I, The Beholder

A recent reviewer of a newly opened golf course in central Florida gushed about the wonderful rolling landscape and said it was something you wouldn’t expect to see in “featureless, flat Florida”.  The reviewer might need to expand his horizons a bit.  In fairness, I suppose it depends upon one’s definition of “featureless”.  As to “flat”, many areas of the state do appear to be flat, especially to a visitor from hilly or mountainous landscapes.  The center of the state has a nice ridge running north-south which is likely the ancient beginnings of the Appalachian mountains.  North-central Florida has some quite hilly countryside.  The bottom line is that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.  The golf course reviewer obviously has a job to describe the beauty of a golf course.  For me, no golf course could ever compare to a vista of a cypress dome in the center of a sea of scrub palmetto at dawn.

Last week, I had an opportunity to explore an area that was originally scheduled to become a golf course residential development.  Fortunately, research proved that the area could be turned into a wetlands which would significantly filter water flowing into a nearby river which eventually feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.  Instead of fertilizer being dumped into the ground and already scarce water resources being used to produce bright putting greens and lawns, the “new” wetlands is performing as advertised.  Water is held in “cells”, dug out areas about 1.5 miles square, which were planted with vegetation known to have positive filtering properties as well as trees which will grow to provide shelter for all manner of wildlife.

The bird species count for the morning was almost 70 and there were some impressive numbers of individuals, such as:  100+ Snowy Egret, 125+ Glossy Ibis, 100+ Black-necked Stilt, 350+ Blue-winged Teal, 40 American White Pelican, 50+ Great Egret.  Some surprising birds for the area made an appearance:  15 Black Tern, 25+ Caspian Tern, 20+ Sandwich Tern, 25 Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe and a Willet.

I’m sure a golf course reviewer would not be impressed but I was.

There are no photographs of fairways, greens, bunkers or clubhouses below.  You have been warned.


Wetlands At Dawn

Wetlands At Dawn


Creek Feeding Into/Out Of Wetlands

Creek Feeding Into/Out Of Wetlands


Wood Stork

Wood Stork





Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)


Double-crested Cormorant (Immature); Black-necked Stilt

Double-crested Cormorant (Immature); Black-necked Stilt


Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


Egrets, Ibises, Pelican, Vultures

Egrets, Ibises, Pelican, Vultures


Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal



It was a wonderful day of exploring and incredibly satisfying to know all the water moving through this area for the future will be cleaned and purified naturally as it makes its way to the coast.  I can even relate to our golfing friends:  got two Eagles and a whole lotta birdies!

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “I, The Beholder

  1. The problem birding on golf courses is the golf balls flying around even though the habitat mostly looks superb. Then there’s the old saying – “a game of golf is a good walk spoiled”. Even more so when the walk could be a birding walk.

    Some impressive counts there Wally – can’t imagine ounts of 100 Snowy Egret, 125 Glossy Ibis and 100+ Black-necked Stilts! Enjoy your wekend.

  2. Very good news, Wally. Great job of reporting, also – both in pictures and in words.

  3. ” . . . a vista of a cypress dome in the center of a sea of scrub palmetto at dawn.” Ah, evocative language be here. Lovely, Wally. I especially like the group shot, too, and the sweet little gnatcatcher is wonderful. My favorite, though, is the wood stork. I would love to see one of those in person and just be able to look and look.

    • Thank you, Sister! It’s always encouraging to see good numbers of Wood Storks, as their numbers have been declining in Florida over the years.

  4. Thank God no golf course pictures…those actually scare me, what they do to the environment.

    Loved all the birds (and the post makes me even more eager to get back)… ,my favorite is the “group shot” …something about seeing different kinds of birds together like that always makes me smile.

  5. Two eagles and a whole lotta birdies–now that’s the kind of golfing I’d prefer. So glad to see how this golf-course project turned out. I’d say the birds approve, too.

  6. Such beautiful photos! Seeing these birds in their natural environment does it for me.

  7. jimbey

    …. OK, here’s a voice raised in defense of the baby-killing, uncouth golfer — a properly designed and managed country club community isn’t all that bad. Two examples immediately come to mind: The PGA National Golf Club, and Marisol Country Club – each in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. These communities lie south and north (respectively) of PGA Blvd, along the east border of the Loxahatchee Slough WMA. Both of these communities maintain large “manufactured” wetlands designed to intercept and neutralize any pollutants – including golf course fertilizers. Furthermore, these buffer zones provide the irrigation waters for the greens and fairways – yep, recycled water for the grass.
    …. I have hiked extensively in the Lox Slough, and I can tell you that the numbers and the diversity of wildlife is higher in the CC wetlands than they are in the WMA proper. In fact, the county’s largest communities of Sandhill Cranes and Bald Eagles can be found within their borders. GREAT JOB, PGA and Marisol!
    …. My point? Good environmental stewardship does NOT require the elimination of everything fun. Technologies are available to completely reverse the negative impact of development – and all new developments should require such technologies, including buffer zones, set asides and water management. This should be law, because new developers are interested in profit first and foremost. Development should be restricted to environmentally insignificant areas, and require the acquisition of an equal amount of acreage set aside for preservation.

    • Thank you for your input, Jimbey. “Development should be restricted to environmentally insignificant areas…” I’m afraid such areas are becoming quite rare in our Sunshine State.

      • jimbey

        …. Yes, environmentally insignificant areas are rare – in fact, I cannot fathom ANY area being environmentally insignificant. But there ARE areas that can be developed without causing undue damage, and the Audubon folks have had input in the state’s (misguided) quest to unload some public lands. But that was not the point of my feeble voice in defense of golfing. My point is this: there is an environmentally sound way to approach such development that provides needed habitat for wildlife, and good stewardship of our water resources. Over the long haul, doing things right pays off in property values, wildlife preservation, and the sustainability of resources. The squalor of (some parts of) developed Florida arose because short-term “cost control” and profit margins led our elected leaders to short change all creatures – great and small. Flooding. Silt. Dropping water levels in aquifers. Habitat loss. Polluted runoff. Lower property values. SQUALOR! Build a golf community right, and 3,000 people can live in a paradise of clean water, sandhill cranes and snail kites. Do it wrong, and 5,000 people can live in a blighted hellhole with nothing but blue jays and mockingbirds (and 4,999 other grumpy people) for company.

      • Thank you, Jimbey.

  8. Florice

    One of my favorite posts. Loved the egrets, ibises, pelicans, and vultures. Neat pictures!

  9. Hi excellent post. I am so glsd there was not a golf course built where you saw all those birds. What a fantastic selection. Can you tell me is this area anywhere near Tampa?

  10. love it from the opening scene to the last. 🙂 don’t need a green or sand trap to impress me, either.

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