6Twenty people enjoyed perfect weather for our first Lukens Tract nature walk. Donna Thalacker and many others on the walk had Special Use Authorization (SUA) from the Suwannee River Water Management District so we could introduce our beautiful Lukens Tract peninsula to visitors to Cedar Key and long time residents as well. We spent a delightful hour or more walking along the SRWMD right of way admiring hundreds of butterflies, including the smallest Florida butterfly, the Eastern Pygmy Blue and our state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing. The butterflies were in abundance, probably numbering in the thousands, nectaring on nearby blooming wildflowers.
Though we heard more birds than we saw, there were Northern Parula Warblers, Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, Yellow-throated Warblers, Cardinals, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, Clapper Rails, White Pelicans flying overhead, and Great Crested Flycatchers sharing the property with us this morning. Sometimes it was difficult knowing where to look because there was so much beauty to see.
We walked out to the end to see the kayak launch pad and a terrific overlook into the extensive salt marsh. While we were on our way back, a group of kayakers were driving out to the launch pad to begin their kayak trip into the Waccasassa Bay.
Please use the Lukens Tract property to kayak from and explore the salt marsh and bay, and to bird and butterfly watch. This is a beautiful and ecologically rich property that is close to Cedar Key. Most of this is public property and should be utilized by the public. One needs a Special Use Authorization (SUA) form to properly access the Lukens Tract. The form is simply a sheet of paper that you may obtain by telephoning the SRWMD at 386-362-1001 and asking for Mr McCook. Leave a message with your name and mailing address and Mr McCook will mail you an SUA in the US mail.
Every walk in the Lower Suwannee NWR brings at least one surprise, and today was no different. Cindy Leiner, Nita Cox, Kit Lane, and Joyce DeHaan joined me, Donna Thalacker, for a nature walk along Barnett Creek Road. We saw lots of flowers in bloom, some butterflies and birds including a close view of a Barred Owl next to the road that Cindy was first to spot. There were Sora calling to each other, but other than a brief glance by Nita, they were mostly heard and not seen. On the Nature Drive, Nita spotted a Swallowtail Kite that we were all able to see close up as the Kite flew low overhead. Then later, the really big surprise of the day, was hearing about 10 feet away, a bull alligator roar! He was heard and not seen since not one of us volunteered to jump down from the platform to check him out!
It was a great morning to be in the woods. I have yet to go for a walk in our Refuge without at least one unusual bird, butterfly, amphibian or flower to surprise me. Really, today’s alligator roar was quite the surprise and to be so close (yet safe) was a treat. We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful place so close by to visit.
Our next nature walk will be even closer to Cedar Key. On Monday, April 18 at 9:30am, we will carpool to the Lukens Tract. It is a beautiful property owned mostly by the Suwannee River Management District and managed by the Lower Suwannee NWR. We will walk to the kayak launch pad from the road and observe butterflies and birds along the way. There are excellent opportunities to observe the salt marsh and wading birds along the walk. This will be a short walk along a well used track. If you would like to join me, we will car pool from Cedar Key Town Park parking lot at 9:30am. A special use permit is required and I will have one with me. I hope to see you then!