Posts Tagged With: black and white warbler

The Verge Of Spring

Daffodowndilly

(by A.A. Milne)

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,

She wore her greenest gown;

She turned to the south wind

And curtsied up and down.

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbour:

“Winter is dead.”

 

Once upon a time, I went fishing. A cheap rod and reel, a black plastic worm with a red tail. Slowly winding the reel and “tug-tug”! Largemouth bass were put on a stringer and placed in the water to keep them alive until it was time to go home. Dinner was good.

Florida’s phosphate industry is a multi-billion dollar a year business and helps supply the world with fertilizer to help feed its inhabitants. The process of extracting the minerals from Florida’s earth is not a pretty thing to watch. The land is severely damaged.

Kudos to the companies for their substantial commitment to reclaiming mined lands. Their efforts through the years provided recreation (and dinner) for my family and friends all those years ago. The same is true today.

The reclamation process includes water and land restoration. Native flora and modern water filtration techniques help ensure Floridians and visitors have access to a diverse habitat where they can pursue many outdoor interests.

Even birding!

Gini and I recently visited two areas which have been restored over the past several decades from previous mining activities. Mosaic Fish Management Area, south of Fort Meade in Polk County and Mosaic Peace River Park, south of Bartow at Homeland, also in Polk County. (Mosaic is a company formed in 2004 from the merger of IMC Global and Cargill fertilizer division. They produce more of the world’s fertilizer than the next two largest companies combined.)

Our visits were in late February and early March. Warm, humid mornings signaled a probable ending to what Floridians refer to as “winter”, or as we like to call it, “the brown season”. It’s a wonderful time to be out! Many trees and plants are sprouting new growth, flowers are forming, insects are becoming more active and birding is transitioning from enjoying our northern visitors who remained all winter to the excitement of migrants returning from Central and South America.

 

Mosaic Fish Management Area

An abundance of water with thriving fish populations attracts all sorts of predators. Humans, alligators and a diverse selection of birds. This is the Osprey’s element. A large number of Osprey nests give the area an appearance of a sort of avian suburbia.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Warmer weather begins reproductive cycles for many species, including dragonflies. One of our early dragons is the brightly colored Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Claiming territory and attracting a mate. A male Northern Cardinal showed off his scarlet plumage, sang and generally let us know this was HIS patch of woods!

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

We will soon bid farewell to many warbler species who have been so kind to grace us with their presence throughout the winter months. The Palm Warbler with its pumping tail has tried to eat as many mosquitoes as possible over the past several weeks. Who wouldn’t love this bird just for that?

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

The Black-and-white Warbler and its nuthatch habits will likewise head for home soon. A few of these bright wood warblers have found some areas of the Sunshine State to their liking so we’ll be on the lookout for them throughout the year.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Joining the throngs of Palm Warblers in the skies, Yellow-rumped warblers are also busy fueling up with as much protein as possible to better endure their long journey. We’ll miss those bright “butter-butts”.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Skulking in the foliage, a Gray Catbird was part of a group of four we found in one spot. They typically form loose groups from a few birds up to a couple of dozen in preparation for heading home to breed. No more “stray kittens” in the woods until fall.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Mosaic Peace River Park

The Peace River is at a typically low level during the dry season. Cypress tree roots are exposed along the bank. The river winds through swamp and hardwood forests and will eventually empty into the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) west of here.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

A Cypress tree reveals how high the water has been. The ground here today is damp but in a couple of months one will need a boat.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

All sorts of creatures make trails through the low, lush vegetation.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

Nearly all of Florida’s Cypress trees were cut for lumber by the 1930’s. If left alone, these relatively young Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) can grow to 150 feet (46 meters) tall and live for over 600 years.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

The rich, damp soil and diffused light provided by the dense tree canopy makes swamps a great place for ferns to flourish.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

Roots of a Bald Cypress tree probe deep into the mud along the bank of the Peace River. The surface of the still water reflects the tree’s upper branches reaching toward the sky.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

Mining. Fertilizer. Destruction. Renewal. Fishing. Birding. Exploring.

The verge of Spring. Life is a cycle. We are blessed to be part of the process.

 

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

 

Additional Sources

Mosaic Fish Management Area

Mosaic Peace River Park (Map Location, No Brochure Available)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Day In The Green Swamp

To say we went birding in the Green Swamp is not totally accurate. We went birding in the “area” of the Green Swamp. I didn’t want you thinking we had donned our hip-waders and struck off into the dark tea-colored waters fighting off alligators and snakes to search for birds.

Not that we wouldn’t willingly make such a sacrifice to bring our dear readers wonderful images — but we didn’t.

The Green Swamp consists of over 560,000 acres (+226,000 Ha) in central Florida. Four major rivers begin life here from underground springs: Hillsborough, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee. Much of central Florida’s water supply comes from these rivers. Over 500 years ago, the army of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto found the swamp so large and impenetrable they had to skirt around it. Seminole Indians found it a perfect place to hide from and ambush United States Army troops during the Second Seminole War in the mid-1800’s. In the early 20th century, real estate developers planned to drain the whole thing. That didn’t work but lumber barons did manage to remove almost all of the centuries-old cypress trees. Lumbering, mining, cattle ranching, hunting – the swamp has been a bountiful, even if unwilling, provider over many years.

This diverse habitat is now protected by government programs from development and use which might be environmentally unsound. Limited hunting and fishing, hiking, camping and biking are permitted in some areas. Oh, and birding.

At the edges of this vast area the land rises gently as it transitions to upland forests, open pastures, sandhills and oak scrub. Wildlife is attracted to these transition areas and it is where we concentrate our exploration. Old logging roads cut through the actual swamp but habitat becomes somewhat conforming which reduces the opportunity to observe much variation in species.

The day began before sunrise with Barred Owls sounding off from every stop we made. Where a pasture bordered a wooded area we found more than a dozen species of birds busily hunting for breakfast. Happily, the hungry horde included a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers, which have become rather uncommon in our area. The trip through the swamp not only provided better diversity than expected, we even found a fairly rare bird for central Florida, a Golden-crowned Kinglet. (Alas, I was unable to get a decent photograph.)

Florida is famous for flat land and water. Our Green Swamp has plenty of both. Thank goodness!

 

From an observation tower at sunrise, the Green Swamp seems to be more forest than swamp.

Withlacoochee River Park

 

Once you begin exploring under those treetops, however, be prepared to get wet.

Withlacoochee River Park

Colt Creek State Park

 

A curious Red-headed Woodpecker. Across much of the country, this species has not adapted very well to human development.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Easy to see how the Eastern Bluebird was named. That blue almost looks artificial.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Small and extremely active, we found several Ruby-crowned Kinglets during the day.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Pine Warblers were numerous and very hungry.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

We were either being followed by one persistent Hermit Thrush or we saw six different individuals. Somewhat of a high count for our area.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

This Ovenbird was upset at something beyond our vision. The bright orange raised crest and loud alarm calls got our attention. (At least he wasn’t yelling at US!)

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Carolina Chickadees are not numerous around here but once they find a habitat they like they’re quick to announce intruders to the rest of the swamp.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

I almost consider this photograph of a Black-and-White Warbler rare since the bird is perched upright. Usually, they are scurrying head-first down a tree trunk or defying gravity on the underside of a branch. Wannabe nuthatches.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

 

We didn’t get our feet too wet but we certainly enjoyed our swamp outing! This huge area has a lot to offer and we will return many times to take advantage of such a natural treasure.

 

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

 

 

Additional Information

The Green Swamp

Categories: Birds, Florida, History, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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