Normally, Cellon Creek Boulevard would not be my top choice for natural areas to visit. It is basically an incomplete industrial park just off of a busy highway, with utility company access on one end, a couple of warehouse businesses in the middle and a couple of paved roads with a "coming soon" sign advertising the new home of a church. The sign has been there for the several years that I have been coming to this location.
|Looking Back at Highway|
What this natural area does have is a good view across broad pastures, some butting up against San Felasco Hammock State Park, and lots of long barbed wire fences and tall towers. It is a great place to see Kestrels, Eastern Meadowlarks, Loggerhead Shrikes, Swallows and Northern Bobwhites. I had it on my list because I had fond memories of an encounter with a cooperative Meadowlark on one sunny morning, and I wanted to recreate that moment.
|Eastern Meadowlark, taken in 2012|
When I arrived, I pulled off of the main road, opened the car windows, and listened. Bobwhites were calling from the bramble and I could hear them over the roar of the highway and semi truck air brakes. Maybe this would be my day! I looked for about 10 minutes but couldn't see them, so I drove ahead. A Loggerhead Shrike landed on a power line and sat for me just long enough to get my camera out, and then it flew off. No photo, but I added it to my list. A Deer bounded across the cattle field toward the trees. Barn Swallows also sat on the power line, but I had already checked them off. More Bobwhites called, from either side of the road. This seemed like a good place to get out and look. I scanned the fields and bushes, looking for movement. No sign, but still I could hear the calls. I knew they were there. They answered my recordings. They answered each other. But I couldn't see them. Little devils. I wonder some times if they can throw their voices.
This reminds me of one summer when I was working in my yard and heard what sounded like a Bobwhite calling from the azaleas. This was crazy because I definitely do not live in the right habitat for them. Maybe it was a Mockingbird, I thought. But it continued. I was so puzzled. Then, suddenly, I saw it! A little, fast quail shot across the yard and ran up the street. How could this be? But then I remembered that a neighbor in the next block kept chickens and quail. I had never heard these ones call before and didn't realize that they were Bobwhites. I went over and asked if he was missing any, and he said that indeed he was. He brought a net and within minutes had caught the runaway quail. I've never heard them again, and no more runaways. But it makes a good memory.
Anyway, back to Cellon Creek. There were a lot of sounds to pick through. The Mockingbirds screeched and scolded as they chased off marauding Crows. A flock of European Starlings landed in a Sour Orange tree. Bobwhites teased me from the grasses. A funny "tink" sound confused me until I saw a flash of blue and identified a pair of Blue Grosbeaks in a tree. I hadn't expected to find them there, so that was a nice surprise. Finally, I could pick out the sweet sounds of a Meadowlark. It was too far away for the perfect photo I'd imagined, but it was nice to see the lovely yellow and hear the beautiful song.
|Eastern Meadowlark from a Distance|
I made a brief stop at Possum Creek Park on the way home. I didn't have a target bird, but it is a place I wanted to see again because I had nice memories of happening upon a patch of Golden Club plants there one year. And it seemed like a good place to find an owl resting.
|Goldenclub (Orontium aquaticum) Taken in February, 2013|
Possum Creek is a City of Gainesville Park that has facilities for skateboarding, playgrounds, dog park, soccer and picnics. It's a great, all around city park. It also has a couple of short nature trails, one that takes you down a hill to a pond, and another that takes you on paths and boardwalks, along the creek. Both paths are thickly forested, with abundant ferns and moss. It's a good place to find Banana Spiders and Ebony Jewelwing Damselflies. I always get a kick out of signs that warn about Alligators on the trail. I'm cautious and watch for them, and for snakes, but it makes me feel like a badass when I go ahead and walk anyway.
|Here There Be Monsters|
No new birds to add from Possum Creek, no Owls, but I saw plenty of Squirrels and Cardinals, a Red Shouldered Hawk and a Bluebird perching on a soccer goal. Maybe it was getting ready for the Women's World Cup.
List total: 64 birds (65), 9 Natural Areas.