Photo Credit: Meaghan Manning
Look for wading birds along the shores of lakes and ponds on the Lake Wales Ridge. Nesting pairs of osprey occur at the Lake Placid Scrub tract and the Royce Unit. Bald eagles nest at the Lake Placid Scrub site and the Royce Unit. A restored freshwater marsh on the Royce Unit fills with seasonal rainfall and attracts scores of wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl. The threatened Florida scrub-jay was once relatively common in some of the tracts, when surveyed in 1992-93. However, a 2011 report showed a serious decline. Aggressive, ongoing management practices have stabilized some jay populations in the WEA, which contains nearly 10 percent of the entire population of jays that still exist in Florida.
Wildlife Spotlight: Sand Skink
Sand Skink Photo Credit: Kevin Enge
The presence of the rare sand skink (listed as threatened by both FWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is best detected by the distinct wavy trails it leaves in the sand as it “swims” just below the surface. Slender, shiny and light in color, the sand skink reaches a length of about five inches and feeds mainly on beetle larvae and termites. The sand skink is rarely seen above ground, and is endemic to sandy ridges of seven Florida counties in central Florida. The sand skink appears to do best in areas free of abundant plant roots, with open canopies, scattered shrubby vegetation and patches of bare sand. Its future is threatened by habitat loss from conversion to agricultural and residential uses and from habitat degradation due to fire exclusion.