La Chua Trail – Paynes Prairie

We headed out for a hike along La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Paynes Prairie has two main hiking trails accessed from points outside the main park, La Chua is one of them. We expected part of the trail to be closed due to high water as it rained in the Gainesville area most of the prior week, but found it even more restricted that we anticipated. The trail ended at the end of the boardwalk, only a short hike. I checked the website a few days before, but didn’t see anything about the closure, and didn’t see anything posted on the board at the ranger station. Lesson learned: next time look at the websites more closely AND ask the rangers directly!

The short hike only affected the amount of exercise we got, not our wildlife enjoyment. We saw a lot of birds, but the Snail Kites really caught our attention. Several years ago a larger invasive species of Apple Snail began to populate the area, out competing the small native snails and consuming large amounts of aquatic vegetation. Based on our observations over the past few years, first the Limpkin population increased. Recently we noticed that the Snail Kite population also increased. Seeing one Snail Kite used to be a treat, this trip we saw several and watched them flying about, preening, and catching and eating snails. Nature re-balancing I guess.

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