Look for playful river otters around lakes, marshes and rivers.
Photo Credit: Jack Rogers
Salt Lake’s habitats shelter more than 200 bird species. Look for turkeys along the mowed power lines. Wading birds (wood stork, roseate spoonbill, night-herons, bitterns and egrets), waterfowl, rails, pelicans, gulls and terns, alligators, turtles and river otters may be found around numerous lakes, the marshes and the St. Johns River. The secretive black rail and the uncommon reddish egret sometimes occur here. Watch for breeders such as black-necked stilt, glossy ibis, osprey, Cooper’s hawk, hairy woodpecker and eastern bluebird. Shorebird activity can be high in spring, fall and winter, particularly along brackish Salt Lake and its adjacent salt flats on the northwest side of the WMA. Gopher tortoise and Florida scrub-jay may be seen in the eastern, scrubbier portions of the property near South Lake. Hikers may use the walk-in entrance off Dairy Road for quicker access to the scrub and a spur trail to an overlook on South Lake.
Wildlife Spotlight: Eastern Bluebird
Bluebirds readily nest in artificial nest boxes
Bluebirds are small, beautifully colored thrushes. They're often seen perched in a hunched position on wires or fences in fields and open woodlands throughout central and north Florida.
The adult male bluebird has a vibrant blue back, head and tail, chestnut colored throat and breast and white belly. Females are duller and grayer, and young birds are heavily spotted.
Bluebirds are cavity nesters and they must compete for these choice spots with native birds such as chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches and Carolina wrens, and non-native birds such as house sparrows and European starlings. The supply of natural nesting cavities for all these birds has diminished over the years because of habitat loss, the removal of dead trees and limbs and a shift from the use of wooden fence posts to metal posts. Fortunately, bluebirds readily nest in artificial nest boxes and widespread efforts to provide these boxes have helped reverse dramatic population declines. Since bluebirds need open habitat, fire suppression is also a reason for their decline.
During the summer, bluebirds feed mainly on insects and earthworms. During the non-breeding season, they form small flocks. When the weather is very cold, a group of bluebirds will occasionally roost together in a nest cavity for warmth. Their winter diet is heavily dependent on many kinds of wild berries.
The North American Bluebird Society (NABS), www.nabluebirdsociety.org, provides information on nest designs for bluebird boxes, the maintenance of the boxes and details about setting up a "bluebird trail."