Jackpot with the Birdwatching

Sweetwater Wetlands Park

Tracy’s very wonderful sister took us to an unusual water filtration area that’s also a bird preserve. It’s a 125-acre man-made wetland that filters run-off water and pollution from Gainesville through a series reservoirs. They were built and opened to the public as a bird sanctuary gradually so the ecosystem could settle.

Here’s an aerial photo overlain with a map: it’s pretty cool, to say the least.

What drew us are the birds that are in abundance there right now due to the migration season. Darci said it’s full of birds, and man did she not exaggerate.

We met her knowledgeable friend, Naoma, there, who’s also a birder. She and Tracy fell behind on our walk, lifting their binoculars and then cross-referencing various birding apps, while Darci and I walked ahead scouting for gators.

Even hardly-know-a-chicadee-from-a-nuthatch me enjoyed looking at the birds. We saw sandhill cranes, storks, all manner of herons (my favorite are the small blue ones, although we did see a tri-colored heron for the first time), grebes, ibis, gallinules, cormorants, oh my, tons of ducks, a red-shouldered hawk, on and on and on.

Plus a showdown between two alligators where the smaller one drove the larger one underwater.

Seriously, we walked for two hours just gawking. My iphone does a terrible job with telephoto photos (seeing as how it doesn’t have a telephoto lens) so please just take my word for it—Tracy described the amount of waterfowl as “overwhelming.” Thank you, Darci and Naoma!

Back at the Springs

The spring here at our campground, Gornto (don’t ask me), is 72 degrees F all year round, which is probably refreshing when it’s 90 degrees out. Today it hit an usual 80 while we were birding, so I was looking forward to a dip.

I’m joking in this photo, but it really was COLD!

I swam a few laps like my mom used to, with her head above water and her arms and legs doing the breast-stroke, and I chatted with some folks who rode their jet skis up the Suwannee to the edge of the spring and put their go-pro down in the water. They said there’s a cliff right in the middle, which made me wish I’d gotten my snorkeling mask out of the back of the truck. That thing’s really buried though, plus the water was so so so cold. I’ll bring my mask and fins out for the Keys.

Goodbye, Deep South.

Goodbye friendly camp hosts who pull their truck up the road to guard the federally protected gopher turtle as he walks along.

And who solve the washer/dryer dilemma in their trailer by buying full-sized ones and putting them outside under a tarp.

Tomorrow we head off to our first reservation with HipCamp. This is yet another organization akin to Harvest Hosts, but more like AirBnB for RVers: people post their spare land on the HipCamp listings, and we pick what suits us and pay through the app. We’ll see!

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