One of the best things about owning our little mobile home in Florida is having good friends come to visit. They force us out of the inevitable rut we get into as a couple who are sometimes too used to our own company. This year we were happy to show off the part of Florida we stayed in and as a result found, and saw, an area we didn’t even know existed so close to the city. It’s called the Circle B Bar Reserve and is a wildlife preserve that’s free to visit and just beautiful. It’s situated on Lake Hancock, home to one of the densest alligator populations in Florida.
The name comes from a cattle ranch that was originally on the property and now belongs to the state and has been naturalized. There are twelve hundred acres of land with a three and a half mile hiking trail that lets a happy wanderer get as close as is safe to the bird, reptile and animal habitats. No dogs allowed, they make a great meal for sunning alligators, and small children should be kept close to their guardians. A nature discovery centre tells all you should learn about the various species you will see and there are signs along the paths that give information as well. Near the centre there are picnic shelters and grills for public use. We visited in early March, a recommended time if you want to avoid insects, and a good time to hear the mating calls of alligators and birds.
We started our walk on the Heron Hideout where we spotted hundreds of herons, white, great blue, green. Yes there are green herons, they are smaller and are distinguishable by their greenish, yellow legs. Two types of ibis, the regular white, with the long orange beaks and also a shiny, brown ibis and snowy egrets were common. My favourite bird was the roseate spoon bill; also a wading bird that has a bright orangey pink stripe on its wing. You can’t see his distinct shaped bill here, but the stripe is unmistakeable.
My friend really wanted to see alligators so the next part of the hike was down Alligator Alley. It’s a shadier walk where oak trees dripping in Spanish moss overhang the path. You can see the alligator slides, depressions in the banks beside the water, where ‘gators that have crossed the trail from one side to the other, slide down into the water. There was a report that an eighteen footer lived here but the longest spotted by our group was about eight or nine feet. It is said that the length from between the alligator’s eyes to the tip of the snout is a tenth of his length, but darn it, we forgot to bring our tape measure so we really couldn’t verify this statement.
We arrived later in the afternoon, so couldn’t really meander further but on our way out of the park< I was excited to spot an armadillo! It was his suppertime too and we watched him trot across the road and start digging at the soft dirt, hunting out some tasty insect morsels. They are much smaller than I thought and really quite cute in spite of the leathery looking armour.
That was an exciting side trip for our vacationing friends and for us too! I really want to visit there again to see more wildlife in a natural habitat but next time I’ll take a better camera and give myself a whole day to explore!