Florida, USA

16th December 2011 - 4th January 2012

Kissimmee Prairie State Park

Sunrise over Kissimmee Prairie State Park

Kissimmee Prairie State Park preserves one of the largest remaining tracts of Florida dry prairie, consisting of mile upon mile of flat dwarf palmetto and wiregrass stretching to the horizon, interspersed with occasional cabbage palm hammocks and small seasonal ponds.  It is a habitat that requires a lot of maintenance, including prescribed burning every 2-3 years.  If the landscape is not burned regularly, it would very rapidly turn into a pine woodland.

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

Most of Florida's prairie and grassland specialists can be found here, including one of the largest populations of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow.  I was quite keen to try and get a photo of this distinctive subspecies, but it was always going to be a long shot outside of the breeding season.  They are a very secretive species and when they are not actively singing, are extremely difficult to get good views of.  I did at least manage to get a couple of brief views of them, but never even came close to getting a photo of one in the 4 hours I spent searching.  The Meadowlarks were, however, far more cooperative and several posed beautifully for me, so at least it wasn't a complete waste of time.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

One evening, when the light was beginning to fade, a group of Turkeys walked straight towards me from down one of the side tracks, passing only a few metres from where I was standing.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Loggerhead Shrikes were common whereever there was any tall vegetation.

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

The ubiquitous Red-shouldered Hawks were commonly seen and easily photographed on the roadside fenceposts.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

In the small woodland enclosing the camping ground, I found several impressive female Nephila spiders.  This species has numerous common names in America, including Banana Spider, Golden Orb-weaver, Golden Silk Orb-weaving Spider and Writing Spider.  It is the largest of the Nephila spiders that are found throughout the tropics and large females can reach body lengths of up to 7cm. 

Golden Orb-web Spider (Nephila clavipes)

brown morph of Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella)

At night, Squirrel Treefrogs were abundant around the campsite and both colour forms were present in about equal numbers.

green morph of Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella)

Bunche Beach Back to map Lake Kissimmee Area