The town of St. Marks is 3 plus hours North and West of Ocala, 17 miles South of Tallahassee and home to the St. Marks National Wildlife Preserve. We stayed in an Art-Deco Bed and Breakfast "Sweet Magnolia Inn" with a "get-comfortable-and-help-yourself" relaxed style. The Inn-keepers, Andy and his wife Denise, were great hosts - making breakfast to order and visiting over wine and munchies in the evenings.
But our destination was the huge - 68,000 acres - National Wildlife Preserve just down Route 98. The entrance is a beautiful seven-mile drive to the St. Marks lighthouse and the preserve is home to many species of migratory birds.
The Saint Marks Lighthouse
We saw Bald Eagles all three days we visited. One of the volunteers told us there are 23 nesting pairs in the park. The light was not great for pictures - but I took lots and lots anyway.
I love these Cattle Egrets with their pink blush indicating they are ready and willing to begin mating.
Boat-tailed Grackles were everywhere.
We saw many kinds of shore birds and ducks. This is a Laughing Gull sporting his mating plumage with the black head.
The Great Blue Herons are always fun to photograph. They stay still - unlike the little birds.
The Thistle were blooming along the road and I was surprised to see Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower showing off their bright red throats when the sun hit them just right. I really tried to get a great picture - showing the whole bird AND the beautiful flower AND his ruby-red throat, but it was a chore! I have a couple of so-so sucesses that I will share in future blogs.
The Red-winged Blackbirds were also everywhere - making lots of noise.
One of my favorites - a Belted Kingfisher. It may look like he has two eyes on the side - but the one closer to his spectacular beak is a white spot.
The State Bird of Florida is the Mockingbird - and they were well represented in the park.
The Wisteria was blooming - everywhere. Bill took this picture in the parking lot of the Sweet Magnolia Inn. Ocala is too far south for Wisteria, so we were thrilled when we realized our short trip to the Forgotten Coast coincided with the plant's short blooming cycle.