One of the things Mike and I wanted to be sure to do while in Cedar Key was visit the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuge. We have a real love for the wildlife refuges in our country. In 2009 we volunteered at Hagerman NWR in Texas and have been in love ever since. Once we purchase our next RV we definitely want to get back into volunteering in the various wildlife refuges around the country.
The Lower Suwannee NWR is quite large….53,000 acres to be exact. This refuge was developed to protect one of the largest undeveloped river-delta estuarine systems in the U.S.
It consist of natural salt marshes, tidal flats, bottomland hardwood swamps, and hardwood forest making an excellent habitat for thousands of large and small creatures.
The first day out we decided to take the Shell Mound Loop which is the closest loop to Cedar Key. This loop took us down three driving paths…..Dennis Creek Trail, Shell Mound Trail and the Shell Mound Fishing Pier. This was a very nice peaceful drive showing the different habitats provided by this NWR. It was on the Shell Mound Trail that we spotted a beautiful hawk sitting on a cable wire.
We weren’t sure which hawk he was but after consulting a few pictures we felt he might be a Red Shoulder Hawk. When I posted the picture on Facebook one of my friends said it was a Coopers Hawk. So if we have any birders reading perhaps you can shed some light on this beautiful creature. I was so excited that I was able to get such a good shot of him with my little Sony point and shoot camera. YAY me!! A few very distinctive looking Vultures were sunning themselves on an overlook. Must have been an off day for them!
The next day we set out to drive the 9 mile Lower Suwannee Nature Drive. We were in hopes of spotting some birds or other wildlife on this drive but I am afraid it was just too hot. The heat index was probably near 105 and the humidity was extremely high. That was disappointing but the drive was not. It was also a very beautiful peaceful drive showing a much larger area of the habitats this refuge provides. The most impressive area we passed through was the swamp area.
It seemed to go on forever and was definitely a swamp land. We saw some beautiful wild ferns growing among the trees, many lily pads and huge cypress trees growing right in the shallow water. We drove through the flood plain hardwood forest, scrub oak communities, and of course the pine plantation in the upland area.
A great day and a great drive through what is proudly known as “old” Florida showing the huge amounts of vegetation that provide for the creatures that call this Suwannee River Country their home.