Circle B Bar Visitor Center signWhat better reason to leave the house than the occasion of the second treatment for flea infestation.  We don’t know where they came from but suspect all the feral cats in the neighborhood.  The first treatment resulted in an awful smell that lasted for hours.  The following week saw us dressed in long pants reeking of DEET and still getting bitten by the fleas that were not killed.  Then we realized we would have to get something for the lawn.  We got that taken care of but knew that the second treatment indoors would follow.  So we decided to  get out of Dodge for the weekend.  

I had seen an article in the Florida Naturalist about the Circle B Bar Preserve in Polk County and the volunteers who spent time there.  It looked intriguing.  So we packed the RV and as soon as the pest control guy left, so did we.  In our research, we found a campground about fifteen minutes from the preserve and reserved a spot for the weekend.

We got to the place at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning,  At the end of a winding road, we arrived at the beautiful Polk County’s Nature Discovery Center.  It was a new and beautiful facility with friendly staff.  There were books on all the flora and fauna of the preserve on tables, and an exhibit where folks could get up into the canopy of a simulated Live Oak.

They had a guided tour scheduled for 10 but it was full so we decided to wait to see if anyone scheduled did not show up.  We went for a short walk and saw lots of Wood Storks soaring overhead.  Then came a Red-shouldered Hawk looking for breakfast.  He did not seem to mind our gawking and picture-taking.  There were lots of Cardinals and Wrens singing but we didn’t see any until nearly the end of our visit.

Fortunately for us, we got a seat on the tour.  The guide explained that the preserve was purchased as part of Polk County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands program in about 2000.  Prior to that, it was a working ranch.  The rancher constructed ditches and canals to drain the land and make it suitable for grazing cattle.  Unfortunately this disturbed the cleansing flow of water to Lake Hancock  which became so polluted from runoff of herbicides, pesticides, and cattle droppings that you could not see your hand if you placed it under the surface.  Apparently that worked OK for alligators.  Lake Hancock apparently has a great concentration of alligators.  Even though they are very territorial, if they can’t see other gators in the water, they must not be there.  So they thrive in ignorant bliss.

Since the purchase, the county has conducted a 400 acre marsh revitalization and many controlled burns to help renew the Banana Creek Marsh system.

The drive took us through the marsh area of the park along with Sand Pine and Live Oak hammocks.  We could not hear or see any birds in the trees except for cardinals and wrens.  But the marshy areas had suffered from the drought and provided lots of mud flats and shallow areas for wading birds.  We saw large concentrations of Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, Common Moorhens, Glossy Ibis, and Herons and Egrets of all species except night herons.  In fact, I thought we had a Wurdemann’s Heron until I got the pictures on the computer and determined it to be a juvenile Great Blue Heron.  Quite a disappointment.  Two so-cute sights were a pair of Sandhill Cranes near their downy chicks and a pair of moorhens feeding their chicks. There were several Red-shouldered Hawks and three pairs of Swallow-tailed Kites soaring overhead.  There were also pairs of Blue-winged Teals, Black-necked Stilts and Mottled Ducks.

After the tour, we had lunch in one of their many pavilions and walked a couple of more trails where we hoped to see some other wildlife.  Nice trails, but nothing new.

It was a great day.  Circle B Bar Preserve is a beautiful park and Polk County can be proud of its accomplishments.  Did I mention that there is no entry fee and the two-hour tour is also free?  You should go there if you get the chance.

Sunday found us at the Saddle Creek Ranch County Park.  It is also a treasure.  It spans both sides of a road and has plenty of places for fishing, boat ramps, nature trails and pavilions.  It is also where we saw the Limpkins and got the opsrey in flight.  Their trails are mostly under canopy, some at ten feet and some much higher.  During migration periods, they are probably really good birding spots.

Since it is only a two-hour drive from Edgewater, we should plan a field trip there next winter.