Central Florida Trip - 2011


Updated 7-30-2011


I was in the Orlando Florida area on business in February of 2011 and was able to get away a couple of times in between meetings to explore the countryside.   The two major trips for me were a brief fishing excursion and an afternoon at an area known as the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to the NW or Orlando, the following are highlights from those outing.

After landing in Orlando and picking up my rental car, I made a stop at a gas station just next to the Orlando airport to pick up a few supplies and the field next to the gas station was loaded with cows and a couple of Sandhill Cranes...


Sandhill Cranes


Sandhill Crane


Sandhill Crane

The next morning (Sunday) I took a half day fishing boat with one of my co-workers out of Stuart Florida, the goal was to hook and release some Sailfish.  We got skunked on the Sailfish but did see a lot of Frigatebirds and two turtles, a huge Leatherback which was too far away to get any recognizable shots of and this Loggerhead Sea Turtle which made a much closer approach to the boat.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle


Loggerhead Sea Turtle


Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The next few days were strictly business from dawn to dusk and beyond but I did manage to find a couple of critters near the hotel I was staying at including a Southern Toad and Southern Leopard Frog.

Southern Toad


Southern Leopard Frog

The last day of my time in Florida consisted of three early morning meetings and then the rest of the day was mine!  So, as soon as I finished my last meeting at 9:30 I was out of my suit, into my cargo pants and t-shirt and off to the wilds of Central Florida!   I chose a spot about an hour drive from Orlando called the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  It is a fairly large area with a variety of habitats.  The day was warm but not unpleasant and I pretty much had the entire area to myself the entire day.  This is what the lower elevations looked like for the most part.

Green Swamp NWR

The first trail I hiked down (above) was quite unproductive so I made my way a short distance from my first stop and took a 2.5 hour hike on the road below.  One of the big mistakes I made on this trip was not bringing my big lens!   I didn't think it was going to be worth it to lug the 12 pounds around so I brought a smaller zoom lens, that worked out fine for the herps but the birds were not very cooperative and I have about 500 blurry, non-descript photos to show for it.   The area below was LOADED with warblers.  Mostly Yellow-rumped and Palm but there was a variety mixed in that I was very frustrated with as they would not allow close approach.  They were moving through the area in large flocks, I had encounters with at least three different groups of birds on my hike but they were staying to the tops of the trees and moving quickly with Chickadees, Woodpeckers/Flickers and Cardinals mixed in to all three flocks.  A very interesting combination.

Another area in Green Swamp

I finally got to an area that lived up to the name of the place, apparently the area gets quite wet and swampy during the rainy season but I was there when it was extremely dry and water holes were few and far between.  When I did find one though, there was usually a sentry standing guard like the one below...

American Alligator


Alligator Habitat


Another Gator


American Alligator

Here's one of the Woodpeckers that was following around the large mixed flocks of Warblers, etc.  I saw at least six Red-bellied Woodpeckers on my short hike, they were at least allowing relatively close approach so I could get a shot at them with my reduced capacity camera gear...

Red-bellied Woodpecker


Red-bellied Woodpecker


Northern Cardinal

After exploring what I would call the "lower" area of the NWR, I made my way up the grade and starting taking each turn off to see where the dirt path would lead.  There was much more water up near the top of the grade and there were several small lakes in the area.  I even found a Florida Bass breeding pond, which had an Eastern Phoebe standing guard above it and photographed below...

Green Swamp area


Eastern Phoebe

I found a substantial dirt road that lead off to parts unknown but appeared to be well traveled so I headed in that direction.  I almost got stuck in some very loose sand that had been made worse by a bunch of large trucks that were taking the same road.  Turned out it was a logging road and there is a substantial logging operation going on in the area.  There is a huge tract of private land tangent to the Great Swamp NWR and they are commercially harvesting pine for the most part but it was not a clear cut operation, this looked like it had been going for some time as there were substantial "forests" of young-growth pine trees, commercially planted for later harvesting.  At least they are trying to create a replenishable resource here.


I saw several Red-shouldered Hawks in the area, once again, as has been my experience on past trips to Florida, they tend to be much lighter in coloration than the ones we see out west.  Here is the lightest one I saw during the day.


Red-shouldered Hawk (light morph)

Further down the trail, I stopped near a narrow bridge that went over what I would term a bayou or swamp.   I walked the area carefully as it just had the feel of "herps" to it and I was not wrong.  The sun was shining perfectly through the trees and literally highlighting this rather large Florida Cottonmouth seen below.

Cottonmouth Habitat


Florida Cottonmouth

There were also numerous Green Anoles in the area.  I did note that unlike my last trip to Florida, the Green Anoles were the common species in this area, in fact, I only saw one Brown Anole the entire trip and that was in the hotel parking lot!

Green Anole

I continued down the road looking for more critters.  It was starting to head toward dusk and I had the thought of starting to back track my way back toward Orlando, now a couple of hours away.   I came around a bend in the road and found a nice new "lifer" for me with this Florida Water Snake, casually crossing the road and trying to look much more dangerous than he actually is!

Florida Water Snake


Florida Water Snake



Florida Water Snake



Florida Water Snake



Florida Water Snake



Florida Water Snake

Well, that was about it for the trip, not a lot of field time but enough to at least enough to write a quick report on!  Hope you enjoyed and hope to see you "out there" somewhere!




What's New




Other Wildlife

Flowers & Plants


Bird Life List

Herp Life List

Trip Reports


Recent Images


About Us

Lynn's Pages

Other Links

My Library



e-mail me