Though the weather wasn’t the best, nine nature walkers had the opportunity to meet three of the new Cedar Key State Parks staff, Tommy Pavao, Chris Camargo and Tommy Barry. We all benefited from their combined knowledge of the scrub habitat, the plants and animals that live there, and the efforts taken to keep the scrub habitat a healthy one. Chris Camargo pointed out the various scrub plants along our walk and Tommy Pavao led us to an area that had been burned in 2009. We were able to see the incredible difference between that area and the area that has not been burned in many years. Tommy and Chris helped all of us to see and understand the need for controlled fires in the scrub.
Florida Scrub Jays require a fire-maintained scrub habitat to keep open areas for them to cache acorns and the scrub oaks to be no taller than 10 feet, and probably less than that. Part of the area we walked has not been burned in many years and it was easy for us to see the difference between that area and the more recently burned area. In the unburned area, there were no open areas, other than the trail, and the scrub oaks were closer to twelve feet than ten. Florida Scrub Jays have not been seen regularly in this scrub in several years. Tommy and his staff are currently in the process of trying to return the Cedar Key Scrub to a healthier scrub habitat through controlled burns in the Cedar Key Scrub along SR 24. They are hopeful the efforts to return the scrub will bring the Florida Scrub Jays back to Cedar Key.
Our return walk to the parking lot was in a light rain, but we were rewarded with a great sighting of a male Eastern Towhee, who kindly stayed in the open long enough for all of us to get a good look! Towhees are a common scrub bird, often heard and not so often seen.
The picture of the Florida Scrub Jay was taken by Frank Morgan last year alongside CR 347. This is a rare sighting and picture of the Jay. Thank you Frank! The other pictures were taken by Vicki Crumpley. Vicki is a frequent nature walker and does a great job taking pictures during our walks.
Please join us for our next nature walk on February 9. Normally the walks are on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, so this is a change. This walk is during the small game hunting season and because of that we will not go behind the gates on this walk. Instead we will walk Cabin Road, which is a great walk anyway!! We have seen otters there, owls and many other birds on this road. Those who want to carpool, please meet me, Donna Thalacker, at the Cedar Key town park parking lot, near the beach at 8:30am. If you want to meet at Cabin Road, meet us about 9am at the entrance to Cabin Road. Cabin Road can be reached from the south entrance of the Lower Suwannee NWR nature drive off CR347. Cabin Road is on the left about 2 – 3 miles from the south entrance to the refuge. I can be reached at 352-543-6738 if you require further information.