock’s to produce the unwieldy official name: Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area.

This vast area represents the largest tract of undeveloped hydric pine flatwoods in southwest Florida. Combined with some drier areas (“mesic” flatwoods), open wet prairies, a few lakes and ponds – it is a wonderfully diverse habitat supporting a good mix of flora and fauna. Old logging roads provide easy access to much of the management lands, but take care if it has been raining or if your vehicle has low clearance. Also, this is a hunting area, so check the on-line calendar for current open hunting times. If you decide to visit during hunting season, wear a blaze orange vest and BE CAREFUL! It’s amazing how much we humans can resemble White-tailed Deer.

We arrived shortly after sunrise and our morning was filled with breathing the scent of fresh pine, admiring an incredible variety of blooming flowers, listening to woodpeckers hammering, chasing dragonflies along the edge of the wetlands, watching in awe as a group of Common Nighthawks put on a spectacular aerial display – just for us.

Egg sandwiches along with fruit was the perfect breakfast for the outdoors. It seemed we were stopping every few yards to gawk at something new. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. How had we lost track of time? We seem to do that a lot.

A few images may give you an idea of why we could care less about looking at a watch.

(Pssst. No sign of thunderstorms yet, scattered or otherwise.)

What’s for lunch?


An immature Bald Eagle soared over the open wet prairie searching for her own breakfast.

Babcock/Webb WMA


There are around 40 species of Spider Lily in the New World and 13 of them are in Florida. This is the Alligatorlily (Hymenolcallis palmeri), fairly common but beautiful. Up close it has a wonderful fragrance.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Dragons and damsels were in abundance. Convincing them to pose for a photograph was a challenge. The colorful Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) would be hard to mistake for anything else. During the day we saw dozens floating above the reeds.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Pink seemed to be the color of the day for flowers in the flatwoods and prairie. A lovely Large Flower Rose Gentian (Sabatia grandiflora) languished right by the side of the road.

Babcock/Webb WMA


One of the more common birds in this habitat is the Red-bellied Woodpecker. This one was busy finding bugs and hustling back to a nest cavity where junior was likely squawking “Hurry up!”.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Frequently found at commercial nurseries, American White Waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) somehow seems more elegant in the wild.

Babcock/Webb WMA


A common dragonfly throughout our area is Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami). This female was very patient while I knelt down to her level for a portrait.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Resembling snapdragons, the Eastern False Dragonhead (Physostegia purpurea) is sometimes called Obedient Plant for the tendency of blossoms to remain in place if pushed or twisted.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Peeking through a curtain of pine needles, a diminutive Downy Woodpecker wastes no time in checking up, down and around limbs for signs of insects.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Much smaller than the American White Waterlily above, Big Floatingheart (Nymphoides aquatica) more than holds its own in the beauty department.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Part of maintaining a healthy habitat, prescribed burns take place regularly to help reduce accumulation of hazardous fuel (dead wood, etc.), to restore some ecological communities and to improve overall wildlife habitat. In an area of a recent burn, we found this pine tree with dripping resin “frozen” on the trunk.

Babcock/Webb WMA


A section of wet prairie resembles a “green sky” dotted with pink “stars”.

Babcock/Webb WMA


Rounding a bend on a back road, we were blessed to watch a group of four Common Nighthawks put on an impressive aerial display as they twisted and turned at high speed chasing clouds of insects. Fast birds!

Babcock/Webb WMA


Whew! Busy morning! We’re now at the shore of Webb Lake enjoying cold chicken and discussing whether to begin the trip home or …

Next up, Part Two.


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


Additional Information

Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Would You Prefer Your Woods Hydric Or Mesic?

  1. Wally, I offer my sincere commiserations that Florida has a “chance” of rain. Over here of course, and as you know, there is a 100% chance of rain any day or night. Having said that I must admit, with fingers crossed, that we are enjoying a dry spell of weather whereby I have to go out and water Sue’s pot plants most evenings while she samples a G&T.

    Nice work on those dragons, fast shutters required. Likewise the Nighthawk – a spectacular shot my friend.

    • Thank you, Phil! We have had visitors point out that it doesn’t really matter if it rains in Florida as the humidity is so high that one will remain soaking wet anyhow as soon as you go outdoors.

  2. edro123

    A great report, Wally. You see so much on your excursions. And great photos too. I’m especially impressed with the Nighthawk – they move so fast!

    Thanks for using the “hydric” and “mesic” terms. I learned something today – now if I can only remember it!

  3. Scottish comedian, Billy Connolly, says there’s no such thing as bad weather-just wrong clothing.
    I remember Physostegia from my childhood garden.I always wondered why the flowers didn’t break.Others certainly resented being twisted!

  4. Oooh. And ahhh.
    Which I so often start my comments here with.
    I prefer my woods unlogged.
    And love, love, love the snippets of beauty you and Ginnie shared with us. The green sky and pink stars would have inspired Monet if he had been fortunate enough to see it.

  5. Hi, Wally– Great description of a wonderful place, and so nicely illustrated. As for the weather forecast, we have a meteorologist in the family. I tried to pin him down on what a 50% chance of rain actually meant and how the accuracy of such a prediction would be validated. Does it mean 100% over 50% of the area? Raining half the time over all the area? Raining somewhere some time in the area, however briefly, but right about it half the time… etc etc Go figure!

    • Thank you, Ken. It’s always a fun place to explore. So much to see! (Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were busy feeding young but too far for photos.)
      As a native Florida boy, I’ll stick with Eeyore’s prediction – it’ll stop raining – eventually, so might as well go.

  6. Thank you Wally (and Ginny) for letting us tag along on your tour . The B-W Wildlife management Area is really close to our Winter home, as you know, and we have not taken full advantage of that. I now have it on the must-visit list for next season, in the hope that the dry one is even half as good a time for it. Your pictures are all amazing..but I’m especially happy to see the dragonflies, which look like pixies feasting on flowers…I can see their little faces! (I might just be in a children’’s lit mood after your top quote …after all our Winters in western Oregon, I know Eeyore’s words well..and can still repeat them in a pretty good Eeyore voice). . Thanks for sharing your knowledge of the wildflowers and water plants…all new information for me. And always for the beautiful bird portraits. ( I’m so glad you didn’t have the common sense to stay inside just because of the chance of rain )))

    • Thank you very much, Sallie! No worries – that area is fantastic in the dry season, too! Still lots of flowers blooming but it’s FULL of migratory birds!
      Welcome home from your river adventures and enjoy your (relatively) cool and non-humid summer.

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