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!

14 Comments on “Another Day, another oasis

  1. Great set of pictures – urban stuff and birds really do show how great birds are!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

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  2. It’s an exciting time Wally. Spring migration that is – not babies. Crafty on your part by sneaking out alone birding while Gini was otherwise employed. But it’s good to hear you have a pair of army issue boots hiding in the shed for all those nasty Florida days when you have to trudge through mud and melting snow.

    Those cranes are great, just like the pot decorations of flying Mallards that hang over old English mantelpieces;:now worth a small fortune I might add. You might want to look up that word.

    Take it easy now my friend. Don’t fall asleep on the job.

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    • I keep forgetting to buy a pair of actual wading boots so with all this melting snow I am destined to have wet feet most of the time.

      Since you didn’t specify which word I should look up I tried different ones. “Pot” and “fortune” seemed promising, but not certain how that related to cranes.

      The advantage of having no job is that one may never fall asleep at it.

      Happy February!

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  3. I couldn’t agree more Wally. We are so fortunate to have these nature spots hidden away all around us here in Florida.

    And I too am similarly unbiased and think the Red-winged Blackbirds are beautiful. I’m sure the birds agree with me that your photos are very fine portraits of them!

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  4. You are, indeed, fortunate to have such places close to home, Wally, with such wonderful birds, and we are fortunate in having you share them with us with your delightful descriptions and superb photography. The star of the show is, once again, your amazing header image! How anyone could take such a magnificent bird for granted I find hard to comprehend.

    As an aside, Lindsay and I were delighted and relieved to have had our first Covid vaccine shots this afternoon.

    My very best wishes to you and Gini. Take great care – we have to win this war! – – – Richard

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    • Thank you, Richard!

      We are definitely spoiled with the rich diversity of our natural resources.

      Happy to hear you have been vaccinated!

      We just had our coldest day of the winter (33 F/0.6 C) and with a stiff breeze this morning’s birding was a challenge for me. A stocking cap saved my ears! Now – bring on Spring!

      All our best to you both.

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