Hillsborough County High Point Trip Report

Date: October 18, 1999
Author: Fred Lobdell

This is a mess. The entire area has been strip-mined for phosphates, used in making fertilizer. The Keysville quad I had is dated 1987. Much can happen in 12 years, and in the case of the Hillsborough Co. HP, much has. The topo shows an area of orchards that was south of the mined area, and that had the 160 foot contour passing through it. There are no orchards remaining, and it would appear not much natural ground, either.

The area south of the road shown on the topo now contains many mounded spoil piles from the mining operation, which has apparently been extended a considerable distance south. I first tried approaching from the west, and found roads where none showed on the topo.

I then went on and did the Polk Co. HP and came back to try approaching this one from the east. There were new roads and roads that had been relocated and new power lines and it took me a couple of drive-throughs just to get my bearings and figure out where I was. Some of the roads had patches of loose sand which I treated like loose snow: keep the wheels moving at all costs! I would have felt better, though, in a 4-WD vehicle.

I concluded that the former HP no longer exists in this area. But my time here was not a total loss! There is standing water all over the place, and on my way in I noticed a black wading bird in the first "lake" I passed west of the hamlet of Bradley Junction. On my way back out I pulled over and was able to observe the little lake. The black wader (a glossy ibis) was the tip of an iceberg.

On a sand bar in the middle were about 50 white pelicans, about the same number of Caspian terns, and perhaps 20 black-necked stilts, as well as some smaller shore birds that I didn't identify. Then a little ways off from the sand bar was a dozen or so American avocets. To the east of the sand bar was a 6-foot alligator with just its snout, eyes and top of its head, and top of the back exposed.

It was a warm day, but I abandoned the idea of a quick dip. This was the finest collection of birds I've seen in one place since I got down here in mid-August, and the terns and avocets represented new species for me. So it wasn't a total washout for me, even though I couldn't claim the Hillsborough Co. HP.