Enchanted Forest Sanctuary

This is part 2 of my birding adventures this weekend. Thanks to the generous help of one of the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary (EFS) volunteers, I had batteries for my camera and thus a lot more photographs to share.

I had last been to EFS during the Florida Birding and Wildlife Festival in January, so it was nice to go back now in the summer, although it was much more quiet (in terms of people and birds).

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Enchanted Forest Sanctuary

The first creature I encountered was a LARGE “Banana Spider” (Nephila clavipes, also known as a golden silk orb-weaver spider). In fact, they were all over the park, in paths and up in trees. Here’s a link to a photo album of some of the spiders. (I won’t post them directly ┬áhere out of respect for my arachnophobic followers).

The sanctuary has several “loop” paths through different biomes. I started on the Coquina Ridge path, which parallels an old unfinished canal cut. Remnants of the coquina that was removed are strewn throught this part of the park, some of them arranged as ornaments. The holes in the center are from natural erosion when the coquina was under water.

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Ornamental coquina

After dodging a few spider webs, I turned onto the Biodiversity Loop. The park was noticably more cool, humid and mosquitoey (but my bug repellant seemed to be working). The canopy had some dramatic draping of Spanish Moss and other plants hanging off the Live Oaks and other trees.

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Dramatic Spanish Moss is dramatic.

As is typical of late summer in Florida, the bird presence was pretty minimal, but there was still plenty of wildlife around, and the plants were pretty too.

Quite a few butterfly species were in evidence. They can be difficult to photograph without a really big lens on an SLR, so I did my best with my Kodak Easyshare Max Z990. I captured this Zebra Longwing early-on in the hike through the Sand Pine loop. photo zebra-longwing.jpg
Zebra Longwing enjoying some summer nectar, as one does.

Later in the hike I also shot this orange butterfly. My Internet searching hasn’t positively identified it, but if any of my followers know what it is, please let me know. photo orange-butterfly.jpg
One of many butterfly species and individuals at EFS.

Along one of the upland and sandy trails I came across a Gopher Tortoise and got some glamor shots.

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You never know who you might cross paths with!

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Head shot!

I know I’ve shot Beauty Berry a few times this summer, but they are a very photogenic plant. Here’s a bunch of those and some goldenrod which was quite prevalent along one of the trails. Plenty of flowering plants and other vegetation of the butterflies and other insects

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Beauty Berry, again
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A green cicada.
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Mini-lubbers were here, too.

Before heading for the exit (dodging spiders all the way), I caught some Blue-grey Gnatcatchers skulking along the trail.

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It is a birding blog, after all.

I expect both EFS and Pine Island Sanctuary will get busier with respect to bird activity as the month of October arrives, and I aim to visit both as the fall migration gets under way.

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Until our paths cross again.

Fay Lake Wilderness Park

My birding adventure this Sunday was a damp one at Fay Lake Wilderness Park. It has been fairly rainy in this area through the week, and the park was still wet from the previous day’s showers. It was mostly overcast, too, which helped keep the temperature down and I didn’t need to squint much.

The park is pretty, with mostly wide paths (looks like they use a 4-wheeler to keep things clear) and a series of wooden overlooks around the lake perimeter.

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Fay Lake.

What struck me first upon entering the park trails was the almost unbelievable cacophany of tree frogs. When walking by a grove of palms when the frogs were calling, this has to be the loudest natural sound I’ve heard since the 17-year cicadas in Wheeling in 1999.

Like most of Brevard County’s parks, Northern Cardinals were just about everywhere. I like this shot of a singing female. In the bird world it’s rare for the females to sing, but for cardinals, both males and females sing regularly.

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Female Northern Cardinal singing. This shot looks way too much like a winter scene up north!

Another constant companion throughout the morning were these grasshoppers. Some friends over on the Gulf Coast call the large grasshoppers there “lubbers” and the ones out there I have seen can be over 4 inches long. A few of these approached that size, but most were about 2-3 inches in length. I’ve been calling them “mini-lubbers.” photo mini-lubber1.jpg
Mini-lubbers were everywhere.

There were plenty of butterflies and skippers, too. I counted at least 6 different species. This one obliged me by sitting still for a while so I could get a decent shot.

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Gulf Fritillary.

This about a close to a Turkey Vulture as I’ve ever been. Vultures get a bad rap for eating carrion and lurking about dead things, but they provide a crucial service in “recycling” dead animals.

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Turkey Vulture.

I got some good binocular views of an Eastern Towhee and a Red-shouldered Hawk, a brief glimpse of a White-eyed Vireo, and at least one Common Ground Dove. At one point a Little Blue Heron in mid-molt from white to blue flew overhead. It looked like it was marble.

I noticed that just about every square foot of the park showed some evidence of burning. The park sits just to the west of the interstate and adjoins the St. John’s National Wildlife Refuge, so regular burning is easier here than in many other parks.

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Scorch marks and new growth.

The area shown above was the sight of a little bit of action, too. Some grackles were trying to harrass an adult Cooper’s Hawk and managed to drive it away. As I was watching that (sorry, no pics!) I was lightly pelted from something above me. A squirrel was having a pine cone breakfast. photo squirrel.jpg

As I said, the park borders the St. John National Wildlife Refuge, and the border was marked by some barbed wire and signage. The barbed wire was not continuous, and the path systems of the two parks intersect and merge here and there. I found myself on the “wrong” side of the fencing a few times and had to back-track out. I could hear Bobwhite calls deep in the Refuge area, but was unable to see anything in my binoculars. The Refuge looked pretty, if a bit empty of visible animal life.

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St. John’s National Wildlife Refuge.

That was about it for the morning. The paths back toward my starting point were very wet at this point and the tree frogs were nearly deafening. I’d like to stop back to this park in the fall and definitely next spring before the hot weather sets in. Here’s a parting shot of one of the mini-lubbers.

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Mini-lubber says bye!