La Chua Trail

An oak draped in Spanish moss on the La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

We arrived at the KOA Campground in Stark, Florida late Tuesday afternoon. I leveled the motorhome, as usual, while Regis hooked up the water and electricity. After trying to level the motorhome, it indicated there was an excessive slope. There isn’t a spot in Florida, except for the Apalachicola region, that could have an excessive slope. Florida has to be one of the flattest states in the country! Who knows why that happened, but Regis pulled out his electronic leveler to take a look and found out the battery was dead. Not only did he need a new battery, but he needed a tool to replace the battery.

The campground was located next to a Tractor Supply Store which is one of Regis’ favorite places. Regis stayed to visit Tractor Supply to get what he needed to fix his leveler and I headed to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Gainesville about 25 miles away. Paynes Prairie is an outstanding wetland with lots of wildlife including a large variety of birds, bison, and feral horses. We had a great experience walking the La Chua Trail in the late afternoon early evening in January 2017 (blog post here), so I headed for the La Chua Trail. It includes a boardwalk over the wetland, so it is a good opportunity to safely view alligators.

I read that the trail was closed after the observation platform but did not fully appreciate what that meant until I walked it. When we were there last time, we were able to walk out into the wetland and get on an elevated observation platform where we saw numerous sandhill cranes, white pelicans, horses, and one lone whooping crane. The platform mentioned on the park website was very early into the trail. I was disappointed to not be able to go out further but I was rewarded with some close up views of a limpkin, so I did not have much time to be disappointed.

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)

There were numerous limpkins but one particular limpkin wanted to stand on the rail of the boardwalk and allowed me to get very close. Many of the limpkins were making their raucous calls, but I was so close to this limpkin, I got to see its tongue. It was very rewarding to get so close.

Limpkin making its call and showing its narrow tongue.

I saw three northern harriers actively hunting over the wetland but the low light conditions made it impossible to get a clear photograph of them flying. I also saw an anhinga waving its wings as it was drying out. I have seen many anhingas drying out after coming out of the water, but I have never seen one moving its wings like that. Anhingas swim under the water to feed on their favorite prey, fish, and then dry out afterwards.

There were lots of water hyacinths in bloom.

Common water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

I got to see some baby alligators with mom. Unlike most reptiles, mother alligators actively take care of their young after they are born.

Mother alligator with her young.
Baby alligator. They have yellow markings when they are young but they will fade as they age.

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