Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Exploring--Babcock Wilderness Adventures in Punta Gorda, Florida

Last week, Mark and I visited Punta Gorda, Florida, on Charlotte Harbor, a large bay off the Gulf of Mexico. Although it was much chillier than normal there (but a good 8 - 12 degrees warmer than we would have been at home in Jacksonville), we had a pleasant, relaxing visit to this beautiful area. We have explored other Gulf Coast cities and towns, but Punta Gorda was new to us. By far our favorite vacation outing was to Babcock Wilderness Adventures, a 90,000 acre working ranch and farm with an extensive nature preserve.
The history and present operation of the ranch fascinated us, but I won't report all that in this post. Interested readers can visit the Babcock Wilderness web site for more information.
The guided "swamp buggy" tour, lasting over 90 minutes, traveled through a variety of habitats, from sweeping Florida prairie, to deep woods, to silent cypress swamp. According to our guide, we were particularly fortunate in the number and variety of animals and birds we saw that day--many quite close. Several deer, one with a very young fawn, quietly watched us watching them, alert but showing no fear. Alligators who had found sunny spots on that cool day moved only a wary eyeball as we stopped to view and photograph them. Wild hogs and the unique Florida Cracker cattle breed are both protected here and gleefully ran to the bus (the hogs) or sauntered over (some of the cattle) to take corn feed from our guide. The photo ops were numerous, and I'll show you some of the animals and scenery in a future post.
Today's photos show a few of the magnificent birds we saw. The Great White Egret is taller than those we see in North Florida, but is otherwise very similar to ours. The Sandhill Crane blends so perfectly into the dry winter brush that we could spot it only by its characteristic facial markings. The male wild turkeys, apparently entering mating season, proudly displayed their tail feathers and strutted their stuff. Our visit seemed perfectly timed for sightings of these and many other birds, including ibis, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, and bald eagles.
Question of the day: What area within a four or five hour drive of your home would you like to explore, and what would you do and see there?


  1. Thanks for visiting me. I'm impressed with your wildlife photos. I have never seen a Sandhill Crane before. Do I recall that they were used as surrogate moms for Whooping Crane eggs? You had a very successful trip.

  2. Very informative post! Well done...I am happy to see your photographs...

  3. Gorgeous photos and a most excellent way to spend a day, Mary. We live very near to Starved Rock and about a block from the Illinois River. The I & M Canal path also runs through our town. I am forever wanting to just walk amidst the trees and see the beauty of nature all around...the wildflowers, the birds and other small animals. I've seen vultures and coyotes and deer, egrets and herons, blue jays and cardinals, ducks and geese, wildflowers and unusual tree trunks, darkness and mystery, light and play, beavers and dams, fish...What a beautiful world in which we live. I am so happy to live even closer to nature than I ever have before!

  4. You are welcome, TG--I enjoyed your impressive blog. And thanks for visiting me as well! I appreciate your encouragement. Now that you mention the surrogate arrangement, I remember hearing something like that, too. You are probably right.

    How nice to hear from you again, Megha. Thank you for stopping in and for your kind comments.

    Autumn, your comments are always so rich and interesting that I really look forward to hearing from you. Your poetic comments create a vivid picture of the natural beauty and wonderful wildlife all around you. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for the info!! I used to go to a little island called Boca Grande for years. It's not terribly far from Punta Gorda!!

    I hope you're doing well Mary!!

  6. Interesting you should mention Boca Grande, Manon--that is on our mental list of places we want to explore because we have heard how lovely it is. Next time we are in that area (when we hope it will be warmer!), we must go there.