Tag Archives: florida

First Day Hike – the New Year means more hiking

The New Year started with a good first day hike

The first day of 2017 found me crossing the state on Highway 60 east of Lake Wales before reaching the Turnpike. While driving east, I noticed the familiar brown colored sign indicating another Great Florida Birding Trail location was around the corner. It was getting a late in the morning but I still decided to checkout the property. I was hoping to take a couple of quick photos before getting back on the road. The place looked interesting and the map on the information board indicated a couple of short trails. There was a trail leading to a campsite and another ending in an observation deck over a wetland. When water is near, things can get very interesting quickly.

A French company ran a logging operation around here a century ago

The site was named SUMICA. It stands for Societe Universelle Mining Industrie, Commerce et Agriculture which is the French company that had timber rights to the land. The town of SUMICA was established in 1917 and logging operations went on for 10 years. After logging was no longer viable, the town was abandoned in 1927. The hiking trail follows an old railroad bed raised above the surrounding wet prairies. The hike started on a wide open trail. Halfway into the trail, a canopy of trees turned the landscape into a great looking trail that I have not seen in South Florida before. Maybe it was the unseasonal warm temperatures or the bright sunlight of the late morning but there were not many birds around. Definitely a place that I want to explore again.

Hiking trail to the east. Campsite trail to the west.

Hiking trail to the east. Campsite trail to the west.

Trail starts open and wide.

Trail starts open and wide.

Tree canopy provides shade for the next half mile.

Tree canopy provides shade for the next half mile.

The end of the trail invites more explopration.

The end of the trail invites more exploration but the brush gets thick.

An observation deck is located at the end of the hiking trail.

An observation deck over a wetland is located at the end of the hiking trail.

I was not ready for these sandhill cranes flying over while I was trying to capture a landscape image.

I was not ready for these sandhill cranes flying over while I was trying to capture a landscape image.

Hiking in Florida’s natural areas during the dry season

It was a long hot summer but hiking weather is finally here

Hiking season is finally here. It was a long hot summer with record breaking temperatures. We also had to scramble and prepare for a late season storm in October. We were lucky that hurricane Matthew turned north over the Gulfstream instead of landing on our shore. Cooler drier weather has moved in and hopefully will remain until late in the Spring season.  The lower humidity, cooler temperatures, and higher winds will keep the mosquitos and other biting insects under control.  These are ideal conditions for exploring some of our nature preserves and going out on hikes. In spite of receiving no rain for over a month now, water levels remain high in some areas so I will have to return later to explore these trails.

The annual bird migrations are under way

Migratory birds are arriving every day. These birds as well as other local residents are putting up quite a show. The images below were captured during a few hours late one afternoon. The location is considered part of the Northeast Everglades Natural Area. The best areas are always surrounded by water. Some of the species you can expect to see include the Anhinga, Limpkin, and Ibis. I have found a few Red Belly Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) but they have avoided stepping under the good light so I could photograph them. Always assume there are alligators in these canals and lagoons. Look carefully along the shoreline of any body of water. Do not get too close. Gators can be faster than you think when crawling on dry land.


red belly woodpecker melanerpes carolinus hiking Florida

Red belly woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) are notorious for never facing the good light


observation deck sunset watch hiking Florida

This observation deck is a great location for watching sunsets. I will have to return on a good stormy day with dramatic skies.


american white ibis black wing tips hiking Florida

Black wing tips on an Ibis (Eudocimus albus) are only seen while flying


greater yellowlegs hiking Florida

This greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) was digging for food in a shallow lagoon


loop trail sign hiking Florida

The water level was still high so I will return later in the Winter to explore.


american white ibis hiking Florida

Birds were becoming more active as the sun was setting


Anhinga anhinga hiking Florida

I was able to get very close to this Anhinga


alligator Florida hiking

Gators are always watching you

Leatherback hatchlings from last Summer

Summer has arrived in south Florida

Our cooler weather here in south Florida did not last long. We have slipped right into summer conditions. Temperatures today have reached 86F/30C with a relative humidity of 56%. They are predicting another cold front by Sunday. The cool dry air will not last long. After this next cold front, we probably will not see drier air until the middle of October again. Humidity and temperatures will start climbing before the end of March so it is time to explore the beaches and enjoy the sea breeze.

Turtle season runs from March thru October in south Florida

Sea turtle season has also started. The season runs from March until the end of October. Thousands of turtles will soon start arriving on east coast beaches to lay eggs. We had a record season last year. My first encounter with nesting sea turtles occurred a few years ago. I was lucky to be on the beach at the end of the day when a female leatherback turtle weighing hundreds of pounds crawled onto the beach and started digging a nest. The three main species that nest in Florida are leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtles. Florida’s most common variety of sea turtle is the loggerhead which averages over 200 lb/90 kg. The leatherback is much bigger and reaches 1,540 lb/700 kg.

Last summer while searching for fish near the water’s edge, I noticed the biologists running in their all terrain vehicles up and down the beach. They conduct surveys of the turtle nests during the season. One of the scientists, stopped her all terrain vehicle and started digging in the sand not far from where I was standing. The images below tell the rest of the story. If you are lucky you might find a leatherback next time you go to the beach. Don’t forget that plastic is deadly to turtles and other animals. Bring a bag with you to the beach and haul out some plastic trash.


biologist digs a turtle nest

Research biologist digs out a turtle nest


leatherback turtle eggs and nest

Turtle eggs are soft shelled and are buried deep in the sand

leatherback hatchling

Just out of the nest and facing a long way to the water’s edge

leatherback flippers

Notice the large well developed flippers on this leatherback

biologists survey turtle nest

The nest must be covered after the inspection

leatherback turtle hatchlings

These two turtles are reaching the water’s edge

Tall ship Juan Sebastián de Elcano visits Florida

Tall ship moors at Port Canaveral

These are a couple of images the tall ship “Juan Sebastián de Elcano”. The photos were captured as we headed out of Port Canaveral for an offshore fishing trip last week. The ship had stopped briefly in port while cruising to Newport. Unfortunately, I could not schedule a visit since the ship was leaving on Friday. I wish it had stayed for the weekend.

As part of its 84th Training Cruise the “Juan Sebastián de Elcano” tall ship was participating in the ‘Tall Ships Race’ with other South American training ships, starting in San Juan (Puerto Rico) and following the route of Juan Ponce de León in 1513. The ship was also taking part in the festivities to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean in Colón (Panama), the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of Florida (USA), and the 525th Anniversary of the Royal Netherlands Navy in Den Helder (Holland).


Buque escuela hace una parada en Port Canaveral

Aqui ven unas fotos de el Buque Escuela Juan Sebastián de Elcano. Las fotos fueron tomadas en Port Canaveral mientras saliamos a pescar a alta mar. El barco entraba a puerto  por solamente 3 días. Desafortunadamente no contaba con el tiempo para arreglar una visita abordo.

Durante el LXXXIV Crucero de Instrucción se participará, junto a otros buques-escuela hispanoamericanos, en la regata de “Grandes Veleros” que partirá de San Juan de Puerto Rico, conforme a la ruta que siguió Juan Ponce de León en 1513. Además participará en los actos conmemorativos del V Centenario del descubrimiento del Océano Pacífico en Colón (Panamá),  el V Centenario del descubrimiento de la Florida en Miami y los actos conmemorativos del 525 aniversario de la Armada holandesa en Den Helder (Holanda).


elcano port canaveral

Juan Sebastian Elcano photographed as the sun was rising



View of the ships’s bow



The tall ship is moored at the cruise ship terminal in Port Canaveral