Lake Marion Creek WMA

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Mark Kosinski
Landscape and Nature Photographer

perched Florida Scrub Jay
We are extremely excited to have had the opportunity to photograph not just one but three Florida Scrub Jays. We began our morning heading out to Lake Marion Creek WMA, which is close to where we live. Little did we know when we left home that we would have this opportunity. We arrive at Lake Marion Creek WMA just after sunrise and I captured a couple of nice landscapes with the sun rising and a heavy dense fog. As we began our trek through the Wildlife Management Area we noticed there was quite a bit of bird activity. We stopped by a large longleaf pine and watched and photographed several warblers and two blue jays. We walked a bit further down the trail and there was a scrub jay, being a sentinel in the oak scrubs right next to the trail. I got several shots of the bird as we watched it.
The Florida Scrub Jay is an endemic species to Florida and is on the Federal Threatened Species list. Other lists in the state list the bird as threatened or endangered. The reason the Florida Scrub Jay is on any of the lists is that the scrubs are high ground, easily built upon for homes. Much of the scrub areas in the state have been destroyed which is the only habitat for the Florida Scrub Jay. When a species habitat is reduced or removed the species will cease to exist. From reports we have read, there are less than 6,000 Florida Scrub Jays left.

The Lake Marion Creek WMA is a huge area with multiple entrances. We have always entered using the entrance off Baltic Drive (Baltic Court) or Lake Marion (Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve). The entire area is 8,000 acres mostly in Polk County, but a portion in Osceola County.

We went further into the Baltic Court area and enjoyed hiking the trails. The walking isn’t the best, most of the trails are white sand (think of beach sand). We walked to the extreme northern portion of the Baltic Court section of the WMA where we saw the barbed wire fence put in place by the Water Management folks. Just beyond to the north is Lake Marion Creek which feeds into Lake Marion. As we headed south we went back into the oak scrub (the habitat favored by scrub jays) and found another scrub jay. I got a few more photographs of the scrub jay there before we headed south west through the scrub. I got a few shots of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers which are abundant in the Baltic Court section and then another scrub jay. In all a pretty successful and exciting day for us.

As a precaution if you go to the Baltic Court Section of Lake Marion Creek WMA, go to google maps put in Baltic Drive. Print out the area of Baltic Court because there are no maps available. The trails are all white sand and show up readily on the image. Although there are trails it is quite easy to get caught up in watching birds and not notice where you are. Another pointer, take water, bug repellent and a cell phone just to be safe.If you plan on hiking the entire area plan on about 2 to 3 hours.