My curiosity got the better of me yesterday and I took my kayak where no
"sane" kayaker or canoeist would venture, the "Big Ditch" otherwise known as
Munson Slough (south side of Tallahassee, Leon County).

The day was absolutely beautiful to be on the water. I started out at the
boat ramp on Lake Munson about 8:50 a.m. with clear skies and a temperature
in the low 50s. The skies stayed deep blue and the temperature climbed to
the low 60s by noon. I birded the slough from a little after 9 to about

I paddled quickly across the north part of the lake not paying that much
attention to the droves of anhingas and cormorants on the water and soaring
overhead - had the "Slough" on my mind. Once in the slough, I quietly
paddled up stream, yes, there was a current flowing to the lake and the
slough was shallow, averaging 4 to 10 inches of water. And not only was my
paddling quiet, so were the birds. There was hardly anything calling in the
heavily wooded habitats on both sides of the ditch.

I was able to paddle a little over 2 miles up to near Springhill Road. But
had to portage 2 "concrete pipe/rock rip rap" structures in the ditch.  I
finally gave up on my attempt to paddle all the way to Black Swamp when I
came head to head with 2 water control structures and steep banks just south
of Springhill Road. Knowing I still had to re-portage the 2 structures to
the south and with my old bones and weak knees, I reluctantly started back
south to the lake.

The southern third of the slough reminded me of the old 1800s vintage barge
canals where cotton barges were pulled by horses walking on a parallel dirt
road. A supposedly "off limits" dirt road parallels the western side of the
slough. Moss draped oaks overhung the eastern side of the ditch and with I
being well below the level of the road with limited visibility, the false
ambiance my location held was quite interesting.

Birds seen along or in the slough were:
* Double-crested Cormorant - 3 (flyovers), 1 swimming in the ditch 30
  feet in front of the boat, 6 (in the large stormwater
  retention pond).
* Great blue Heron - 4
* Great Egret - 6
* White Ibis - 1 1st. fall bird.
* Wood Stork - 2
* Osprey - 2 (at the north end over the large stormwater retention
* Cooper's Hawk - 1 flyover.
* Red-shouldered Hawk - 2
* Red-tailed Hawk - 2 flyovers.
* Belted Kingfisher - 3, all males.
* Red-bellied Woodpecker - 2 heard only.
* Pileated Woodpecker - 2 seen, 2 heard.
* Eastern Phoebe - 3
* White-eyed Vireo - 1
* Blue Jay - 6
* Carolina Wren - 2 heard.
* Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
* Northern Mockingbird - 2
* American Pipit - 10 plus birds seen at a distance and on the move.
  Facial patterns and flashes of white tail feathers noted. Birds were
  at the southern end of sewage treatment plant sprayfield where it
  abuts the ditch.
* Northern Cardinal - 2 males.

There was nothing moving in the vine tangles, reeds, willows and other
vegetation of Lake Henrietta (swamp) or the adjoining pine and hardwood
habitats. Very quiet.

Unfortunately, that false ambiance was lost when later I was able to drive
the parallel dirt road from Lake Munson to Springhill Road.

Paddling back to the boat ramp along the northern perimeter of Lake Munson,
the following birds were noted:
* Pied-billed Grebe - 3
* Double-crested Cormorant - 70 plus in a large raft in the center of
  the lake.
* Anhinga - 30 plus males and females plus a few juvs.
* Great blue Heron - 3
* Great Egret - 14
* Wood Stork - 2
* Red-shouldered Hawk - 2
* Common Moorhen - 7
* Belted Kingfisher - 5, at least 3 were males.
* Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1 heard.

Plus 4 gators, two 3-footers, one 4-footer and a very large coiled explosion
of water about 10 feet off to my right as I estimated a 6-foot gator
deciding to remove itself from my vicinity.

Today, overcast and cool, was spent paddling on the Econfina Creek (Bay and
Washington Counties) both north and south of the Highway 20 bridge. Several
of us visited the 4 springs in the area, several owned finally by the Water
Management District. Birding was very quiet. Saw 3 Phoebes, heard Pileated
and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Carolina Wren or two and nothing else. Will
try the coast in a couple of weeks.


Harry Hooper
Tallahassee, Florida

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