Catfish Creek Preserve State Park

Mark Kosinski
Landscape and Nature Photographer

As we continue to work on our Florida Scrub Jay project we ventured out in the early morning to Allen David Boussard Catfish Creek Preserve State park. This park has some rugged trails that are mostly soft white sand. The trails are a bit hard to walk and balance in (think of white powdery beach sand). The trails are also a bit hilly.
We observed two hairy woodpeckers in the area. I photographed them as they pecked away looking for breakfast. Down the hill from us there were a few more standing dead trees. I walked down the hill and threre were more woodpeckers. This time red-bellied and hairy woodpeckers. I thought it was odd seeing a red-bellied and a hairy woodpecker so close together in the same tree on the same branch. They seemed to not care that they were there together.
We continued to search for Florida Scrub Jays with very little success. The sun was rising higher and the morning was almost gone. We saw and photographed a Great Crested Flycatcher that had found and was enjoying breakfast.

The trail we were on was going into a prairie and pine flat wood area leaving the scrub behind us. We decided to turn around and head down another trail. The next trail had oak scrub on one side, the other side had new grown and re-growth occurring from a recent prescribed burn. There was an abundance of bird songs to be heard but not many birds flying. Trying not to get discouraged I continued to photograph birds and plants. My wife was standing several feet behind me spotted a Florida Scrub Jay. It flew directly over her head and into the burned section of scrub.

One thing to know, Florida Scrub Jays are not always easy to locate nor are they willing to pose for the camera. Locations that work with, study and monitor Florida Scrub Jays tend to have closer contact with the birds. Being a curious nature bird along with the contact they have little to no fear of people. A good number of these birds will be banded (have colored numbered bands on their legs) to help scientists and biologists with their research efforts. In areas where the scrub tends to get a little higher and goes a bit longer between burns the birds are a bit more elusive. None of the scrub jays we have photographed so far have been banded. This isn’t to say the areas are not managed and the birds are not monitored. We know that they are and appreciate the fact the monitoring is not intrusive to the natural way of life for these birds.

In this area we captured several Florida Scrub Jays from a distance. Despite our efforts to get closer the jays were a bit timid and watching us too closely for us to get real close. As we headed back to the parking lot we noticed a group (about 6 to 8) Florida Scrub Jays darting around, seeming to be playing in the morning sun. Among the Florida Scrub Jays there were Blue Jays, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and a few pine warblers.

This was to date the largest group of Florida Scrub jays we have seen. In total we counted 7 different Florida Scrub Jays. Four of them seemed more playful than the others. The blue jays seem to enjoy the same habitats as we always seem to see both Florida Scrub Jays and Blue Jays in the same areas.