Often times we make plans in SW Florida and they are thwarted by the daily torrential downpours of summer. The original day for a birding field trip to Wildflower Preserve and Lemon Lake at Amberjack got rained out. But, not a problem, the following Thursday, Halloween day was the day of our rescheduled trip. Some VABA members could not make it because of other commitments. Seven of Venice Area Birding Association (VABA) members met at 8:00 AM to begin our two hour hike through Wildflower Preserve.
We certainly lucked out on the weather on this particular day. It was a beautiful cool sunny day. I still sprayed myself for mosquitos before we hit the trail. Tom Duch always says he does not need spray he just stands next to me as I am the insect attractant. Even before we started hiking, we heard all kinds of bird song. Blue Jays were being noisy and cardinals were singing and mocking birds were copying everyone else’s bird song. Red bellied woodpeckers were hammering in the far distance.
Eighty acres of this defunct golf course were purchased by Lemon Bay Conservancy http://www.lemonbayconservancy.org/wildflower.htm . With much hard work and dedication a group of volunteers have made this treasure in our backyard one of the best birding sites in our area. It is still a very exciting work in progress.
Bill and Margaret Dunson joined us on this walk and it was wonderful to have these snowbirds return to SW Florida. Bill and Margaret devote much time to leading field trips and volunteering at Wildflower.
Several catbirds and wrens seemed to be following us as we slowly hiked the blue trail. A green heron stood in the reeds of a nearby pond blending in beautifully. At first glance it appeared someone left a giant restaurant size frying pan on the shore, no it was just a huge cooter. As we approached closer it slid quickly into the water. In addition, an eastern phoebe flew in and started performing for us on an extended branch over the water. It is always nice when a bird poses as they usually fly off when you are ready to snap your shutter.
We turned to get back on the trail and a cotton tail flushed out of the bramble and scurried off into the brush. We did see a tremendous amount of burrowed dirt along the first part of the trail caused by the feral pigs.
Off in the distance, we spotted a great blue heron. In addition, a few great egrets flew overhead. I was happy to see several black racers slithering in the tall grass. Margaret noted that she was glad to see the majenta beauty berries in full lush color. Some of the birds do like to eat these berries. They are an attractant to plant when gardening for wildlife. Wildflower was fortunate to have many trees and plants already there , planted by the previous owner.
We continued on and sighted approximately 23 species of birds. A high light was a small flock of indigo buntings that flew back and forth across the trail. We stopped at the pond near the blind and noticed a few immature moorhen skimming across the water. Suddenly we heard a giant splash in the water. We did not see it but we all knew it was probably a big gator. Lemon Bay Conservancy has many signs warning hikers there is a danger of alligators.
Bill spotted an American Kestrel flying overhead. The others were lagging behind and did not get to see it.
Our hike was coming to an end at Wildflower and we all piled in our cars and headed to Lemon Lake at Amberjack. We did not have high expectations as the water level was very high and usually the waders will be abundant when the level is much lower. We did see some blue winged teal, belted kingfisher, great egret and a little blue. Pied billed grebes were dipping into the water feeding. We all decided we needed some coffee and food and we jumped in our cars and took off for Spinnaker as they serve breakfast until 2:00.
We had a great day, if you want to go on a hike at Wildflower, please go on the Wildflower Preserve site and see when the scheduled walks are to be held.