Posts Tagged With: wood stork

Wonderful Wetlands Walk

Flood.

Anyone who has experienced an overwhelming amount of water in a place that is normally dry knows that at the very least a flood can be inconvenient. At its worst, it is a disaster.

We won’t discuss how it may come to pass that people decide to live in areas which for eons have been prone to flooding. It happens. Efforts to control natural flooding have met varying degrees of success.

At the western edge of our county, two creeks have periodically flooded their banks and caused myriad problems for landowners in the area. A management plan was developed and implemented several years ago which has been successful in mitigating many of the negative effects of annual flooding of Blackwater and Itchepackesassa Creeks.

One of the improvements was the creation of a wetland consisting of deep, mid-level and shallow holding ponds, along with controlled pumping stations and plantings of erosion control and filtrating vegetation. Flooding has not been eliminated, especially in times of abnormally high levels of rain, but it is decidedly better than it was. The resulting wetlands have matured over the past four years and are becoming home to a very diverse wildlife population.

A berm around the Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland makes for an easy two mile walk with side-trips into adjacent woods. Nearby pastures provide plenty of open land for species which prefer to forage in low grass. The different levels of water in the ponds is attractive to diving ducks as well as puddle ducks. Dense reeds and grasses are perfect for hiding bitterns, rails, gallinules, wrens and a smorgasbord of insects, reptiles and amphibians.

A sample of the day’s observations follows.

 

Just at sunrise, Sandhill Cranes noisily announce they are moving from the wetlands to nearby fields for breakfast.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Our smaller winter visitors include the feisty Marsh Wren. Curious and aggressive, they are quick to pop out of the weeds to see who is stomping through their seasonal territory.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Tufted Titmice strike me as gang leaders. Their clear whistle signals “intruder alert”! Small birds begin to materialize among the highest tree branches to make sure we know they have us outnumbered.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

How can black and white be so “colorful”? When it adorns the Black-and-white Warbler!

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Usually heard long before it is seen, the White-eyed Vireo is a fairly common year round resident here.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

The Blue-headed Vireo does not breed in our area and is a welcome sight during migration.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Another winter traveler, the Hermit Thrush, graced us with a short song.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Although not as bright as the breeding male, a female/immature Indigo Bunting was a bit of a surprise. Not rare, but not too common either.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Pied-billed Grebes breed throughout our area but the population swells during the winter months as migrants join their southern relatives.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

In the central and southern portion of Florida, the Wood Stork can be locally quite abundant. However, they are not common in most of the United States. Due to habitat concerns and the species’ reliance on stable water conditions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service lists the Wood Stork as federally threatened.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

A small female Downy Woodpecker clucks at us from behind a pine bough.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Pine Warblers can be a drab gray or as bright as a ball of feathered sunshine. This fellow really  objected to us walking under his tree!

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Like some emergency beacon in the night, the intensity of the Yellow-throated Warbler’s throat is hard to miss. We are fortunate to enjoy these bright songsters all year.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

With so much to see, a short walk turned into a couple of hours of pure enjoyment! It’s man-made and includes a sports complex of baseball and soccer fields at the southwest corner, is less than two miles from one of the busiest interstate highway sections in the state and is surrounded by suburban development. Once you leave your car, set foot on the path and experience a bright pink Roseate Spoonbill rise in front of you – all else just doesn’t matter.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Rain Falls, Mainly It’s A Pain

I often joke about how being a meteorologist in Florida has to be the easiest job in the world. No matter what time of year, you just say: “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Collect a paycheck. Repeat.

In our sub-tropical climate, much of the year produces conditions conducive to moisture. Sometimes it rains. A lot. We are currently in the “dry season”. So, naturally, as I glanced at the forecast for the day:  “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Sigh.

The good news is I planned to only travel about ten minutes from the house, so if I get up and it’s raining, hooray! Back under the covers.

It wasn’t raining.

Lake Parker Park officially opens at 7:00. Sunrise was scheduled (?) for 7:02. Fortunately, I arrived at 6:50 to find a nice welcoming open gate. The sun remained under covers of its own for awhile. When it did peek out from the low clouds, some very nice golden light warmed the shoreline.  The birds don’t care so much about schedules, gates or even the weather. They gotta eat. So there was plenty of activity in the air, on the lake’s surface, in the shallow water, among the reeds and in the trees throughout the park.

Yours truly was thankful for no rain. My outlook on our forecasts is: “Fifty-percent chance of not that much rain.” I’ll take those odds. The morning was mild with only a gentle breeze and a hint of actual coolness to the air. Some trees showed a bit of color and a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks overhead confirmed fall and winter migration is proceeding right on time.

It’s rare that I only spend an hour-and-a-half here, but today I headed home early. When I arrived, Gini was busy threatening some fresh fruit with a very sharp knife. I put the kettle on for coffee. Once the images were processed Gini nodded her approval. We agreed that we continue to be blessed in so many ways.

Hope you enjoy the morning walk. No brolly needed.

 

Sunrise.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress trees turn a rusty color during the winter. (An Anhinga is perched at the extreme left.)

Lake Parker Park

 

A quartet of Double-crested Cormorants greet the day from their overnight roost.

Lake Parker Park

 

An immature Bald Eagle soars over the lake in search of a fishy breakfast.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress knees are vertical protrusions above the roots of cypress trees. Their function is not really understood. One theory is they help anchor trees growing in saturated soil. Trees growing in well-drained areas do not develop “knees”.

Lake Parker Park

 

I choose to believe this Wood Stork was yawning. The other option would be he was laughing at me, and I just know that couldn’t be possible.

Lake Parker Park

 

The American Coot is extremely common and is usually passed over when it comes to photo ops. I think they are quite handsome in their black plumage, white bills and red eyes.

Lake Parker Park

 

Across a narrow inlet a small cypress tree is bathed with morning sunlight on its right side and bright yellow flowers cover the ground beneath its branches.

Lake Parker Park

 

In the shallows, a Glossy Ibis probes the soft mud for insects, fish and crustaceans.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park 

An actual autumn leaf! In Florida! Pretty sure it’s a maple species, possibly Florida Maple (Acer saccharum var. floridum) or Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Lake Parker Park

 

If you go about willy-nilly taking pictures of creatures bathing and preening, expect to receive a nasty glare. Black-crowned Night Heron, disturbed.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Rain in the forecast does not mean it won’t be a beautiful day. At worst, the rain will replenish the watershed, bring relief to dry flora and offer a drink to our thirsty wildlife. Where’s the pain in that?

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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