Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

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Sweetwater Confusion

Saturday April 14-Tuesday April 17, 2018                                           Most Recent Posts
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park                                                     It’s All About the Sink Filling Up
Miconopy, Florida                                                                                Many Trails  in Paynes Prairie

In the morning I’m out hiking on the Lake Trail which I’ve done many times before and posted about.   I hear a shuffling.  It’s not a loud movement so I assume it’s a squirrel but look around anyway.  I notice this guy.  These are phone pictures from my Samsung S5 so don’t expect much.   It’s a a “true fact and not fake news” that if you don’t take your good camera you are bound to see something you want a picture of and if you do take it you well may not.


I stopped immediately when I saw him but he must have heard me and his eyes aren’t so good.  I know lots of folks don’t think armadillos are cute but I think he’s darling with his little ears looking around and sniffing to see what’s going on.



I guess he’s satisfied when I don’t move and he goes on about his business, most likely looking for yummy things to eat like insects, beatles, grubs and worms.


A rare shot of an armadillo with his nose pointing straight ahead.


mapOk so enough Armadillo.  Later that same morning we drove back to the northern side of the Prairie to visit Sweetwater Preserve.  I’d picked up a brochure for it in the Visitor Center the night of the Yoga class.  There are supposed to be two trails, the west 1.75 miles and the east 1.2 miles.

On the map of our drive, all the green is Paynes Prairie Preserve which continues off the left, right and bottom edges of the map.  The campground is off the map at the bottom.  It’s 9 miles to Sweetwater.  Looks easy.  Go up 441, turn right on 331 and it’s on the right.

We do just that.  We see the sign for Sweetwater and don’t notice that it says Sweetwater Wetlands not Sweetwater Preserve.  We wonder why it doesn’t seem anything like what I’d read but it has water and birds so we just continue.  Later we figure it out.  At the end of our hike, we drive further down the road and find Sweetwater Preserve less than 2 miles away  but have no time left to see it today and rain predicted for the next 3 days until we are scheduled to leave.  Guess the Sweetwater Preserve will have to wait until next time.

Sweetwater wetlands mapThe Preserve is an “Alachua County Forever” site while the Sweetwater Wetlands is a Gainesville City park.  We learn that the wetlands were actually built or probably more  likely restored to remove nutrients, sediment and trash from Sweetwater Creek.  The water flows through 125 acres of treatment wetlands and then into Paynes Prairie and the acquifer at the Sink I described in my last post (blue link at the top).   Their brochure says, No bikes, no drones, no fishing, no pets.

The reason we didn’t have time to go on to Sweetwater Preserve is not becasue we got a late start but because, despite how relative short the total mileage is on these boardwalk and dike trails, there is a lot of wildlife here.


Among the Wildlife are these baby Common Moorhens.  Too cute!

They are on the left of the boardwalk.  One the right we see a Limpkin mother and two chicks.


I didn’t hear him but I guess he’s practicing that obnoxious call.


Chick #2


The little blue heron has on his breeding colors.

The little moorhens find mom and follow after her.

Further on we spot gator eyes.  No feathered friends are nearby.



The anhinga must have been fishing since she is drying her wings on this island.


The female has the velvety brown neck.  The male is all black.


A field of greenery on the ground.  A field of clouds over head.


I spend quite a bit of time being entertained by the efforts of this beautiful Purple Gallinule to strip the grasses  of their seeds.  It was a serious balancing act.



Those are amazing feet.  I wonder how he uses them to swim.


The shading of the feathers on this bird are really a work of art.


You may have to adjust your eyes to see this American Bittern.  David spotted her and it took me a while get my eyes to see her in the grasses.


They are always very shy birds but normally they attempt to hide standing straight up with bill in the air immitating a reed.  It’s amazing and hard to spot.  I was actually looking for a bittern here but I wasn’t expecting to see oe hunkered down.




I personally think he should be called the red billed whistling duck but he’s actually called the Black Bellied Whistling Duck.  First we saw one and then later we saw dozens.



Red Winged Black Birds are singing their little hearts out.  I like this shot of him in full song with both his red and yellow patches visible.

Along the dikes, gators were resting and sunning.  Apparently they weren’t hungry since there was lots of lunch nearby.  Of course the lunch can fly.


We spy two black necked stilts.


I guess he’s called black necked because the back of his neck is black which you can’t see in this photo.  His pink legs are always what I notice.  The Pink Legged Stilt?  Guess the namers didn’t like that idea.

We wonder what this photographer is all set up with his tripod to photograph when a Limpkin comes strutting from the marsh up to the road, stops on the side and begins giving us all the screaching routing.



If you’d  like to hear what we heard, check out my Limpkin video at this link.   Be sure to have your sound turned up.  The wind gets in the way toward the end.  she was actually much louder than my microphone could record and she kept  it up for a LONG time before walking away.



The Limpkin crosses the road to get to the other side yelling all the way.


How about those toes?  They must be 5 or 6” long


Some people get the anhinga and this Double Crested Cormorant mixed up though they really don’t look anything alike.  They do both dip and dive in the water and dry their wings by spreading them out while perched. 


Can you see that sneaky gator head just poking out mid picture at the bottom of the bank?


Look back and see if you can spot this.   Not sure what his coat of green is but apparently it’s what’s on top of the water.


Here’s another one soaking up the sun with a bit of greenery on top.


We saw this Wood Stork standing on one leg.  They have faces that are about as attractive as a vulture.  Surely this can’t be the baby bringer.


We had wanted to take this path down the middle but given the location of the gate keeper, we thought better of it.   So did some other folks who came up after we took the long way around.


We don’t much worry about gators in the water but this close to the road is another story.  they can run really fast at first burst of speed.  Who knows if he would take offense at our walking by him?


By going the long way around we ran across an entire flock of Ibis both young (brown) and adult (white).  There were a couple of egrets mixed in as well.


Not sure what they were after but there were easily over 50 birds and they seldom put their heads up.


A covered viewing area overlooks the actual Sweetwater Creek as it flows through the Wetlands.


I see one lone kildeer.


This fellow was sunning along the edge of the water as many people strolled by.  When we got there he decided either he’d had enough of all of us or he was warm enough and like sunbathers on a hot summer day it was time for a tip. 


He didn’t jump off the bank and into the water as they often do.  He just stood up on his legs and sauntered in.


And then he slide easily into the water.


And disappeared.


As we head back toward the entrance, we pass by flocks of Black Bellied Whistling Ducks.  Easily 5 or 6 times the number in this picture.


I have to add this picture that  just mad me actually laugh out loud.  David didn’t see it so I took this picture after they had passed by.  Clearly all kinds of “walking shoes” are at Sweetwater today.


While we didn’t intend to visit Sweetwater Wetlands, it was one of the fortunate mistakes.   We’ll check out Sweetwater Preserve next time.


Sweetwater is really the  last of the hiking we were able to do here as the next days were filled with rain.

On Sunady the promised rain arrives right on schedule and we have a plan – at least for this day..   The weather guessers have pushed the rain back to the afternoon so in the morning David takes off both Hullivator pieces and makes adjustments to the Yakima Bars to stop a whistling noise that’s been getting increasingly worse as we ride in Ruby with or without the kayaks on top.  Of course he fixes it right up after some aggrevation and we find the noise is gone as we drive to our second plan of the day.


Carrie’s In laws, Bob and Joan Iwanowski have a home in the Villages.  We’re about as far north of Ocala as they are south so we plan to meet in Ocala for a late lunch at 2pm so we can both be back by the time the predicted high winds start.

Joan chooses Brooklyn’s Backyard and the food is excellent.  Not as good as the company though.  We always enjoy spending time with them and never have a moment’s trouble finding things to talk about.  They also have a home on the Outer Banks where they will be in May so we’re hoping to see them there as well.

Thanks so much Bob and Joan for coming out on a rainy day to meet up with us.

Even though we were both absolutely stuffed, we could not be just a block away from Bruster’s Ice Cream and not stop by.  They didn’t have JMC unfortunately but we managed to find two other flavors that we were willing to stand in the rain for.  Ice Cream lovers let nothing stand in their way.


It doesn’t just rain on Sunday night, it pours.  The thunder is powerful enough to rock the coach.  The winds are howling.  We bring in the slides and play the birding game.  David wins.  He says it’s the first time he’s ever beaten me.  He does it the last play when he picks up a $3 sponsor and gets both the bird and the bonus point.  Way to go!!


That concludes our time at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.  After David’s clinic visit on Wednesday morning we begin our trip North.  Stop #1,  Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach.  Back to the Atlantic.  HOORAY!!




  1. The gators are marvelous- and so is that armadillo.

  2. How cool to get an 'up close and personal' of an Armadillo! I've never seen one yet. You had lots of birds in your post today, cool! We actually have Kildeer here at the park too. I've been looking for their eggs, as they usually lay them in the ground, very well camouflaged.

  3. What an absolutely awesome sighting. I have never seen an Armadillo. They are cute. Glad you made a 'mistake' visiting the wetland for the crazy amount of birds you saw. I'd stand in the rain for ice cream.

  4. My favorite photo is that of the pretty Purple Gallinule! It would also be difficult for me to just walk past any wildlife had I been there. I have not gotten close to an Armadillo! Im marking this spot for next year.

  5. Isn't Sweetwater Wetlands fantastic? I'm so glad you made it there. It has such a remarkable concentration of wildlife and such a great trail with the boardwalks. Lucky you to see and photograph the Limpkin chicks! And of course I always enjoy seeing the Purple Gallinule, because you know how I feel about purple. :-))

  6. Oh my gosh did you get some fantastic pictures! The anhinga really look prehistoric to me- especially when they are drying their wings. The black bellied whistling duck has such interesting colors. I agree that he should be called the red beaked whistling duck because that is what you notice first. The purple gallinule is strikingly beautiful. Love the gator wearing camouflage. My very favorite, however, is the armadillo. I've never seen one in person. He/she is adorable! And what's with the black lace outfit and heels........

  7. The armadillo . . . what can I say? He's the poster boy of CUTE for today! I've seen them in the wild, but never stand up like that. So appealing! ;->

    Virtual hugs,


  8. What a super show the armadillo put on!! Lucky you to get a personal showing:) Now this was a spectacular wildlife hike!! The birds and ducks are so colorful. I love the gators especially with green coat.

  9. I, too, have always thought armadillos were cute.
    Hope you're enjoying the beach!

  10. I am always amazed at the number of different birds you see. Just as I think that I see my favorite, along goes another one even more beautiful. It never gets old. Also glad to see that you cautiously avoided the gate keeper with the long nose and sharp teeth. Yikes! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Once again, amazing wildlife photography! You certainly can find the most interesting birds and animals to shoot, especially the armadillo. Almost once in a lifetime view of it standing up. Very cool.

    And I must thank you, I've been wondering where my favorite hiking shoes went to, thanks for tracking them down! :cD

  12. Thanks for including the limpkin scream video, I googled a fox scream to compare and I'm sure I'll be able to tell the difference! Even when i knew what was coming the fox scream was a little scarier! I see a lot of shoes (and smell a lot of perfume) on my walks, but those take the prize!

  13. What a wonderful variety of birds - lucky you!! Amazing that they share the space with the gators. We are looking forward to seeing some gators, but plan to give them a wide berth! Great shot of the armadillo with his nose up. I agree they're pretty cute.

  14. Sweetwater was great for wildlife. I don't think I have ever seen an armadillo stand for anything - especially not us. Nice shot.

  15. Great pictures! As annoying as their call is, those baby limpins are cute! Love all the birds. Wow! Excellent picture with Bob & Joan. If I recall, Dad did win the birding game when I was there once. All I really know is I didn't win :)


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