June 12-13, 2010
I was awakened Saturday morning to a chorus of songbirds. Bo and I stepped out of the tent and were welcomed by a beautiful Red Shouldered Hawk high in a pine tree above our camp. He/She graciously stayed for a few photos before flying off in search of breakfast. After a hot cup of coffee and a bowl of grits Bo and I were off on our first walk of the weekend. The morning sky was crystal blue and the water of the Hillsborough River appeared dark and mysterious as always. The morning sun played on the ripples of the water and the leaves on the trees. Fish were already active and feeing on the large number of water bugs. Dragonflies were zooming about feeding and about 8 baby squirrels were playing catch in the tree tops. We passed under a flock of preening vultures that were sending their feathers down from the high pine trees. After about an hour of walking Bo laid on the edge of the river and drank in the cool clear water while cooling his belly at the same time. 9 AM and it was already heating up. Fellow campers were making breakfast, heading out to rent canoes and get in a swim before it filled up! Bo and I headed back to camp; he was ready for a nap already. The rest of the day would be spent fishing from the shore, catching up on reading, studying a bit and enjoying the day. Surely a mid day nap would be appropriate! Rob arrived later that afternoon and we enjoyed some hamburgers while waiting on the day to cool down.
About 6-7 pm we took Bo for a walk up to the rapids and we scouted out some additional fishing holes. We were very disappointed by the large number of invasive armored catfish along the river. No wonder the number of bass and bluegill numbers are down. These fish were entered into our waterways by persons that bought them for their aquariums and when the fish get too big they just released them to the wild. Unfortunately these fish love dining on the eggs of our game-fish and multiply at a very high rate of speed; when nesting this species is also very destructive to the riverbeds.
The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at camp. We were visited many time by Red-Shouldered hawks that continuously were taking meals to 2 young in a tree just 3 spots away from us. The 2 young hawks were just learning to get out of the nest and one was attempting very short flights. They were brought gifts of lizards, snakes, rodents and other unidentifiable critters. I am quite sure these young will not be at their nest more than another day or so.
Saturday nights the park offers campfire chats and this week the subject was alligators. It is hard to believe persons still must be educated not to feed the gators. A fed gator is a death sentence for them. Currently there are two alligators that have lost their fear of humans that park staff is trying to remove. We saw the nuisance alligator removal truck when we entered the park on Friday, but the trapper had no luck locating them this time.
Sunday morning was wonderfully cool and refreshing. The mist was just starting to lift and you could just tell it was going to be another hot day! After a nice morning walk with Bo, I headed back to camp to make Rob some breakfast. The cool morning air was quickly replaced with warm sunshine and rising temperatures. We decided to pack up camp before it got too hot and headed back to the house.
It is always a sad time for me to leave the outdoors, this time particularly so. I knew the park would be near empty in a few more hours and the young hawks would be testing their new wings. I really would have loved to stay and see this unfold. But for now I had to go home and prepare for another week at my day job. Soon though, I thought to myself, I would be able to make my own schedule and have the chance to be outdoors more often than not.
Weekends outdoors always leave me wanting more…..and make those moments even more cherished!