The best way to see wildlife on the area is by canoe or kayak early in the morning or evening, or by walking quietly along the Aucilla Sinks Trail or the trams accessed from Highway 98. Along the Wacissa, look for the prothonotary and yellow-throated warbler, black-crowned night heron, yellow-crowned night heron, nesting osprey, limpkin and purple gallinule. The endangered wood stork is found in marshy areas and often feeds in ditches. Pine warblers are common in the pinelands and the Swainson’s warbler, although uncommon, is sometimes seen in shrubby moist undergrowth. The hooded warbler is common in upland forests.
Red-shouldered hawks are common and nest along the Florida Trail at Aucilla Sinks. White-eyed vireos are also common year-round. The Acadian flycatcher is common in moist, swampy forests and the great crested flycatcher is abundant.
In addition to birds, visitors may spot reptiles such as snakes, turtles, alligators and anoles basking in the sun. They join a variety of invertebrates, from the tiny, yet bothersome, ticks and mosquitoes, to large (up to 2 inches) spiders known as orb weavers. These harmless invertebrates often construct sticky webs across trails in late summer and early fall, surprising early morning hikers or bicyclists.
Wildlife Spotlight: Limpkin
Commonly seen poking around in the shallow water along the Wacissa for its favorite food the apple snail, the limpkin is a good indicator of water quality. A species of special concern in Florida, the limpkin finds food by both touch and sight, an easier task in clear water. Apple snails thrive on sawgrass and prefer specific water levels. Excessive water levels that result in blooms of non-native invasive plants are harmful to apple snails and in turn to limpkins.
The limpkin's name is derived from its characteristic "limping" walk. Sometimes called the "crying bird," the limpkin has a loud wailing call often heard at night and on cloudy days and thought to resemble the sound of a human in distress.
The endangered snail kite found in southern Florida also feeds on apple snails, swooping down and snatching the snail and then carefully extracting the snail from its shell with its specialized bill. The limpkin cracks open the shell and then eats its inhabitant. By looking at discarded shells, researchers can easily distinguish snails eaten by limpkins and those eaten by snail kites.