Fish and Wildlife marks the trees in which you might find these black and white birds, but don't guarantee anything. When we saw the white marks on the trees we got out of the car and started across the field. Of course, we don't plan day-to-day activities before starting on a trip, so we weren't really prepared for this landscape, wearing shorts and sneakers as usual. I've got some scratches and bug bites, but we didn't find any snakes. The first tree we examined had a Woodpecker condo, with a plastic pipe for an entrance. This little bird stayed safely inside, just peering out at these odd creatures walking around near its tree. We didn't get too close, not wanting to disturb it.
The next one was out foraging in a pine tree, and paid no attention to us at all. He jumped around from branch to branch, not drilling holes, but pulling chunks of bark off entirely, tossing them to the ground. Look closely at this photo, and click on it for a larger version. You can see that he has been banded already. We never did see any red, so I'm not sure if this is a female, or a male that isn't showing his small red cockade.
Very distinctive patterns of black and white, don't you think? Another bird in trouble is the Wood Stork. Apparently their breeding is directly related to the water levels here in Florida. If the water is either too deep or too shallow, they won't breed at all that year. We didn't see any on the ground, but saw 6 or so soaring overhead, and their wingspan is enormous.
These spiders are enormous too, although I don't know what kind they are. They had large webs strung between the trees at Babcock. Can they see or hear? I don't know, but every one we found quickly ran up the web when we approached, although we tried to be quiet. They must have been almost 3 inches long!
Wildlife Management Areas, by definition, are managing wildlife for the benefit of hunters. The quail season started this week, but no hunting was going on today. Apparently the hunters come for long periods, and bring their RV 's, hunting dogs, camping kennels, and these big marsh buggies, which leave huge ruts where every they go, even when the sign says "No vehicles beyond this point."
Sometimes the hiking trail looked like a field plowed for planting, very difficult to walk on. Later, we decided those weren't trails, but fire breaks, since they stretched across every field we saw. Fire is important to the health of the pine flats. Other times the hiking trail would have been easier to use if we had a kayak! From now on we have a new rule. If "Wildlife Management Area" is in the name of the birding spot, always wear long pants and water-proof hiking boots! What an adventure we had trying to work our way on the grassy edge of the trail, without sinking in over the tops of our sneakers!