Another Day, another oasis
(Header image: Red-winged Blackbird)
The sun is hiding just below the tree line. It will make its grand entrance in about ten minutes. A cloudless blue sky is beginning to have that pre-dawn glow. It’s going to be a gorgeous day!
Glad I wore the boots. There is more dew on the grass than I expected and my regular walking shoes would be soaked by now. So would my feet. It’s just cool enough this morning that cold and wet feet would be uncomfortable.
Early morning commuters are already jamming the skyway. Sandhill Cranes with their loud trumpeting head across the marsh. A trio of male Wood Ducks add a splash of color to the scene. Ancient-looking Wood Storks lumber along and settle in on the bank of an open water area. An Osprey circles above as she tries to decide which menu item to select from her favorite dive-in spot.
Itchepackesassa Creek Wetlands is a man-made impoundment designed to help control periodic flooding. It has only been partially successful. The geology of this area is simply prone to flooding. The creek flows northwest from a lake about five miles away, travels about 12 miles and joins with the Hillsborough River. A study of about 50 square miles here by the Army Corps of Engineers several years ago determined there was essentially nothing to be done to alter the landscape which could halt seasonal flooding. They recommended homeowners raise their existing foundations by at least five feet. The current effort here at the wetlands helps a bit, but once a tropical storm dumps a foot of water over the area, flooding is common.
In the meantime, here I am, walking around a raised berm, enjoying the view of trees, reeds, marsh, open water and birds galore. Selfish thoughts.
We are very fortunate to have several areas near centers of heavy population such as these mitigation sites, parks and wildlife corridors. They provide important oases for wildlife which otherwise would not survive in an urban environment. More selfish thoughts. They provide important oases for me, too! And you.
This morning, Gini remained home as she is knee-deep in creating gifts for our niece’s upcoming baby shower. I promised to not stay long and to prepare brunch upon returning. That first promise, as she knows, will likely be broken.
According to my eBird tracker, this morning’s walk was 2.25 miles (3.6 km). Plenty of bright blue sky and sunshine. That sun plus a bit of walking ensured I didn’t suffer from the cool temperature. My notes show a total of 46 bird species observed. And a River Otter. I found five Marsh Wrens and a Sedge Wren during the morning but could not manage a single photograph of any of them! They will be here another few weeks before migrating north so perhaps I’ll have another chance.
It was a very comfortable and satisfying morning at my very own oasis.
Bald Eagles look majestic even when they are perched on an extremely ugly utility pole.
About six feet away from the above eagle, a Boat-tailed Grackle yelled at the eagle. Maybe not “majestic”, but still a good-looking bird.
One of our winter visitors, the Swamp Sparrow, has rich brown plumage which helps her blend in nicely with the surrounding dead reeds.
The little tree may not be so attractive, but a Great Egret certainly helps improve its overall appearance.
Another tree-topper, the Little Blue Heron uses the increased altitude to scan for potential breakfast items. All-white plumage indicates this is a juvenile bird and this summer it will begin to show patches of blue and by next spring it will have attained the all blue color of an adult.
We are seeing Tree Swallows frequently these past few weeks and they will soon gather in very large flocks in preparation for spring migration. I don’t often see them perched!
A pair of Sandhill Cranes cross the marsh. Florida has a resident sub-species (Grus Canadensis Pratensis) of the Greater Sandhill Crane which is non-migratory. Each year the state hosts over 30,000 migratory cranes and it’s common to spot groups of several dozen to several hundred of these huge birds in open fields.
“Small birds, big attitudes” is how we usually describe wrens. The Common Yellowthroat also fits that description. This masked male wanted to know what I was doing on his front porch!
Common bird. Uncommonly handsome. The Red-winged Blackbird is one of our most common birds and it is all too easy to take them for granted. The male’s simple black plumage punctuated by the brilliant red and yellow-orange wing patches make this one of the most attractive birds in nature. In my unbiased opinion.
It was another fantastic morning spent wandering around another spectacular oasis! Wish you had been there. Perhaps there is something similar in your neighborhood?
Slices of pear and Florida navel orange, gouda cheese and whole-grain toast topped with fresh avocado. Cup of hot Earl Grey tea. (I knew you would ask what I prepared for Gini when I got home.)
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!