110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Aug 25, 2014 - 9:24:46am
The pieces of the puzzle fitted together in my mind as I saw a spunky lone female grackle at DeLeon Springs State Park one sunny day in May. She had most likely heard the tale of Juan Ponce de Leon finding the Fountain of Youth at this location.
She flew around the swimming area, then strutted on the sidewalk to show off her wonderful snack of a little cracker. She didn’t eat it right away, apparently waiting for a quiet minute to dine on it. But swimmers, tourists, picnickers and fun-loving people were everywhere.
Later, when my friend and I were hiking on the short trail in the park, we saw a huge, ancient baldcypress tree amid the forest of red maples, sweet gums, magnolias, cabbage palms and water hickories. The tree had a sign on it naming it Methuselah. So here was another part of the puzzle.
This 500-year-old tree had roots that had been sipping the Fountain of Youth’s magical water for ages. After all, 19 million gallons of this treasured water per day flow from an underground cavern, which used to make Indians happy, as well as other people in the area in the 1500s when the Cuban gentleman named this place! The location still makes folks happy.
Female grackles like the one in the photo are shades of brown, with long, black legs and big feet. They are about 11 inches long, have a 14-inch wingspan, and weigh about 3 ounces.
The males are a little larger and look black in the distance, but are really glossy dark bluish-violet.
Grackles can be found in the eastern three-fourths of the U.S., anywhere except in forests.
These birds are aggressive, noisy and resourceful, and they’re not popular with many people. When in large flocks, they can destroy a farmer’s crop. So they are as welcome as moths visiting a woolen sweater in your closet!
Grackles eat seeds, grain, and anything else they can find. They follow plows on farms to catch invertebrates and mice, steal worms from robins, and raid birds’ nests. These rascals can live up to 20 years!
So, did Ponce de Leon really find a magical fountain or merely a gorgeous, aquatic, scenic part of Florida? The wildlife and scenery are definitely not fantasies. May little Miss Grackle have a looong life, which isn’t a puzzling idea at DeLeon Springs State Park.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at lynnindeland@gmailcom.
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