I had been sneaking off on paddling trips for the past several weekends, so Laura decided it was time for both of us to get away. We headed down toward the coast, and one of our favorite locations, Francis Beidler Forest.
Beidler Forest is located in the Four Holes Swamp area, and is maintained by the Audobon Society. It features a mile-long loop trail on a raised boardwalk that winds through the cypress swamp. In addition to huge ancient trees, the swamp is home to many species of birds and other wildlife. This time of year is when the prothonotary warblers are in town, and we were hoping to spot a few.
The center is only open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. I would love to be able to visit earlier in the morning or later in the evening. As it was, we drove down the night before so that we could be there right as the park opened at 9:00. One other couple arrived just before us, so we initially had the place pretty much to ourselves.
It’s always hit or miss when you visit the forest on the weekend. Our preference is to walk quietly and look for the birds and other wildlife. Loud conversations can scare off what you’re trying to see, so large groups don’t do so well. The other couple was talking rather loudly, so we headed in the opposite direction on the boardwalk. We did encounter others throughout the day, but fortunately they were there for the same reason we were.
Our strategy is generally as follows:
- Walk quietly – tiptoe if necessary
- Walk slowly
- Occasionally stand still and observe
- Look up and down
- Watch for motion and listen
We heard lots of birds all around us, but for some reason this time they were hard to spot. We only saw one prothonotary (not close enough to photograph) but we heard them all around. We did spot a pileated woodpecker, and think we might have seen a cuckoo.
When we got to Goodall Lake we found that they had built a new observation tower. We stayed there for quite awhile listening to the birds and watching for activity around the water. In the past we’ve seen alligators, snakes, and even deer around the lake. This year it was just a few birds and a turtle or two.
Eventually we made our way back to the visitor’s center. We had spent three hours out on the boardwalk. Even though we didn’t see as much as we might have liked, it was still a great trip. Below are all of the photos I posted to Flickr from this trip…