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Camp Life in Florida


The following quadrupeds and birds have been observed in Eastern Florida, but the presence of the latter is only noted in spring and winter; at least we have received no account of the fact that they are regular denizens. The quadrupeds embrace the Felis the unsettled part of concolor, or panther, common in the unsettled part of the State; the Lynx rufus, also abundant; the Canis Lupus or gray wolf (some nearly black) is rather scarce; the Vulpus Virginianus, or gray fox, is abundant also the Procyon Lotor, or raccoon, the Ursus Arctas, or common bear, and the Cariacus Virginianus, or Virginia deer; this is of a very small size. The Sciurus niger, or Southern fox squirrel, is abundant, but is confined to pine woods; also the Sciurus Carolinonsis, or gray squirrel, which is very tame. The Lepus sylvaticus, or gray rabbit; the Lepus Palustris, or marsh rabbit, and the Didelphys Virginiana, or opossum, are quite common.

The birds include the Meleagris Gallopavo or wild turkey, which is very numerous; males often weigh twenty-five pounds; females six to ten pounds; the Ortyx Virginianus, or quail; very abundant; Squartarola Helvetica or black-billed plover; the Charadrius Virginicus, or golden plover; the Xyialitis vociferus, or killdee plover; the Aegialitis Wilsonius, or Wilson plover, and the Egialilis melodius, or piping plover. The plover were seen only in spring. The Philohela minor, or woodcock, is not common, but the Gallinago Wilsoni, or snipe, is. The latter go in large flocks and cover the whole country. The red-breasted snipe; the Symphemia semipalmata, or willet; the Gambetta Flavipes, or yellow legs; the Gambetta Melanolenca, or greater yellow legs; Simosa Fedoa, or marbled godwits, are also common. The Numenieus Hudsonicus, or Hudsonian curlew, and the Numenieus Borealis, or Esquimaux curlew, are rare, but the Numenieus longirostris, or long-billed curlew; the Himantopus nigercollis or black-necked stilt; the rails and gallinules, and the .herons, cranes, and ibis, are abundant; the 'Annas boschas, or mallard, is very abundant, also the Annas obscura, or black duck; the latter duck has a lighter color; its neck is more like a female mallard, and it is said to breed in Florida. The Dafila acuta, or pintail; the Nettion Carolinensis, or green wingtail; the Querquedula Viscors, or blue wingtail; the Spatula Clypeata or Shoveller;" the Marcea Americana, or baldpate; the Aythya Sponsa, or wood duck; the Aythya Marila, or scaup duck; the Aythya Americana, or red-head; the Aythya Vallisneria, or canvas-back; the Bucephela Albeola, or butter-ball; the Erismatura Rubida, or ruddy duck; the Sophodytes Cucullatus, or hooded merganser, and the Canada goose, are all abundant; the latter especially in the north-western portion of the State.

The following-named birds are found in the, Lake Okeechobee region:

  1. Wilson's thrush (Turdus fusiaescens). Saw one on Lookout Island; the only island dry enough afford residence to birds of this family.
  2. Cat-bird (Galeoscoptes Carolinensis). Upon the shore, saw several in the elderberry thickets.
  3. Blue-gray gnat-catcher (Polioptila cwrulea). Abundant in the boxwood and ash on the eastern shore. Troglotktes aedon (common wren). Rarely seen.
  4. Yellow redpoll-warbler (Dendroeca palmarum). Most abundant species of the warblers here.
  5. Yellow-crowned warbler (Dendroeca coronala) is species seemed to delight in the maple swamps, and where those trees were interspersed among the cypress, these beautiful little birds were to be found comparatively abundant.
  6. Maryland yellow throat (Geothlypis trichas). Rarely seen in the marshy hammocks bordering the shore.
  7. White-bellied swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). Numerous; flocks of them were seen flying over the marshes near Kissimmee Bay and along the western shore.
  8. The purple martin (Progne purpurea). Was abundant in the pine woods near the Kissimmee above, though none were seen near the lake.
  9. White-eyed vireo ( Vireo noveboracensis). Common in the cypress belt, wherever there was a thick undergrowth. Its peculiar note was the one most frequently heard.
  10. Savannah sparrow (Passerculus savanna). Not numerous.
  11. Cardinal bird (Cardinalis Virginianus). We missed the pleasing song of this bright songster as soon as we left the live-oaks upon the Kissimmee, but after we had emerged from the desolate marshes and gained the first maple island their notes fell upon our ears; not numerous.
  12. Chewink (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). Upon the Kissimmee I saw them in abundance, and a few upon the dry sand of Lookout Island, scratching among the dead leaves. I also detected the local variety, or species, discovered by Mr. Maynard on the St. Johns, having the iris white instead of hazel.
  13. Cow black-bird (Molothrus pecoris). Not so numerous as the red-wing.
  14. Red-winged blackbird (Agelaeus phaeniceus). Very abundant. Everywhere seen in the marshes, enlivening us with their presence and song.
  15. Meadow lark (Sturnella ludoviciana). The pine woods near the Kissimmee contained this species in abundance, but none were observed near the lake, owing to the swampy character of the shore.
  16. Purple grakle (Quiscalus purpureus). Very numerous, this and the Florida species, Q. baritus.
  17. Boat-tail grakle (Quiscalus major). Extremely abundant, associating in flocks with the red-wings and purple grakles.
  18. Common crow (Corvus Americanus). Very few seen.
  19. Fish crow (Corvus ossefragus). Abundant everywhere; made sad -havoc with the eggs in heron rookcries wherever we landed.
  20. Blue jay (Cyanurus oristalus). None seen; few heard on the east shore.
  21. Pewee (Sayorius fuscus). Very few seen in the larger hammocks.
  22. Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). Comparatively abunalong the Kissimmee and all sides of the lake.
  23. Chuckwill's widow (Antrostomus Carolinensis). Heard at the deserted Indian village on the east shore.
  24. Ivory bill woodpecker (Pious principalis). None satisfactorily identified, though I caught a glimpse of several which I then thought to be this species.
  25. Pileated woodpecker (Hylotomus pileatus). Abundant; its noisy, rattling note could be heard in all the cypress belts.
  26. Red-bellied woodpecker (Centurus Carolinas). Numerous; the most abundant of the Picidov here, as well as all over Florida.
  27. Golden-winged woodpecker, (Colaptes auratus). Not numerous.
  28. Paroquet (Conurus Carolinensis). Few flocks seen. Along the upper portion of our route on the Kissimmee they were abundant. I think they breed in the cypress belt of the east shore.
  29. Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). Seen everywhere sailing high over the lake, or suddenly flapping out of some thick cypress.
  30. Black vulture (Cathartes atratus). Rare.
  31. Caracara eagle (Polyborus Brasiliensis). Not numerous. Regarding this species, and the sacred vulture of Bartram, I shall have some notes in a future number.
  32. Falco sparrerius, (sparrow-hawk). Abundant along the Kissimmee; rare on the lake.
  33. Buteo lineatus (red-shouldered hawk). Most numerous species, having young in nearly every large collection of trees.
  34. Fish-hawk (Pandion halietus). Everywhere abundant in the lake. None of the white-headed eagle were seen in the whole trip, though the osprey bad nests everywhere.
  35. Barred owl (Symium nebulosum). Numerous; young found a week old. Its hootings filled the air every night.
  36. Great horned owl (Bubo Virginianus). Saw none, but heard several.
  37. Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). The shore of the lake is not suited to the habits of the turkey, though we saw feathers at the old Indian camps, probably brought there from the hammocks above on the Kissimmee, where it is comparatively abundant.
  38. Quail (Ortyx Virginianus). None seen on the lake, though bevies met with above.
  39. Killdee plover (Aegialitis vociferus). Abundant on the Kissimmee; none seen on the lake.
  40. Snipe (Gallinago Wilsoni). Abundant on Kissimmee.
  41. Yellow-legs (Gambetta flavipes). Very numerous on the Kissimmee.
  42. Red-breasted snipe (Macrorhamphus griseus). Abundant at the ford on the Kissimmee.
  43. Sand-hill crane (Grus Canadensis). But one seen on Okeechobee; abundant on the prairie of the Kissimmee.
  44. Clapper rail (Rallus crepitans). Many heard; none seen.
  45. Purple gallinule (Gallinula Martinica). Not numerous; in the lily pads of the lake border.
  46. Coot (Fulica Americana). Abundant.
  47. Louisiana heron (Demigrelta ludoviciana). Not very abundant. Glades. The custard apple trees there were filled with their newly built nests.
  48. Snake bird (Plotus anhinga). The most abundant species, with the exception of the white heron, on the lake or river. It had both eggs and young as early, as February 23d; everywhere abundant. No mammals were seen about the lake, and signs only of rabbit and raccoon. Deer occurred on the Kissimmee prairie, but in small numbers.

Game and fish are abundant in the vicinity of St. Augustine during the winter. Besides English snipe, the brown-winged curlew, mallard ducks, blue and green teal, there are the summer duck, spoonbill, widgeon, shag-pole, sprig-tail, black-head, blue-head, English diver, canvas-back, and the raft duck, which is found only in salt water. These clucks infest the rivers in thousands, and are considerably hunted. The sportsmen do not exhibit a great amount of desire to fish, although fish are plentiful and large. Not long since, a number of boys, while casting their fishing lines from off the old fort battery here, hooked several large channel bass, the largest one weighing as high as thirty-four pounds. Trout also are freely caught. Then there is the mullet, whiting, black-fish, sheepshead, and other varieties, all in season. The oysters which Hue the river banks are delicious, and are gathered without any difficulty and to any amount. We recently gathered a good mess just along the city sea wall, not fifty yards from the streets. The deer, wild turkey, and bear, are successfully hunted in close proximity to St. Augustine. The hotels are kept in bountiful supply with venison and wild turkey, killed by our old hunters. One of them, and undoubtedly the most experienced in the neighborhood, is John Canova. He tells us that game is handy, especially the deer. The bear is hunted, but little, as few or no good bear dogs are to be brought into requisition. When they are available the bear is then molested, and very often old bruin succumbs. Mr. Canova, while in the woods alone one day the past summer, encounter a monster black bear. His "old reliable" double-barred gun was convenient, and Mr. Bear quietly expired. Its weight was 400 pounds. Sportsmen hunt considerably some few miles south of here, on the Halifax river, as they like the idea of spending a few weeks of camp life. They general go by way of the Matanzas river, running south about twenty-five miles; thence they are hauled - boat and all - over a strip of land nine miles in width to the Halifax river.

Excerpt from: Hallock, C. (1876) Camp Life in Florida; A Handbook for Sportsmen and Settlers.
Bird's-Eye Glance at Florida (Pgs. 41-49) New York: Forest and Stream Publishing Company.


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