Wildlife

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Patch On The Edge

Okay, so maybe I’m stretching this “patch” thing a bit by including a spot that’s almost a 40 minute drive from the house. As the Corvus flies, it’s only 17 miles away. Alas, not being a handsome crow, I must climb into a hunk of metal and negotiate highways, bi-ways and expressways all the while trying to avoid a collision with other humanoids within their own hunks of metal scurrying along at unreasonably high rates of speed and by the time I reach the lovely setting of Lake Gwyn Park I’m ready for a peaceful walk in a wetland.

This is another man-made wetland which attempts to mitigate decades of poor irrigation and agricultural practices. An old canal dug for taking water from Lake Gwyn to nearby farms long ago completely drained the lake and “Lake” Gwyn has been devoid of water for many years. The canal eventually flows into the Peace River which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The filtered water of the newly developed wetlands will help keep the river, and ultimately, the gulf, cleaner for the future.

The first phase of a multi-year project has developed the western portion of the former lake into a series of open water pools of varying depths and has included plantings of vegetation known to be effective natural filters. The result has been to provide attractive habitat for diverse bird species, especially during fall and spring migration. Resident birds like the place, too. Last spring we found six Snail Kites in the park and I’m pretty certain they bred there.

There is a trail of about two miles along a raised berm and through a section of pine woods which offers nice views of the wetland and a pleasant walk through shady forest. Recreation and picnic facilities are currently under construction and planning has begun for the second phase of the project which will restore the eastern half of the lake area.

As I mentioned, fall through spring can offer very good birding opportunities, but even an early morning summer walk is rewarding. Many birds have adopted the new area as home and other animals are finding the wetland to their liking as well. A patch totally worth a little drive.

Patch:  Lake Gwyn Park

Clean water, lush vegetation, a few trees. What more could a bird (or birder) ask for?

Lake Gwyn Park

Lake Gwyn Park

 

If the Great Blue Heron is present, you know the hunting and fishing are good.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

A pair of Green Herons fussed at me all along the eastern berm trail leading me to believe they had a nest nearby. They are normally silent and slink away as I approach. This one flew up to a snag and kept a close eye on me. Unusual.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

This Red-winged Blackbird announced his happiness in song from atop the same snag the Green Heron above was using. A female further along the path seemed just as happy.

Lake Gwyn Park

Lake Gwyn Park

 

A pair of River Otters were very curious about what I was doing in their territory. The presence of these mammals indicate the wetland is doing its job of providing clean water, good habitat and a healthy supply of forage. All good news.

Lake Gwyn Park

Lake Gwyn Park

Lake Gwyn Park

 

This brings to a close (stop cheering) my summary of local birding patches which Gini and I frequent. You will see the names of these spots again as they really are wonderful places to go birding, photographing, exploring and just plain relaxing. We hope you have your own list of patches where you may also experience all of the above.

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

 

Additional Information

Lake Gwyn Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

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