Connections for Sustainability

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Walk in the Woods

Cleveland Park

with Livability Educator Jaclin DuRant

Cleveland Park is one of Greenville’s outdoor recreation gems. Sporting a series of exercise equipment, multiple playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, picnic shelters, miles of trails, and more, Cleveland Park has something for everyone.

photo of deciduous native azaleas

Step off of the paved paths to find deciduous native azaleas blooming in early spring

I have been to Cleveland Park a handful of times; once on my way to the Greenville Zoo, and in passing on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, but I hadn’t really spent time appreciating Cleveland Park as a natural area until I took a walk there in April and discovered some amazing spaces just off the beaten path.

photo of A Chipping Sparrow searches for seeds

A Chipping Sparrow searches for seeds

From an ecological perspective, one of the important functions of parks and green space in an urban setting is to provide a refuge for plants and animals to be able to survive. Birds are definitely one of the most successful kinds of animals utilizing these green spaces as habitats. Though some birds have territory requirements that cannot be met in urban settings, many species are able to survive in city parks, and in doing so, they provide us with entertainment and beauty.

photo of A Northern Red Cardinal watches me watching him

A Northern Red Cardinal watches me watching him

I wasn’t able to cover every trail in Cleveland Park, but in less than two hours, I came across more than 10 different species of birds. Though I’m certainly not an expert in birds, I was able to identify some of the more common species, including the Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Common Grackle, and Cedar Waxwing while others such as the White Throated Sparrow were later identified from quickly shot, fuzzy pictures.

photo of A Tufted Titmouse puffed up and singing

A Tufted Titmouse puffed up and singing

Many of the same traits that make birds such successful urban animals also make them difficult to photograph. Most birds are relatively small and quick. Many are also camouflaged with spots, stripes, and colors that help them blend into their environment. Finally, birds fly; and though I will happily chase the perfect photograph across the park, once my subject flits into the tree canopy, I am out of luck.

photo of A Cedar Waxwing sitting in a Water Oak at Cleveland Park

A Cedar Waxwing sitting in a Water Oak at Cleveland Park

In addition to their beauty, birds provide people with a variety of benefits. Many birds are insectivorous, with a diet primarily consisting of insects, and their presence can help to reduce pest populations. Birds that eat fruits play an important role in plant population dynamics by dispersing seeds to new locations. Some birds act as pollinators while others eat dead and decaying animals or trash. Vultures, especially, act as natural garbage collectors, playing an important role in nutrient cycling, disease prevention, and street clean-up.

photo of a squirrel

Not all movement in the tree tops is because of birds

I was amazed at the variety of wildlife that Cleveland Park had to offer. Dirt paths veered off from the regular bike trails in a few different spots, leading to verdant areas where the sounds of the city melted away and I could pretend like I was off in the forest somewhere far from the hustle and bustle of everyday. I would recommend long pants and closed toed shoes if you’re going to wander the paths less traveled at Cleveland Park, as the poison ivy is thick in places, but it’s worth the extra caution to explore this beautiful piece of Greenville.

photo of a Red Bellied Woodpecker at Cleveland Park

Red Bellied Woodpecker at Cleveland Park