Scratching An Itch

It is 0645. Sunrise.

Not a hint of a breeze.

The grass path is wet from last night’s rain. Or morning dew. Both.

In the distance, Limpkins call from opposite ends of the wetlands.

Overhead, a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks whisper about their breakfast  plans.

Sandhill Cranes trumpet loudly from an adjacent pasture where they spent the night.

Morning has begun in the marsh as it does every day. The difference today is – I am privileged to be a witness.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetlands was engineered a few years ago as a method to prevent annual flooding of Itchepackesassa and Blackwater Creeks. The project included digging the wetlands to varying depths to mitigate flooding and potential erosion. A planned side benefit is to offer diverse habitat for waterfowl and other life forms by having sections of deeper, mid-level and shallow water. Care was taken to include plants with filtering properties to help cleanse water as it flows through the wetlands.

A raised berm around the marsh allows for easy walking. The area is bordered on the south and east by stands of hardwood trees which attract a great variety of migrating passerines as well as resident nesting birds.

From an entirely selfish standpoint, one of the best features of the site is on almost any weekday, I can spend a morning here and seldom encounter another human. Especially when it’s 78 F (26 C) with 90% humidity at dawn. Within an hour, it will be 85 F (29 C) and by the time the car is in sight, 94 F (34 C). One must be either crazy or a birder to be out for a two-mile stroll in such conditions! Ahhh, the Sunshine State at its best!

A thin mist clung near the surface of the marsh as I began my slow trek around the berm. Common Gallinules cackled their displeasure as I interrupted their morning routine. Pugnacious Common Green Darners stopped patrolling long enough to challenge my presence, hovering in front of my face, daring me to take one more step. Egrets, herons, ibises – flying singly and in groups, slowly gathered around the marsh to go about the daily business of survival. Beautiful flowers abound in the wetlands, which, in turn, attract pollinators of all types. River otters live here as well as Bobcats. Bald Eagles and Osprey nest nearby and today I saw an American Kestrel family. Very encouraging to see the falcons breeding here! In the woods, I searched in vain for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo I saw last year. My consolation prize was finding two adult and two immature Black-crowned Night Herons perched along the creek.

It’s hot now. Back to the car and a drink of cool water.

Called Gini to see if she needs anything. Home is only ten miles from here. “Cream for my coffee.” Happily. Lox and bagel brunch awaits.

 

(Header image: A Great Blue Heron wings her way across the wetlands against a backdrop of large oak trees draped in Spanish moss.)

 

Steamy wetlands at sunrise.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

A Great Egret greets the day atop a Wood Duck nesting box.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

On patrol, a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) stops long enough to confront me.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks have become quite common over the last couple of decades. These large tree ducks have a high, thin whistle which is unmistakable.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

The marsh is home to a variety of blooming plants which don’t mind wet feet at all.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

Bulltongue Arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia)

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

Bandana-of-the-Everglades (Canna flaccida)

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

String Lily (Crinum americanum)

 

One of the small grass skippers, a Whirlabout (Polites vibex) clings to a dew-covered leaf.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

A Great Egret spotted a flock of White Ibises feeding and performed an abrupt aerial maneuver to descend quickly and join them.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

I counted 12 Long-tailed Skippers (Urbanus proteus) in this one area. The nectar must be sweeter here for some reason.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

The uniquely-shaped bill of the White Ibis is designed for probing deep into soft mud and those blue eyes don’t miss much, including a suspicious character on the edge of his marsh.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

There are not that many all-dark dragonflies in our area and the unusually thin abdomen where it joins the thorax helps identify this individual as a male Pin-tailed Pondhawk (Erythemis plebja).

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

The Black-crowned Night Heron family of four was a nice find. Three of them flew away as soon as I rounded a corner, but one youngster remained to gawk at me gawking at her.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Discovering a new species makes a day special! Today, I found my first Hyacinth Glider (Miathyria marcella)!

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Salad for breakfast is okay, if you’re a Common Gallinule.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

The bluish wash of color on the wings indicates this is a female Spicebush Swallowtail  (Papilio troilus). The male has a more greenish tint.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

 

Hot – yes. Humid – yes. Beautiful – undeniable! Beginning the day exploring the marsh was extremely pleasant and rewarding. Do you have such an area near where you live?

 

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

14 Comments on “Scratching An Itch

  1. You really captured the mood of the morning there Wally. Don’t we just love it when there’s no one around? I think you and I would love it on a desert island, as long as we had our respective ladies with us. And of course the island was somewhere not too hot or too cold. And no dangerous creatures like warmongering dragonflies!

    That Bulltongue Arrowhead is weird looking, like it is probably poisonous as well being in Florida?

    Enjoy the rest of your week my friends. Here it’s raining but we have Thursday and Friday pencilled in for ringing if the forecast holds true. If only we could plan ahead with confidence in what the experts tell us.

    Like

    • Desert island – the stuff of dreams. Reality would intrude by the second day, I fear. And when the groceries ran out.

      Interestingly, the Bulltongue Arrowhead (which grows to five feet tall) was likely used by native Americans and settlers for food and medicine. The tubers are apparently edible.

      Our summer weather pattern is holding, mostly sunny mornings and thunderstorms rumbling around by mid-afternoon. Very convenient for planning birding trips!

      Cheers!

      Like

  2. Yep, got some wetlands near me, Wally, but nothing as spectacular as yours and its associated wildlife, and most of my wetlands are more than 10 miles away! We also have the disadvantage that many of them are set up so that the view is mostly screened to protect the wildlife and the only places where you can view from are hides/blinds – not the sort of structure I want to enter while Covod’s around!

    I love the atmosphere in that header image.

    Was thinking how similar your Common Green Darner looks to our Emperor, and then saw that they are both of the genus Anax. Your Long-tailed Skipper is, however, unlike any Skipper we have in UK (confession – only dawned on me recently that skippers, with their pointed antenae, defy the usual definition of butterflies having club-shaped antennae!).

    Was wondering what lox was until I saw you mention salmon in reply to David, above. The penny then dropped as I was aware of gravlax – seems that it’s a synonym. However, I’m still a little confused as I then googled it and got the impression that lox/gravlax is cured in salt or sugar (depending on origin) but you mention smoked salmon – or did Gini just produce the unexpected?

    So pleased to hear that the storm passed you by without too much trauma. Best wishes to you both – – – Richard

    Like

    • We are most definitely spoiled with our diversity of flora and fauna, Richard!

      It seems the more we learn about things such as variations in butterflies and dragons, the more surprises we find. I think that aspect is what keeps us returning for more.

      Apologies for any confusion caused by my indistinct (and downright erroneous) “fishy” remarks about lox. Indeed, lox is traditionally brined in sugar or salt and smoked salmon is normally brined then smoked, which slightly cooks the fish. I tend to refer to any salmon on my bagel as “lox” – I shall attempt to reform.

      No effects at all from the hurricane and we continue to enjoy our sweltering tropical heat and humidity!

      All the best!

      Like

  3. All wonderful photos, Wally – but I really like that header image. It’s very “Florida”!

    We are privileged to live here and witness these things.

    Ed

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  4. A wonderful place to walk, Wally. I think I would be willing to take my chance on a little discomfort to enjoy its early morning attractions. And best of all you get to go home to lox and cream cheese. Doesn’t seem like a bad finale at all to me.

    Like

    • It truly is a wonderful spot to begin a morning, David. Quiet and always a diversity of life to observe. And Gini waiting with hot, freshly ground coffee and smoked salmon – well, life really is good!

      Like

  5. Hello,

    Lately Maryland has been feeling like Florida, hot and humid. It is not nice walking weather. Your nature/wildlife images are all gorgeous, great sightings. Take care and stay safe! Enjoy your day, have a happy new week!

    Like

    • Thank you so much, Eileen. We remember some oppressive summer days in Maryland and we headed to Chincoteague to jump in the Atlantic.
      The new week is here and thanks to your nice comments it’s off to a happy start!

      Liked by 1 person

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