Monday, June 22, 2015

30 Days in June: Day 21, Gum Root Park

Gum Root Park
On Father's Day evening I convinced my good sport of a husband to accompany me to Gum Root Park. It had been another very hot day and the fact that Gum Root is a wooded, mostly shady park made it more appealing to him than something out in the blazing sun. Thunderstorms were rolling in and it seemed like a bit of a gamble, but I really wanted to visit another park on my list and see if I could find any more birds for the June Challenge.

Gnarled Tree

Gum Root is a quiet City of Gainesville Nature park in East Gainesville. It is near a busy county highway and just past the airport, so there can be a lot of traffic noise. I like to hike here with a friend because it is rather isolated. On past visits I have found Hog Plums in bloom covered with beautiful butterflies and interesting fungi. The information kiosk said that it was possible to see Turkeys in the park, and this made me happy because I haven't seen any yet this month.

Barred Owl
We headed past the huge, towering oaks and into the woods. Immediately, Art said, "there's an owl". A barred owl flew past, landed in a tree just ahead of us, and proceeded to hoot. "Who Cooks for You…".  I took a few blurry photos and it flew further back to watch us from a distance. It called again and I couldn't resist the urge to call back. We hooted a few times back and forth and I hope I did not say something rude in owl.

Tick Pond
The path took us to a clearing with a pond. We could hear lots of frogs and scared off an Egret, a Great Blue Heron and some Red Shouldered Hawks. Standing at the edge of the pond, we realized that we were covered in ticks and scampered back to the trail to pull them off and apply bug spray. The mosquitoes were not a problem but the ticks were terrible.

Open Area

Storm Clouds in the Distance

The thunder sounded closer and I thought I felt a couple of rain drops, but we kept walking. I felt terribly guilty dragging my poor husband out into the heat and rain and ticks, but was secretly overjoyed to have an adventure together. Soon we came to a big clearing. The path turned out across a big field or pasture. This is where I had seen Hog Plums before. It seemed like a good place for Turkeys, or even Bobwhite Quail, but we did not see any. We did see some Mourning Doves. We could hear a great deal of gunfire from a distance and were hoping that it was target practice coming from the police training area nearby. It made us both a little edgy, though.

Long Headed Toothpick Grasshopper

Elliott's Milkpea (Galactia elliottii)
We decided to turn back before the lightning started while we were in the open field. I found a funny little Longheaded Toothpick Grasshopper and some pretty Elliott's Milkpea. When we got back to the parking lot and looked at the map, it appeared that we were nearly to the end of the road when we turned around, so I don't think we missed much. Back in the forest again, we heard Turkeys gobbling from the field. Go figure. And then I found a turkey feather. I guess it won't count for the June Challenge--you have to actually see it. Oh well.

Turkey Feather

The flatwoods were very dry. The creek bed was all sand and rocks--no water at all. The moss on the forest floor was turning brown. And the fungi were few and far between. I did find some "Dog Vomit" slime mold, kind of brown around the edges. We also found trash, but Art carried it back to the garbage can in the parking lot. We passed a beautiful Fence Post Lizard with nice contrasting black, brown and white markings, and some puffs of Reindeer Moss.

Dog Vomit Slime Mold

Reindeer Moss (It's really lichen)

Fat Fencepost Lizard
Back at the car, all safe and sound, we had dodged the rain and lightning. In fact, the rain passed us by entirely. I added no new birds to my list, but did enjoy the owl and a walk in the park. And we could feel good because we had done our good deed for the day by cleaning up some trash. We drove home for a tick check and shower before dinner.

People, People, People...

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