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Showing posts from December, 2021

Birding in Florida: Ocala National Forest

 There are rare endangered species, and then there are endemic species. Both are in need of humankind’s help if they are to survive, but they are not quite the same thing. Endangered means there’s not that many, endemic mean they only exist in one area. Endemic can be a broader term (Northern Mockingbirds are endemic to North America) or, in the case of the bird I was chasing, narrower. We were on the hunt for a bird endemic only to the scrub oak habitats of central florida. That’s not a lot of space for the Florida Scrubjay. There are other birds in our country that are more endangered, the Whooping Crane and the Californi Condor come to mind, but few are limited to so narrow a geographical area.  The Florida Scrub Jay lives in the oaks of central Florida. Furthermore, it prefers to live in oak forests that periodically undergo fires. That this creature still exists is more than a miracle. It has taken decades of luck for the habitat it resides in to have not been developed. We are

Birding in Florida: Paynes Prairie Preserve

 The best birding in Florida for us was without a doubt La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie State Park. This elevated boardwalk that leads out into a wetland starts just after a barn with infographics about the buffalo and wild horses (WILD HORSES!) one can see at this place. Alas, we did not see any wildhorses or buffalo, but wowie did we see some birds. From the moment we walked in the birds were falling out of the trees. Literally. There was a massive live oak covered in Spanish moss and at least ten wood storks. While we walked by one of them hopped into the sky and flew overheard, guiding us deeper into this preserve. Bizarre shrieks and guttural rattles drew our attention to one of my targets for Florida, a limpkin. This speckled wading bird has a somewhat gangly appearance and a call that feels like it came right out of the Triassic (apparently, they often use it in movies to make jungles seem more jungly). We saw one moving across aquatic plants. Another probing in the water wi

Birding in Florida: Sweetwater Wetlands Park

 In Gainesville, Florida, we really enjoyed the Sweetwater Wetlands park. It was green and gorgeous, with water plants so lush and emerald in the afternoon sun it challenged one’s perception. Diminutive herons of the most charming powder blue perched on stumps or fished amongst reeds. The feathers of a purple gallinule shone iridescently in the sun as this diminutive waterbird walked across aquatic vegetation, looking for arthropods to devour. Red winged blackbirds called plaintively to each other from their hiding places inside of tall spans of reeds. Anhinga sat on the shore or on diminutive trees, their spear like beak cocked toward the sky, their wings askance, soaking up the sun. American Bitterns (2!!!) flew overheard, a rare site for normally secretive bird, who nevertheless seemed quite comfortable here. We were on a boardwalk, elevated above lily pads and yet more birds. I was on the hunt for a limpkin and maybe possibly a snail kite and was wondering if I had miscalculate