I subscribe to the 4 F's of bird photography; Find 'em and Focus Fast before they Fly away!
Monday, October 24, 2016
Florida State Parks
At home, I'm used to Kentucky State Resort Parks, where each park has a lodge, cabins and usually the best restaurant in the county. In Florida, however, the state parks are restricted to camping only. Henderson Beach State Park, right in the middle of Destin, has 6,000 feet of natural beach and dunes, in the only undeveloped stretch of land for miles.
It's fun to go there, but you still hear all the traffic noises right over the nearest dune. I like to watch for tracks in the sand to see if I can guess the animal that made them. This time of year, far more people go to the beach in front of their house/rental units than come to the beach at a state park. Of course, there is a small admission price.
The signs along the nature trail help identify the plants growing in the dunes. I noticed this strange one with six needles growing in rows on each branch. The sign said it was Florida Rosemary.
1,640-acre Topsail Hill State Park features a variety of habitats: pristine beaches, freshwater coastal dune lakes, old-growth longleaf pine forests and wetlands. We got more than 10,000 steps in before noon. Some of the dunes are over 25 feet tall! No vehicles are allowed in the park outside the campgrounds, so it's walk or bike. The beach is about 3.25 miles long, again, with few people enjoying it besides us.
We saw and heard some birds we already knew.
As we walked down the beach to the shuttle stop, we saw a woman in an ATV. "Seen any good birds?" she inquired. "Do you know about the Snowy Plover? Only 600 of them left in all of Florida, and I just saw one back down the beach. Knew you were birders when I saw the binoculars and camera." We headed back where she pointed and indeed, found not one but TWO of the endangered Snowy Plovers! If you look closely, you can see its leg bands. He's in winter plumage now, so no dark bands. Too Cool!
She wore a shirt indicating she worked for a project with the Audubon Society, so I asked her where all the Ring-Billed and Herring Gulls were. "Oh, the Arctic birds are just about to arrive for the winter," she replied. Artic Gulls? Looked at the range in the field guide and they do breed much farther north and winter down here. I've always seen them because we are only here in the winter!
Ghost Crab Spying on Snowy Plover
Another shy resident of undeveloped beaches in the Ghost Crab. This tiny guy is the same color as the sand where he lives, making him virtually invisible, unless you catch him moving from the corner of your eye. He doesn't walk forward, but sideways, and will scurry into his burrow when threatened by a giant human being. Somehow, I got this one watching the Snowy Plover preening.