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Florida - part II
December 2016

Crystal River manatees
Big Cypress National Preserve
Everglades National Park
Collier-Seminole State Park
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Oscar Scherer State Park
Fort De Soto County Park

Collier-Seminole State Park
Located on the western edge of Big Cypress National Preserve, the state park was relatively busy compared to the other campgrounds we had been to on the trip so far. Probably with it’s convenient location right off the Tamiami Trail and with all the amenities (including laundry machines and outlets at every campsite!) offered by the park, it drew a lot of campers and RVs.

We noticed there were a subset of campers who seemed to live a nomadic life in campgrounds. They worked just enough to afford camping fees. It was an interesting idea, and perhaps more common in Florida with it’s warmer year round temperatures.

The campground itself seemed seemed a little sterile with more accommodations for humans than wildlife. Not like the “wilds” of Big Cypress or the Everglades. There was a small nature trail, which lead through the hammock and mangroves. There was also a couple of longer hiking trails off the Tamiami Trail that we didn’t have time to visit.

While staying at the campground, we visited the nearby Big Cypress Bend a part of the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Preserve and the Marsh Trail of Ten Thousands Island NWR. Big Cypress Bend was a well-maintained boardwalk trail over swamp with some impressive cypress trees (and stranger figs), palms and oaks. White Ibis and Great Egrets waded between cypress knees and through alligator flag. The waning light of day set a perfect tone over the depth of the swamp and it’s hidden wildlife.

Ten Thousand Island NWR was mostly, as you can surmise from its name, a water-based refuge that protected the many islands off the southern coast. However, there was one land trail right off the Tamiami Trail and it had a viewing platform to glimpse over the salt marshes and mangroves. There was the ubiquitous alligators as well as wading birds, gallinules, and ducks easily viewable from the platform. A marsh rabbit even hopped out onto the trail to graze on the fallen acorns. It was a nice place to stop off the Tamiami Trail to safely view some of the wildlife.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Increasingly surrounded by sprawl, this little gem will hopefully survive encroaching development. It was obviously well-loved and protect by the Audubon Society and also seemed to receive many visitors daily. We visited late in the morning to stroll the 2 miles of boardwalk through the cypress swamp. The boardwalk traversed a variety of habitats - open prairie, slash pine forest, cypress swamp and large flooded wetlands.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Pileated Woodpeckers tapped away on tree trunks. A mixed flock of Palm, Black-and-white, and Yellow-throated Green Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Blue-headed Vireos worked the cypress canopy. Egrets and ibis slipped amongst the dense vegetation. Mourning Doves and Painted Buntings gorged themselves at the seed feeders. A Red-shouldered Hawk scanned the dark forest floor for movement. It’s easy to see why both wildlife and humans enjoy the sanctuary.

Oscar Scherer State Park
We stopped by Oscar Scherer State Park one late afternoon to look for the Florida Scrub Jay. The park was reported to be the best area in SW Florida to view birds. During our brief visit, we failed to see a jay, but we did hike a few of the short trails through scrub - a vanishing and critical habitat for the scrub-jays.

Fort De Soto County Park
Our last night in Florida, we stayed at Fort De Soto County Park - right outside of St. Petersburg and only a 30 minute drive to Tampa. After paying the many tolls to reach the park, we pulled into our reserved campsite in the dark and were greeted by a party like atmosphere. Each campsite was equipped with an outlet (just like at Collier-Seminole). What better way to utilize these outlets than to plug in Christmas lights to encircle your site. There were quite a few groups who thought to bring their festive strings of lights. But at 10PM, when it was quiet hours, the electricity was cut. And surprisingly, they also reenforced the quiet hours, which I was thankfully for as the group across from us was still partying late into the night. This was actually one of the only time I’ve seen quiet hours at any campground enforced (and there have been many many times when I wished it were).

In the morning, we explored the park - an old fort (obviously) turned park. Most of the land was marred with development - roads, parking lots, and canals, but the sea and water birds were still in great abundance. A pair of Magnificent Frigatebird soared overhead. Reddish and Great Egrets snatched up fish along the water line. Hundreds of sandpipers, including Willets, Piping, Semipalmated, and Black-bellied Plovers, yellowlegs, Marbled Godwits and Dunlin, feed on the mudflats by the mangrove across the bay. White and Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers, terns, and Laughing Gulls rested on the exposed mud. On the pier, Snowy Egrets crowded the fishermen, hoping to steal bait fish from the cast nets. A Great Blue Heron caught several pufferfish and expertly deflated them with a swift poke of the beak before tenderizing then swallowing it down.

The beach on the Gulf side was sandy white and chalk full of shells and live snails - a great place for shell hunters, as there were the morning we strolled the beach. Along the beach, we also saw the Sandwich Terns and Brown Pelicans dive for food. Off the coast, a pod of bottlenose dolphins splashed in the blue waters.

With so much beauty and wildlife diversity so close to major cities, I could almost see why people might live in Florida. I said almost. It was a wonderful and somber experience to visit the Everglades and to enjoy a small portion of what will be lost to climate change within my lifetime.

return to Florida part I


Pictures (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Double-crested Cormorant cools itself from the heat in the Everglades National Park
A male Anhinga dances to attact the ladies at the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park
Great Blue Heron perfects swallowing a smooth pufferfish at the Fort De Soto County Park near St. Petersburg

return to Florida part I

Bird List
Wood Duck  A
Blue-winged Teal  BC,IH,TT
Red-breasted Merganser  FDS
Wild Turkey  BC,CSS
Pied-billed Grebe  SV,A,IH,TT
Wood Stork  BC,TT,CSS
Magnificent Frigatebird  F,FDS
Double-crested Cormorant  CR,BC,SV,IH,F,FDS
American White Pelican  BC,F,TT,FDS
Brown Pelican  CR,F,FDS
Great Blue Heron  CR,TC,BC,SV,A,IH,F,TT,CSS,FDS
Snowy Egret  CR,BC,SV,F,TT,FDS
Little Blue Heron  TC,BC,SV,LP,IH,F,CS,TT,CSS,FDS
Tricolored Heron  CR,TC,BC,SV,F,CS,TT
Reddish Egret  FDS
Cattle Egret  BC
Green Heron  SV,LP,A,TT
Black-crowned Night-Heron  BC,A,F
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  BC,F
Glossy Ibis  BC,TT
Roseate Spoonbill  BC,F
Turkey Vulture  BC,SV,LP,A,IH,F,CS,TT,CSS,FDS
Snail Kite  A
Northern Harrier  IH,F
Cooper's Hawk  FDS
Bald Eagle  F
Red-shouldered Hawk  BC,SV,IH,F,CS,CSS
Short-tailed Hawk  A,F,TT
Red-tailed Hawk  CSS
Sandhill Crane  roadside
Purple Gallinule  SV,A
Common Gallinule  SV,A,IH,TT
American Coot  CR, IH
American Oystercatcher  FDS
Black-bellied Plover  FDS
Semipalmated Plover  FDS
Piping Plover  FDS
Killdeer  BC
Marbled Godwit  F,FDS
Ruddy Turnstone  F,FDS
Sanderling  FDS
Dunlin  FDS
Short-billed Dowitcher  F
Wilson's Snipe  SV
Spotted Sandpiper  F
Greater Yellowlegs  SV,F
Willet  F,FDS
Laughing Gull  CR,F,FDS
Ring-billed Gull  F,FDS
Herring Gull  FDS
Lesser Black-backed Gull  F
Caspian Tern  F
Forster's Tern  F,FDS
Royal Tern  F,FDS
Sandwich Tern  FDS
Black Skimmer  F,FDS
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  CR
White-crowned Pigeon  MH
Eurasian Collared-Dove  CR
Common Ground-Dove  LP,FDS
Mourning Dove  TC,A,CSS,FDS
Eastern Screech-Owl  LP
Great Horned Owl  LP,F,CS
Barred Owl  BC,A,CSS
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  BC
Belted Kingfisher  CR,BC,SV,A,F,TT,CSS,FDS
Red-bellied Woodpecker  BC,LP,A,CSS
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  BC,CSS
Downy Woodpecker  TC,BC,LP,CSS
Hairy Woodpecker  TC
Northern Flicker  BC,LP
Pileated Woodpecker  A,CSS
American Kestrel  SV,CS,FDS
Peregrine Falcon  F
Eastern Phoebe  TC,BC,SV,LP,A,IH,CS,TT
Great Crested Flycatcher  BC,SV,A,CSS
Loggerhead Shrike  FDS
White-eyed Vireo  LP,A
Blue-headed Vireo  BC,A,CSS
Blue Jay  CR
American Crow  F
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  SV
Tree Swallow  BC,A,CSS
Tufted Titmouse  TC,BC,CSS
Brown-headed Nuthatch  BC
House Wren  IH
Marsh Wren  A
Carolina Wren  BC,CSS
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  TC,BC,SV,LP,A,F,CS,CSS,FDS
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  TC
American Robin  CR,BC,CSS
Gray Catbird  TC,BC,LP,A,FDS
Northern Mockingbird  BC,SV,LP,FDS
European Starling  A,F,FDS
Black-and-white Warbler  CR,TC,BC,A,CSS
Orange-crowned Warbler  A
Common Yellowthroat  BC,A,IH
American Redstart  SV
Northern Parula  A
Pine Warbler  BC,CSS
Yellow-rumped Warbler  TC,BC,LP,A,CSS,FDS
Yellow-throated Warbler  BC
Prairie Warbler  SV,LP,A
Black-throated Green Warbler  A,CSS
Northern Cardinal  BC,LP,A,IH,CSS,FDS
Painted Bunting  CSS
Red-winged Blackbird  A
Common Grackle  CR,BC
Boat-tailed Grackle  CR,BC
American Goldfinch  CR

raccoon CS, FDS
eastern gray squirrel CS, FDS
marsh rabbit TT
white-tailed deer BC
bottlenosed dolphin FDS
West Indies manatee CR
American aligator BC, A, SV, IH, TT, CSS
American crocodile F
florida box turtle IH
striped mud turtle BC, A
softshell turtle A
florida chicken turtle SV
red-bellied turtle BC, A, CSS
penisula cooter SV
ring-necked snake BC
florida cottonmouth BC
black racer BC, Everglades main road
brown anole all
southern toad BC, LP
oak toad LP
cuban treefrog LP
southern leopard frog BC, LP
florida cricket frog BC

zebra heliconian
phaon crescent
long-tailed skipper
white peacock butterfly
gulf fritillary
julia heliconian
mangrove skipper
wandering glider
halloween pennant
wing-banded dragonlet
eastern pondhawk
eastern lubber
bella moth
florida tree snail
apple snail
blooming flowers
pine hyacinth
pineland jacquemontia
waterspider false reinorchid
eastern purple bladderwort
showy milkwork
climbing hempvine
wild coco flower
pineland water willow
wild petunia
oneflower false fiddlehead
procession flower
everglades daisy
marsh lady's tresses
leavenworth's tickseed
yelloweyed grass
blueeyed grass
coastal groundcherry
glades lobelia
pyramid flower
leafy bladderwort
pine barren goldenrod
blue morning glory
salt marsh pink
saw palmetto
royal palm
florida hammock milkpea
purple false foxglove
cucumberleaf sunflower
CR: Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Manatee Fun Tour
TC: Trout Creek County Park, Hillsborough Co.
BC: Big Cypress National Preserve--Burns Lake
SV: Everglades NP—Shark Valley
LP: Everglades NP--Long Pine Key Campground & Trail
A: Everglades NP—Anhinga Trail
IH: Everglades NP—Old Ingraham Highway
F: Everglades NP—Flamingo
MH: Everglades NP—Mahogany Hammock
CS: Collier-Seminole SP
TT: Ten Thousand Islands NWR--Marsh Trail
CSS: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
FDS: Fort De Soto Park


return to Florida part I

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page updated: 1/9/17