Sunday, December 14, 2014

Florida Caverns State Park

Sunday, December 7th
Day One - North Florida Trip

Winter Wren at Florida Caverns State  Park
Photo provided courtesy of Bob Pelkey

I have been anticipating making this trip to Florida's Panhandle for some time. Have been looking forward to birding here for several wintering birds that normally only migrate to this corner of the state. They include horned lark, golden-crowned kinglet, brown creeper and winter wren.  To find these you need to visit Jackson County, primarily Florida Caverns State Park in the winter season.
Vesper Sparrow on Concord Road

Therefore, after a long overnight drive with Bob Pelkey at the wheel we arrived at Florida Caverns a bit early as the gates were still closed.  So being early be elected to visit a sight on Concord Road, east of Malone, to shirt-tail reports of horned lark and purple finches.  Both of these birds rarely venture any further south than this point. We scoped the barren peanut and cotton fields along Concord. No larks or finches at the time, but had several Killdeer, Savannah Sparrows, a Vesper Sparrow a Kestrel and American Crows

So onto Florida Caverns State Park. The site is  fascinating and very unique to Florida. Though the Karst topography that creates the cave system is found throughout half of Florida, its climate/ecology is the most southern point for the temperate forests of the Appalachian chain. Besides the avian species that are a part of this ecology we find rare to Florida  flora like some personal favorites as Bloodroot, Mayapple, Trillium

The park rangers gave us directions to the best place to find our targets. An area known as the Sink, by the canoe put-in parking area on the Chipola River. Here we did have success.  Got our lifer sightings of Winter Wren, plus several Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a sole Golden-crowned Kinglets, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Carolina Chickadee, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice and a couple of Hermit Thrushes.  The brown creeper was a no-show.

We moved onto the horse carrel location were we had a lot of Yellow-rumped Warblers, but also a couple of Pine Siskins, a Chipping Sparrow, a Cedar Wax-wing, American Robins and lots of Eastern Bluebirds.

Easter bluebird

We missed visiting the caverns, but would like to return on another occasion to see them.  A summer visit couple be enjoyable in locating breeding Mississippi Kites and Broad-winged Hawks

But noe was time to head about an hour south to Torreya State Park, along the bluffs above the Apalachicola River in Liberty County. This would be our base of operations for a few days as we're staying at the campgrounds.  Ever heard of a Yurt?  Nice way to camp.

Torreya Tree Decline

Torreya Guardians

Yurt Camping


Fire pit

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