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Explore Natural Florida Together

The cooler weather of Fall is a good time to explore natural Florida together as a family. It’s an activity for all ages and you don’t have to live in the woods to see natural Florida.  Parks are a wonderful way to explore natural Florida. National, state and county parks have well-marked trails, sometimes with plant identification signs.  You can usually get a trail map at the entrance.

Anastasia State Park

Roseate Spoonbill at the Jacksonville Zoo. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

One local example is Anastasia State Park  on Anastasia Island.  The park is the perfect natural place to see waterfowl, such as roseate spoonbill.   In addition to a variety of wading waterfowl, you might also see an osprey.  Along the inland trail, you may see a warbler, a migratory bird seen here in the winter.  Or if you’re really lucky, you might even see a multi-colored painted bunting. There are also plant identification signs along this easy-to-walk trail. With all these birds to see, it can be fun to use a bird checklist while you explore. A full list of Florida birds can be found at: http://floridabirdingtrail.com/checklists/  .

Palatka to St. Augustine Trail

To see more inland wildlife, take a bicycle ride or a leisurely stroll on the Palatka to St. Augustine Trail, located in Elkton.  The paved trail is off-limits for motorized vehicles.  It winds through upland forests and over swamps.  Along the trail you might see white-tailed deer, raccoons, or armadillos.  Even an otter could cross the path.  But don’t just look at the path, be sure to look up too. You might see a red-tailed hawk hunting the open areas or you could see a bald eagle or sandhill crane traveling overhead.

Deer at UF’s Ordway-Swisher property just outside of Melrose, Florida. Cervidae, ruminant mammals, Florida wildlife. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

You can also get close to nature at a county park near your neighborhood. Some parks have nature trails and lots of trees.  Here you might identify a new-to-you bird or a colorful butterfly. The IFAS bookstore has several helpful guides covering nature topics including birds, butterflies, backcountry trails and more. Using a guide makes exploring nature even more fun. Doing so allows you to learn about what you are seeing. The more you learn about wild plants and animals, the more fun you will have exploring natural Florida together.

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