Posts Tagged With: green heron

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

Swiftly Flow The Days*

Time. We talk about slowing it down. Reversing it, even. Many throughout history have tried to stop it altogether. About 500 years ago, a guy from Spain tromped around not too far from here looking for a spring from which a sip of cool water, it was said, would keep him eternally youthful. (Not a bad yarn to tell your Queen if you need a load of money for men, ships and supplies! “And of course, Your Majesty shall be the only recipient of such a precious gift.“)

I am a time criminal. I waste it profusely. There are important tasks to be performed and I delay beginning them. Perhaps at some point the important tasks will diminish in significance and I won’t have to accomplish them at all. Alas, I was assigned a Time Guardian. She knows my proclivity toward procrastination and will not allow my idleness to interfere with important tasks. Once upon a time, I thought I could disguise my laziness by “appearing” to be busy. That is when I discovered my guardian could read my mind. She can divert my inattention before I even know I am about to delay the start of an important task. It isn’t natural. But it sure is effective.

Fortunately, my Time Guardian is, on occasion, amenable to looking the other way if she thinks my avoidance of an important task might be of a worthy nature. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest she may be an actual accomplice to my crimes against time, but …..

Me:  “Tomorrow the sunrise and moonset times are close to each other and it might present a chance for some interesting photographs at the beach.”

Time Guardian: “There’s some cold chicken in the fridge and we can throw in some fruit. What time do we need to leave?”

The following images are from the past several days and were taken from various places of local interest which we have visited many times. Each represents a trip taken on “the spur of the moment” and each was an avoidance of some important task on my part. I could not have been successful in these endeavors without assistance from a complicit Time Guardian.

 

Sunrise can be the most beautiful part of any day! Or, it can be shrouded in fog where one has to strain to see anything at all. The sun rising over Lake Kissimmee begins to give shape to familiar objects such as the bridge over the river.

Lake Kissimmee

 

Before the woods begin to glow from a rising sun, many creatures enjoy the cover of darkness to carry on their business without being seen. With huge light-gathering eyes and a sort of “radar”, the Eastern Screech Owl can easily locate some of those creatures for breakfast. We had been hearing Whip-poor-wills calling and thought that’s what this was until a flashlight showed our error.

Gator Creek Reserve

 

On a rainy morning in the Lake Marion Wildlife Management Area (east of Haines City), we found several Barred Owls hunting over the upland pine tract. This one didn’t want to leave his perch as we walked underneath.

Huckleberry Island Tract

 

Hillsborough River State Park was established in the mid-1930’s and is one of Florida’s oldest parks. With the rainy season beginning in earnest, the river’s rapids are higher than normal.

Hillsborough River State Park

Hillsborough River State Park

 

It seems no matter where we go, if there are trees and bushes, there are White-eyed Vireos.

Huckleberry Island Tract

 

In between rain showers, dragons are on the hunt. This one is a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Lake Parker Park

 

It is still spring and many birds are courting, nesting and raising chicks. This pair of Eastern Towhees were likely not pleased at our intrusion.

Huckleberry Island Tract

 

One of our favorite places to stop for a quick look is close to a very busy highway. SUMICA is a French acronym (Societe Universelle Mining Industrie, Commerce et Agriculture) which described a turpentine and sawmill town which existed from about 1917 to 1927. A Loggerhead Shrike welcomed us with song. (Okay, he was more likely singing to a nearby female shrike.)

SUMICA

 

As with the dragons, a few moments of sunshine brings out other insects, such as a bright Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae).

Tenoroc FMA

 

Closer to home, nearby Lake Parker Park is host to a diverse population of birds, especially water birds. I found this cute pair of new Green Herons close to one of the footpaths.

Lake Parker Park

 

Also at Lake Parker Park, a young Limpkin is impatient for Mom to show her how to open a freshwater mussel. Their bills are especially adapted for getting into an apple snail, but the mussels require brute force. Mom used her bill like a hammer until the shell broke open.

Lake Parker Park

 

With our abundance of rain, it hasn’t always been possible to enjoy a sunset. This one was from an area near the house which is a reclaimed phosphate mining area. Saddle Creek Park offers fishing, camping, hiking and some of the county’s best birding, especially during warbler migration. This evening, storm clouds remain, but parted just long enough for a pretty spectacular end to the day.

Saddle Creek Park

 

“Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years”*

 

Time is an issue for all of us humans. There never seems to be enough of the stuff for us to do what we want. It is important to have a Time Guardian to help us efficiently organize what limited time we have. And if she happens to understand the importance of bending the rules once in awhile, consider yourself lucky. I know I do!

 

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

 

*(From Sunrise, Sunset, written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick for the musical Fiddler On The Roof.)

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

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