Birder's Eye View

Monday, December 27, 2010

Camping trip, day 2

I spend most of the first night half-awake, curled up at the bottom of my sleeping bag, shivering. Temperatures have dropped into the 30s, and with only 3 people in our big family tent, our body heat does little to improve the conditions. It's so cold, not a cricket chirps, nor an owl hoots. The only sound is far off traffic from I-75 some miles away, the occasional snarl of a raccoon, and hunting dogs baying in the distance.

By 4am, we are all significantly chilled to the bone and sleepless. We agree to push our sleeping bags together  to try and warm up, and then get up in an hour for a pre-dawn hike. Somehow though, as soon as we huddle up together, I finally drop off to sleep and don't wake up for 3 hours until I hear my mother exclaiming that it's 7am. So much for that early hike, but at least I finally got some sleep!

After an interesting (and as I'm sure you can guess, extremely graceful) contortionist act, I manage the challenging task of changing my clothes without ever leaving my sleeping bag. It isn't until I pull on my shoes that I realize I can't feel my feet. At all. Fun!

As I'm gathering firewood so we can make breakfast, I find the river is blanketed with mist hovering just over the surface. It's beautiful in the early morning sun -- the camera doesn't even capture the full effect.

After breakfast, as I'm sitting by the fire defrosting my feet, I idly look up at the sky. By chance, there are 3 bald eagles soaring overhead! They're waaaaaay up high, but my camera is handy and I manage a couple pictures before they fly away, calling out as they disappear over the tree tops.

Around midmorning we take a hike down the river, the opposite direction we had hiked the day before. The trail is a little more difficult here -- in fact, it's not really a trail at all, but simply a series of animal trails, river bank, and cypress knees to climb over. At one point, we come across an anhinga sunning itself in the sand. It takes off as we approach.

Cypress along the banks

After lunch, we drive a few miles down the road to Silver Lake, a recreation area we found on the park map. We hike the trails there for a little while, finding two red-shouldered hawks, and more of the usual birds I've been seeing around camp.

Silver Lake

Once again, the scenery is just gorgeous. The fall colors are at their brightest, the sky is clear, and all sorts of birds and wildlife are out and about.

We return to camp in late afternoon to start the fire again and boil water for a spaghetti dinner. I slip away for a while to climb up into a tree leaning out over the riverbank, and watch the sun set over the Withlacoochee.

The temperature is dropping again, but not nearly as unbearable as the last night. Crickets are singing again, and I can hear raccoons, squirrels and rabbits rustling around in the bushes. Thick clouds roll in and it looks like it's going to rain, so before bed we hide our firewood under the car just in case.

Although it's still chilly, it stays dry all night and I manage to sleep this time! Tomorrow is our last day and we're in for a long hike and some good birding before heading home just in time for Christmas.

Check back later for day 3!

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