Small Victories

My new waterproof boots were very comfortable and combined with the thick soft socks it seemed I was gliding instead of walking. After a few hours of hiking through tall wet grass, when I removed the footwear, the socks were dry and so were my feet. The bottom portion of my pant legs were another story. They stored enough water to supply a small village reservoir. The morning was spent exploring a newly developing wetlands. The area was mostly pastureland over the past 50 years, ringed with hardwood and a few pine trees and is located near the confluence of two creeks. Historically, these two creeks overflowed during periods of prolonged rain and flooded the fields. This fact has been a blessing in disguise as those wanting to turn the land into a “lovely gated golf course community” were put off by the cost of controlling the flooding. The county accepted a proposal from an environmental engineering firm to construct water control facilities and develop the area into a park with an emphasis on wetlands preservation. Eventually the park will host ball fields and picnic areas, but will also retain a significant wetlands area to attract wildlife.

I was fortunate to be able to explore the area recently and even though it doesn’t cover a large area and construction of the water holding “cells” has only been recently completed, it was obvious birds are attracted to the habitat. We found almost 50 species of birds including Pied-billed Grebes (with juveniles), Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Least Bitterns, Black-crowned Night Herons, Purple Gallinules and Limpkins. Early fall migrants were present as were several raptors.

Eventually, this may be called Walker Road Park and it’s located in northwest Polk County near Itchepackesassa Creek. It may open to the public within the next two years. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see more and more birds discover a welcoming environment where they won’t need a gate security code for access.

 

A few photos of the area show recently planted vegetation in the “cells” which will filter water from the creeks, clean it and return it to the creeks. The cells were excavated to provide some areas of deeper water to attract diving ducks and areas of shallow water for wading birds.

View

View

View

View

 

A Mottled Duck likes the shallow end of the pool but didn’t care for us poking around his resort and flew to a quieter spot.

Mottled Duck

Mottled Duck

 

An American Kestrel really likes all the insects attracted to the area.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

 

Belted Kingfishers migrate through this area and some stay all winter. This pair is catching up on gossip following their flight from the north.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

 

Green Herons are year-round residents and this one was stalking a frog. Or a lizard. Or something tasty.

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

Birds aren’t the only ones liking the new area. A Roseate Skimmer thinks the newly created shorelines are just fine for hunting. Not to be left out, a Four-spotted Pennant kept chasing the Roseate Skimmer from the best perches.

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis discolor)

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis discolor)

Four-spotted Pennant - Male  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Male (Brachymesia gravida)

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks will likely find this area suitable for breeding. This species continues to expand its range each year it seems.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Pied-billed Grebes like the place enough to raise a family here. We found at least two sets of young Grebes, some young enough to still have their cute brown-striped head pattern.

 

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe (Juvenile)

Pied-billed Grebe (Juvenile)

 

Not only was it a good morning of all-around birding, it was gratifying to see a piece of land developed specifically to improve its attraction for wildlife. And all without getting my feet wet.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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24 thoughts on “Small Victories

  1. Wally, It’s heartening to see another patch of wetlands preserved (or at least brought back). We (and the birds) need all of them we can get. Interesting to see such young Pied-billed Grebes this time of year. Yesterday I ALMOST got close enough to a kingfisher for decent photographs – your post reminded me that my quest continues. Interesting read!

    • Thank you, Ron! Those baby grebes were a pleasant surprise as we’ve been searching for breeding pairs all summer. That’s the nice thing about our Florida climate – we just have young-uns any old time! “Decent Kingfisher Photograph”. Sigh. Almost an oxymoron.

  2. Wally

    Just stopping by to see if you have been doing the birding business.

    By the way who says the American and English senses of humour are miles apart?

    Hope to meet up with you some day at a suitable weekend my friend.

    • Good afternoon, Phil! Oh, yes, birding has been pretty steady. Writing about it, on the other hand, seems to be difficult to schedule!

      “By the way who says the American and English senses of humour are miles apart?” — Someone who has not taken the time to get to know either species.

      Cheers!

  3. Wonderful and beautiful fall photos…

  4. I’m glad they did their homework and are preparing a nice place for all. Waterproof and dry feet, can’t beat that!

    • Patti, I’m glad they did, too! It’s a nice little oasis close to a pretty densely populated area. And dry feet when walking is a good thing!

  5. Happy to see you back in blogland and delighted to see some good environmental news from Florida! Hooray. (“lovely gated golf course community” indeed. Gimme’ a break!). Anyway — wonderful birds so happy with the compromise solution; look forward to reading here when it is open to the public.

    We have pie-billed grebes here in Oregon. A couple of years ago I got a picture of the babies on the mother’s back — one of the most wonderful bird memories ever.

  6. It sounds really wonderful to me that someone is creating habitat – no matter now large or small – rather than destroying it for more questionable human uses! Your photos are always great and I am always amazed at how you can take photos of birds and also close ups of insects with equal facility. Do you change lenses? I hope you have a very enjoyable time this week-end and see lots of shorebirds and seabirds pushed along by that cold front.

    • Thanks very much, Mick! You’re too kind. At the present, I’m using the “one lens fits all” approach because I usually do a bit of hiking and I’m too lazy to carry a heavy pack of equipment. One day I hope to have a macro lens, but then I’ll probably forget all about birds … NOT!

      (Current lens is a fixed 300mm/f4 used with a 1.4x teleconverter. It’s all a challenge for my poor eyesight but the insects are especially daunting!)

  7. Forgive me Wally as I think that any victory over the Concrete Cowboys in this day and age is a Large rather than a Small Victory – it certainly is here in the UK. You seem to have the makings of a valuable wildlife resource and if it seems tiny the beginning list of 50 species sounds just great to my ears.

    Major wins too with the pictures American Kestrel and the two Belted Kingfishers.

    Don’t apologise for missing my posts – we birders and husbands lead busy lives.

    Enjoy the rest of the week.

    • Of course, you’re right about victories of this type being Large! Especially for the wildlife. Thanks for your understanding about Life interfering with blogging from time to time.

      Cheers! (I just live in a continual “weekend” mode.)

  8. A great post about an excellent initiative, Wally. It all goes to show that, if you get it right, the wildlife will quickly come flocking in.

    Your birds are wonderful, but it’s those dragons that are, again, really getting me excited!

    With best wishes – – – Richard

    • You’re absolutely right, Richard! It gives one hope that more and more actual planning to accommodate wildlife is taking place. Now if we can find a way to keep politics out of those decisions! The dragons are getting my attention, too! We have a terrific variety and I find myself wandering off the path chasing them quite often.

  9. Hello Wally,
    I bet you had a ball with your waders!
    They are much more comfortable than one would think.
    What a magnificent place for the local and migratory fauna, it is so relieving to see more and more people are concerned to do the right thing.I am always thrilled to discover your species, most of which we don’t have here.
    Great photos of the Belted Kingfisher I’d love to see one day, and of the duck and Pied-billed grebe, not to mention the dragons especially the 4 spotted pennant 🙂

    • Good Morning, Noushka! It’s always exciting to find a new place being set aside for Nature. We miss the Kingfishers during the summer and always look forward to their noisy return in the fall. Your splendid photographs of dragons have inspired me to search for them each time I’m outside.

  10. I thought of Tex as soon as I saw the Whistlers! Great set, as usual, Wally. The Pied-billed Grebe is one of my favorites. They are so darn cute. The Kingfishers look like they’re having quite the lively conversation.

    • We searched all summer for breeding Pied-bills and finally found some just as fall was beginning! Truth be known, those Kingfishers were probably fussing about territory since that’s their nature, but I prefer to think they’re old friends catching up on news.

  11. Hi Wally. Well I am glad you didn’t get your feet wet! That certainly is a fantastic place now o go birding. I love all the birds and insects you found. Your photographs are wonderful Great to see the Pied billed Grebe with its young and lovely Green Heron.

  12. ADORE the whistlers. AND the pied-billed! sweet that you got two kingfishers at once!

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