When a housing development is created, it is rarely good news for wildlife. But something amazing has happened on eastern Cape Haze where one good wildlife habitat has been substituted for another as the land was cleared.

The areas off Gasparilla Road sometimes designated as Rotonda Meadows and Rotonda Sands were originally cleared for sale as lots many years ago, but grew up into a dense area of wax myrtle due to neglect. These wax myrtles produced immense amounts of fruit, which attracted huge flocks of tree swallows during the winter. These flocks numbered in the uncounted thousands and were a remarkable sight.

It seemed an ecological disaster when the lots were cleared again recently and the wax myrtles were completely removed. Yet once again, something good has sprung from this like a “phoenix from the ashes.” A remarkable prairie habitat has grown up among the many platted lots and mostly empty streets. The terrain is mostly open with only a few trees. Along with this prairie have come animals that prefer this habitat, which is uncommon in eastern North America.

Let us hope that the buildout of these lots on Cape Haze is slow so that their unusual prairie inhabitants may continue to thrive.

Bill Dunson is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University, thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. Contact him at wdunson@comcast.net.


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