Wonderful Wetlands Walk

Flood.

Anyone who has experienced an overwhelming amount of water in a place that is normally dry knows that at the very least a flood can be inconvenient. At its worst, it is a disaster.

We won’t discuss how it may come to pass that people decide to live in areas which for eons have been prone to flooding. It happens. Efforts to control natural flooding have met varying degrees of success.

At the western edge of our county, two creeks have periodically flooded their banks and caused myriad problems for landowners in the area. A management plan was developed and implemented several years ago which has been successful in mitigating many of the negative effects of annual flooding of Blackwater and Itchepackesassa Creeks.

One of the improvements was the creation of a wetland consisting of deep, mid-level and shallow holding ponds, along with controlled pumping stations and plantings of erosion control and filtrating vegetation. Flooding has not been eliminated, especially in times of abnormally high levels of rain, but it is decidedly better than it was. The resulting wetlands have matured over the past four years and are becoming home to a very diverse wildlife population.

A berm around the Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland makes for an easy two mile walk with side-trips into adjacent woods. Nearby pastures provide plenty of open land for species which prefer to forage in low grass. The different levels of water in the ponds is attractive to diving ducks as well as puddle ducks. Dense reeds and grasses are perfect for hiding bitterns, rails, gallinules, wrens and a smorgasbord of insects, reptiles and amphibians.

A sample of the day’s observations follows.

 

Just at sunrise, Sandhill Cranes noisily announce they are moving from the wetlands to nearby fields for breakfast.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Our smaller winter visitors include the feisty Marsh Wren. Curious and aggressive, they are quick to pop out of the weeds to see who is stomping through their seasonal territory.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Tufted Titmice strike me as gang leaders. Their clear whistle signals “intruder alert”! Small birds begin to materialize among the highest tree branches to make sure we know they have us outnumbered.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

How can black and white be so “colorful”? When it adorns the Black-and-white Warbler!

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Usually heard long before it is seen, the White-eyed Vireo is a fairly common year round resident here.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

The Blue-headed Vireo does not breed in our area and is a welcome sight during migration.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Another winter traveler, the Hermit Thrush, graced us with a short song.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Although not as bright as the breeding male, a female/immature Indigo Bunting was a bit of a surprise. Not rare, but not too common either.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Pied-billed Grebes breed throughout our area but the population swells during the winter months as migrants join their southern relatives.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

In the central and southern portion of Florida, the Wood Stork can be locally quite abundant. However, they are not common in most of the United States. Due to habitat concerns and the species’ reliance on stable water conditions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service lists the Wood Stork as federally threatened.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

A small female Downy Woodpecker clucks at us from behind a pine bough.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Pine Warblers can be a drab gray or as bright as a ball of feathered sunshine. This fellow really  objected to us walking under his tree!

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Like some emergency beacon in the night, the intensity of the Yellow-throated Warbler’s throat is hard to miss. We are fortunate to enjoy these bright songsters all year.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

With so much to see, a short walk turned into a couple of hours of pure enjoyment! It’s man-made and includes a sports complex of baseball and soccer fields at the southwest corner, is less than two miles from one of the busiest interstate highway sections in the state and is surrounded by suburban development. Once you leave your car, set foot on the path and experience a bright pink Roseate Spoonbill rise in front of you – all else just doesn’t matter.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Wonderful Wetlands Walk

  1. Hi there Wally. I think you have some sympathetic authorities with planning expertise in your area if they are able to picture a regular flood as a nature reserve. It was good to see some of my favourites today. The vireo family is one that I remember from my trips to Long Point. A splendid and quite unique set of birds beautifully equipped to deal with the rather large bugs found in the Americas. And of course, who could not fail to be impressed by the Black and White Warbler? I was.

    Stay safe you both.

    • Thank you, Phil! Although rare, we have been very lucky to have a few forward-looking engineers influencing some politicians. Hope their numbers and successes expand!

      Vireos are terrific examples of “specialization”! If only they would perch a little lower and remain on a branch a little longer. (I know, I’m never satisfied.)

      Hope you’re having a great day and fingers crossed for good weather!

  2. Well, here I am again, and I’ve finally caught up with the back-log, Wally. The Black-and-white Warbler is vying with the Yellow-throated Warbler in the ‘attractiveness’ stakes and, in spite of that striking yellow throat from the competition, I think that the Black-and white just edges it!

    Must go now and put some cream on that Itchepackesassa. I’ll keep my eyes open for your next post. In the meantime, take good care. My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    • Isn’t amazing that a “plain” black-and-white bird can be so attractive!

      Again, sorry for whatever caused a glitch in our blog transmissions but thank you for being so diligent in catching up!

      We’re having many adventures! Hopefully, another blog post will soon materialize …

  3. edro123

    What a wonderful walk, Wally – I really enjoyed reading about it!

  4. David Gascoigne

    A fine post, Wally. Your comments regarding the Black-and-White Warbler are particularly appropriate. I have often mused about the sheer number of birds that are black-and-white, yet distinctly different from each other, and all stunning. I can think of many birds around the world that I have seen that fit the bill. Right now we are in Ottawa visiting my daughter and her family, and we are sipping on red wine. If I have a couple more glasses I will complete give up on trying to say Itchepackesassa!

    • Many thanks, David. I’ve often thought “plain” black and white birds must be the most beautiful considering they are, for me, the most difficult to photograph correctly.

      Good to hear you’re spending time with your daughter and family. Don’t deprive yourself of another glass of wine! Simply adopt our Southern American proclivity for turning everything into a contraction.

      “Itchepackesassa” is a challenge when sober.
      “Itchy” works just fine and all the locals know where it is.

      All the best.

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