Monday, June 29, 2015

30 Days in June: Day 28, Sunset at Sweetwater Wetlands Park

Storm Blowing in When I Arrived

Sunday was a very rainy day and I had my doubts that I would be able to get out and see anything. I've had so much fun going out every day this month that I was feeling a little anxious, waiting for my nature "fix". I attempted to start hikes several times during the day but got rained out over and over again. Finally, at about 5pm I packed my bags and drove over to the Sweetwater Wetlands Park. I figured that I could do a quick walk through between storms. I had my poncho just in case, but I hoped I wouldn't need it.

Rain in the Distance

There were very few people at the park because it had just rained hard. I talked with the park ranger who said that she had been drenched a couple of times during the day but that there had been lots of dry spells. I felt optimistic! The frogs were croaking loudly from the trees and from the water. The first thing I spied as I was entering the boardwalk was a huge Horsefly laying eggs on the rail. When I went back later they were gone, washed away in the rain or eaten by a fast thinking critter.

Horsefly Laying Eggs

The rain had left silver puddles on the tops of the hairy Lotus leaves and under the dark sky, it gave a shimmery look to the ponds, like mirrors all around. Then the thunder and lightning started and my break in the weather was about to end. I made it back to the car without getting too wet and looked at the weather app on my phone (I don't know how I ever lived without this thing!). The storm was moving quickly and would probably clear the area in 20 minutes to half an hour, so I waited it out in the car.

Raindrops on Lotus

Big Silvery Pool

Back in the Car, Waiting...

When the storm had passed, I popped out of the car and was back out in the park in a jiffy. It was great timing, too, because I was there when the rainbow stretched halfway over the green park below, and got to see a doe and fawn out browsing. I enjoyed having the whole park to myself for a short while. The birds were actively feeding on bugs in the grass and I was able to stand almost right next to a family of Limpkins. I can't decide if I like them so much because we didn't get to see them here for several years or just because they are incredibly beautiful. Maybe it is because they eat big snails, or because of their haunting call. But I do like them. Very much.

Doe and Fawn

Storm Moving On

Rainbow Over the Park

Lovely Limpkin

At first the light was dark and subdued but then the clouds moved away and the sky was sunny and blue. And there were no bugs biting! At times as I walked I was overwhelmed with the absolute beauty of this place. Gainesville is so very lucky to have it, and it grows more lovely and wonderful every day.  It will be fantastic when the park is open during the week. I walked along the boardwalk and over about 2/3 of the roadways. I counted 9 Limpkins and 15 Least Bitterns! Redwing Blackbirds and Grackles were probably the most common bird. I saw plenty of Frogs and Gators and several deer. I didn't see anything new or unusual to add to my June Challenge list, but everything I did see was wonderful.

Great Egret 

Small Gator Surrounded by Tiny Fish

Common Gallinule in a Sea of Green

Anhinga in Breeding Plumage

Black Crowned Night Heron Perched on Cattails

I stayed for about another hour until the sun started to set. Flocks of White Ibis flew in waves into the safety of the wetlands for the night. Other birders who had been waiting for the weather to clear up arrived soon after the storm. I ran into several friends on the trails who came for a quick visit. We all had something special to share and pass along to one another. Little tidbits about the magic of the evening. This is yet another reason why I am a nature lover. It is a hopeful thing to share time with people who also delight in the sounds of tree frogs, or in seeing yet another Least Bittern or Limpkin, or the shine of the water on the Lotus leaves, or in breathing the fresh air on a brisk walk through a park. It is good to be with like minded people. But, really, I imagine everyone loves and cares about nature on at least some level, whether is is a pristine wilderness area or reeling in a huge fish or mountain biking through the desert. Nature can be a way to connect and start conversations. When we have something in common it is easier to work together to make compromises and solve our problems. I feel like we need a lot more connections these days. This is a good place to start.

Purple Gallinule

Precarious Perch of a Red-winged Blackbird

Grackle on the Shimmery Surface

Least Bittern Flying Over Cattails

Nature Selfie

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