I decided to start the New Year off with an unguided hike in nearby Paynes Prairie State Park.
The Bolen Bluff Trail between McIntosh and Gainesville lies along the path that Spanish Explorer, Hernando de Soto, took with his expedition in search of gold in the Florida peninsula. The map depicts the route.The 2 1/2 mile trail is one of several in Paynes Prairie State Park. It is named for a pioneer family that once lived here along the south rim or bluff of Paynes Prairie. Wild horses live here, as do bison, and are sometimes seen along the trail.
Paynes Prairie is also an important birding area with many migratory birds spending the winter here.
The trail starts out through a hardwood hammock.
A little color..
Some swampy areas beside the trail.
And today is a lucky day….I saw a wild horse. The horses are descendants of "Cracker Horses," small horses brought here by the Spanish and used for herding cattle in the early days of settlement. They were later abandoned in favor of larger horses.
Along the trail...
Approaching the prairie.
A pair of cardinals and many other unidentified little birds enjoy this area.
Male cardinal in a sweetgum tree.
The trail follows an earthen dike, with wetlands on either side.
5 sparrows in a tree.
Approaching the viewing platform.
There's a bald eagle perched in a nearby tree.
There he goes.
A large flock of sand-hill cranes winter here, and there are year-round residents also.Do you see the hawk way out there? I spotted it with my binoculars.
He's even a little beyond the range of my 65x optical zoom.
But zooming closer with the digital zoom makes him blurry.
The longest zoom using optical plus digital zoom made these trees look like a watercolor painting.
Taking the second half of the loop trail back through the woods.Played with my camera's special effects with Live Oak tree. Normal picture:
Special effect:Meanwhile back at the campground, two hawks were having a territorial discussion over my RV.
I'll leave you with a couple close-ups from my early morning walk around McIntosh. The Camellias are in bloom all over town.Hibiscus
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