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.
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.
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.
How can black and white be so “colorful”? When it adorns the Black-and-white Warbler!
Usually heard long before it is seen, the White-eyed Vireo is a fairly common year round resident here.
The Blue-headed Vireo does not breed in our area and is a welcome sight during migration.
Another winter traveler, the Hermit Thrush, graced us with a short song.
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.
Pied-billed Grebes breed throughout our area but the population swells during the winter months as migrants join their southern relatives.
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.
A small female Downy Woodpecker clucks at us from behind a pine bough.
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!
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.
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!