Okay, so maybe I’m stretching this “patch” thing a bit by including a spot that’s almost a 40 minute drive from the house. As the Corvus flies, it’s only 17 miles away. Alas, not being a handsome crow, I must climb into a hunk of metal and negotiate highways, bi-ways and expressways all the while trying to avoid a collision with other humanoids within their own hunks of metal scurrying along at unreasonably high rates of speed and by the time I reach the lovely setting of Lake Gwyn Park I’m ready for a peaceful walk in a wetland.
This is another man-made wetland which attempts to mitigate decades of poor irrigation and agricultural practices. An old canal dug for taking water from Lake Gwyn to nearby farms long ago completely drained the lake and “Lake” Gwyn has been devoid of water for many years. The canal eventually flows into the Peace River which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The filtered water of the newly developed wetlands will help keep the river, and ultimately, the gulf, cleaner for the future.
The first phase of a multi-year project has developed the western portion of the former lake into a series of open water pools of varying depths and has included plantings of vegetation known to be effective natural filters. The result has been to provide attractive habitat for diverse bird species, especially during fall and spring migration. Resident birds like the place, too. Last spring we found six Snail Kites in the park and I’m pretty certain they bred there.
There is a trail of about two miles along a raised berm and through a section of pine woods which offers nice views of the wetland and a pleasant walk through shady forest. Recreation and picnic facilities are currently under construction and planning has begun for the second phase of the project which will restore the eastern half of the lake area.
As I mentioned, fall through spring can offer very good birding opportunities, but even an early morning summer walk is rewarding. Many birds have adopted the new area as home and other animals are finding the wetland to their liking as well. A patch totally worth a little drive.
Patch: Lake Gwyn Park
Clean water, lush vegetation, a few trees. What more could a bird (or birder) ask for?
If the Great Blue Heron is present, you know the hunting and fishing are good.
A pair of Green Herons fussed at me all along the eastern berm trail leading me to believe they had a nest nearby. They are normally silent and slink away as I approach. This one flew up to a snag and kept a close eye on me. Unusual.
This Red-winged Blackbird announced his happiness in song from atop the same snag the Green Heron above was using. A female further along the path seemed just as happy.
A pair of River Otters were very curious about what I was doing in their territory. The presence of these mammals indicate the wetland is doing its job of providing clean water, good habitat and a healthy supply of forage. All good news.
This brings to a close (stop cheering) my summary of local birding patches which Gini and I frequent. You will see the names of these spots again as they really are wonderful places to go birding, photographing, exploring and just plain relaxing. We hope you have your own list of patches where you may also experience all of the above.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!