Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

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ScottAL
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Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by ScottAL » July 8th, 2014, 5:17 pm

I thought about asking about this in the birding forum but thought I might get more responses here.
I'm thinking about a couple of days camping/birding/herping in the Ocala NF east of Ocala in October, specifically for Florida Scrub Jay but also any herps that might be about.
Is this a good area for the Jays? What herps could one expect in this area at that time of year?
I've yet to see an EDB in the wild so that would be fantastic if it is possible.

Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated. I've never herped Florida south of ANF, so it'll be a new experience for me.

Thanks

Scott

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Noah M
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by Noah M » July 8th, 2014, 6:29 pm

Ocala NF is not the kind of place to reveal its secrets easily. I usually discourage people from herping there because it can take much effort to find anything. That is unless of course you're looking for Six-lined racerunners or frogs that might be found around some of the lakes or ponds. Racerunners and frogs are everywhere. I have seen scrub jays in the forest, but there are probably better places in the state to view them. I have never seen an EDB there.

Let us know how it goes!

frogfish
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by frogfish » July 8th, 2014, 7:19 pm

Merritt Island has a lot of Scrub Jays...shot at an EDB too (albeit they are not too common there)

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PrimitiveTim
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by PrimitiveTim » July 8th, 2014, 7:59 pm

frogfish wrote:Merritt Island has a lot of Scrub Jays...shot at an EDB too (albeit they are not too common there)
Yup MINWR the jays will land on your head. I've found an EDB out there too. They are there but they'd be difficult. A lot of cool stuff out there for sure though. Send me a PM if you want more info on the area. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is my backyard and my office ;) I might even be able to meet up if you want.

Carl D. May
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by Carl D. May » July 9th, 2014, 3:04 am

captainjack0000 wrote:Ocala NF is not the kind of place to reveal its secrets easily.
Amen! There are of course all kinds of herps in the ONF but for me it has been almost totally non productive. Over several decades I have spent countless hours traversing Hwy 40 from Ormond Beach to Silver Springs at all hours of the day and every month of the year...yet I can honestly say that I have never--NEVER even seen so much as a black racer, or box turtle, or gopher tortoise crossing the road. Same goes for the various side roads to springs, outlying settlements and so on.
I have found a few things of minor interest while flipping or hiking but these have been limited to common lizards and toads.

Head for Merritt Island!

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Mike VanValen
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by Mike VanValen » July 9th, 2014, 1:29 pm

That is really surprising to hear about Ocala. I figured it would be a gold mine!

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Noah M
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by Noah M » July 9th, 2014, 2:12 pm

When I first moved to Gainesville, I poured over maps and Ocala looks like it would be awesome. One big contiguous block of green on the map. I spent a better part of a year searching there, being the naive newcomer. Yes there are herps there. This is Florida, even our most urban cities have some herps around, but I have found other areas of the state to be much more productive than Ocala.

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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by JakeScott » July 9th, 2014, 5:47 pm

I'd agree with everyone else, for the most part. Ocala can be a drag, for sure. It's a tough place to herp with a ton of very nice looking habitat. I find a few areas of the forest very productive and others seemingly absent of life. It is vast, and only a few roads that are accessible with standard vehicles. Scrub jays....they are there, and are common, but if you want to get really close, everyone else said it, Merritt Island. On the east end of the island, just north of where A. Max Brewer Pkwy and Courtney Pkwy meet there is a scrub park. They are super approachable.

This photo was taken there and I was within 10 feet:

ImageFlorida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

-Jake

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ScottAL
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by ScottAL » July 10th, 2014, 12:49 am

Thanks everyone!
I might go to Ocala NF first, then shoot over to Merritt too.

scott

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PrimitiveTim
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by PrimitiveTim » July 10th, 2014, 5:45 am

I wasn't even exaggerating...
Image
Birders gonna bird

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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by BillMcGighan » July 10th, 2014, 1:13 pm

You can almost always see Scrub Jays on the wires between Mill Dam and the town of Astor on Rt 40.

The best places I've found for herps in the ONF centered around water:

Canoe and wade the spring runs for Brown Waters, gators, turtles, occasional Indigos, and the illusive Rainbow.
If you have a small boat, rivers with old cypress shorelines are good for waters, Moccasins, yellow rats. Look into tangled brush or cabbage palm growing out of the old cypress stumps on the river’s edge. Be careful drifting into the palm fronds, they often have large wasp nests.


Wet Prairies have Muds and Kings.


I’ve found more herps road cruising sandy roads more that paved from predawn to 10AM, then 7pm to midnight; corns, edbs, pygs, SKs. If you have 4WD, there are tons of sandy roads. If you see an owl at night on a sandy road, look carefully for a small snake at that spot. (One evening my wife and I found 3 yearling yellow rats and one yearling corn, each sparring with a screech owl!)

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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by Jimi » July 10th, 2014, 1:20 pm

Hmm. People seem to have had a hard time on the Ocala! I had my share of skunkage there, but I also saw 5 or 6 EDB's, 3 pines, quite a few pigs, corals, etc. And gopher frogs, striped newts, river frogs, etc. I had the advantage of being a "fish and game" employee and spending some time in the woods. But also some time just herping on my own time, in the evenings and weekends.

There are more bears there than you can believe, and also a whole lot of FL scrub-jays. Just look for sizeable patches (at least 200 acres, say) of early-successional sand pine scrub. About shoulder-high with numerous openings is best. Trees are not your friend, stay away from them if you want jays. The jays are naturally curious, if you do some "pishing" they'll often come around. If you want to feed them peanuts try another population, these don't get the traffic for that...

It's quite easy to find places to get stuck in sand on the Ocala. Fair warning. If you bring a tire inflator (the kind you plug into your car's cigarette lighter or "power port"), you can air down to 10 psi or so for vastly improved 2 WD (or even with 4 WD, in the deepest stuff!) sand-driving. Then air up when you get back to pavement.

Here's a contact for statewide info on FL scrub-jays (Ocala, Merritt, whatever - there must be 50 or more populations around the state, some healthy, most not, some habituated, most not). These are just awesome birds; the state and tons of partners are putting a lot of effort into conserving them. I don't know Craig, I knew his predecessor Adam when I worked in that office.

Craig Faulhaber
Florida Scrub-Jay Conservation Coordinator

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
1239 SW 10th Street
Ocala, FL 34471
Office 352.732.1225
Fax 352.732.1391


cheers,
Jimi

Lloyd Heilbrunn
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Re: Ocala NF for Scrub Jays and herps?

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » July 11th, 2014, 6:59 am

Saw this big guy there a few weeks back:

Image

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