Posted by: soniahs | October 17, 2010

Hiking Econlockhatchee Sandhills

Today, we went on our first hike of the semester. Yes, the semester is halfway over, so it is a sad commentary on our general busyness level… We decided to check out a newish trail (at least new to us), the Econlockhatchee Sandhill Conservation Area. It’s located east of UCF, in unincorporated Orange County, near the intersection of Lake Pickett and Tanner Rds.

It’s now in the low 80’s, so great hiking weather. This hike would have been pretty brutal in the shadeless spots in the summer- it’s partly shaded. The conservation area includes patches of sandhill scrub, pine flatwoods, and some riparian forest (though the trail doesn’t take you to the river). There were some nice open oak woodland areas with lichen on the ground, and some cool old snags that I bet would make great hawk perches (didn’t see any, though).

The trail goes through mixed pine and oak forest, then cuts through a treeless area, before getting back into the patchy pines and oaks for the long loop. There were several types of oak trees, some pines, and a wider variety of trees near the entrance. Since it was about 1 pm, there wasn’t a lot of wildlife up and about, but we did hear what we assume were a bunch of armadillos trundling through the saw palmettos. We did see a few birds- I’ll put my list at the end of this post. There were raccoon and armadillo tracks- didn’t see deer tracks, though they are definitely around.And more butterflies than I expected to see, including a bunch of nice looking swallowtails.

The trail was well-marked, and there were a number of old roads that you could probably take in addition to the trail. If you wanted to get to the river, these roads are probably your best bet. Overall, it was nice to just get out and enjoy the day.

Birds: black vultures, turkey vultures, red-shouldered hawk (heard), turkeys (heard), 2 falcons (probably peregrine, but way overhead), Carolina wren, eastern phoebe, tufted titmice (2 noisy flocks), mockingbirds, American robin, Northern cardinal, blue-gray gnatcatchers, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpeckers, palm warblers, prairie warbler, black & white warbler, possible brown thrasher

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