March 20, 2023

A Report On Our Photo Safari Yesterday

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It was a Florida day, with temperatures running in the low 80s this time of year. Surprisingly there was very little humidity and a light southeast breeze. One of the difficulties we faced all day had to do with the lack of rain Florida is experiencing. In central Florida it’s been somewhere around 45 days without rain. The roads and conditions were parched. There was dust everywhere and we all had our share of dust to eat.

We avoided getting stuck, thankfully, as there were places on the wildlife management roads where dry powdery sand was winrowed up sometimes as much as 12-18 inches and ruts deep enough to get lost in. This was not a good situation driving around in my little Toyota Corolla. I spent a fair amount of time after getting back home, washing sand out of the underside of my car.
We saw some game but nothing that we could get pictures of – how many times have you heard that excuse? We spied one turkey crossing the road. The sand in the road was tracked from the gobblers everywhere but we managed to see only one. When we entered the Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area, the chalk board read 26 turkeys had been taken as of about 7 a.m. When we left, the board registered 28. We talked with a few hunters who all lamented the same story – very slow year.

The soft sand gave us all a chance to refresh our memories in track identification. We easily recognized racoon, coyote, turkey, snake, deer and one alligator crossing. We saw as many tracks that we could not identify.

One deer bolted across the road in front of us faster than any of could say “deer” – no photo op there. We opted not to give chase through the saw palmetto.
So, our photo outing was spent shooting other things besides game animals. Below is a sample of some of the things we saw.

The first picture is of one of hundreds of butterflies that insisted on covering the thousands of thistle plants growing beside the road.

Next, we arrived at the Withlacoochie River were it crossed our exit road out of the park. Because of the near drought conditions, there wasn’t much water anywhere. If I hadn’t been there before to know, I couldn’t have been able to tell in what direction the water flowed. A nearby water level monitoring system operated by the Florida Water Management Department, indicated to us the water was almost exactly 4 feet below normal. Had it been 4 feet above normal, we wouldn’t have been in there.

Mostly what we saw were thousands of frogs, tadpoles, small fish and this prize little jewel snaking across the river to escape the three big bad photographers.

Don’t have my book handy and didn’t yesterday either but is that a corn snake? I told my companions it was a 4 foot water moccasin. Whatever it was, the photo makes the 16 inch long snake look much bigger than it was. (intentionally so)
Last picture to share is of some baby alligators. These guys, of which I counted 16 at one time, are only about 8 inches long. At this size, these amphibians haven’t been around long. And speaking of being around, it took me several minutes, while watching my backside, to locate mom. She appeared quite good sized although all any of us got to see was from the neck to the tip of her snout as she stayed semi-hidden in a mud hole under the bank. No one in our party wanted to try to catch one of the little guys.

They had each learned enough to be wary of humans as they stayed well out of close proximity to any of us. They girgled, cackled and cooed to let mom know, three idiots where around taking pictures.

So, there you have it! Until our next adventure, I’ll have to let it go for now and hope that the next one will be a bit more successful.

Tom Remington