|Sand Hill Cranes and Other Wildlife in Paynes
Prairie Preserve State Park and
St. Marks NWR in Florida
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Two of several sandhill cranes (有丹頂的美洲沙丘鶴) feeding on the farm field along SE County Road
225 near junction of SE County Road 225 and SE 182 Ave in the village of Evinston, Florida. It is the
section of County Road 225 along Orange Lake, between Route 346 and Route 441 and is about 15
miles south of Gainesville in north central Florida.
On January 12, 2014, we came to tour Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Cross Creek and the
Village of Evinston near Gainesville mainly to look for sandhill cranes.
The website of the park indicates that a spectacular roost with thousands of Greater Sandhill Cranes can be
observed at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Gainesville during the winter. We came and toured
southern part and southwestern part of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, saw some wildlife, but we did
not see sandhill cranes in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in the morning of January 12, 2014. May be
we did not go to the right place in this huge park to see sandhill cranes. I did ask the lady ranger in the
Visitor Center for the best place in this park to see sandhill cranes. The lady ranger said that sandhill cranes
were all over the place, but she could not recommend any particular good place in this park for me.
Furthermore, for safety reason, this state park closes at sunset time such that we could not stay at sunset
time to try to see the spectacular fly-in of large number of sandhill cranes converging onto their evening
We drove a few mile away from the park and had lunch in nearby Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek,
Florida. We asked the restaurant host for good location(s) to see sandhill cranes. The restaurant host
recommended County Road 225 at Evinston as a good place to see sandhill cranes and indeed we saw
some sandhill cranes feeding at farm field in that location. The name of Yearling Restaurant is related to the
novel entitled "Yearling" by the writer, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who lived in Cross Creek for many years.
The 1946 movie entitled "Yearling" made by MGM was adapted from this novel.
Some sandhill cranes were in the air over the farm field at Evinston.
This sandhill crane was coming in for landing on the farm field.
An eagle nest high on the tree near the Visitor Center in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
There are many observation platforms and wildlife viewing areas located throughout this large state park
(22,000 acres of wilderness). Some of the animals commonly seen in the park include: sandhill cranes, bald
eagles, alligators, otters, deer, bobcat and snakes plus 270 species of birds.
Two of many wild horses very far away on the huge prairie as seen from the Observation Tower near the
Visitor Center. Two visitors at this Observation Tower told us that they went to the northern part of this big
park and they saw many interesting birds, big alligators and other wildlife with the scenic views of wet-prairie
and marsh habitat including Alachua Sink and Alachua Lake . But that requires hiking on long hiking trails in
northern part of the park.
One of the wild pigs on the huge prairie as seen from the Observation Tower near the Visitor Center. But we
did not see any bison that also live in the huge prairie in this park. The 50-foot-high observation tower provides
fantastic panoramic views of the huge prairie.
Many trees near the Visitor Center have beautiful long Spanish moss hanging down.
Another visitor we met in this park told us that he lives in Sabastian in east coast Florida and is about 40 miles
south of Merritt Island. He said that there are many sandhill cranes in Sabastian in the winter season. It seems
that in winter season when sandhill cranes migrate south to Florida, they are spread out and scattered over
many different areas in Florida.
This is very different from the spectacular high concentration of 18,000 sandhill cranes in their wintering ground
in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico as described on my web page at:
We had also seen thousands of sandhill cranes at their autumn staging ground at Creamer's Field
Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in the heart of Fairbanks, Alaska during autumn migration season to
prepare for their autumn migration south to California and to New Mexico as described on my web
We had also seen large number of sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana, USA
on March 4, 2011 as the stop over ground in their spring migration from Florida to northern USA and Canada
as described on my web page at:
Two of several egrets seen from the Observation Platform off Highway 441on the west side of Paynes Prairie
Preserve State Park.
A small snake on the short hiking trail between the Visitor Center and the 50-foot Observation Tower.
May be a little blue heron or reddish egret as seen from the Observation Platform on west side of the Park.
This park is beautiful, quiet and relaxing. If you are visiting central Florida, it is worthwhile to visit this park.
However, the vast size of this park with several long hiking trails makes it harder for senior people with
diminished physical ability to really enjoy everything the park has to offer.
On the morning of January 12, 2014 as we were leaving La Quinta Hotel in Gainesville to go to tour Paynes
Prairie Preserve State Park, we were happily surprised to see these lovely black-bellied whistling ducks,
egret, white ibises and other birds at a pond next to the hotel.
Many American Coots and other waterfowl in an impoundment in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
After touring Gainesville areas in north central Florida on January 12, 2014, we drove northwest to
Tallahassee in the Panhandle area in Northwest Florida. On the next morning on January 13, 2014, we drove
south 25 miles from Tallahassee to tour St. Marks NWR. When we arrived at the Visitor Center of St. Marks
NWR to look for information, the old lady ranger in the Visitor Center asked me about what kinds of bird or
wildlife I was interested to see in this NWR. I said that I would like to see whooping cranes in this NWR. The
old lady ranger laughed and said that those small number of whooping cranes are still seriously endangered
and are in a very remote secrete location to minimize their contacts with strangers and visitors.
The St. Marks NWR is home to one of the coveted wintering sites for the endangered Whooping Cranes that
are led south from Wisconsin by the ultra-light aircraft of Operation Migration. Operation Migration begins
training Whooping Crane chicks with the ultra-light aircraft shortly after birth in Wisconsin and continue to the
time of migration when the aircraft acts as surrogate parents leading the young birds south and imprinting their
first annual migration.
With such understanding, we felt that we were indeed very lucky to have seen two whooping cranes in
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park two days ago.
On the other hand, our friend, Engmu Shih, visited Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Rockport,
Texas in January 2014. They took a boat tour in this NWR and saw several whooping cranes in the NWR.
Several years ago, our late friend and birding expert, Y.Y. Huang, also saw whooping cranes very far away in
Texas. It might be also in this NWR.
On our 2015 January birding tour of Texas Gulf Coast, we indeed saw many wild whooping cranes as shown
on my web page at:
Pelicans at the Apalachee Bay.
Many waterfowl in these impoundments
Egret and white ibises
One of American Coots taking off from the water.
One of several turtles that we saw.
I am not sure if this is a little blue heron or reddish egret.
One of many grebes in this NWR
Several American Coots and other waterfowl were taking off from the water.
May be one or two eagles in the air in this NWR.
Zoom in for closer views of American Coots and other waterfowl.
May be a reddish egret?
How I use information age technologies to enhance my enjoyment greatly of sightseeing large driving tour loop
of thousands of miles and of one to two weeks in duration covering many Points of Interest is described on my
web page at: