Explore Your World

A walk in nature is the perfect antidote to feeling stressed, fatigued, and generally unhappy. Breathe in the fresh air, and take some time to find something cool and unusual. There’s always something interesting to see, you just have to look a little more closely sometimes. Scavenger hunts are a great way to train your brain to look deeper and seek out hidden nature treasures.

I’ve made a scavenger hunt for you to use in any uplands habitat in Florida. Most of the things on the list are here year round and are relatively easy to find. Grab the kids and see what all you can find! Or go by yourself and enjoy the search.

Check out the gallery below for the things you’ll be looking for:

The scavenger hunt can be downloaded as a pdf here:

Or as a word document here:

I would love to see your photos of the things you find! Tag me on instagram at @rh_photoadventures so I can see what you come up with. Have fun!

Ollie’s Pond

When everything was shut down for a Covid-19, I decided it was a good time to check out some local birding hot spots.  Ollie’s Pond is one of those places I put off going to because I didn’t think it would be all that exciting. It’s just a big pond in the middle of a neighborhood.  My expectations were pretty low.  I was pleasantly surprised!  The first time I went, I saw seventeen species of birds. Not a huge number, but it was a fun variety.  Yesterday, there weren’t quite as many birds, but the few I did see were pretty exciting. There were black-necked stilts, white pelicans, and a roseate spoonbill, along with the usual suspects like red-winged blackbirds and osprey.

There’s really not much to this small county park.  There are no amenities, and there’s no fee.  It’s just about a mile around the pond, with a couple of benches.  The park is also dog-friendly, which my Rocco appreciates!

My short and sweet review: it’s a great place to see a good variety of birds and the occasional alligator, but I wouldn’t go too far out of my way for a visit.  If you’re nearby, it’s definitely worth checking out.


White pelicans with a black-necked stilt flyover. There’s also a great blue heron hiding in the reeds to the left. He gives a good size comparison for the white pelicans. One of the largest birds in North America, the American white pelican’s wing span is nine feet!

Just a nice little view.

We didn’t see any alligators this day, but we did last time. A good rule of thumb is to just expect there to be alligators in any body of freshwater in Florida.

There are a couple of little bridges in the park. It was dry under them, but I’m sure that’s not the case in the rainy season.

Who’s hiding way up there?

A couple of great blue heron nestlings are getting huge and look just about ready to leave the nest.

Those pelicans look sleepy. One lone roseate spoonbill stopped by for a visit.

Looks like he’s taking a nap too.

It may not be a huge lake, but it really is pretty! It was nice of the rain to give us a little break.

One of several great blue herons. They’re such patient hunters!

There were a lot of juvenile white ibis. Have you ever seen juveniles? They start off almost completely brown and gradually become pure white over a couple of years.

Osprey hanging out in the treetops.

Did you know osprey were once highly endangered due to the use of DDT (a pesticide that caused egg shells to be too thin to be viable)? Banning DDT in 1972 in the US contributed to a great rebound success story for these birds.

Ochlockonee River State Park

A trip through Florida’s Big Bend area and into the panhandle is like a trip back in time.  Urban sprawl has yet to infect this remote area of the state.  Taking a drive across the 220 mile long Big Bend Scenic Byway will take you through miles of longleaf pine forests and along fabulously undeveloped white, sandy coastline.  I didn’t know before I went, but apparently a detailed brochure exists to help you navigate this incredible highway and really take in all it has to offer.  It can be found here: http://www.floridabigbendscenicbyway.org/sites/default/files/media/docs/Byway-Guide-20120319.pdf

A drive down the scenic byway is one of many things we did while we were in the area.  We visited several state parks within a couple of hours of Ochlockonee, but here we’ll focus on this one incredible state park.  I realized I was pronouncing it all wrong when a kind ranger gave me a tip to say it right.  He said it’s O-Clock-Knee.  Now you know.

Welcome to Ochlockonee!  Driving down route 319 near the tiny town of Sopchoppy, you’ll end up here at the park.  If you’re planning to camp here for awhile, it may be helpful to know that the nearest Walmart is about forty minutes away in Crawfordville.  The nearest store is a Dollar General, about fifteen minutes away.  There really is nothing around here!

Continue reading “Ochlockonee River State Park”

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

It was pretty easy deciding which place I wanted to share first.  I have a lot of favorites, but my absolute favorite is easily Corkscrew Swamp.  Cypress swamps are my favorite, and this place has the largest old growth bald cypress forest in the world.  It’s also home to one of the largest nesting colonies of endangered wood storks in the U.S.

Continue reading “Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary”

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