Cattle Egret

Little Blue Heron


Owls from Susan T.

Bobcat in Tomoka Oaks

Pileated Woodpecker 17th Green March 2021 by Denise C.

Fox NorthEast of Tomoka Oaks Golf Course Clubhouse April 2018 by Denise C.

Owl on La Costa Ct April 14th, 2021

Wildlife: List of Animals From a Tomoka Oaks Resident

Following is a list of the wildlife I have documented on The Tomoka Oaks Golf Course for the last Fourteen Years. I maintain an extensive, daily, photographic record, along with field notes, comprising everything listed below and then some, with the exception of three animals that I have yet to capture:

I have not photographed Bobcats here (elsewhere), but I can positively identify their presence by their tracks and scat (I have tracked Bobcats and Mountain Lions in The Rocky Mountains). I have not photographed Wild Boar here, but I can positively identify them from their tracks and scat. I have not photographed Screech Owls here, but I can positively identify a mating pair by their plaintive calls at night. Additionally, I have found unfertilized Screech Owl eggs that were ejected from their nests, which are plainly distinguishable from other species. These findings also indicate their nesting sites.

Before we get to the wildlife, I thought some brief geographic history relevant.

Geographically, The Tomoka Oaks Golf Course and subdivision, and The Trails subdivision are unique to this part of Florida. This is the highest elevation in Eastern Volusia County. It is higher than The Atlantic Ridge. The area is bounded by the Tomoka River, Estuarine Brackish Flats, Wetlands, and Misner's Branch, which was once a navigable waterway sufficient to take you to the Tomoka River, Tomoka Basin, or the ocean by boat or canoe. This was once an American Indian Settlement. I have found arrowheads and hand-made utensils on the site. Imagine - replete with game, near water on all sides, elevated, well drained, and defensible.

The Tomoka Oaks Golf Course site is connected via wetlands, river, greenbelt, and railroad right-of-way all the way to Flagler County, through Tomoka State Park, and into North Peninsula State Park. This Coastal Range, traversed by the larger animals, once extended to the headwaters of The Matanzas River, but is now choked at Palm Coast at the North end. The Tomoka Oaks Golf Course is the Southern Terminus of this range.

Following is a list of documented wildlife present on the golf course. Entries shown in red are Species of Special Concern. Entries that are underlined are also listed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as "Imperiled." Birds being the most numerous, I will list other notable species first.

Bobcats, Coyotes, and Wild Boar appear with about the same frequency as a Blue Moon. They are casual visitors.

Typical forest creatures are resident:

Racoon, Opossum - though not a species of special concern it is the only Marsupial indigenous to North America; Armadillo, Mice, Rats, Moles, Voles, Rabbits, Bats - High Value mammals that keep the flying insect populations in check, and Squirrels.

Red Foxes are resident. Though not a species of great concern - really?! you want to murder foxes?! The foxes typically rear a kit of 2-3 per year on the golf course site (adorable!). They are integral in checking rodent populations.

White Tail Deer are resident and currently number eight (8). The Alpha Buck is 12 points this season. There is one young buck at 4 points, 5 Doe ranging from 2 to 8 years old, and a Yearling. Though not considered a species of special concern, these deer are quite remarkable and are present on the golf course every day.

Gopher Tortoises are resident and number 120 - 150. I coordinated this estimate with the Greenskeeper. Already I have seen two men looking for them, but they are not relocating them, they are simply replacing the markers the greenskeeper set out. Once the developer gets a Take Permit, the markers will be removed and they will all be plowed under. You know, murdered.

Box Turtles are resident and are at least as numerous as the Gopher Tortoises. They will all be killed along with the other small ground-dwelling animals.

River Cooters - Lay their eggs on the golf course. They flipper and slog their way, starting at night, from the Tomoka River, through wetland flats, then uphill 900 feet to the homes on River Bluff Drive. They continue about another 900 feet through multiple properties, cross Rio Pinar Drive, then another property, and onto the golf course where they lay their eggs. A nearly 1 mile round trip to reach this site so as to ensure their survival! Surviving young from those nests will also return to the golf course at maturity to lay their eggs. It is a pretty good guess they have been doing this for hundreds or even thousands of years. Their nests will be obliterated and they will die.

Soft Shell Turtles and other smaller Freshwater Turtles are also present in the water holes.

Black Racer Snakes are resident and numerous. Though considered common, Black Racer Snakes are High Value organisms that check the populations of poisonous snakes, as well as small rodents. They typically reach about 4 feet in length, though I have measured freshly-shed skins as long as 56 inches. They are certainly the dominant snake species. The snakes below I have observed and photographed variously on the golf course, in my yard, and in my house.

Blue Racer Snake

Ringneck Snake

Coral Snake

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Green Garter

Blue Garter

Corn Snake

Florida Garter

Eastern Garter

Five Lined Skink

Frogs and Lizards are present in variety:

Florida Green Tree Frogs - High Value organisms in all natural and agricultural settings, are numerous; as are Dark Green frogs, Black Frogs, Spotted Frogs, Leopard Frogs, etc. Cuban Tree Frogs are also present. The University of Florida recommends euthanizing them, as they are an invasive species, but I have regularly witnessed them coexisting with Florida Green Tree Frogs.

Green Anoles, Salamanders, Chameleons, and Brown Lizards in an extraordinary variety of colors and markings are also present.

Bark Mantis - Very High Value; extremely rare insect. It is beneficial in all natural and agricultural settings.

Butterflies - Numerous lepidoptera are present including Monarchs (emerging now) and Viceroys.

Manatee Tree Snail - Endemic to North and Central Florida. Very High Value Gastropod integral to the health of all natural and agricultural settings in this part of Florida.

Dung Beetle - Must I really explain the beneficence of this creature?

Honey Bees (apis mellifera) - A Very High Value Insect that is beneficial in all natural and agricultural settings. So much so that all living things, not only benefit from them, but depend on them for their survival, and just in case you missed that point, that includes Humans.

Wild Honey Bees hive on the golf course, usually in tree trunk holes.

My experiences with them have brought me closer than one (1) metre from their hive entry points with all my equipment. Entry areas are surrounded by a carpet of bees in a teardrop shape approximately 4 feet high. They must like me. I have captured hundreds of images of them - even using a macro lens with a ring flash less than 8 inches from their entry hole whilst thousands of bees streamed past both sides of my head in and out of the hive. Based on all the time I have spent amongst these bees (magical!), I estimate the hive populations to be well over one hundred thousand (100,000), with the population declining over the floral season, then repopulating with a new Queen in the following season. All this on the golf course.

Now for the birds.


For reference purposes, I am listing the birds in the order they can be found in a Peterson's Guide.

Wood Duck - a wonderfully colorful Springtime visitor, always seen in mating pairs both perched and swimming. They stop here on their Northern migratory trip to rest and refuel.

Common Gallinule - one or two mating pairs year round

American Coot - Seasonal visitor

Great Blue Heron - Frequent visitors year-round.

Little Blue Heron - Solitary resident that I have photographed for 6 years - since She was all white. About three years ago she found a mate. I do not know where the mate feeds, but he visits at least two or three times per year. The resident female lays a single egg in the marsh grass.

Louisiana Heron (Tri-Colored Heron) - Seasonal visitor that I often see in nearby wetland flats as well.

Great White Heron - Year-round visitor

Reddish Egret - Occasional visitor also seen in nearby wetland flats.

Great Egret - Year-round visitor

Snowy Egret - Occasional visitor, and seen in nearby wetlands

Green Heron - Seasonal visitor

American Bittern - Seasonal visitor typically remaining 3-5 weeks

Wood Stork - Frequent visitors; Our largest wading birds.

Sandhill Crane - Seasonal visitors usually include a mating pair and 1-3 juveniles, feeding and resting for 3-4 weeks.

White Ibis - Multiple flocks year-round. They depend on a diet of grubs and mole crickets found on the course.

Ruddy Turnstone - Large flocks visit seasonally.

Killdeer - Mostly Winter visitors, but seen at various times throughout the year.

Wild Turkey - Resident mating pair. Usually producing 3 chicks per season.

Swallow-Tailed Kite - This is a species of special concern. Throughout the Spring/Summer season. The Swallow-Tailed Kites flock/roost together on the golf course once every year for their migration. They only do this once per year. The last photograph I got of this awesome scene had over 35 birds in the same tree - a tree so small, the kites were the tree.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk - A juvenile pair appears in Spring only once in a while. They will remain for the season treating me to spectacular pair aerobatics. They move on shortly before their color change is completed.

Red-Tailed Hawk - A single mating pair with 1 juvenile has been usual until about three years ago, and last Summer I witnessed a Red-Shouldered Hawk chasing one off.

Red-Shouldered Hawk - The dominant raptor, there are currently 3 distinguishable mating pairs. I have photographed all three pairs during mating. Small population shifts year-to-year between the Hawk species seem to indicate they manage their population density, with the Red-Shouldered Hawk being determinant.

Bald Eagle - Usually seen in numbers of 2 - 5 riding thermals above the course. Occasionally, I capture a juvenile Bald Eagle perched.

Osprey - Frequently alight on trees on the course to eat their catch.

Turkey Vulture - Seen year-round

Black Vulture - Seen year-round

American Kestrel - Resident mating pair. Rarely seen together except at the tree they nest in. This particular Kestrel gained a mate about 5 years ago. Its mate appears several times in Spring.

Common Screech Owl - Resident and highly elusive, but their calls can be clearly identified on any Summer night. See above.

Barred Owl - Resident year-round

Barn Owl - Resident year-round

Mourning Dove - Seen year-round

Ringed Turtle Dove - Occasional visitor

Rock Dove - Seen year-round

Common Nighthawk - Seen at random times throughout the year at dawn and dusk (crepuscular).

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird - Seasonal resident following the bloom cycles of the local flora, both male and female.

Red-Headed Woodpecker - A single juvenile arrives in the Fall and spends the entire winter drilling nuts and berries into a series of trees, such that one can follow its route.

It departs in late Spring right about the time it has its adult coloring. It returns the following year with a mate and will typically co-opt an old Pileated Woodpecker nest to raise its young. Note: Great Crested Flycatchers also will co-opt an old Pileated Woodpecker hole to nest.

Pileated Woodpecker - Resident. Like the Red-Shouldered Hawk, there are 3 mating pairs. Once every year around May, these Woodpeckers can be seen on the ground - the exact same patch of ground - performing a pair-bonding ritual. Often the pair's juvenile will be present and seems to derive some instruction from the activity. This goes on for an entire morning, and it is the only time they are seen on the ground. Over the following weeks, the entire family can be seen on a single tree, with the adults teaching the juvenile how to probe the tree for insects with its needle-like tongue. Berries on the course are also a large part of their diet, and I have also seen them eat termite queens.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker - Resident and most numerous of the woodpeckers. Visible year-round.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker - Occasional juveniles appear briefly in early Spring.

Downy Woodpecker - Resident. Both males and females can be seen year-round.

Eastern Kingbird - Occasional visitor

Gray Kingbird - Occasional visitor

Great Crested Flycatcher - Resident. Seen year-round, and as mentioned above, will co-opt old Pileated Woodpecker nests to raise their young. They eat green-headed flies like crazy.

Eastern Phoebe - Seasonal resident

Barn Swallow - Seasonal flocks feed and rest on the course every year in Spring and Fall.

American Crow - Resident. Murders of Crows can seen year-round

Blue Jay - Seen randomly throughout the the Spring and Summer

Carolina Chickadee - Rare Springtime visitor

Tufted Titmouse - Numerous year-round residents; though I have noticed a significant decline in population over the last five years.

House Wren - Seasonal resident - nearly year-round.

Carolina Wren - Seen mostly January through October.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher - Spring through Fall

Brown Thrasher - Spring through Fall

Gray Catbird - Found year-round in the understory. Preferring cover, they are often difficult to find, but when I spot one, there are four or five more nearby.

Northern Mockingbird - Resident year-round. It is the Florida State Bird.

Eastern Bluebird - Numerous residents from early Spring through late Fall..

American Robin - Early January through October

Loggerhead Shrike - Seen throughout the Summer season eating lizards and grasshoppers.

Cedar Waxwing - Three or four large flocks can be seen February through May. This is a mid-migration stop for these handsome birds.

Yellow-Throated Vireo - Seasonal resident, frequently nesting in my garage.

White-Eyed Vireo - Rare, but present occasionally

Yellow-Throated Warbler - March through September - males, females, and juveniles

Prothonotary Warbler - Rare, but both males and females are present in the Spring

Black-And-White Warbler - February through May. Rare and difficult to spot, but appear every Spring.

Black-Throated Blue Warbler - Springtime mid-migratory stop-overs

Cape May Warbler - These beautiful warblers arrive here in large numbers around the first of May. Exhausted and hungry from the first leg of their migratory trip from the West Indies to New Jersey, they remain for two to three weeks gorging themselves on spiders, mayflies, and moths, The spiders are the primary attractant. In the early part of the season, the understory plants are dotted with thousands of saucer-sized spider webs, easily seen at first light when there is a light dew. The Cape May Warblers eat these like popcorn, replenishing themselves for the remainder of their trip. This site is a critical mid-migration stop for these birds. They are sometimes so exhausted from their trip and focused on their spider catching that I have been able to walk right up to them.

Throngs of Birdwatchers and Ornithologists gather in Cape May, New Jersey every year to mark the return of these beloved warblers.

American Redstart - Not often seen, but this bird also stops here during its migration.

Pine Warbler - Spring mid-migration stop-over

Palm Warbler - Spring through Summer. Elusive

Common Yellowthroat - Spring through Summer resident

Red-Winged Blackbird - These birds were once as numerous and common year-round as Crows. They all but disappeared about seven years ago. Only in the last year I have begun to see them again.

European Starling - I see only small flocks at random times throughout the year.

Baltimore Oriole - Early Springtime mid-migration visitor, these birds remain long enough to replenish themselves eating Moth cocoons.

Scarlet Tanager - Springtime mid-migration stop. Coming all the way from South America, these birds stop here briefly to rest and refuel.

Northern Cardinal - Year-round residents, they are numerous with multiple nesting sites.

American Goldfinch - Spring through Summer residents

Painted Bunting - Rare sightings, but I have captured both males and females Spring through Summer.

Chipping Sparrow - Seen mostly ground feeding Early Spring through Fall