E24. Big Bend Wildlife Management Area: Hickory Mound Impoundment
Nearest City: Perry
Phone Number: 386-758-0525
Features/Amenities: Seasonal hunting, Birding by car, Birding by boat, Birding by foot/hiking, Birding by bicycle, Best time of day: All day, Recommended length of visit: a few hours, Butterfly viewing br>
Habitats: Freshwater Swamp, Lake/Pond/Impoundment, Hardwoods/Mixed Forest, Salt Marsh
Cow Creek Grade, the long, privately-maintained, dirt entrance road is unimproved and sometimes rough, so take your time getting here. The wait is well worth it, once you reach this wild area. Good dike roads within the WMA surround the impoundment and give good vantages of the brackish marsh and scattered islands of palms and oaks. The southernmost edge of the impoundment overlooks neighboring salt marsh; the northernmost edge tunnels through thick, scenic, coastal hardwood swamp. An observation tower is located near the midpoint of the impoundment road (a scope is handy here), and boat launches are available for exploring the area.
Wintering ducks, shorebirds and other waterbirds are this site’s real forte, but with more than 200 bird species, there’s plenty to whet your appetite. Ross’s Goose and Snow Goose are rare possibilities, but Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Lesser Scaup and Hooded Merganser are more common. Expect Willet, both yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher and Semipalmated Plover most of the year and the occasional Whimbrel, American Avocet and Red Knot in migration/winter. Numerous wading birds (including Least Bittern, Green Heron, Reddish Egret and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron) are always on hand, and Clapper Rail, American Coot and Marsh Wren are quite common. Gull-billed Tern, Wilson’s Snipe and Sora are seasonal visitors. Osprey, Bald Eagle and both pelicans sample the local fish cuisine while Northern Harrier and Red-tailed Hawk do their part to keep the rodent population in check.
Landbird activity can be quite good here during spring and fall migration. Anything from Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Bank Swallow to Cape May Warbler and Bobolink may pass through. Eastern Kingbird, Orchard Oriole and Seaside Sparrow likely breed here. Winter sparrows include Nelson’s, Vesper, Savannah and Field. More than 40 butterfly species have been recorded at this site. Named for their characteristic darting flight, skippers (the Empidonax flycatchers of the butterfly world) are well represented here; look for Salt Marsh Skipper feeding along the impoundment road. Swartz Tram, and many of the dirt roads throughout the WMA can also be good--large numbers of Ocola and Long-tailed Skipper (and hundreds to thousands of Gulf Fritillary and Cloudless Sulphur) have been found feeding on patches of Spanish Needle and Liatris sp. on warm fall days. Little Glassywing, Yehl Skipper and Lace-winged Roadside-Skipper have turned up as well. On the west side of the impoundment, the aptly-named Bat House Trail runs for 1 mile past a large bat house (used by native Brazilian Free-tailed Bats) to a small island hammock in the marsh. Hunting use within the impoundment is usually low. CLICK HERE for information about hunting dates, regulations and more. Download a WMA map from the website below or order a full-color recreation guide from the FWC’s Office of Public Access and Wildlife Viewing Services. Don’t pass this one up.
Directions: From US 221 in Perry, go west on US 98 for 16.8 mi. to the intersection with Cow Creek Grade in southwest Taylor Co. Drive south for 7.5 mi. on Cow Creek Grade to Swartz Tram, the start of the loop road around Hickory Mound Impoundment. Continue south, then west, then north on Coker Rd., then east on Swartz Tram to complete the loop. Alternate: From US 98 on the west side of the Econfina River, take CR 14 south for 5.3 mi. Turn left at the small WMA sign and follow the winding dirt road southeast for 1.3 mi. Turn right (south) at the 4-way intersection and proceed 0.4 mi. Turn left (east) onto Martin Grade and go 1.0 mi., then turn right south onto Coker Rd. Follow Coker Rd. around the impoundment.
Open dawn to dusk.
Location: 30.075688° N, -83.839984° W