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

Henry David Thoreau

Alligator Lake: What a GREAT Find!

Thursday March 26, 2015
O’Leno State Park
High Springs, Florida



There seem to be no end of things to do in this area.  That is if you are willing to drive a bit.  After really enjoying the two county parks with springs yesterday, David went into research mode looking at the other parks in both Alachua and Columbia Counties.   While most of them appear to be recreational facilities for sport type things, when he looks at the map of Alligator Lake in Columbia, 18 miles from us, it looks like hiking and birding. Sounds great.

It rained last night and this morning and more is predicted for later in the day.  But we head out during what is supposed to be an early afternoon break in the rain equipped this time with raincoats, camera bag and binocular bag.  Big points for us for memory.  <grin>  But to be fair, Monday is not that far away from Thursday.   Perhaps being so well prepared will keep the rain away.  If you missed our hiking downpour experience from Monday you can find it

It’s an easy 18 mile drive with about 4 turns.  when we arrive, what we find looks more like a small

 National Wildlife Refuge than a county park. Lots of water, lots of birds.  The map is from their kiosk which was very foggy so my photo of it is difficult to see.   But look at all the water and all the trails.  We can tell  immediately that we won’t have time in our rainless window to do it all.  DRAT!  But another thing to return for.

There is a boat launch just off the parking lot.  It goes into a canal and then into the lake.  I’d be a bit worried I might scare off all the birds by paddling it.




IMG_1389But today we are hiking not paddling.  We choose the Old Canal Trail (the blue line between north and south dike) because we can see from the parking lot that it goes out into the middle of the lake and that there are birds on both sides.  IF the window stays open when we finish this relatively short 1.8 mile RT trail perhaps we can tack on the 3.0 mile RT Mongomery trail which goes around the two main dikes.  It is in green on the map. 



Birds are everywhere.  In the water, in the grass, in the marsh, in the trees.










The coots are here in large groups on both sides of the lake. 






It looks like this White Pelican has an escort of a dozen coots.



The skies are iffy looking but the cypress trees look stunning with their reflections in the water.




Is this a little bit of courting going on?





These apple snail eggs stand out with their bright pink color.  I don’t know if these are the native Florida applesnail or one of the 3 introduced invasives.





The bird song from the trees around us has been a wonderful constant as we walk.  Most of the singers are too small and quick for us but some are easier to identify, like the cardinal and the grackle.  The latter is not one of my favorite birds but he does have a beautiful blue coat.








I had to lighten this shot taken up into the sky in order for you to see the really lovely colors on this common grackle.  His lady fair below him was also around but not in the tree top proclaiming her story.






Beauty in the air and beauty in the water.  The violet-blue pickerelweed is a native of Florida as is the fragrant white water lily.








This may be the slowest .9 of a mile hike we’ve ever taken.  We can’t move two feet without putting up our binoculars and camera.




The white pelicans are fishing in a group now.   The all move in the same direction and at some signal they tip their butts up, beaks in the water and go fishin’.






I spot two juvenile ibis standing on a log just off shore.  David spies the flicker in the tree.  Birds are everywhere it’s such fun!






At the end of the canal trail is the perfect lunch spot.  It has only taken us nearly two hours to walk 9/10ths of a mile.  HA!






We’ve been hearing the red winged blackbirds all around us and seeing them zooming around.  I take a lot of missed shots but finally get this one showing his lovely wing patches.




We’re almost on birding overload as we head back down the trail.




And then I see a duck I haven’t see yet today.  He’s moving pretty quickly down into the gang of coots and through them.  He’s the Ring Necked Duck and he’s really beautiful.  I thought they had big white patches on both sides but this guy only has one.





Just off shore an anhinga is drying his wings.  So funny that he looks like he has spikey hair on his head.
















As we near the beginning of the trail the clouds are darkening, I am behind David and turn around to look back where I see they are all around us. 




We are just passing by the boat entry canal when those dark clouds start spitting rain.  No need for our rain jackets but no chance to walk the other trail.   Where are those alligators anyway?  Our list for “next time” just keeps growing.




By the time we are pulling out of the parking lot the skies have opened up.  It’s another gusher.  Hope we don’t have a river running through our site to a lake in our backyard.




Many thanks to Columbia County for preserving such a fantastic place for the birds and those of us who love to see them.


  1. You found a true treasure! I love that country around Gainesville for all the wonderful secret places.

  2. the best kind of exploration. . .two feet at a time. . .great pics today!

  3. That really is a great place and one that I've never heard of before. That first white pelican looked a little scruffy, but later pictures showed why. I love the way the white pelicans fish together. They are so beautiful and one of my favorite birds.

    Glad you got back before you got too wet. I think all of Florida got the rain. We got buckets of rain here in the Keys on Friday night....and we rode it out in a tiki hut! :)

    So many places to return to in this area. I'm sure you'll get a chance to go back soon.

  4. What a nice litle park! You got some great bird photos.

  5. Clearly the birds like Alligator Lake as much as we did. Great place to just hang out and experience being. Great wildlife show today - all to ourselves too. Amazing.

  6. Wow! Fantastic bird pictures! I wonder if the birds I think are crows (and I love crows) are really grackles? I absolutely love that particular photo! I think the turtle might be a red eared slider. Had those as pets when I was a kid. This place was a great find-

  7. P.S. What are the birds with the orange beaks? Also I have never seen white pelicans- only brown ones.

  8. What a great walk for birds, your photos are marvelous. And you walk my kind of pace.

  9. Absolutely fantastic pictures...the detail on the cardinal and sparrow pictures I loved. And the pelican pictures...butts up!! :) Glad you found that place. Amazing birds!

  10. So glad you managed to walk one trail before the rain. The trail was certainly filled with a variety of birds. You did a great job capturing their beauty:)

  11. Finding some great places, you are! Great bird shots!

  12. What a cool walk! That is a great array of birds in one place. As usual, your photos are great.

  13. Wow. Birds. birds, birds and much to my pleasure, no alligators. I love the pelicans best. So wonderful.

  14. Beautiful bird shots, particularly the pelicans. Another blog I follow showed the feet of coots. Very peculiar birds!

  15. Beautiful! I hope you make it back to do the 3 miler!

  16. You have a knack for finding things to do! Really nice birding spot :-).

  17. A wonderful little park ... and all those birds ... no wonder it was slow going.

  18. LOTS of lovely birds, many different ones too!! GREAT pictures!

  19. Beautiful bird photos today - I couldn't even pick a favorite!

  20. will have to check this one out when we go to Florida next winter...

  21. You've really found a wonderful spot. May have to figure out how to fit O'leno into next winters plans:o)) Fantastic paddles and hikes. Sooooo many birds... especially like the Rink Neck Duck and the Flicker two that I have never seen!!!

  22. A spot with lots of birds? Count me in! And we should bird together or even hike together for you do a slower pace than my partner.
    I can't say it enough but your photos and the narratives makes me feel Im right there next to you.

  23. What a wonderful find! So many birds in such a short walk - I can't imagine moving any faster. The Cypress Trees and all the flowers are beautiful as well. Again, you're really making me want to see FL - for us the rain would be a treat, at least for awhile :-) The ring-necked duck and the spiky haired anhinga are so funny looking. Sort of like comic relief for the rest of their more serious looking pals.

  24. What a wonderful day filled with feathered friends. You captured them so well -- I especially love the white pelicans in their synchronized swimming routine. Your pace makes me feel peaceful. :-)

  25. What a great day for birds! That was a great shot of the flicker's gorgeous feathers. Wish I could have been there to watch my favorites, the pelicans!


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