I was in a windowless conference room yesterday when began perusing a map of the St. Petersburg area. I noticed a green spot about 10-15 minutes south of the hotel and decided I would check it out in the brief gap between the end of the conference and the TSA peep show. It turned out to be an excellent way to spend a solid hour and a half. (Note: I had to take a projector and laptop for the conference and couldn’t take my camera, so these are all phone photos.)
There is a small nature center, where you pay a nominal admission. Behind the nature center are aviaries where birds of prey who can’t be released into the wild are housed. There are hawks, owls, an eagle, a kestrel, and vultures. I walked the boardwalks on the swamp woodlands trails, listening to the cries of birds and watching anoles skittering across the planks. On the Lake Maggiore trail I saw herons, nesting fish, an alligator, turtles, ducks, and more. It was perfect. You can rent kayaks from the park as well.
I wanted to see a gopher tortoise and headed over to the Sand Scrub trail. The diversity of ecosystems in such a small park is impressive (it is 245 acres). I went quickly from wetlands to pine trees in sandy soil. Despite being April 1st, it was hot in the sun and the park is clever with its water coolers in shaded shelters. I did see a tortoise briefly as he headed into his burrow.
From that trail, I went to the Wax Myrtle Pond, which had two completely unexpected pieces of art flanking the top of the pond. There were turtles and birds and very few people, despite it being a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. I imagine the park is teeming with activity at dawn and dusk.
On my walk back to the nature center, I saw not one, but two gopher tortoises walking along the main trail. Both were gracious enough to let me stop and ogle them.
The park also hosts events, including summer camps for kids, and they have an upcoming Earth Day Zine Workshop. Wildlife and zines – two of my favorite things!
If you go (you should totally go):
Address: 1101 Country Club Way South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Phone: (727) 893-7326
November 1 – February 29
Tuesday – Friday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm • Saturday 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm • Monday Closed
March 1 – October 31
Tuesday – Friday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm • Saturday 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm • Monday Closed
Admission: $3 Adult, $1.50 Child (Age 3 to 16), Free (Age 2 and under)
I woke at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time this morning. The only problem was that I was in Seattle, where it was 4:45 a.m. Pacific. I decided to get up and walk to Lake Union, picking up some oatmeal along the way. The day ahead included a work conference and a meeting with a client, so I wanted a bit of exercise and a few moments of peace near the water.
I sat down on a bench, enjoying the damp, clean air. There were birds nearby, geese, ducks, starlings, swallows, crows, and more. I enjoyed watching them and a few walked over to see if I had anything to share. Once I was done with my oatmeal, I began photographing the birds.
The one goose, who seemed completely at ease with me, began honking what sounded like a warning cry. I was confused and looked around to see what was causing the distress. I noticed the ducks, who had been scattered around the park, starting to congregate in the man-made pool. And then I looked up.
A pair of huge golden eagles were swooping overhead. There were seagulls and crows trying to chase them to no avail. One of the pair grabbed a small songbird out of the air and carried its prey off to the top of a nearby building. The seagulls and crows continued their protestations, attempting to chase them out of their territory.
On the walk back to the hotel I was thinking about what these birds could teach us. The ducks, geese, seagulls, crows, and other birds all understood they had a common enemy. The ducks, who are neither fast, nor aggressive, gathered together, offering safety in numbers. The goose, who was likely too large for the eagles, sent out the warning cry, telling the other birds to hide. The seagulls and crows, who are fast and nimble attempted to drive the eagles out of their territory and disrupt their hunting. These birds of all different shapes, sizes, and temperament, managed an unintentional unity, understanding the threat to one was a threat to all.