Posts Tagged With: green swamp

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

A Census For The Senses

“For Better Or Worse.” She had no idea.

From braving blizzards, sleeping on rocky ground, suffering heat exhaustion on a small boat 30 miles from land, being lost in the forests of Germany, dodging hailstones in the desert – to being my constant companion no matter the adventure – to raising two perfect children – my wife has no equal. Her positive spirit continued to manifest itself when our bird watching hobby was elevated to a new level recently.

The second Florida Breeding Bird Atlas project began in 2011 and will continue through 2016. When completed, scientists will have data on which species of birds breed within Florida and can compare trends with the first atlas from 25 years ago. Volunteer birders have spent countless hours attempting to sample portions of every county in the state. An ambitious undertaking. As a fellow birder put it, it’s “birding with a purpose”.

A couple of things have happened along the way as I’ve tried to contribute to the atlas effort. I have become a better birder. Although I had an awareness of which birds are residents, this has really fine-tuned my sense of the rhythm of the seasons. My knowledge of the natural history of birds has increased substantially. In addition to just trying to identify a bird, I’ve learned to actually “observe” birds – are they carrying nesting material, where do they nest, when do they breed, how long does it take a chick to fledge, will they have a second (or third) brood during the year – all fascinating stuff! Habitat is everything for attracting birds and I’ve learned about trees, flowers, grasses and unique ecosystems.

The best part has been more of what made it so easy to start this avocation in the first place. We are outside a lot and have enjoyed spectacular sunrises and sunsets, explored new natural areas, marveled at how many stars are packed in a pre-dawn sky, seen a triple rainbow, watched bobcats, coyotes, deer and discovered hosts of flora, fauna and natural happenings we never could have imagined. Oh, and we saw a few birds along the way, too.

We’re looking forward to the final year of the atlas coming up but the experience has added a new dimension to our bird-watching adventures. All of our senses are more alive and each trip is a new learning experience.

The following images are from a couple of trips specifically intended to locate breeding birds in specific areas to add to the atlas data bank. As usual, I can’t resist including some “non-birding” material as well.

 

We live within a few minutes’ drive of the Green Swamp, the second-largest swamp in Florida after the Everglades. Encompassing over 870 square miles (2253 sq km) the swamp includes headwaters of four major rivers and is a vital source of filtering water which eventually enters Florida’s underground aquifer system. This field of recently rolled hay is on the edge of the swamp and is seen here just at dawn with a bit of typical fog lingering.

Morning Hay

Morning Hay

 

What the atlas is all about: babies! A Sandhill Crane chick can walk and swim within eight hours of hatching. This youngster will lose its buffy plumage and look more like Mom and Dad by the end of the summer.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

Black-necked Stilts find plenty of shallow water in our area for hunting and use the plentiful mud shorelines to nest. Below you can see the size of the stilt relative to a Sandhill Crane and a Glossy Ibis.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

 

Black-necked Stilt, Sandhill Crane

Black-necked Stilt, Sandhill Crane

Black-necked Stilt, Glossy Ibis

Black-necked Stilt, Glossy Ibis

 

Mottled Ducks may be in danger of disappearing due to extensive inter-breeding with Mallards. These two appear to be “actual” Mottled Ducks as they don’t seem to show any Mallard traits but it is becoming increasingly difficult to be certain.

Mottled Duck

Mottled Duck

 

A small island in a pond in a pasture provides a protected rookery for a couple hundred Cattle Egrets. Also present were a few Anhingas, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets. Most of these birds were sitting on nests and several had young in the nest.

Rookery

Rookery

 

Many Bald Eagle nests are monitored by different groups in the state, but this one had not yet been recorded when we found it late last year. Bald Eagles in Florida usually breed from November through May. We continued to drive by the newly built nest periodically and finally spotted this young eagle, almost ready to fledge. One of the parents flew in with a fish, deposited it in the nest and kept an eye on junior from a nearby branch.

Bald Eagle - Juvenile

Bald Eagle – Juvenile

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

 

A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers had young in this cavity and the adults constantly flew back and forth providing food delivery for the kids. Here, the female had to lean to one side as the male exploded out of the cavity. Sorry for the blurry photo, it’s the birds’ fault.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

This Brown Anole had a close encounter of the predator kind not too long ago. Fortunately, they are designed with a “break-away” tail which allows them to escape such attacks. The replacement may not be an exact match but it sure beats the alternative! This male is displaying a throat fan, or dew lap, which is used to attract attention during courtship and for territorial defense.

Brown Anole

Brown Anole

 

We spotted a Wild Turkey hen with 12 chicks. She stood watch as all the youngsters struggled to cross a fallen log.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

 

Great Blue Skimmers love our wooded swampy areas. They are one of our larger dragonflies and are distinguished by a white face. The males are powdery blue and the females, as seen here, are brownish/orange.

Great Blue Skimmer - Female  (Libellula vibrans)

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans)

 

Many homeowners erect elaborate houses and gourd complexes in the hope of attracting Purple Martins each year. In the event of a housing shortage, no worries, the resourceful birds will find shelter. In this case, the end supports of utility line structures are hollow and make a fine place to raise little martins.

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

 

Whether we’re bird-watching, birding, atlasing or just out for a drive, Gini and I continue to be truly blessed to be able to enjoy what Nature has to offer – together. When you have a chance, take your own census of your senses and know that Life Is Good.

 

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

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

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