This past weekend I joined a group of people led by a tour guide from the Conservation Collier organization who took us on a 3 mile hike through the Caracara Prairie Preserve in northern Collier County. Caracara Prairie Preserve is named after the rare Crested Caracara bird which is often seen in the prairies and forests in this part of Florida and the Southwestern U.S. . This bird resembles a vulture in some ways because it is a raptor using its keen eyesight and sharp claws and bill to hunt and kill its prey. It feeds on dead animals or carrion as well as insects, small animals and eggs. We weren’t lucky enough to see a Caracara but the hike was very enjoyable because of the pretty terrain, well managed hiking paths and variety of plants we saw along the way. Some of my pictures of the preserve are shown in the previous post of this website. This preserve was donated by a private landowner (Judge Starnes) and Crew Land and Water Trust. It is now owned and managed by Conservation Collier which has many different parks and preserves set aside for ground water recharge, wildlife habitat and public recreation.
The 2.6 mile loop trail is marked by red and blue stakes but we managed to get lost or turned around at some point and we added an hour to an already 2 ½ hour tiring hike on a hot and humid day. Some of the things I enjoyed seeing were the variety of plants, and trees along the way, a Swallow Tail Kite flying overhead and views of prescribed burning in the dense brush that the county does to manage the growth of exotic vegetation and to lessen the danger of wildfires. The preserve acts as a grazing area for many cows and we had to sidestep cows pies as they are called which was one of the less enjoyable aspects of the hike. I would recommend walking this trail with a tour guide because it is easy to get lost and not a place you want to be without water for long in the hot weather. Two excellent websites to view and learn more about the Crested Caracara is the AllAboutBirds website by Cornell Univ. and the Florida Birding Trail website by the Fish and Wildlife Service.