On Sept 18, 2008 I had to take a trip up near Branford, Fl. So, I checked out the parks I would pass on the way and decided to make my first stop Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park and the Great Alachua Savannah. I knew I did not have long – but I wanted to have a quick look around and boy was I pleased. My first sighting there was of a covey of turkey right on the roadside. I saw even more as I traveled in from the front entrance. Upon arriving at the parking lot for the visitors center I came across a nice display on bird watching on trails out there. I had to follow a short paved path over to the visitors center. There were some very large banana spiders that have taken up residence on the sides and in the trees above the path. There were quite a few song birds flittering in and out amongst the trees to greet me.
The visitors center was very well maintained and really a joy to visit! There was so much information there about the preserve. The girl working the desk was very helpful and they had some nice gifts there also. My favorite part was checking out the photographs taken by one of their volunteers. Dom Martino is a retired professional photographer from PA that retired to Florida and now has the pleasure of spending days taking photos of this amazing place. The 2 bison photos in my album are his photos I to take a photo of to show the buffalo (I did not have time to walk the trails to see them on this visit). To see more of Dom’s work check out his website at http://dommartino.zenfolio.com/ .The visitors center is run by Friends of Payne’s Prairie and their website is www.prairiefriends.org . After spending some time in the visitor’s center I took a very short walk to the 3 story tower that overlooks the prairie. It was a beautiful breezy day and I felt the tower swaying a bit – but it was sturdy enough for me. The view was magnificent! I could barely see a building off in the very far horizon (I am thinking that is Gainesville way out there) There were alot of flowers blooming and there was bird activity everywhere….but out of reach of my camera….and I was running short of time. I have put a photo album of my few better shots from this short visit – but I plan on heading back up there for a weekend trip in the fall or spring. I was told the North Entrance is the best area to see the bison. I did take a quick drive through the campground and saw a couple of deer on the roadside, and a few more turkey also. I know that is will take me a while to even start to check out that 22,000 acres of "the real Florida" but I can promise when I do I will share the adventure with you! Then I was off to O’Leno State Park….