At 8:00 on Saturday, Feb. 9th, 17 people gathered at Bear Pond in Seminole State Forest with park biologist, Ralph Risch. The trees were shrouded in fog but as we gathered a low flying, immature eagle flew overhead, giving us a “under-view” of the mottling of brown and white feathers. It was not long before a couple of mature bald eagles soared over the pond.
The walk around the “Bear” was quiet except for an occasional bird call. The birds were waiting for the wind to settle and the sun to break through the fog. Pine warbles, mourning doves and white-eyed verios were spotted. A small flock of wood ducks flapped across the pond.
Onward to the scrub! The Jays displayed their cerulean blue wings as they perched on the highest tips of the very short scrub oaks. Ralph explained the specific habitat that these indigenous birds to Florida require. They live in community and each bird has a responsibility to uphold. Some take turns being the sentinel bird to warn of hawks entering the territory. Others feed the family. Some privileged families even have caregivers.
As we moved out of the scrub into the pine forest many warblers were seen and heard. This time the sunlight illuminated their yellow feathers. A red-headed woodpecker was spotted on a dead tree…probably listening for insects.
The hike ended with a delightful picnic under the pavilion at Bear Pond. Our take-away: A better understanding and appreciation of what it means to manage through protection, preservation, and restoration of this unique habitat, Seminole State Forest.