Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Birding La Chua Trail

Yesterday, 05/17/2016, I went birding with my friend Craig Walters. We went to La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. A prairie in Florida means a treeless open area with grasses and other vegetation that is mostly a wetland that can become a lake in periods of high precipitation. The access to La Chua Trail is located in southeast Gainesville:
A concrete walkway connects the parking area to the trail head:
Just after the boardwalk near the starting point of the trail, after seeing a few birds, we found this Marsh Rabbit grazing trail-side:
The trail follows an old drainage canal that at one point in the past was meant to dry up the prairie. This is a view of the canal with Craig creating one of his great photos:
The pickerel weed was in bloom adding lots of color to the marsh:
The gray mare is part of a small band of wild horses, descendants of horses brought by the Spaniards to Florida long ago, that frequents this part of Paynes Prairie. She had a foal early this Spring which was hiding not very far from her.
Among the many birds around we found four American Coots. The coots winter in very large numbers in this wetland but those were lingering around here:
Further down the trail we bumped into Lloyd Davis who told us about the rare Fulvous Whistling Duck that he had just found. He gave us detailed directions to the bird and soon we found it:
After viewing it for a while we went to the observation platform at the end of the trail. We scanned the marsh in all directions trying to find a previously reported Whooping Crane to no avail. We were able though, to observe the Fulvous Whistling Duck from another direction by looking NW of the platform. The duck was far away and is actually at the center of this view from the platform:
We hang around for a while on the platform and did not see the crane but we did see this Least Bittern, the smallest heron in North America:
By then we had been out for almost two hours and decided to return to our cars.
The canal along the trail is notorious for its many alligators:
As we reached the hydrologic station we saw this Great Blue Heron posing on the top of the instrument box:
Further along the trail on our return trip we found this Florida Softshell Turtle laying eggs on a hole she dug in the soft sand on the trail:
Unfortunately for the turtle several Fish Crows also saw her and were hanging around, waiting for her to finish the egg laying so that they could dig the eggs out and eat them. Harsh world out there. Soon after that we reached the parking area.
There is always something interesting to see along La Chua Trail, a great treasure very close to town.
Birdlist for the morning.

Sunday, January 17, 2016