Tag Archives: Florida Parks and Preserves

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker








            I love seeing and hearing the Red Bellied Woodpecker in nature preserves that I visit because of their bright colors and sounds which bring life to the woody forests where they live. The Red Bellied Woodpecker are a medium sized bird and has a red head with wings that are covered with black and white stripes and dots. Their belly is all white. They have sharp beaks and like a hummingbird have tongues that can extend out to grab and feed on their food.  

The Red Bellied Woodpecker that I captured with my camera in the photograph above was in the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in  Ft. Myers, Florida where birders often go to see many kinds of birds because of the dense forest canopy. The Woodpecker makes its nest in the trunk and branches of old trees including oak and pine trees. The repeated knocking sound that you hear from this bird comes from its carving out of the wood from trees for its nest. It also makes a high pitched shrill and other distinctive sounds which make them easy to identity. You can see and hear the sounds of the Red Bellied Woodpecker at the All About Birds website which was created by the Cornell Univ. Lab of Ornithology.

            The diet of the Red Bellied Woodpecker consists of insects, spiders and nuts and seeds from plants in the forest. They also eat fruits including grapes, hackberries, oranges and mangoes. They often fly very swiftly and erratically through the tree canopy and scientists think this may be a habit which they practice to evade other birds and predators. Their nests are sometimes overtaken by Starlings who overpower them because of their size. They are commonly seen in forested areas of the Southeastern U.S








White Pelicans

White Pelicans

White Pelicans – click on picture to enlarge







White pelicans spend part of the year in Florida and then migrate back to the interior part of the continent during the spring and summer. The picture shown above is of White Pelicans congregating in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. Ding Darling gets a lot of migrating birds during winter season and it’s a popular place for bird watchers.

White pelicans are different than Brown Pelicans by the way they hunt and search for food. They usually gather and create a circle among themselves and then herd small fish in shallow waters where they can then dip their orange bills into the water and snatch their catch. Brown Pelicans soar over the waters looking for fish and then dive and splash into the water, first stunning their prey and then grabbing them with their long bills and swallowing them whole.

White Pelicans are among the largest birds in North America and have long broad wings that are black tipped at the end. They are an interesting sight at the Ding Darling Refuge among all the other birds which include White Egrets, Herons of all colors, and White Ibis to name a few. White Pelicans breed on islands in fresh water areas in northern states. They then spend their lives  along fresh waters lakes and estuaries in northern states and Canada or coastlines and bays in southern salt water areas like Florida and states along the Gulf of Mexico. I like to learn more about the birds of North America by going to the All About Birds Website.








Northern Cardinal

Click on any picture to enlarge

The Northern Cardinal in these pictures were photographed  at Lakes Regional Park in Ft. Myers, FL  and were seen over a period of several days either perched in a tree or scavenging along the ground for twigs and grasses for its’ nest.  The Northern Cardinal is an impressive bird to look at because of its’ bright red color, short sharp beak, rectangular black patch on its’ face and pointed top of its’ head. The Cardinal is a song bird and it makes a series of calls to other birds to either communicate its need for food for its young in the nest, to warn away intruders in its territory or to communicate to other birds. I have found Lakes Regional Park to be a good place to view a variety of birds.  There are over 278 acres in this park with ample tree cover and freshwater lakes that provide good habitat for birds.

The All About Birds website has a good collection of sounds and songs that the Cardinal makes. Click on the Sound Tab and scroll down to the audio clips to hear the Cardinal songs and calls.

The Northern Cardinal is a year round inhabitant of mostly southeastern states and does not migrate unlike many other birds. Its’ habitat  includes mixed hardwood forests, pine flatwoods, urban and agricultural environments and in the backyards of homeowners. Its’ diet consists of mostly seeds and fruits but eats insects as well. The female Cardinal can produce up to 3 broods of offspring per year. Seven states have named the Cardinal as its state bird.




Picayune Strand State Forest

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Picayune Strand State Forest and Wildlife Management Area is a tract of land composed of 76,000 acres or approximately 124 sq. miles that is undergoing a restoration program to put the land back into its’ natural state which is a hydric forest and swampland. The strand in the 1950’s and 1960’s was partially developed by unscrupulous land developers and sold off to unwitting land owners who could not use their property or build there because the land was under water most of the year. The developers did build a series of canals and roads which removed water and damaged a natural wetland system. The state had to locate thousands of landowners who owned lots and buy back their land in order to restore this wetland system which is vital to the ecosystem and environmental health of South Florida.

The South Florida Water Management District and other agencies have so far removed 65 miles of canals and roads and put in pumps to help channel  water through the strand. The Picayune Strand is located next to the Big Cypress National Preserve and is located in it’s water basin. I drove through part of the Picayune Strand in the rainy month of July and took some pictures of the forest and trail areas which is open to the public for hiking, horseback riding and camping when weather permits. The Florida Forest Service which manages the park along with other agencies has a good website describing the history of the state park.

Picayune Strand is located in Collier County about 2 miles east of Naples, north of U.S. 41 and south of I-75. The area is part of the Florida’s’ wetland restoration efforts included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.








Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Gator Lake at Six Mile Cypress Slough

Gator Lake at Six Mile Cypress Slough

click on pictures for larger images

The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve  in Ft. Myers  is located off Six Mile Cypress Pkwy about 2 miles north of Daniels Pkwy. The slough is a wetland composed of swamps, ponds, hardwood forests and a large lake. The Slough  was created by a joint effort between the Lee County Govt., South Florida Water Management District,  and other groups to create a natural park in heavily developed South Ft. Myers. The preserve has a 2-3 mile wooden boardwalk with a canopy of trees that winds through the swampland. It’s a great place to take a nature walk, see some wildlife and take a look at old Florida with it’s swamps, and shallow water wetlands.  The slough is part of the Florida Birding Trail that lists the best places in Florida to view birds. The slough contains White Egrets, Blue Herons, Anhingas, Turtles and other wildlife. The preserve is also filled with many native trees such as Bald Cypress, Pop Ash, Oak and Maples trees. The slough is very visitor friendly with paved parking, indoor bathrooms and a deck in the back of the visitor center with shaded seating.  There is an indoor interpretive center showing murals and pictures of wildlife and trees in a natural swampland. During season they are also tour guides to explain the various types of trees, shrubs, birds, and other features of the park. Bring a few dollars for parking.