Getting There

February 28, 2019

White Ibis looking coy

Mel and I both enjoy exploring all the different preserves, sanctuaries and nature centers wherever we are, but, sometimes, we are so frazzled by the process involved in getting there, that we are pretty well unglued by the time we arrive! There’s so much traffic! And the GPS, (otherwise known as ‘Gabby’)  takes us to places unknown and tells us in a calm and reassuring voice that we have ‘arrived at our destination.’ “No we haven’t” I want to scream!! “We’re in the middle of an intersection in the middle of nowhere!!”

Yesterday, we tried to find a preserve that I had been to before, but Mel had not. The first time I went to this particular preserve, Gabby left me high and dry at a recreation complex. I had to go inside and ask for directions. Today, she left us at a park—but not the park I wanted. I had to go inside and ask for directions. This time, Gabby wasn’t entirely at fault, though. We had given her incomplete instructions and she took us to Largo Central Park instead of Largo Central Park Nature Preserve.  Even when we corrected our error, she still she sent us off in the wrong direction! Good grief!

Look at the size of those feet on this Common Gallinule!!

Once Mel and I finally found the right preserve, we were so frustrated that it took us a short bit before we could actually enjoy our walk.

“Largo Central Park Nature Preserve is a 31-acre nature park virtually surrounded by water and is home to over 130 species of birds, otters, red fox, American alligator, marsh rabbits, wild turkey, and bats all feed or live within the park.”

Gray Catbird
I just loved the colors on this Common Grackle!

In addition to the many birds that we saw on our walk at Largo Preserve, Mel and I were both delighted to discover that several different dragonflies and damselflies had finally ‘arrived’. In fact, we were so engrossed in capturing pictures of all the dragonflies, that we almost missed the beautiful Northern Shovelers and Blue-winged Teals that were swimming by!

After a few hours of exploring the Largo Nature Preserve, I wanted to visit one more place while we were still in the area—thinking we might never come back given all the trouble we had getting here. Mel, on the other hand, just wanted to find coffee. So, after the stress of finding a restaurant that was no longer located where it was supposed to be located, we ate. With our bellies full then, he walked to Starbucks to relax and I drove to a preserve.

Blue-winged Teal

McGough Nature Preserve, where I spent the afternoon, is also known as the ‘turtle park’. It features a small pond with a large variety of turtles including snappers,  red-ears, soft-shells and the Florida box turtle. Sometimes, Gopher tortoises can also be found near the pond, but I didn’t see any on today’s visit. Gopher Tortoises are considered a ‘keystone species’ because the deep burrows that they dig for shelter also provide a home to more than 350 other species. In Florida, the gopher tortoise is listed as Threatened and, along with its burrow, is protected under state law.

From a distance, this soft shelled turtle looked like he was laughing–and that he had buck teeth!!

In addition to the turtle park attraction, the McGough Nature Preserve is a rehabilitation center for a variety of birds including barred owls, screech owls, red tailed hawks and a bald eagle. Ironically, the birds that are being rehabilitated here also provide rehabilitation for local veterans through a program called Avian Veteran Alliance.

A little Screech Owl with an injury being held by a Veteran with Avian Veteran’s Alliance
Red tailed hawk

“Avian Veteran Alliance is a program dedicated to assisting veterans in their re-acclimation to life outside of the military. The birds of prey at The Narrows (part of McGough Nature Center) have all been deemed non- releasable, meaning each sustains some sort of handicap preventing them from surviving in the wild. As “Wounded Warriors” in their own right, these animals create a unique bond with local veterans providing a sense of hope and meaning to those that have sacrificed so much for our country.”

So, aside from the ‘trauma’ of getting to and from Largo, we had a lovely day!

Eastern Pondhawk

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