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Sandhill Cranes are often seen foraging in pairs.

 

Wildlife Viewing Tips
Chinsegut WEA bird list Adobe PDF

Visitors are likely to see white-tailed deer that frequently wander by the Conservation Center. The more secretive bobcat often leaves telltale scat on the boardwalk that leads through the swamp to May’s Prairie. Higher up in the surrounding sandhill, gopher tortoises, one of many protected species found here, browse near their half-moon-shaped burrows.

Listen for the pinewoods treefrog External Website and its Morse-code-like “dot and dash” from high in the trees. Observant viewers can sometimes see wild turkey External Website disappearing among the oaks and pines or roosting in the cypress that fringes May’s Prairie. Watch for the striking red and black plumage of the red-headed woodpecker External Website. Because May’s Prairie occasionally dries out, fish are rare, making it a sanctuary for thousands of amphibians, including pig External Website and bull frogs External Website, barking treefrogs External Website, squirrel treefrogs External Website, dwarf sirens External Website and tiger salamanders External Website. After heavy fall and winter rains, you can hear the snoring-like call of the gopher frog, a species of special concern.

A stop on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail External Website site, Chinsegut’s May’s Prairie is also home to the sandhill crane External Website, white ibis External Website, wood duck External Website, ring-necked duck External Website, lesser scaup External Website, hooded merganser External Website, herons and egrets. Chinsegut is a choice location for seeing migratory as well as resident birds. Migrants include the black-and-white warbler External Website, indigo bunting External Website, blackpoll warbler External Website, American redstart External Website and Cape May warbler External Website. Nesting species include the summer tanager External Website, white-eyed vireo External Website, eastern towhee External Website, pine warbler External Website and northern parula External Website.

Check out other species recorded from Chinsegut WEA, or add observations of your own, by visiting the Chinsegut WEA Nature Trackers project External Website.

Wildlife Spotlight: Gopher Tortoise

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Regular prescribed burning benefits gopher tortoises
and the many organisms that share their burrows.

Within the dark, cool, tunnel-like burrows of the gopher tortoise, more than 350 kinds of organisms find food and protection from predators, temperature extremes and fire. The list includes insects, snakes, frogs, mammals, and birds, some of which could not survive without the gopher tortoise. This reptilian earthmover uses its strong, flattened forelimbs like hoes to excavate the burrow, approximately 15 feet long (but may be more than 40 feet long) and seven feet deep. Females lay eggs in May and June in the sandy mounds surrounding burrows or in nearby open, sunny spots.

 

The gopher tortoise is found in parts of all 67 counties in Florida. Unsuitable habitat and increased urbanization restrict its distribution in the southern parts of the peninsula. Though found in a variety of habitats, natural stands of longleaf pine and scrub oaks are favored. Loose, sandy soils for burrowing, an abundance of low-growing herbs for food, and open, sunny areas for nesting characterize the best habitats.

Over the last 100 years, the gopher tortoise population has been reduced by an estimated 60-80 percent. Habitat loss or destruction from urbanization, agriculture and forestry practices; human predation; and habitat degradation from the exclusion of fire are the primary culprits. In the past, gopher tortoises in Florida were captured for use in tortoise races or were killed and eaten. Such harvesting is prohibited today and the tortoise is listed by the state as a Threatened species, protected under state law. The gopher frog, eastern indigo snake, and Florida mouse are some of the other state or federally listed burrow residents.

 

Regular prescribed burning is essential to provide tortoises with open sites for nesting and with low growing grasses and herbs for forage. Protection of the gopher tortoise and its habitats extends a measure of protection to hundreds of other creatures as well.

 

 



FWC Facts:
Barn owls in Florida breed from March through July and nest in secluded places like caves, barns, tree cavities and large birdhouses. They build no actual nest.

Learn More at AskFWC