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.
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.
An American Kestrel really likes all the insects attracted to the area.
Belted Kingfishers migrate through this area and some stay all winter. This pair is catching up on gossip following their flight from the north.
Green Herons are year-round residents and this one was stalking a frog. Or a lizard. Or something tasty.
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.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks will likely find this area suitable for breeding. This species continues to expand its range each year it seems.
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.
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!