I just returned from a short trip to Florida. It’s the second time I’ve been in a few years and I continue to be surprised by what it has to offer. It’s more than overcrowded theme parks and snowbird Canadians that hike their pants up to mid-chest and eat buffet dinners at 4:00. It’s full of parks, conservation areas, and white sand beaches that go on forever. All in all, a great recipe for nature photography! The highlight of my trip was seeing a bobcat, but alas, I did not get a photo.
Last time in Florida I stayed south of Orlando but this time I was invited to stay in a condo with friends of mine in St. Augustine Beach, about an hour south of Jacksonville on the Atlantic coast. The place was literally right on the ocean. You walked out the door and bam… beach. Thanks Brad & Andrea - you were great hosts!
Upon arrival, I got right to work and scoured the shore for aptly-named shorebirds. There were willets, ruddy turnstones that seemed completely oblivious to humans, and sanderlings. I liked to watch the sanderlings as they fed at the ocean’s edge. They would feed right where the waves stop and when it looked a big wave would cover them, they would hurriedly scurry away from it. Their feet go a mile a minute!
If you’re ever in Florida and you like nature even a little bit, I strongly recommend that you visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge just east of Titusville. The Black Point Wildlife Drive is magnificent! It’s a one-way road through perfect bird habitat that’s about seven miles long with stops along the way. There are so many herons, egrets, ducks, gulls, terns, spoonbills, and other birds that Brad and I took 4.5 hours to drive it.
There’s lot of other cool stuff on the road in addition to birds.
The goal of any trip to Florida is obviously to see Florida Scrub-Jays. That’s what you were thinking, right? Or maybe you’re not quite as much of a nature geek as me? That’s okay, you’re still welcome here. Florida Scrub-Jay is a unique bird species that exists only in central Florida’s scrub habitat. In fact, it’s the only bird species that exists only in Florida. Technically speaking, it’s endemic to Florida. (I admit it. I didn’t know that beforehand, but Wikipedia can make even a birding neophyte like me appear somewhat knowledgeable.) Brad and I did not see a scrub jay on our trip through Merritt Island, so I returned alone a couple of days later to try again.
I saw what I thought was a scrub jay beside the highway in Merritt Island, but it turned out to be a mockingbird (interestingly, with a foot deformity).
Being further north than my last visit to Florida, I ventured into a few new parks. I saw a tufted titmouse and some butterflies at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.
I spent quite a while at North Peninsula State Park, a park with more than three kilometres of unspoiled beach. I bet a talented birder could sit down there and see a ton of species without even moving!
On my final day in Florida, we all headed to Vaill Point Park in St. Augustine. Brad and I checked out the nearby woods and stumbled upon this beauty.
It was less than a week, but thank you Florida!