Whoa! If this keeps up I’m moving to Florida..oh wait, this IS Florida. But there was frost in the grass outside my window this morning! There is something definitely wrong with that picture. Fortunately, because this is the Sunshine State..it quickly warmed up into the 70s today, so a friend and I headed out to Jelks Preserve for a hike.
Neither one of us had been to this preserve before. After a quick look at the map we started on the 3-mile loop trail. This is a lovely preserve, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, with a variety of habitats. Oak hammocks, scrub and pine flatwoods dominate..at least this time of year when little rainfall dries up the marshes and wetlands. The preserve is part of the Myakka River watershed.
There are 614 acres in this preserve, with about 8 miles of trails. We apparently took a wrong turn somewhere, because our 3-mile loop turned into about a 5-mile loop before we made it back to the parking area. But if we hadn’t done that, we would have missed this little fellow, soaking up the sunshine:
I’m not really up to speed on land turtles (I must say, I’m pretty good on sea turtles!) but I think this one is a Florida red-bellied turtle…found only in Florida. That makes it a little more special. I did not handle the turtle so did not really do a close inspection, but the descriptions seem to fit.
And of course, we came across a couple of armadillos…nice to see them on their feet and walking around instead of belly-up in the road. Sadly, the little buggers are all too often the victims of speeding cars.
After hiking around black bear- infested NJ for a few years, I found myself in the habit of keeping a watchful eye out into the palmettos and on the trail ahead. Actually, there are black beasties in Florida..but in this area they are porcine. Non-native, wild hogs populate much of the area preserves. They root through the vegetation, causing a lot of damage and destruction to native plants. We didn’t encounter any hogs, but the whole length of the trails bore evidence of their recent diggings. In a few that we saw, the deeper ruts still had wet sand in them.
We had a great day and plan to return here spring rains restore the marsh and wetlands. Life is good.