Posts Tagged With: pileated woodpecker

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

Ramp Up Your Birding !

Have you ever noticed the thing you seek is sometimes close at hand? Can’t find your car keys? Don’t move. Look around where you’re standing. Open the nearest drawer. Chances are good you’ll find them within a moment or two. But the normal human urge is to think the farther we travel the greater will be our reward. So we go outside first and look in the car to see if we left the keys in the ignition. In fishing, we spend all day plying the deep waters far from shore only to return to see the guy who spent an hour fishing from the dock stuffing another fish into an overloaded cooler. How many times have we hiked through a park all morning in search of migrant warblers only to return to the parking lot and find them feeding under the car?

Gini handed me an egg salad sandwich and we shared a container of fresh tangerine slices. The mirror surface of the lake reflected the impossibly blue sky and a Tricolored Heron flapped lazily along the shoreline. Early morning is an active time for wild creatures. While we enjoyed breakfast, ripples in the water gave away locations of feeding fish, turtles poked their heads above the surface to enjoy the sun’s rays, a Limpkin tip-toed through the cattails in search of snails and a Bald Eagle soared above the lake and was harassed by two loudly scolding Fish Crows. A loud, rhythmic “thwack!”, “thwack!” directed our attention to an oak tree beside us where a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers tore large chunks of bark from the trunk and probed deep within the tree for insect morsels. A more dainty, quick “rat-a-tat-tat-tat” told us a Downy Woodpecker was also in the area. An after-breakfast walk resulted in almost 40 species of birds in the small park.

Our breakfast venue was Lake Rosalie Park in eastern Polk County. A boat ramp, a few picnic tables and small number of primitive camping spots did not offer an extensive area to explore. But what a pleasure to be almost alone (there was one friendly couple camping) and be able to observe so many birds in such a relatively small place!

We feel very fortunate to live in Florida, a state which is not only surrounded on three sides by water but where the interior is dotted with myriad ponds, lakes, streams and rivers. All that water encourages a really diverse flourishing of flora and fauna. Although it’s wonderful to have large parks, reserves and impoundments containing huge numbers of birds nearby, we have learned to enjoy the small places, too. Early in our bird-watching endeavors, we made the astounding scientific discovery that most birds have wings and cannot read the map where it clearly states:  “Birding Hotspot“.

A quick look at a city, county or state website will direct one to a listing of public boat ramps. These don’t always have a park associated with them, but all are definitely worth a glance once in awhile. Not only can you usually get a look at a body of water and its associated shoreline, the surrounding area is often prime habitat for a great variety of birds, native as well as migratory. And if you happen to have  someone with deep brown eyes and soft hands next to you, it’s quite possible that birding will suddenly cease to be all that critical.

Coleman Landing At Shady Oaks Recreation Area has recently expanded to include several improved camping sites for recreational vehicles and a new large shower facility. It’s still basically just a boat ramp which provides access to huge Lake Kissimmee and is nestled among a very nice grove of shady oak trees. The following photographs are from a recent breakfast excursion.

This Red-shouldered Hawk is quite pale and is a good example of the species found in south Florida.

Coleman Landing

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

A White-eyed Vireo took time out from his tireless singing to gawk at the guy walking around poking his face in all the shrubbery.

Coleman Landing

White-eyed Vireo

 

A rare (for me) photograph of a Merlin perched (albeit for only a moment). My usual view of this seasonal migrant is of a blurry brown rear end. They are about the size of an American Kestrel but are faster, don’t hover like a kestrel and whereas the kestrel prefers insects the Merlin specializes in small birds.

Coleman Landing

Merlin

 

Speaking of the American Kestrel, this one was just up the path from the Merlin. Hearing the click of the camera, he gave me the “evil eye” and screamed something about he was trying to hunt here so I left him alone.

Coleman Landing

American Kestrel

Coleman Landing

American Kestrel

 

Another early morning breakfast was enjoyed at the aforementioned boat ramp at Lake Rosalie Park where a few feathered friends kept us entertained.

 

It was a bit early in the season for Pileated Woodpeckers to be choosing a nesting site, but this species mates for life so it’s not unusual to see a pair together throughout the year. The male is distinguished by  red malar stripes while the female’s are dark. These large woodpeckers (average length 16.5 inches/42 cm) will often bore quite deeply into a tree to find insects.

Lake Rosalie Park

Pileated Woodpecker – Male

Lake Rosalie Park

Pileated Woodpecker – Female

Lake Rosalie Park

Pileated Woodpecker – Male

 

Limpkins blend in very well with the colors and patterns of vegetation found near water.

Lake Rosalie Park

Limpkin

 

A Northern Parula is not common here during the winter months but this one appears to be enjoying the mild weather just fine.

Lake Rosalie Park

Northern Parula

 

A very small portion of a huge flock of Tree Swallows swarmed a section of trees and vacuumed up bugs from the leaves without ever landing.

Saddle Creek Park

Tree Swallow

 

It seemed a bit out of place to spot a Brown Pelican high in a moss-draped oak tree. Of course, they frequently choose such a location for nest placement, although I didn’t spot a nest here.

Saddle Creek Park

Brown Pelican

 

On the way home, we stopped at another public boat ramp near our house at Lake Parker in Lakeland. Snail Kites have been expanding their range but they are still an endangered species.  It’s good to see one any time. They have been spotted at Lake Parker with some regularity since last year. The expansion of their range is tied to their main food source, the Apple Snail. Here a female or immature kite hovers over a weedy area near the lake’s shore and comes up with supper.

West Lake Parker Drive

Snail Kite

West Lake Parker Drive

Snail Kite

 

We sold our boat but still like hanging around boat ramps! The next time you see a public boat ramp sign, take a look. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find. And if you have your priorities straight, go with someone you love. Take breakfast. Take binoculars. Ignore the last two items.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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