Posts Tagged With: blue-headed vireo

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

Scouting For The Count

“I’ll be happy to help you do some scouting”, said Gini The Naive.

This year will mark the 118th year of the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. (Yes, as a matter of fact I WAS at the first count over a hundred years ago. Smart alecks.) At that time, a genius birder (okay, that’s redundant) had a novel idea. “Hey, how about we just COUNT the birds instead of seeing who can shoot the most?” A movement and a tradition were born. The data from each year’s count is compiled by Cornell University in New York and makes available a treasure trove of research material for scientists as they attempt to understand the status of our avian friends.

In order to help our team operate as efficiently as possible on the actual count day, I spent the prior week searching out known bird haunts and seeking new ones. Knowing which birds are present helps us concentrate on locating less common species. Part of this process involves listening for owls. They call when it’s dark outside. Therefore, we must be outdoors in potential owl habitat when it’s dark outside. Sunrise is about 7:00. The sky begins to lighten about 6:00. Yep, Gini The Naive deduced we needed to set the alarm clock really early! No complaints from her. Not even a whimper. That’s a good thing. She’s the one with the keen hearing.

After all was said and done, we had a very good official count day of birding and tallied a few more species than last year. The weather was great with a cool morning, warm day and gentle breeze. For me, highlights of this year’s efforts include:  a single Bufflehead (not common in our area), a flock of 18 Wild Turkey (unusual in our dense suburban environment), a relatively high number of Blue-headed Vireo and an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk (a winter visitor in small numbers).

Gini The Naive was, as expected, simply fantastic during scouting week as I took her to all the great birding locales:  the aforementioned pre-dawn owling forays, a cemetery, muddy marshes, dusty dirt roads and the ever-popular city dump. Once again, she proved she is, and shall ever be, Gini My Beloved!

Since you asked, I did take a couple of snapshots.

 

As the morning fog began to lift from the marsh it revealed one of the local fishermen already on the job. The Great Blue Heron paid no attention to my clumsy efforts.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

A pair of Anhinga patiently wait for a bit of sunshine before they begin diving in the chilly water.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Another hunter of the wetlands, a Great Egret, has his eye on a frog and doesn’t acknowledge my presence.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Morning commute. A River Otter pushed up a wake under his chin as he headed for his office across the lake.

Banana Lake Park

 

I wasn’t sure if this Osprey was curious, territorial or ticked off.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

After watching a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker chase a Red-bellied Woodpecker around a clearing and in and out of the trees, the pair landed briefly on an oak before taking off on their game of tag again.

Crooked Lake WEA

 

A dapper looking Black-and-White Warbler probes a hole in a branch for breakfast.

Crooked Lake WEA

 

Golden Silk Orb Weavers craft very strong webs across paths to catch all manner of prey during the night – and occasional birders during the day who are constantly looking up instead of where they’re going!

Crooked Lake WEA

 

I don’t know if the feathers under the talons of this Red-shouldered Hawk are from preening or left over from a morning snack.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

This year I seem to have found more Blue-headed Vireos than in the past. That’s okay with me!

Crooked Lake WEA

 

Pine Warblers can vary from very drab to very bright. This is one of the brighter variety and I chased after him quite awhile before he sat still for a picture.

Crooked Lake WEA

 

Another bright yellow fellow, this Yellow-throated Warbler has found a hairy white caterpillar for brunch. Yum!

Crooked Lake WEA

 

North America’s smallest falcon, the American Kestrel, is quite colorful. I was lucky to find one that remained on a perch while I was less than a mile away.

Lake Streety Road

 

There I was, head up searching for warblers in the tree-tops, when I had the feeling I was being watched. One picture and this White-tailed buck sprang across the path in one leap and disappeared into the forest.

Gator Creek Reserve

 

A cold morning and a fluffed up Yellow-rumped Warbler. We don’t often get to see the bit of yellow in their crown.

Mount Olive Primitive Cemetery

 

Speaking of beautiful. The majestic Turkey Vulture. The other birds are beside themselves with envy.

Mount Olive Primitive Cemetery

 

During the winter, a few sparrows hang around and challenge us to identify them. Head pattern, diffuse streaks on the breast and a nice rufous wing patch tell us this is a Swamp Sparrow.Banana Lake Park

 

Soft mud is a magnet for shorebirds. This Killdeer characteristically ran a few steps, probed the mud, ran a few steps, probed. Fun to watch!Bartow Medical Center

 

A small stream in the middle of a pasture is not where I expected to spot a Bufflehead!

Rolling Woods Lane

 

The back of an Eastern Meadowlark blends perfectly with the dried grasses where they live. That bright yellow front and loud, clear song, however, make it impossible for it to hide!Rolling Woods Lane

 

One of those little brown birds again. This Savannah Sparrow walked (quickly) from one clump of grass to another in a field before I caught him in the open long enough for a photograph.

Rolling Woods Lane

 

Reaching for the latch to a corral gate, I spotted a Monarch Butterfly chrysalis. Every bit as beautiful as its contents.

Rolling Woods Lane

 

Winter migration brings us an influx of Eastern Phoebes.  These small flycatchers stay busy all day sallying forth from an exposed perch to capture any insect foolish enough to be out in the open.

Lake Hancock Tract

 

Not to be outdone by his Blue-headed cousin, this White-eyed Vireo sang and posed for several minutes.

Banana Lake Park

 

This is the closest I’ve been to a Sharp-shinned Hawk. They only visit during the winter and I normally see them as a brown blur as they speed after a little songbird in the woods.

Lake Hancock Tract

 

 

This year’s Christmas Bird Count was a success for our entire 50+ person effort, my own 5 member team and was immeasurably enhanced by the participation of the one and only Gini My Beloved. She and I wish each and every one of you the best Holiday Season ever!

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: