Walk It Off

This past Sunday I decided to do my birding at the Moccasin Island Tract at the River Lakes Conservation area. In all my past visits here, I’ve headed south from the parking area and walked about a mile or so before turning back. I’ve generally avoided the northern trail because it leads to a hunting area in the Upper St. Johns Marsh WMA. But since (according to the post at the trailhead) no hunting is in season this time of year, I decided to head north.

Much of the Moccasin Tract is owned by the St. Johns River Water Management District and leased by the Duda cattle ranch, and they manage the conservation land jointly. (By the way, the Duda company also develops and manages Viera, FL.)

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A Duda cow watches, not impressed.

The first birds I heard were the ever present Eastern Meadowlarks and some American Crows (not Fish Crows!) in the distance. The crows only briefly appeared close enough for me to see once, otherwise they were content to stay well to my west. The meadowlarks were singing on prominent perches like fence posts and wires.

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As Ann Wilson says, “Sing, child, sing!”

Further along the trail, I saw a fawn poke out of some brush onto the path briefly before ducking back in. A couple of minutes later, it came out again, but this time turned toward me and started walking in my direction! There were no adult deer anywhere to be seen, and I stood still as it came closer. It eventually got to within 7 or 8 meters of me before stopping.

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A curious fawn.

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I didn’t want to fawn all over it, scaring it away.

Finally when it was just a few meters away, an adult (Mom, I suspect) came out of the brush and was not pleased her baby was so close. She made a snorting sound before bounding across the trail and over the barbed-wire fence, stopping to look back.

photo mom-deer.jpg
Mom nervously looks on.

Finally after another squeaky snort, the fawn found a low spot along the barbed-wire and leaped across, and mother and baby bounded off into the brush and trees to the east.

The northern trail is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) long, and I thought I stopped about half-way. Later when I consulted an online map, I realized I walked almost to the end of the trail near Lake Winder. That made my total walking distance over 8 kilometers (5 miles)! If I had known I was that close to the end of the trail and the lake, I would have gone the extra distance, but in the end, I wound up pretty sore.

I stopped at a couple of points on the trail where there were copses of trees. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers were tapping around some palm trees in one area, and another larger grove of Live Oaks was sheltering some Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals and at least one Carolina Wren.  

There were many Cattle Egrets, as you might expect on a cattle ranch. In addition, I saw or heard a couple of dozen other species typical of eastern central Florida.

  1. Wood Stork
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. Cattle Egret
  4. Great Blue Heron
  5. Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  6. Common Ground Dove
  7. Great Egret
  8. Eastern Meadowlark
  9. Boat-tailed Grackle
  10. Common Grackle
  11. Red-winged Blackbird
  12. Pileated Woodpecker (♫)
  13. Northern Cardinal
  14. Carolina Wren
  15. Northern Parula (♫)
  16. Downy Woodpecker
  17. Red-shouldered Hawk
  18. Northern Mockingbird
  19. Northern Bobwhite (♫)
  20. Black Vulture
  21. Turkey Vulture
  22. Tri-colored Heron
  23. Snowy Egret
  24. Glossy Ibis
  25. Black-necked Stilt
  26. Mottled Duck
  27. Little Blue Heron
  28. White Ibis

It ended up being a long walk, but it wasn’t as hot as last week. Despite the sore legs and feet, it was a fine morning.

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