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.
Once you begin exploring under those treetops, however, be prepared to get wet.
A curious Red-headed Woodpecker. Across much of the country, this species has not adapted very well to human development.
Easy to see how the Eastern Bluebird was named. That blue almost looks artificial.
Small and extremely active, we found several Ruby-crowned Kinglets during the day.
Pine Warblers were numerous and very hungry.
We were either being followed by one persistent Hermit Thrush or we saw six different individuals. Somewhat of a high count for our area.
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!)
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.
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.
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!