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Florida Fish Feeding, Bird Counting and a State Park

Since arriving in Florida in November Mark has been checking off some maintenance projects on Old Glory.

At the top of the list was to get our furnace going. After troubleshooting, seeking advice, replacing the motherboard then replacing the sail switch, it is working now! We gave it a good test in January when the temps dipped down to the 30’s a couple of nights. The normal temperature range in Avon Park in January seems to average highs in the upper 70s during the day and gets down to the upper 50s at night. Not a chance of snow in the forecast. We aren’t complaining!

The other repairs that Mark plans to make are: #1 replace the bathroom vent fan and #2 replace the vent cap for the grey tank (located on the roof of the RV.) We have the new parts ready to go in but we are waiting on a good sunny, warm day without wind to complete both of these projects.

Soooo, in the meantime, we have been doing some new jobs here on the range. We accompanied Allen and Linda to the stocked fish ponds to fill and check out the fish feeders. There are 4 stocked ponds that have fish feeders at Avon Park AFR. The feeders are solar powered, set on timers and they all needed to be started up for the season. Mud dobbers build their nests in the feeders when they aren’t operating so after some clean up the timers were set and the fish will be fed twice a day.

Once the feeder is checked out and operational, a large bag of fish food goes in. As the alligators get used to the noise and activity of the feeders each day, we are told they begin to come out at the same time the fish are being fed to get a fish dinner. We’ll go back to check on them later and observe the feeding activity!

We observed this little guy (Pine Warbler I believe) when we were walking around the range track. He flew right into a window and fell to the ground. He seemed a little dazed but hopefully he recovered fully!

One of the huge advantages to this workamping job is the variety of tasks we get to help with. It seems like there is something new every week. We even got to help with a “Christmas Bird Count” (CBC) in early January. Members of birding groups in the area all came to the range to participate in the annual event. We were assigned an area of the range to drive with 2 representatives of the Highland County Audubon group. It was a long day of looking, listening and learning about all the bird species that can be found in this area. We saw Meadowlarks, Nuthatches, Kingfishers, Anhingas and Palm Warblers to name a few. Since 1900, the CBC has taken place throughout North America in mid-December through early January every year. It is a way that bird concentrations and migrations are tracked and is a form of “Citizen Science.” The numbers, species and areas are compiled and reported to the Audubon Society each year.

On some of our off time recently we explored Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring. For a $6 vehicle entrance fee we had access to several walking trails, a bike trail, a Civilian Conservation Corp museum, and picnic area. There is a nice camping area at Highlands Hammock that we investigated too.

We even took our bikes along with us. We rode the 3 mile bike loop 3 times and saw some wildlife along the way. Some beautiful hiking trails were situated along the bike loop so we parked our bikes and walked a bit as well.

One trail led to a 1,000 year old Oak tree! They say it measures 36 feet around.

We observed some wildlife – alligators, wild hogs and various birds.

In case you were wondering, we did NOT swim with or feed any alligators!

He seemed very relaxed and in general any alligators we’ve seen here in Florida seem to like to have their picture taken. We always stay a safe distance.

Looking ahead, we have several new places we want to visit in the area. We’ll post again soon with more about Florida and our Ballards’ RV life in 2020!