Three Lakes Field Trip a Visual Treat

Pelican Island Audubon toured Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area (Three Lakes WMA) on a rare summer field trip the morning of Saturday, June 22, 2019. Guided by a Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission biologist and her staff, the tour found there is a lot see – even in the Florida heat! Three Lakes WMA in Central Florida is a former ranch, the eponymous Three Lakes Ranch, comprising 63,000-acres that today protects one of the largest extant Florida dry prairie ecosystems.  According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Three Lakes WMA is “a mosaic of dry and wet prairie, ephemeral depression ponds and marshes, mesic (moist) flat woods, hammocks, and cypress ponds and sloughs.  Diversity, both in plant and animal life, distinguishes Florida’s dry prairies from the vast grasslands of the Great Plains of North America and the steppes of Asia.”

Below are some of the images captured on the field trip by Richard H. Baker, Donna Halleran, and Bob Montanaro.

The group met at 5:30 AM to form a car pool, with most going in the comfort of the Pelican Island Audubon van that was driven by Donna Halleran.
The group witnessed a beautiful sunrise over pastureland on the hour drive out to Three Lakes.
Stopping at the entrance to wait for our guides was another opportunity to photograph the sunrise and get in some birding.
The morning of birding begins.
A Northern Mockingbird forages in the oak tree seen in the image above.
Looking for breakfast.
Diving into breakfast after some unseen prey.
After finding a bite for breakfast, the Mockingbird sang its heart out to the rising Sun.
The road through the prairie on the beginning of our journey.
Wildflowers along the roadside
The group was delighted to see a juvenile (fawn) White-tailed Deer.
Summertime rain has filled the prairie with water.
White Ibis (Immature)
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
More wildflowers along the roadside
Continuing on through the prairie
The slough
Mangrove Buckeye butterfly
Great Blue Skimmer Dragonfly
Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly
Green Heron
Red-shouldered Hawk
Limpkin
Turkey Vulture warming in the Sun
Dragonfly in an obelisking pose to reduce its surface area in relation to the Sun in an attempt to cool off.
Turkey Vulture in flight
An American Alligator in the slough
A large water control device is a natural draw.
Looking for birds
The group saw juvenile alligators swimming in the water.
One of several young alligators swimming around.
Cameras and binoculars at the ready.
Cypress dome.  From the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences, “Cypress domes are forested wetlands that are dominated by cypress trees. Here, groundcover plants are sparse due to prolonged water inundation. The term dome refers to the phenomenon in which larger trees grow in the center of the dome, and the trees get progressively smaller as they grow further from the center.”
Heading into the pine flatwoods
Panorama of an abandoned pine plantation.
A Swallow-tailed Kite wheeled overhead in graceful circles.
Pine tree down
The last roadside wildflower seen at the end of the trip.
Juvenile Eastern Bluebirds bid the group farewell as we exited Three Lakes WMA after a morning of birding.
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