I think everyone can agree that our most recent field trip to Lake Louisa State Park for our kayaking/nature tour was very educational and overall a fun experience. Killian Hiltz from Orange Audubon chapter along with Lavon Silvernell and Suzi Harr from OVAS participated in the field trip. Between our combined knowledge of flora and fauna of central Florida, we were able to identify almost everything we encountered. Lavon knows her plants, Killian’s has a great eye for birds, and I filled in with insects/butterflies and birding by ear.
Lake Louisa State Park is one of the cleanest and well-managed state parks in Florida that I have visited, which is why I chose to have the field trip at this location. The best part about it is that even the beach area where swimming is permitted is remarkably quiet and peaceful.
We started our field trip at the butterfly garden behind the pay station at the entrance. There were numerous Gulf Fritillaries, Zebra Heliconia, Polydamas Swallowtails, a Clouded Skipper, and more. Lavon spotted an empty White-eyed Vireo nest made from Spanish Moss and I spotted an unusual pollinating moth hiding in the Coontie plants. I had to send the photo to a moth expert for identification.
On our way to the beach, we stopped at a field with goldenrod and Golden Aster. Here we spotted several Common Buckeyes, Zebra Swallowtails, and Eastern Bluebird. A Northern Bobwhite was heard calling and Lavon even found a Zebra Swallowtail caterpillar on a branch above a small Pawpaw plant, it’s host.
The staff at Lake Louisa State Park was nice enough to let us walk around their administration building, where there are several wild flowers and a nice native plant garden. A quick look got us a new species for the trip- Long-tailed Skipper nectaring on Bidens alba.
We then made our way to the beach area to meet with our kayak tour guide Patrick Creveling, who was working as a contractor for P3 Kayak/Cycling Company. Patrick gave everyone a quick tutorial for newer kayakers and off we went. He taught us about a plane that crashed at that site during WWII and about the tannins in the water from the Bald Cypress tress. We heard Red-winged Blackbirds and saw a Great Egret along the edge of the water. Getting back into the Cypress swamps was so peaceful and relaxing. Hiroshi and Susan, two of our OVAS members, were new to kayaking, but handled the turns through the Cypress trees with ease after a little practice.
Our guide, Patrick was friendly and professional and even took several photos of our group for us. His website can be found through Facebook and he leads tours from Lake Louisa and Silver Springs. Please consider his tour company, Eco-Active Tours if you’re interested in seeing the real Florida up close and personal!