If you never go down by the lake to just sit and enjoy the beauty of the lake and the activity of the wildlife, you are really missing out on one of life’s simple joys. In one evening you can see so much–butterflies, dragonflies, bees, anoles (the green ones are native, the brown ones are invasive) and other lizard-like creatures, squirrels, rabbits, an occasional turtle in the lake, and birds–oh the birds!
And if you travel around our little community, there is that elusive Bobcat, an occasional fox, and the Gopher Tortoises (not usually found by the lake, but these are protected, so please give them a wide berth when you see them).
Everyone probably knows by now about the Bald Eagles, especially if you read these blog posts. But, did you know about the Great Horned Owls? You can hear them hooting at sunset, and if you look up, you can see them in the trees. If you are lucky, you might even see a Barred Owl.
There are several species of hawks here — Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s. Ospreys are common visitors, and they vie with the Bald Eagles for spots on the tree by the pool where they like to eat the fish they catch. Did you know that raptors, as a whole, are protected–not just the Bald Eagles, but all of the above?
Surely everyone has heard the distinctive calling of the incredible Sandhill Cranes, and you most likely have seen them foraging in the grass for something tasty.
If you look to the water, you might see a Pied-billed Grebe fishing near the shore. Many beautiful Wood Ducks call Grassy Lake home. Mottled Ducks nest along our shore. Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, and Tricolored Herons love to hunt in the reeds. Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants are often fishing out near the middle of the lake, and you may see them sitting on one of the docks with their wings spread out, drying their feathers after a successful dinner dive. Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls also fish in the lake.
And then, there are the smaller “yard birds” that you can see when you look around you in the trees and on the ground. Mockingbirds are probably the most familiar–they are the ones that sing every imaginable bird song you can think of. Mourning Doves, White-winged Doves, and Eurasian Collared Doves are usually perched on the power lines. American Crows are abundant, as are Common and Boat-tailed Grackles. Blue Jays, Red-winged Blackbirds, House Finches, Palm Warblers, Pine Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers, Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, Eastern Phoebes, Cardinals, and Great Crested Flycatchers are just some of the birds you can see if you look. And don’t forget the Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers! You might even get lucky and see a Grey Catbird.
Look even higher, up to the sky, if you want to catch a glimpse of some White Ibises flying overhead in the evening. Large flocks of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks navigate over the lake quite often. Wood Storks are not as common, but they are easy to identify as they soar by. Of course, there are the Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures up there almost all the time.
So, if you weren’t lucky enough to get tickets for the 2023 Entertainment series, maybe you can plan some quiet time and enjoy the beauty of the nature all around us at Camp Florida! And try to keep in mind that we are guests in their neighborhood. When you make changes to your world, maybe try to think of a way to maintain or add to their habitat in the process. They survive, and you get the free entertainment!