Posts Tagged With: raccoon

51st Anniversary Road Trip

“Listen.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Exactly.”

We were on the deck immediately outside the back door of the cottage. The dark waters of the Aucilla River swirled past us toward the Gulf of Mexico about three miles away. Straining to hear, Gini (the one with good ears) could not hear any traffic noise at all, no sirens, no dogs barking, no neighbors slamming doors. Sigh.

Phil, of the internationally renown blogging phenomenon, Another Bird Blog, recently asked why we would want to take a vacation since we live in Florida? The answer is, we did not take a vacation “from” Florida, but “within Florida”. Our Sunshine State has an incredible variety of adventure to offer. Even for a couple of natives such as us.

It’s amazing to think we have been married 51 years. Gini makes it seem like yesterday when we were running barefoot along the beach. We still do that, except for the running part. Thanks to her, every day is fresh, new, exciting and filled with anticipation!

Our road trip began at the southern boundary of Dixie County at the town of Suwannee, where the scenic river of song empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Winding our way northward through the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, we passed through hardwood hammocks, vast marshes, tidal streams, beaches (not the touristy white-sand type, the muddy reed and cabbage-dotted wildlife-filled ones), pine uplands and fishing villages. The day began with a thick sea-fog which didn’t begin lifting until almost noon.

A small cottage on the Aucilla River near the eastern boundary of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge was our home for a few days of exploration. Located at the end of an old logging road, the small house has a solid wall of glass at the rear offering an unobstructed view of the beautiful dark river and wild western shoreline. Three other houses are nearby, only one of which is occupied but only on the weekends. Nightly concerts were provided by Eastern Screech, Great Horned and Barred Owls. Dawn was announced by noisy flocks of Double-crested Cormorants flying low and heading down river.

We spent a lot of time at nearby St. Marks NWR where the birds are abundant and people are not. Local seafood was fresh, abundant and inexpensive. Back roads produced even more bird life and superb scenery. A comfortable bed was welcome at day’s end and it was refreshing to peek out from the covers each morning and see the river come to life in the predawn light.

A few images are provided to give you a sense of our adventure. Also, see Additional Information below for a link to a map giving an idea of where we traveled.

 

Just north of the town of Suwannee, the Dixie Mainline Trail winds through vast swamps and hammocks and crosses a half-dozen tidal creeks. Side trails offer great views of the salt marsh bounded to the west by the Gulf of Mexico.Lower Suwannee River NWP

Lower Suwannee River NWP

 

With all the water, fungus is plentiful. Why does it grow on a particular tree but not on others immediately adjacent?

Lower Suwannee River NWP

Lower Suwannee River NWP

 

Tidal creeks beg to be explored.

Lower Suwannee River NWP

Lower Suwannee River NWP

Lower Suwannee River NWP

 

This beauty may be a Gulf Hammock Rat Snake, a hybrid of a Gray and Yellow Rat Snake. Any expert opinions are welcome.

Lower Suwannee River NWP

 

This vast marsh is part of Shired Island which has a very nice campground, picnic area and fishing pier. I have flagged this spot to return for some night photography later in the year.

Lower Suwannee River NWP

 

We spotted a large piece of driftwood covered in shells. Combined with the texture of the wood, this collection seemed almost like a painting.

Lower Suwannee River NWP

 

The old logging road leading to our cottage was long and straight.

The Moorings At Mandalay

 

 

The Moorings at Mandalay. Serene, scenic, soothing.

The Moorings At Mandalay

 

As you step out the back door, you are on a deck above the gorgeous Aucilla River.

Aucilla River

Aucilla River

 

On the deck, a Green Anole and a kitten.

The Moorings At Mandalay

Aucilla River

 

Around midnight, we discovered what we thought was a bird feeder was actually a raccoon feeder! (And opossum feeder, too, but he was camera shy.)

The Moorings At Mandalay

 

At St. Marks NWR, a Red-bellied Cooter almost got hit by a speeding truck so I moved him to the safety of the water. As I turned toward the car, I spotted a Vermilion Flycatcher, uncommon in Florida. Thanks, Turtle!

St. Marks NWR

 

Vermilion Flycatcher. A male and female spent the winter here, from birding reports. We got good looks at the female, but she would not pose for any pics. The male had no problem doing so.

St. Marks NWR

St. Marks NWR

 

This Great Horned Owl appropriated an old Bald Eagle nest to raise two owlets, one of which can be seen here.

St. Marks NWR

 

Gini said during her early years, one of her favorite beach activities was collecting Fiddler Crabs. We found a few to add to her memory bank.

Bottoms Road

 

A sub-adult Bald Eagle found a great perch to keep watch over the marsh.

St. Marks NWR

 

The lighthouse at St. Marks is the second oldest still standing in Florida.

St. Marks NWR

 

The vast marsh disappears into the Gulf of Mexico.

St. Marks NWR

 

Not far from our cottage is the Goose Pasture campground on another of Florida’s scenic dark rivers, the Wacissa. It is formed from and fed by a series of a dozen clear springs.

Goose Pasture

 

One final sunset on the Aucilla River near where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Aucilla River

 

We had a wonderful vacation, even if we didn’t leave the state! Both of us agreed to do this again in another 51 years.

 

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

 

Additional Information

Florida’s Nature Coast

St. Marks NWR

Lower Suwannee NWR

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Doldrums

“A state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump.”

 

It’s hot.

Raining almost every day.

Oppressive humidity.

Mosquitoes worse than ever.

No birds singing. Most are molting. Fall migration hasn’t started. No use even going anywhere. Just the same old same old. Sigh.

 

Wait a minute! This is Florida! There ARE birds to be seen! If not in the forest then in the swamp. If not in the swamp then at the coast. If not at the coast then at the water treatment plant or the mega-supermarket parking lot with retention ponds or the landfill or ……..

Whew! I almost blacked out there for a minute. Fortunately, finding birds to watch is NOT a real issue where we live. They may not be the birds on our great big WISH LIST, but there are plenty of birds out there!

A case in point. Although not yet open to the public, there have been periodic tours offered of the newly developed Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands near Lakeland and Bartow in Polk County, FL. I was lucky enough to be included in a recent group. Since I’ve been here several times, I wandered away from the herd and enjoyed some late summer birding around the larger wetlands cell in the area. Total species for the morning was 40 and included over 60 American White Pelican, 5 Least Bittern, 32 Osprey (20 gathered in one group of bare trees), a dozen Limpkin, 16 Black-necked Stilt, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns, Roseate Spoonbill and a host of water/wading birds. Additionally, I found a few White-tailed Deer, a Banded Water Snake, a thieving Raccoon, plenty of healthy alligators and Bobcat tracks in the wet sand. To think, I could have sat home and complained instead!

Huh? Pictures? But of course!

 

A delicate-looking Black-necked Stilt pauses during its search for breakfast.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

 

Snowy Egrets are very common here but I still can’t resist taking pictures of them.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

 

The wonderful clear song of the Eastern Meadowlark was absent today, even though I found a half-dozen of the beautiful birds. I think they’re molting and may be vulnerable to predators until their new feathers arrive. Not a good time to announce your presence.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

 

A muddy bill leaves no doubt where this Little Blue Heron has been searching for his meal.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

I was laying in the weeds trying to get a photo of a dragonfly when this Osprey flew in low over the tops of the reeds. I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised.

Osprey

Osprey

 

A Limpkin thinking outside the lunch box. It appears he was probing the wet sand for, well, I’m not sure what he was after. Pretty certain it wasn’t the Apple Snail he usually hunts.

Limpkin

Limpkin

 

This pair of Red-shouldered Hawks faced the rising sun over the wetlands and scanned the marsh for anything moving. They did NOT appreciate my presence. It got very noisy and I retreated.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

He knew I was there, but this Brown Anole didn’t take his eye off the ant he was tracking.

Brown Anole

Brown Anole

 

One of the man-made structures above a spillway made a fine perch for a Great Blue Heron to spot fish swimming too close to the surface.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

Grow a little algae on your back, dab your face with a bit of duckweed and “voila”, you’re completely hidden from potential prey. Nope, couldn’t possibly spot this fellow. Absolutely invisible.

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

A few female Boat-tailed Grackle found a convenient preening place.

Boat-tailed Grackle - Female

Boat-tailed Grackle – Female

 

Turtle eggs excavated and eaten by a predator. A raccoon running from the scene, not with an egg, but with an entire turtle! All of this plus the black mask – your honor, the evidence is overwhelming.

Turtle Eggs

Turtle Eggs

Raccoon

Raccoon

 

A female Four-spotted Pennant atop a spent cattail.

Four-spotted Pennant - Female (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Female (Brachymesia gravida)

 

Yep, it’s hot and very tempting to remain within the cool air-conditioned hut. But then you’d just have to listen to me complain some more. Now, we wouldn’t want that — would we?

Avoid the doldrums.  Go birding!  Now!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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