Sunday, February 7, 2016

January 29, 2016 - Birding in Florida, Day 1

Cindy and I had been hoping for some snow this winter so we could get out and get some nice snow pictures, but the 8-12 inches we got at the end of last week was just too much.  By the time the roads were clear enough to get to the places we wanted to shoot, it was too late to get the pictures I wanted - those fresh snowfall pictures.  So instead of just hanging around here, we decided to head to Florida for some camping and birding.

Cindy got online and found one spot left in Ochlockonee River State Park which is near a great birding spot - St Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  We left here on Wednesday and spent 2 days with Cindy's folks in Jacksonville, then headed to the state park on Friday for 4 nights of camping there.  The state park is home to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker which is a bird neither one of us has seen.  My life list (different species of birds seen) is at 196 and I was hoping to add this one and a few others to get me to 200.

We got to the campground early afternoon, set up, and decided to just stay in the park for the rest of the day.  We were warned about the pesky bold squirrels that would try to get into our stuff when we weren't looking, and sure enough they were at our camp site waiting for us when we got there.  This state park is also home to the white squirrel which we also have in Hendersonville and one was waiting for us to leave a car door open or leave our bag of Doritos unattended.

The park ranger had told us where the woodpeckers liked to hang out, so we headed to that area after we got set up and secured the camp site from the rodents.  We found the trees where the birds have nested, but didn't see any signs of the woodpeckers.  Actually, we weren't seeing or hearing very many birds at all, so we decided to take the 'scenic drive' through this section of the park.  A lot of the park is a pine flatwoods community and that's where the scenic drive took us.  We stopped at a small pond to listen for birds, but still weren't seeing or hearing much of anything.

We did spot a hawk in a distant tree and did our best to get as close as possible.  It turned out to be a Red-shouldered Hawk which is one we see quite frequently.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The drive came out across from the marina, so we pulled in there for a look.  We saw and heard a few, but no new birds.  We did spot an otter in the river and spent some time trying to get pictures of it.

river otter with a crab

From here we headed back to where the woodpeckers were supposed to be, but still nothing.  It was now late afternoon and the bird activity was picking up, but all we saw were birds we already had.  We finally gave up and headed back to the camp site.  After dark we decided to walk the main road to check out the star situation.  The campground is kind of out in the boonies and the night was clear, so we could see billions and billions of stars.  We enjoyed that for a while, then went back to our site and drove out to a part of the park away from the campground to try our luck at star pictures.  I had only tried one other time with this camera and didn't have very good luck, but did a little better this time.

We stayed out for over an hour, then headed back to turn in knowing we were getting up early to try and catch a sunrise.

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