Nature at Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake is much more than a great place to play golf. Thanks to a number of areas within the Mountain Lake boundaries which have never been disturbed, Mountain Lake has an abundance of wildlife, some of it found only in the Lake Wales Ridge region.

The Lake Wales Ridge is the spine of Florida and extends for about 80 miles from Clermont to Lake Placid. The Ridge is a very specific ecosystem. At Mountain Lake there are at least two endangered plants which are found in only a few places in the world, as well as a few species of endangered animals.

The variety of bird life that can be seen at Mountain Lake, especially "waders", rivals what can be seen in the Everglades. From any fairway, look up, and you may see osprey, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and perhaps even an eagle soaring high in the sky. But don't be fooled by black or turkey vultures. These latter have a definite dihedral wing whereas the eagle's wings form a flat plane.

At any place around the park you might flush a covey of quail - all native, no "transplanted" birds here.  (No hunting is allowed at Mountain Lake.)  Wild turkey forage in the woods; however, glimpses of them are rare.

Stand on the 18th tee for awhile, however, and you may see great blue herons, little blue herons, tri-colored herons (Louisiana), cattle, snowy and great egrets, green herons, bittern, anhingas (water turkeys), cormorants, a limpkin, glossy ibis and that bird, magnificent in flight and yet ugly on his feet, a wood ibis (wood stork).  You may also see white ibis, the common moorhen, the pied-bill grebe, Foster tern, mottled ducks (a Florida version of black duck) and snipe, in addition to more common birds. 

In addition to birds, other wildlife can be seen.  Near the water you can see turtles of various kinds. You might also see an alligator, especially in the 6th hole lake, but you are only apt to see his two eyes and his nostrils visible above the water as he swims underneath.

If you are lucky, you might spot a bobcat, especially at the south end of the park. If you are extremely lucky, you might glimpse a panther.

Near or in any of the lakes at Mountain Lake, you may also see otters.  Fox, both gray and red, live here. Armadillos, possum and raccoon are here too. Our local squirrel is the fox squirrel, which is a large, dark faced animal that loves the open woods and is also found on the golf course.

While scouring the land for life, you might see a gopher tortoise, one of our endangered species. His carapace can have a diameter of 15 inches. This turtle-like creature spends his entire life on land and  in a home 5 or more feet below the surface at the end of a 15 to 30 foot tunnel. He shares his home with many animals, including rabbits, birds (burrowing owls) and snakes. Rarely does one see these animals in the cold weather.

Some indigo snakes - beautiful, harmless and endangered creatures that can exceed six feet in length - might be seen in the warmer part of the day. Their name describes them. In the shade they appear black; in the sun they are a beautiful indigo color.  In addition, the lakes contain an abundance of large-mouth bass and pan fish - all native and all eager to attack an artificial bait.

So, enjoy this wonderful oasis of tranquility which Mountain Lake residents are happy to call home. There is much to see and do even when you are not involved in golf, tennis or croquet.