Paynes Prairie State Park in North Florida is famous for the flocks of sandhill cranes that winter here among the local birds, wild horses, and bison.
This winter, I finally got to travel back up to Gainesville to explore Paynes Prairie State Park and few other natural areas to look for sandhill cranes, big roaming mammals, and lots of gators and wading birds. To my delight I saw and photographed more than I even expected.
A special thank you to my dear friend Hollie, who took me to a few of her favorite places and inspired me to keep going further.
Here are a few moments and photos from these walks into the state park. In the future, I’m planning more blog posts about other photo walks around Gainesville outside of the state park – and also at least one post with photos from a spring-time visit.
For less words and more / other / changing photos, check out the related photo gallery.
While I took lots of landscape and plant-life photos, when I picked favorites from this trip into Paynes Prairie State Park, a majority of them seem to be of birds, yet again. Birds have been keeping me saner (by distracting and delighting) throughout these weird times. Hope they’re doing the same for you.
I had made it back into Paynes Prarie State Park and up the observation platform and almost walked back down without seeing the deer staring back at me from the remaining fog. But in the last moment I did. About an hour later I saw a deer jump a fence and get stuck in barbed wire – it was coming from the other direction trying to get back into the park. So I don’t think it’s from this group. But who knows? It was an awful ordeal to witness. I called the ranger station and eventually someone came and cut the deer loose. She jumped away quickly – and I was assured she’d be fine. I had accidentally dropped my “Let’s make the world a happier place.” notebook and the ranger who gave it back to me said: today, you really did. I was so touched by his words – but couldn’t help feeling that I was the one who had disturbed the deer in the first place (even though they were not running away from me – but across my path at few hundred feet ahead, I still fear I may have startled them by my presence in their early morning world).
In case you’d like to see close-ups of sandhill cranes, I did captured some of those as well, just not at Paynes Prarie State Park (figures). For now you can find some of those photos in this gallery: Colorful Birds. They might get their own album one day…
On my way back towards the parking lot on my last walk during this particular Paynes Prarie visit (there surely will be more), I suddenly saw a dark hulking shape behind a curve on the trail. It moved and stepped out onto the trail: one of the wild bison roaming the large state park!
How much I wanted to see and capture one suddenly paled in comparison to the realization that I was all alone on a otherwise deserted trail and that a provoked bison had fairly recently attacked a woman in Yellowstone National Park. Suddenly I didn’t just feel humbled by the presence of this big wild animal in its world where I was just trespassing, but I was actually a bit scared. City girl after all. I took a few super fast photos, made an even faster calculation to step off the trail and into the muck on the side that didn’t seem to have gator holes (just lots of bison tracks) and started telegraphing “please don’t come over here, please just keep walking past me”.
The bison started walking on the path again, walked slowly past me and then turned to the side with the gator holes and disappeared in-between the tall prairie grasses and shrubs again.
Of course, I was never in any danger – because I’m not an idiot and won’t walk up to a wild animal much larger than me, nor to a smaller one that might get frightened by me.
Image(s) from this blog post directly available for purchase as wall art:
Pier Into The Fog$40.00 – $550.00
Those Pinterest Images…