I love this time of year! Everything is turning green! Critters are full of energy, mating season is in full swing and the forest is coming alive!
Hillsborough River State Park is located about 45 minutes just North of Tampa on Hwy 301.
This place is one of the few wild places left in Hillsborough County. On any visit you are sure to see a variety of birds and mammals. Our first sighting was a young red-shouldered hawk and right after we saw a grey squirrel nibbling on the new green shoots of an oak tree. Orchids were starting to grow and baby lubber grasshoppers were gathered together on small shrubs.
It is so much fun sharing spring with individuals that have not been out to actually see all the outdoors has to offer. Today I was hiking with 3 wonderful young ladies that were very interested in all I had to show them. We looked at the spring lilies blooming, small neon spiders with their perfect round webs, and we were even greeted by a very large Pileated Woodpecker that came down to the ground not far from us to nab a beetle.
The girls were surprised how beautiful the river was and that you could see the bottom – and even the fish! They marveled over a large beetle on a clump of moss growing low on the bark of a tree and the fast anoles that scurried from sight with each step down the trail.
We all ran across the bridges playing like children and watched as an Ibis hunted for a late morning snack. A small blue mayfly landed nearby and brought with him yet another round of inquisitive questions.
The trees along the trail were another subject for conversation “How old is this tree?” “Why is this tree hollow all the way up, how can it live?” “Why are the trees growing sideways?” Each question I answered with patience, hoping some of the information I shared would be retained.
The girls patiently watched for otters and armadillos, alligators and turtles and were please to see the latter of the two! We watched the alligators patiently, and they asked a lot of questions (once they realized it was safe to stay where we were). It was time for a break so we had a snack and opened an owl pellet that one of the guests of the park handed them. We added a bit of water to soften the pellet and the girls started tearing it apart gently. They found the remains of over 4 mice by the count of the skulls and mandibles. It was fun identifying many of the tiny bones, but soon they were ready to move on and hike some more.
More turtles, birds, climbing trees and alligators and fish were present the second part of the trip. I showed them a turtle den, blackberry flowering and wood sorrel. There were cardinals and squirrels to keep us company to.
Soon it was time to finish up for the day. I carry the smiles of these young ladies with me still. Their joy was contagious. If you get a chance, take a child outside. Show them that they have so much more to learn if they will just open their eyes and ears to the experience. Happy Spring to you all and happy trails!
For more information on Hillsborough River State Park visit: http://www.floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver/
For more photos from this trip “Click Here”
To take a guided hike, camping trip or backpacking trip with us visit: www.notaclueadventures.com