It has been quite a few years since I have been to Oscar Scherer State Park on a birding trip. So I was excited to go on Deb Johnson’s Venice Area Birding Association trip to Oscar.
Elsa Scherer Burrows left this 460-acre ranch to the state in memory of her father, Oscar Scherer. This large acreage was opened as a state park in 1956. Some years later, Jon Thaxton and The Nature Conservancy worked to acquire adjoining land for the protection of the Florida scrub jay population. What a wonderful area this is nestled along the busy U.S. 41 corridor. It is a must to visit and hike some of the 15 miles of beautiful trails.
Three cars of VABA members merged at the parking area near Lake Osprey. Our eagle-eyed leader Deb chose the three-mile green trail for us. Before we started on the hike, we sighted a little blue heron and a tri-colored heron feeding along the banks of the lake. Patty also spotted an eastern phoebe far across the field sitting on the back of a bench.
It was not long into the hike until we were sighting mourning doves, black and turkey vultures, and extremely far away sat a mature bald eagle high in a dead tree. We also spotted two immature eagles: One in the distance and one closer up. Deb sighted a female indigo bunting, which was a great spot of the morning.
There was a lot of bird song. We heard Carolina wrens, common yellowthroats and several eastern towhee. We even stopped to listen to several sandhill cranes calling. As we listened to them, several of us watched a silhouette flyover head which turned out to be an American kestrel.
We continued our hike searching the trees and sky. Up ahead we spotted a lump crawling across the path. We knew it was turtle but needed to get closer to see what type turtle was honoring us with a visit. Diane and I ran ahead and when we got to see the turtle we were pleasantly surprised to see it was a beautiful Florida box turtle.
The weather was cool and a bit breezy when we began our trek. However, when the sun came out and the shade became rare, it turned out to be another hot and a very humid Florida day. On days like this, I make certain to have a bottle of water with me and a simple snack.
Birders need to stay hydrated, especially in hot and humid areas like Florida. There are times when two bottles of water are necessary, such as on longer hikes. If you are new to birding, make a checklist and be sure you have water on the list along with your binoculars and other needs. If you have forgotten water, perhaps a birding buddy who has brought two bottles will share with you. Staying hydrated is extremely important. Don’t leave home without it.
I used to have a small single water bottle sack which deteriorated over the years and I am looking to find one just like it — maybe in an antique shop, since it was well over 25 years old. Since it’s gone, I carry a sack with a mesh pocket on the exterior that a water bottle fits into perfectly.
I can carry the sack over my shoulder and head, swinging it around back to avoid interfering with my camera or binoculars. When I want a drink, I just reach around and grab the bottle. It’s very convenient. My trail sack was free with a donation to the Nature Conservancy. It is heavy-duty cotton and very lightweight. I have gotten many birding sacks with donations over the years.
I also have a hiker’s fanny pack. There are mesh pockets on each side that hold water bottles, and it has a zippered pouch to hold snacks, a cellphone and whatever else you need. Many sporting goods stores sell these types of fanny packs. I purchased mine at J.N.Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I like to support the refuge stores of all the places I visit. Some of the group carry small lightweight backpacks instead. These can be found in almost any discount or big box store and are quite inexpensive.
We wandered down to a charming little bridge, and I had to document this mighty group of Amazons, hiking in 96 percent humidity without much complaining. On the final mile, we mostly sighted more of the same birds but we did get to see the newly built eagle’s nest. As we exited the trail, we were anxious to get to brunch for much-needed sustenance and conversation.
Our thanks to Deb Johnson for a fun day with a great group and a wonderful experience at Oscar Scherer State Park. If any readers would like to join us for a future trip, just email me for info.
Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Area Birding Association, a group of folks who want to enjoy the environment and nature without the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more info on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding trips, visit AbbiesWorld.org/references.html or email her at Amberina@aol.com.