Posts Tagged With: osprey

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

Coasting East (Afternoon)

“Can we go around again?”

Like a child at the fair who just got off the pony on the Merry-Go-Round, Gini’s wide brown eyes were hard to resist.

“Yes, but first let’s explore a couple of other spots.”

She concealed her initial disappointment well. Fortunately, new sights and sounds created just as much excitement and awe as our morning excursion around Black Point Wildlife Drive had.

After our lunch of fresh shrimp, we headed toward Bio Lab Road with a bit of trepidation. Last year’s Hurricane Dorian, which devastated portions of the Bahamas, damaged portions of Merritt Island NWR, including Bio Lab Road. Repairs were completed several weeks ago and the road is in much better condition than it was before the storm. Powerful wind and wave action altered some of the shoreline and a lot of trees were downed or damaged.

Bio Lab Road still had plenty to offer! Lots of birds, fish jumping in the lagoon, a healthy population of alligators and even blooming flowers. A breeze coming in from the Atlantic Ocean was very refreshing.

Our next objective was Gator Creek Road. Extensive mud flats make this area prime hunting territory for shore birds and waders. There were thousands of birds there to greet us. Okay, they couldn’t have cared less about us. They were all extremely active as they chased fish, shrimp, crabs and small creatures in the shallow water and in the soft mud. We were not offended at being ignored.

It was getting late and I had promised a certain brown-eyed beauty one more ride on the Merry-Go-Round. Black Point Wildlife Drive had just as many birds in the late afternoon as it had early in the morning. We were fascinated at the diversity on display.

Reluctantly, we headed out of the refuge. One more stop. Just before crossing the bridge into Titusville is Parrish Park, which has picnic pavilions, fishing areas and boat ramps. Just at sunset, the parking lot fills with gulls preparing to roost for the night. On one of the docks, we found an immature Herring Gull as well as an adult flying overhead. Another dock was crowded with a group of Ruddy Turnstones, probably planning to rest for the night.

Crossing the bridge as the sun dropped below the western horizon, the lights of Titusville began to twinkle in the darkening sky and we glanced at each other with that look of total satisfaction which results from a special day together.

 

Love is in the air. A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers were inspecting potential nesting sites. A little flirting was also observed.

Merritt Island NWR

 

More signs of love. This Northern Flicker apparently visited the local tattoo shop and had a pretty red heart inscribed on his back. (Actual facts: The eastern version of the Northern Flicker was once called the “Yellow-shafted Flicker” due to the yellowish undersides of wings and tail. The “Red-shafted Flicker” is usually found in the western parts of North America. The eastern species has a red crescent on the nape, the “heart” seen here, and the male has a black malar stripe.)

Merritt Island NWR

 

Death stare. This Osprey was convinced we wanted his Speckled Trout. Took his photo and moved on so he could eat in peace.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Medium-sized Forster’s Terns are mostly silvery-white with a black eye patch, a dark bill and orange feet. During breeding season, they will develop a black cap and the bill will turn orange.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Throughout the refuge, clouds of pink can be seen as Roseate Spoonbills are somewhat common here. It’s fascinating to watch these large waders sweep their rounded bills through the shallows as they filter small shrimp and fish.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Wintering American Avocets line up and march across a shallow mud flat herding small minnows and then slashing with their long curved bills as they gorge on the briny buffet.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A drab-looking Black-bellied Plover almost disappears in the mottled salt marsh habitat. Soon, the males will become a striking figure in bright white and black breeding attire.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Afternoon alligator.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A Snowy Egret wonders how the Roseate Spoonbill can catch anything by swishing back and forth with that funny-looking beak. He thinks stabbing with a nice pointy bill is definitely more effective.

Merritt Island NWR

 

At Parrish Park, just outside the refuge, an immature Herring Gull prepared to hunker down for the night. An adult flew above the boat ramps toward a roost of her own.

Merritt Island NWR

Herring Gull – Immature

Merritt Island NWR

Herring Gull – Adult

 

Another dock about to become a hostel for the night. These Ruddy Turnstones began to huddle up as daylight faded.

Merritt Island NWR

 

 

Our drive home was a mirror-image of our trip’s beginning. Orange and purple sky rapidly turned black. Touching hands. We agreed it had been a glorious day. The western sky began to brighten as we neared the light pollution of Orlando. Our timing wasn’t too awful as a mix of folks going home from work and Disney World visitors had thinned a bit so we could reach almost 20 miles-per-hour for a few miles.

Home. Planning our return visit.

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

 

Additional Information

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Parrish Park – Titusville

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

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