Posts Tagged With: pine warbler

A Day In The Green Swamp

To say we went birding in the Green Swamp is not totally accurate. We went birding in the “area” of the Green Swamp. I didn’t want you thinking we had donned our hip-waders and struck off into the dark tea-colored waters fighting off alligators and snakes to search for birds.

Not that we wouldn’t willingly make such a sacrifice to bring our dear readers wonderful images — but we didn’t.

The Green Swamp consists of over 560,000 acres (+226,000 Ha) in central Florida. Four major rivers begin life here from underground springs: Hillsborough, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee. Much of central Florida’s water supply comes from these rivers. Over 500 years ago, the army of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto found the swamp so large and impenetrable they had to skirt around it. Seminole Indians found it a perfect place to hide from and ambush United States Army troops during the Second Seminole War in the mid-1800’s. In the early 20th century, real estate developers planned to drain the whole thing. That didn’t work but lumber barons did manage to remove almost all of the centuries-old cypress trees. Lumbering, mining, cattle ranching, hunting – the swamp has been a bountiful, even if unwilling, provider over many years.

This diverse habitat is now protected by government programs from development and use which might be environmentally unsound. Limited hunting and fishing, hiking, camping and biking are permitted in some areas. Oh, and birding.

At the edges of this vast area the land rises gently as it transitions to upland forests, open pastures, sandhills and oak scrub. Wildlife is attracted to these transition areas and it is where we concentrate our exploration. Old logging roads cut through the actual swamp but habitat becomes somewhat conforming which reduces the opportunity to observe much variation in species.

The day began before sunrise with Barred Owls sounding off from every stop we made. Where a pasture bordered a wooded area we found more than a dozen species of birds busily hunting for breakfast. Happily, the hungry horde included a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers, which have become rather uncommon in our area. The trip through the swamp not only provided better diversity than expected, we even found a fairly rare bird for central Florida, a Golden-crowned Kinglet. (Alas, I was unable to get a decent photograph.)

Florida is famous for flat land and water. Our Green Swamp has plenty of both. Thank goodness!

 

From an observation tower at sunrise, the Green Swamp seems to be more forest than swamp.

Withlacoochee River Park

 

Once you begin exploring under those treetops, however, be prepared to get wet.

Withlacoochee River Park

Colt Creek State Park

 

A curious Red-headed Woodpecker. Across much of the country, this species has not adapted very well to human development.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Easy to see how the Eastern Bluebird was named. That blue almost looks artificial.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Small and extremely active, we found several Ruby-crowned Kinglets during the day.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Pine Warblers were numerous and very hungry.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

We were either being followed by one persistent Hermit Thrush or we saw six different individuals. Somewhat of a high count for our area.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

This Ovenbird was upset at something beyond our vision. The bright orange raised crest and loud alarm calls got our attention. (At least he wasn’t yelling at US!)

Green Swamp East Tract

 

Carolina Chickadees are not numerous around here but once they find a habitat they like they’re quick to announce intruders to the rest of the swamp.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

I almost consider this photograph of a Black-and-White Warbler rare since the bird is perched upright. Usually, they are scurrying head-first down a tree trunk or defying gravity on the underside of a branch. Wannabe nuthatches.

Green Swamp East Tract

 

 

We didn’t get our feet too wet but we certainly enjoyed our swamp outing! This huge area has a lot to offer and we will return many times to take advantage of such a natural treasure.

 

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

 

 

Additional Information

The Green Swamp

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

Day Or Night – Birding Is Great!

It’s dark in a cemetery at night. Okay, I know, it’s dark at night – duh. But it seems darker in a cemetery. The mosquitoes didn’t care. They bite when and where they find you.

Dawn was still over an hour away. We had actually hoped to hear the call of the Eastern Whip-poor-will. Happily, we heard the soft trilling call of an Eastern Screech Owl. They are usually closer than I think. Perhaps the darkness does something to my sense of distance.

We were at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area just before Christmas scouting for the upcoming annual bird count. An old cemetery provided a clearing surrounded on three sides by woods and two lakes were nearby. A perfect hunting patch for an owl.

Scanning the tree line with a flashlight, I hoped to spot the reflecting eyes of the Screech Owl, when a movement caught my attention. There he was! Right behind the car on a mid-level branch. I had pre-set the camera to its highest ISO, widest aperture and lowest shutter speed I thought would work with my shaky hands. Not wanting to shine the light in the bird’s eyes, I kept it pointed at the lower tree trunk and clicked a few images. We walked down the road to give the owl time to leave the area so as not to traumatize him any further.

Twenty minutes later, we found another Screech Owl and heard two Barred Owls calling to each other some distance away. The day was off to a nice beginning!

The rest of the morning was filled with small birds, hammering woodpeckers, soaring raptors and busy flycatchers. Our final tally bode well for the volunteers who would be searching this area in a few days.

All aspects of birding are exciting for us! But there seems to be something a little extra special about standing in the darkness, deprived of sight, and hearing an owl call from a few yards away. In a cemetery. With a mosquito on the end of your nose.

 

Eastern Screech Owl. Not a great technical photograph, but was pleased with the results considering how dark it was.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Gang leader. When we find a Tufted Titmouse in the fall and winter, it seems there are usually other small birds in the area. The titmice seem to act as “lookouts” and determine threat levels before the rest of the group show themselves.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Two white wing bars, a broken eye-ring and yellow breast with white belly identify the Pine Warbler.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Not a resident in Florida, the migratory Eastern Phoebe is constantly on the hunt for insects. Even from a distance, the pumping tail and posture help in identification.

Tenoroc FMA

 

The perch used by the Phoebe above was apparently popular. Another winter visitor, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, chased the smaller flycatcher away so she could enjoy the view for herself.

Tenoroc FMA

 

There are not many field marks to help identify the Orange-crowned Warbler, which actually helps to identify it, by process of elimination. Not many warblers are this “indistinct”. Overall plain yellow/yellow-green, grayish head and always with yellow undertail coverts.

Tenoroc FMA

 

From fall through spring, one of our most numerous migratory visitors is the Yellow-rumped Warlber. Groups of these industrious bug eaters swarm tree branches throughout the state.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Sometimes, a picturesque setting can enhance the photogenic qualities of a subject. The jury may still be out on whether this works for the Black Vulture.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A curious Prairie Warbler checked us out. Yellow underneath with black streaks along its flanks, white eye arc and grayish head indicate this is a female or immature bird.

Tenoroc FMA

 

What? A dragonfly in December? We love Florida. I chased this dragon a couple hundred yards (well, maybe 20 feet) to snap a photo. This was only my second sighting of a Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata).

Tenoroc FMA

 

Diminutive and agitated. The tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet seems to be a non-stop bundle of energy, flashing its wings and scouring every leaf on a branch for an insect morsel.

Tenoroc FMA

 

From the dense brush along almost every path, the bubbling song of a White-eyed Vireo serenaded as we wandered. Although, once we got too close, the serenading turned into scolding until we were out of sight.

Tenoroc FMA

 

 

Beginning in darkness, ending with chasing a dragon. What a wonderful morning! If you have a chance to stand in the dark and listen for an owl, do it! Even if it is in a cemetery. With bugs biting you. You won’t soon forget it!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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