Posts Tagged With: three lakes wildlife management area

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

From our house, in about an hour-and-a-half (or four hours if we miscalculate rush hour), we could be standing in line waiting for our opportunity to enter the greatest entertainment complex in the universe: DISNEY WORLD! Depending on how many of the FOUR UNIQUE THEME PARKS we would like to visit in one day, we would only need to provide the happy ticket vendor with from $240 to $350. The keys to the Magic Kingdom could be OURS

Or —

From our house, in about an hour-and-a-half, we could be surrounded by pine trees, grass prairie, cypress hammocks, scrub palmetto, blue lakes, huge oak trees draped in gently swaying Spanish moss. No happy ticket vendor.

Small patches of ground fog hugged the low-growing palmetto surrounding the cypress domes which dotted the land. It is estimated that as late as the mid-1800’s, dry grass prairie covered over one million acres in central and south Florida. Due to population growth, cattle ranching and farming, these very unique environments can now only be found in a few areas north and west of Lake Okeechobee. We feel privileged to be able to enjoy all which this biologically diverse and special area has to offer.

Driving the dirt roads through the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area while trying to avoid the numerous pot-holes , we found a bounty of blooming wildflowers, white-tailed deer and a good selection of summer birds. Gini’s radar-like hearing detected the distant calls of a gang of feeding Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. This endangered species nests here and populations are highly managed which has resulted in an amazing recovery from near extinction. Alas, none of the group wanted to be photographed today.

In the middle of this vast wilderness is Lake Jackson, one of the “Three Lakes” in the management area. We enjoyed a light breakfast on the lake’s shore while watching ducks, wading birds, alligators and soaring vultures. I took a bit of a meander through the adjacent hammocks where there was ample evidence of a healthy feral hog presence. The ground was so uneven from the pigs’ rooting it was difficult to walk.

By lunch time, we had made our way to the shore of another of the “Three Lakes”, huge Lake Kissimmee. Sandwiches under shady oak trees just seemed to taste better with a gentle breeze, clear blue sky, calling Limpkins, splashing Gallinules, Bald Eagles and Ospreys catching fish. Sigh.

The third lake in this vast management system, Lake Marian, would have to wait for another day. It was time to head home. As we drove by the exit for Disney World, we didn’t even notice.

We regret we have not yet figured out how to reproduce the aroma of the wildflowers or the feel of the breeze on your face. Hopefully, you can enjoy a few images. Close your eyes and imagine …

 

Lake Jackson is a shallow bowl-shaped lake of the kind typically found in central Florida. The fishing is very good and each year endangered Snail Kites nest along the remote shore line.

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

 

During breakfast, a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks kept a close watch on us and a pair of Wood Ducks flew overhead.

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

 

Wandering around a low place (hammock) near Lake Jackson I discovered this oak tree. It’s impressive spread supports so much life. Ferns, lichens, moss, air plants, vines. Not to mention the diverse animal population which could call it home.

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

 

Some form of Coreopsis is so prevalent in Florida that the entire genus has been named as the state wildflower. This is Leavenworth’s Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii) and, fortunately for us, it was blooming throughout the management area.

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

 

Part of our lunch time entertainment was a Great Blue Heron stalking his own lunch v-e-r-y slowly.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

Although the Limpkin’s plumage can be great for concealing its presence among reeds, once it emits its eerie call there is no doubt he’s nearby.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

With so much water around (uhh, it IS Florida!), insects abound. The Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) and Four-Spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) are two very common dragonflies for our area.

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

Even though part of this area is called “dry grass” prairie, when it rains (and we have had abundant rain lately) the “dry grass” is interspersed with a whole lot of color. This pretty pink blossom is Rosy Camphorweed (Brachymesia gravida). When its leaves are crushed they give off a citrus odor. Early settlers may have used it to ward off fleas from bed linen and an old colloquial name for the plant is “Marsh Fleabane”.

Prairie Lakes

 

These white flowers were abundant along one stretch of road. Alligator Lily (Hymenocallis palmeri), is one of 40 members of this genus in the New World, 13 of which can be found in Florida. Plants in this group are known collectively as “Spider Lilies”.

Prairie Lakes

 

We bypassed the glitz and glare of crass commercialism and discovered our very own Magic Kingdom. No keys required. Hopefully, you all have a magical spot not too far from your own front door. If not, I know a place ready to take your hard-earned cash.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Lunch And A Matinee

Human beings like to be entertained.  Cave men whiled away the time between hunting and gathering by covering the walls of their homes with drawings.  Plays were staged to take our minds off the troubles of the day.  “Moving pictures” transformed entire societies and new industries were developed to satiate our ever-increasing desire for diversion.  If you question whether we are addicted to being entertained, try unplugging the televisions and computers in all our homes for a few hours and see how quickly rioting in the streets will begin.

Fortunately, I married wisely.  Gini is as easily entertained by the song of an Eastern Meadowlark as she would be by attending an orchestral performance of Mozart’s greatest hits.  We seem to find so much in Nature at which to marvel, it just doesn’t matter if we’re missing a favorite television show.  Besides, that’s why recording was invented!

Well, we lollygagged all morning on Peavine Trail (see our previous post “Happiness Is A Dirt Road”) and it was already time for lunch.  We drove to Overstreet Landing on the eastern shore of Lake Kissimmee which is always a treat because to get there you have to travel Overstreet Road.  This gives us the opportunity to view vast pastures, grasslands and sod farms.  The open area is richly populated with Sandhill Cranes, Eastern Meadowlarks, American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, Wild Turkeys, Northern Bobwhites, White and Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret and soaring Vultures.  With the fall migration, we also saw Savannah Sparrows, Palm Warblers and a Northern Harrier.

When we arrived at the shore of the lake, we parked under the welcoming branches of an oak tree, opened all the windows and doors of the truck so we could enjoy the breeze coming off the lake and prepared to enjoy our sandwiches with an unparalleled view of premier lake, prairie and grassland habitat.  We were soon joined by a Turkey Vulture who brought his own lunch of a decaying catfish carcass and settled on a fence post not far from us.  All present enjoyed a fine meal, peace and quiet.

After lunch, we spotted a Snail Kite in the distance hovering over the grass in the lake looking for the Apple Snail which makes up its diet almost exclusively.  A large flock of Cattle Egret flew in front of us, a Little Blue Heron hunted stealthily in the shallows and a group of four Wilson’s Snipe sprang into the air, startled by an incoming boat.

We drove a short distance to the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and poked slowly along the rough dirt roads through scrub woods, long-leaf pines, palmetto, cypress domes* (see “Additional Resources”) and a long stretch of dry grass prairie.  Along the way, we tallied 40 species of birds and even found a few fall warblers:  Palm, Pine, Prairie, Yellow-throated and Yellow-rumped.  A creek crossing produced a pair of Wood Ducks, Snowy and Great Egrets, Tricolored and Great Blue Herons and a Limpkin.  We found several American Kestrels and Eastern Phoebes taking advantage of millions of insects.  A lone pine tree in the prairie contained a large nest used by Bald Eagles last year to raise a family.  It seemed empty, but may be taken over soon by a Great Horned Owl.  We’ll check next month.

As the sun began to cast long shadows, we turned onto the paved road and spotted a group of Wild Turkeys, the strong light showing off the iridescence of their plumage.  The evening sky displayed colors no artist could duplicate.  As the curtain of night began to lower on our day, hundreds of Glossy Ibis headed to their roost.  We did the same.

We didn’t get a lot of useable photographs due to the time of day and position of the sun but here are a few images which may give you a flavor of our afternoon.

Our lunch guest.  The portion of the brain which detects smell is relatively large in the Turkey Vulture and they can detect carrion below a forest canopy.  And they’re so cute.  Besides who can argue with such an elegant scientific name?  Cathartes auraroughly translated as “Golden Purifier”!

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

 

The lakeside venue for our picnic included a panorama of lake, marsh, grassland, cattle egrets in flight – oh, yes – and a contented vulture.

Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture

Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture

 

A stealthy approach will yield results for this very patient Little Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

These pretty white blossoms are called Short Leaf Rose Gentian.  Stars scattered along our path.

Short Leaf Rose Gentian (Sabatia brevifolia)

Short Leaf Rose Gentian (Sabatia brevifolia)

 

Very small but very attractive is the Southern Fleabane.  (Please let me know if this is a different species.)

Southern Fleabane (Erigeron quercifolius) (?)

Southern Fleabane (Erigeron quercifolius) (?)

Our matinee was in living technicolor.  A Cloudless Sulphur extracting sweet nectar from Britton’s Wild Petunia.  Unfortunately, this is a very prolific invasive plant which has been vigorously marketed by nurseries as a “Mexican Petunia” and is driving out native plants throughout the region.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) on Britton's Wild Petunia (Ruellia simplex) - "Mexican Petunia" - Invasive Plant

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) on Britton’s Wild Petunia (Ruellia simplex) – “Mexican Petunia” – Invasive Plant

A lone pine tree in the prairie made a fine place for Bald Eagles to nest last year.

Bald Eagle Nest

Bald Eagle Nest

My camera lens will get dirty from time to time, but in this case, all the specks are flying insects.  Which is precisely why this happy Eastern Phoebe is perched in this location!

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Limpkins always remind me of something almost prehistoric, especially their calls to each other at dawn and dusk.  (Hear their call:  http://www.xeno-canto.org/102268.)  These birds have especially designed bills for opening Apple Snails and extracting the meat.

Limpkin

Limpkin

An example of the type of dry grass prairie which once stretched across a large part of Florida.

Prairie

Prairie

Cypress domes dot this area and provide refuge for an amazing variety of wildlife.  *(See Additional Resources.)

Cypress Dome

Cypress Dome

A Northern Mockingbird bid us farewell as we prepared to head home.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Wild Turkeys are highlighted in the strong light of the setting sun.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Nature provides the ultimate in “wide-screen” entertainment!

Prairie Sunset

Prairie Sunset

Glossy Ibis heading to a roost just after sunset.

Prairie Sunset

Prairie Sunset

We enjoy entertainment just as much as anyone.  It’s just that all the best stuff seems to be beyond the reach of an extension cord.  And when the power goes off, we won’t be all that upset.

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

Additional Resources:

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and Prairie Lakes Unit

(NOTE:  If you visit the Three Lakes WMA, check their website listed above for hunting dates.  If you venture afield during scheduled hunting times, be careful and wear an orange vest!  Be safe!)

*Cypress domes are stands of trees growing in a low place which usually stays wet year round.  The depression is lowest near the center of the dome and those trees grow more vigorously than the surrounding ones, thus creating the “dome” shape.

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

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