The Green Swamp

“ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS!”

“WON’T HARM THE ENVIRONMENT!”

“100% EFFECTIVE!”

Sigh. Okay. I’ll try it. The ingredient list does seem to contain naturally occurring stuff. It then follows, that stuff shouldn’t harm the environment. Effectiveness … it didn’t actually spell out exactly what that means, although the main part of the label did say “Mosquito Repellant”. Shame on me for assuming. It performed the exact opposite task of what I had hoped and our local mosquito population wishes to profusely thank the manufacturer.

I seldom need mosquito goop as, over the years, I have developed an effective method of keeping the biting monsters away from my delicate skin. My Gorgeous Insect and Nuisance Interface (I call her “GINI”) contains a unique combination of pheromones and sweetness which is irresistible to irritating critters small and large. Indispensible for my forays into the outdoors, GINI is also quite capable of disarming boorish creatures of the social persuasion. My overall health and well-being are better as a result.

So it was, with my GINI safely by my side providing vital defense duty, we entered the vastness of The Green Swamp. Mention “swamp” and images of dark water, green ooze, quicksand, eerie sounds and dangerous creatures are conjured in the minds of most people. And they would be correct. A swamp is so much more, though!

In the case of The Green Swamp in central Florida, we’re talking about 870 square miles of territory, second in size (swamply speaking) only to the massive Everglades, covering over 4,300 square miles in south Florida. We can be in the Green Swamp within fifteen minutes of leaving the house. Underneath this massive area is a large plateau of limestone which forms the Florida aquifer. A multitude of springs flows from the aquifer and provides a base for five of the state’s major rivers:  the Hillsborough, Kissimmee, Oklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee.

The Withlacoochee is where we visited most recently. As it begins its journey out of the Green Swamp, it is quite unique in that it flows from south to north, one of relatively few rivers in the world to do so. After a 140 mile journey, it empties into the Gulf of Mexico at the community of Yankeetown. The many cypress trees along its banks cause the waters of this scenic river to be stained with tannin and in shallow spots it resembles tea.

There are many places to access the Green Swamp, some easy and others requiring an arduous hike. The swamp is actually many very diverse habitats interspersed throughout its range. One can find pine flatwoods, hardwood forests, prairies, sandhills and, of course, dense cypress swamps. Such a myriad of environments provides shelter for a huge range of animal and plant life. That is why we like visiting The Green Swamp.

A few of the residents of the Green Swamp we have been fortunate enough to encounter were nice enough to pose for today’s installment.

 

Barred Owl

Colt Creek State Park

 

American Alligator

Viera Wetlands

 

Pileated Woodpecker

Lake Rosalie Park

 

White-eyed Vireo

Banana Lake Park

 

Wild TurkeyRock Ridge Road

 

Feral Pig

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Black-and-White Warbler

Green Swamp - Hampton Tract

 

Carolina Chickadee

Green Swamp - Hampton Tract

 

Tufted Titmouse

CBC Lake Wales

 

Prothonotary Warbler

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

White-tailed Deer

Gator Creek Reserve

 

Bonus Feature! Today Only!

Below please find a short slide show of our most recent visit to the Withlacoochee River not too far from its source within The Green Swamp. (There is music which you may want to mute – or, if you wish, sing along!)

 

 

If you are lucky enough to have a beautiful swamp or wetland in your area, we hope you’ll pay it a visit and see what wonders may call it home. As for us, we will return again and again to The Green Swamp.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

And now for something completely different.

Overslept. Last week sunrise was around 7:40. This week it’s an hour earlier. Who is the genius that decided it was okay to mess around with Mother Nature’s timing?

A slice of toast, a bit of Black Forest ham and out the door. Gini and I made it to Colt Creek State Park as the gate was opening. Perfect timing despite the clock manipulators. Fall migration has brought an influx of visitors to the park and it seems they were all talking at once. Palm Warblers littered the ground, Eastern Phoebes adorned snags and tops of weeds, Vireos tried to out sing one another, diminutive Blue-gray Gnatcatchers darted along limbs, a gang of five Gray Catbirds huddled in one small pine tree and Gini found a cluster of three early House Wrens, each scolding us loudly.

In a secluded spot along the park’s namesake, Colt Creek, we spied an immature Black-crowned Night Heron. In typical heron fashion, she stood perfectly still on a log, orange eyes scanning the algae-covered surface for any movement which might indicate breakfast was ready.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The Black-crowned Night Heron is fairly common throughout North America ranging as far north as Alberta, Canada. They inhabit all sorts of wetlands in fresh as well as salt water. Northern birds migrate south for the winter, either to southern states or to Central and South America. Individuals in warm climates may migrate to the southern region of their area during colder months. These medium size herons are opportunistic feeders and will eat a large variety of prey, such as fish, crabs, insects, birds, eggs, snakes, turtles, etc. They normally grasp their prey instead of stabbing it.

True to their name, most feeding is done at night so they don’t compete with other herons and egrets using the same habitat during the day. They will feed during daylight in breeding season to maintain adequate energy. Their nests are usually constructed of sticks in a tree or among reeds and they frequently nest in colonies. Young birds normally leave the nest within a month of hatching and roam the wetlands at night by foot with other young birds until they can fly at about six weeks old.

Immature birds can be confused with Yellow-crowned Night Herons where their ranges overlap. Young Black-crowned Night Herons will have yellow lower mandibles versus all dark beaks, broader blurred chest streaks and larger white spots on wing coverts.

Shortly after watching young Miss Heron (could have been Mister, sexes are similar), we found a perfectly quiet spot to enjoy some freshly sliced oranges. Eastern Phoebes were reminding us of their name as they constantly called, Black Vultures circled lazily overhead, butterflies floated among the weeds, a Red-shouldered Hawk screamed from his nearby pine tree branch. Confirmed:  Life is good.

Home before lunch time.

A few images from the archives.

An immature bird hunting in the rain.

S-65A Access Road

 

Stalking prey from the reeds.

Moore Road

 

Sleeping birds tuck their beaks into their breast feathers.

Lake Parker Power Plant

 

Masterful hunters, prey is grasped in the beak rather than stabbed.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

The long plumes on their head can be raised when alarmed or during breeding season.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron heads to a daytime roost after a night hunting in the marsh.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetlands

 

 

Look for these water birds in your area and marvel at their skillful hunting and sleek good looks.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , | 14 Comments

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