Bird Island, officially known as MC2, is a “no trespassing zone,” a Critical Wildlife Area or (CWA). Recently, there have been complaints to the Florida Wildlife Commission from Sewall’s Point residents that kayakers have been getting on the island to view the birds flushing them from their nests. Terrible! Exposed chicks and eggs are a delicacy for crows and other predators. Bird Island is a state recognized breeding ground for multiple species of endangered and threatened wading birds. It is protected.
This past Wednesday, April 13, 2021, I accompanied the Florida Wildlife Commission and Martin County to do an official state bird count. There were over 300 birds mid-day and the number of nests will be estimated next week. The sound of the nestlings was unceasing with chicks begging for food as parents chirped and clapped back. Incredible! Chicks were hidden down in the mangroves but older ones were perched outside looking around, looking a lot like their parents. I was told it appeared to be an “average year.” It looked pretty good to me!
Today, I share photos and videos. Hopefully these will quench the thirst of those who may want to break the law. Bird Island can be viewed from outside the sign area, but not inside. FWC law enforcement is increasing visibility in the area and hopefully anyone out and about who sees a disturbance will call 1-888-404-3922.
The most wonderful thing I learned was that since 2010, when I first met Ricardo Zambrero of FWC and the idea with the Town of Sewall’s Point, Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours, and Martin County crystalized into a hard fought CWA-designation in 2014 ~ the beautiful pink roseate spoonbills have gone from rookery visitors to successful nesters! Last year over thirty roseate spoonbills were reported on the island, young and mature. I saw many the day of the count. Younger birds are lighter in color and one adult bird I saw sitting on a nest was almost red where body met wings.
This incredible place must be protected from curios visitors, just as we must protect if from polluted discharge waters from Lake Okeechobee!
Thank you FWC.
-Approaching Bird Island off South Sewall’s Point in the Indian River Lagoon-A menagerie of birds! A very diverse crew! Strength in numbers!-Wood storks, and roseate spoonbills-Magnificent frigate birds-Wood storks and frigate birds-Signs are posted around the entire island-Martin County works to protect the island from erosion caused by boat wakes and storms
-Wood storks on nests on black mangroves-Another view. Two large black mangroves died in Hurricane Irma in 2017. A huge loss of habitat.-JTL, SFWMD; Ricard Zambrero & Andrea Peyeyra, FWC; and Mike Yustin, M.C.-A pink rosette spoonbill against a blue sky-I think these are cormorants but they sure look like loons!INCREDIBLE VIDEOS
-Bird Island south side distant and up close
-Roseate Spoonbill flies overhead
-Many types especially wood storks, great egrets, and a juvenile brown pelican
-Brown pelican flies from island – view of many birds
-East side of island rocks to protect from erosion. Oyster catchers have nested here!
My husband, Ed, has been out of town for a few days, so I decided to visit a place I haven’t come upon in a long time, Haney Creek. I had been pouring through 1940s Department of Agriculture aerials showing Martin and St Lucie counties in their pre-drainage/pre-development glory. What a mind-blower to see how much the landscape has changed! Nonetheless, there remain a few fantastic parks that allow us to connect with the past.
One of these, located right in the heart of Stuart, is Haney Creek or Haney Creek Trail. This gem of a park is over 157 acres and remains in as natural a form as possible. It contains very well marked trails, and the main path is only a short walk that can be made right on one’s way to the grocery store. Haney Creek is hidden in the middle of everything! It is peaceful and beautiful and a great reminder of our once wildlife full ~sand-pine, wet prairie, flatwoods habitat~ that in earlier days sprawled “everywhere.”
Looking at the aerial or walking along Haney Creek Trail, it’s easy to see how everything we put on our yards ends up in the river. Nature formed forests, sand dunes, ponds, and creeks so that all things found and find their way to the St Lucie…
On the 1940s aerial below, Haney Creek is located far south, just up from the “Y” of US1 and the railroad track. Can you find it? If not, there’s a modern map within the photos that follow. Take a trip back in time with a mind set for today-it’s so easy and right in the middle of everything! -Haney Trail, part of the Haney Creek Project, is located right off of Baker Road, next door to Felix Williams Elementary School. The main trail takes about twenty minutes to walk. I’m including some photos I took. My favorite is the prickly pear cactus-flower. Note the bee inside!
On Friday, April 9, the Army Corp of Engineers announced it would halt discharges to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on Saturday, April 10. The Corp has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since March 6th. Today Lake Okeechobee sits at 14.14 feet. Please read above link for details.
These aerials were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, yesterday, Saturday, April 10, 2021 at approximately 1:30 pm during an outgoing tide, from 3000 feet over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and 1500 feet over Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 Canal.
There have been documented reports of algae near Port Mayaca at Lake Okeechobee as well as on the the west coast -April 8. Ed’s photos from April 10 reveal some algae in C-44 canal near the railroad bridge just inside the S-308 structure, but none was visible in Lake O near S-308 from the altitude of the airplane.
Ed, myself, and the River Warrior crew will continue flights documenting the visual condition of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Always watching. Always sharing.
When we are not flying, you can follow along electronically via my brother Todd Thurlow’s website eyeonlakeo.
-Sandbar and barren (no visible seagrass) Sailfish Flats area of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Visually, water is a mixture of blue and brown, mostly transparent, near St Lucie Inlet.-Discharges exiting St Lucie Inlet over nearshore reefs. It will take a few days for the river to clear up. -At Lake Okeechobee, Port Mayaca, S-308 Structure to C-44 Canal leading to St Lucie River-C-44 Canal at railroad bridge just inside S-308 structure. Algae visible on right side. -C-44 at St Lucie Locks and Dam S-80 Structure AKA “The 7 Gates of Hell.”
Florida Oceanographic Society WQ Report “B” March 31-April 7, 2021
Sometimes the most beautiful places, are the places closest to home. Savannas Preserve State Park, established in 1978, stretches more than ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing the “largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.”
Ed and I usually visit through the Jensen Beach Boulevard entrance, but recently we entered at Walton Road. The beauty was remarkable!
According to the state’s handout, it was Lt. Benjamin Pierce who first used the term “savannah” to describe a series of ponds and marshes and more that he came upon during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).
If you live near the Treasure Coast, this 5,400 acres offers a valuable close to home experience. Ed and I were there before sunset and even on a cloudy day the lighting was awe inspiring. A wonderful afternoon! Thank you to those who had the foresight to preserve these lands between the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.-Ed takes photos of many small and colorful wild flowers and native plants.-Hello armadillo!-My arms are not even the length of a brown pelican’s wing span!-Ed is shorter than a sandhill crane!-Now this is a great classroom!Savannas Preserve State Preserve Park, Florida Parks System.
Documenting the Discharges, Saturday, April 3, 2021.
Since last week, the ACOE has lowered discharges to the St Lucie River from 500 cubic feet per second to 300. The lake is now down to 14.44 feet from over 16. Blue-green algae has been spotted in the C-44 canal near S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam. This canal connects Lake O to the St Lucie River and blue-green algae is always of concern as reported my Max Chesnes of TCPalm. Ed and I saw no algae at S-308 on Lake Okeechobee from the air. The water does have an odd hue-perhaps due to wind. We did not get over S-80 due to weather conditions.
This go around, the ACOE began discharging on March 6, 2021 to the St Lucie River, so yesterday, when these photos were taken it was 28 days after the discharges. The aerials were taken from about 3000 feet, at approximately 3:30pm, on an outgoing tide. Conditions were windy, cloudy, and all waters were stirred-up.
Please note federal, state, and local links on subject following photographs.
~Wishing all a Happy Easter and Spring time! See you next week. Ed & I will continue to document the discharges.
Running images of S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee and over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon near Sewall’s Point the dividing peninsula of these waters-merging at the Crossroads and Sailfish Flats near the St Lucie Inlet. Photos Ed Lippisch.
-Captain Chris Wittman & Captain Daniel Andrews of Captains for Clean Water w/JTL & Ed. Shark River to Shark River Slough transition zone adventure, 3-24-21. Photo Noah Miller.I have had this fascination with finding the Shark River. Maybe it’s the visual; maybe it’s the promise of more water flowing south; maybe it’s because I keep having a hard time finding it…
Twice I had tried. Once, on a boat trip from Flamingo and another flying over with my husband. In both cases, really, the river eluded me. “How can something so big, be so hard to find?” I thought to myself. Well, some of that may be related to the complex changes humankind has made to the Everglades system. It took a day led by Chris Whitman and Daniel Andrews of Captains for Clean Water to meet this elusive river “face to face,” and even begin to understand it.
Before I share the story, I am taking my favorite book off the shelf: Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades. These images, on pages 46 and 47, compare the hydrology of the Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee from 1850 to today. Even without clicking to study the image, one can see the changes. The Shark River, near the bottom of the system, receives considerably less water today than in its past. The River of Grass south of Lake Okeechobee, which includes Shark River Slough, has been blocked by roads, cut by canals, amputated in the north by the Everglades Agricultural Area, and pushed west from encroaching eastern development. –A modern picture from the National Park System reveals what remains today inside of Everglades National Park and shows the connection of the Shark River to Shark River Slough. My goal was to meet this river and to do so my husband, Ed, and I met the Captains in Flamingo at Flamingo Marina. We were to cross through Whitewater Bay, then enter the “Little Shark River” and next, come face to face with the Shark River itself!
Ed and my morning began at 3:00am. I don’t believe I have ever gotten up this early. The alarm rang and Ed excitedly said: “Time to get up! ”
“Already?” I replied, stuffing my head under the pillow.
After getting ready, we jumped in the car driving south from Stuart in total darkness to Homestead and entered Everglades National Park. We were to meet the Captains at 8:00am. We were on time, but Ed likes being early.
“Slow down Ed! You might hit a panther! I exclaimed.
“I’m following the speed limit Jacqui.” Ed replied. “Go back to sleep.”
The sun was coming up and a menagerie of wading birds gracefully glided overhead. The sun shone through their feathers in hues of oranges and pinks. “This is beautiful.” I said, starting to wake up.
“You should try getting up early more often-we could go fishing together.” Ed joked.
I rolled my eyes, “I would only get up this early to meet the Shark River, not to catch fishes!” We laughed.
We saw the sign for Flamingo. We had arrived.
The Captains were waiting; boat already in the water. After quick “hellos,” we waved goodbye to a sleeping crocodile and headed up the Buttonwood Canal to Whitewater Bay. It was so exciting! Finally, I thought, I will indeed meet the Shark River!
It was chilly but no wind. The water was like glass. There was no one else.
-Captain Daniel Andrews and Noah Miller in the Buttonwood Canal leading into Coot Bay.-JTL and Captain Chris Wittman.-What a cool decking! “Send the water south!”-Ed smiles for the camera.Suddenly we stopped.
“Is this Whitewater Bay?” I asked.
Chris nodded his head up and down and climbed above the engine. I noticed he was wearing no shoes, just socks.
“What’s he doing?” I whispered to Ed.
“He’s sighting tarpon. Shhh.”Suddenly I saw a tremendous splash in the distance! A rolling silver monster of a fish. It was spectacular! Never in my lifetime had I seen a jumping “silver king.”
I watched. I listened. It was magical. And like the Shark River, the tarpon stayed just out of reach, remaining a mystery….
We continued on..
We traveled quite a long way, many miles, first hitting the Little Shark River and then the Shark River itself. Some maps like the one below show it all as the Shark River.
“Chris looked at me through reflective glasses. He smiled. “Here you go Jacqui, this is it. The Shark River.”
“Oh my Gosh finally! I exclaimed standing up.“Hello Shark River! I dragged my fingers in the clear, brownish water smiling from ear to ear.
It felt like we were in Africa or some far away land. The Captains were taking us deep into the northern reaches of Otter Creek and Rookery Branch as displayed on page 109 of The Everglades Handbook, another excellent publication. Chris said, “Not only are you going to meet the Shark River, we are going to take you to were its connection meets Shark River Slough.”When we arrived at the end of the branch, the waterway got thinner and thinner, the plants began to change. We stopped when we could go no further. Captain Daniel explained that we were in the “transition zone.” Shark River Slough was just north of us, on the other side, where the vegetation would become more marshy. Fresh water flowed through here. I could see coco-plum, like in my yard, growing right next to mangroves. The vegetation was mixed and different. Daniel discussed the history and how the mangroves have grown much further north since around 1920 because of the lack of fresh water. I looked down. It was very shallow. I could see limestone, marl or some type of rock. What looked like peat and leaves lie on top. The water was clear. Fishes were darting about. I could see the water slowly flowing…
We were at the interface, the meeting place of river and slough. We talked about Everglades restoration for a long time noting that the water now wasted to tide and destroying the Northern Estuaries from Lake Okeechobee once flowed massively south through this area into Florida Bay. We talked about the hyper-salinity and seagrass die-offs in Florida Bay due to the lack of fresh water. Yes, recently, and in 2015, starting in the 1980s. What a conundrum. We must continue to work to send more water south!
-Captain Chris teaches us about the transition zone.-Transition zone between river forks and Shark River Slough. Blue dot is location of the boat. Line above is Tamiami Trail east of Miami. Before heading home, the Captains took us in the opposite direction to see Ponce de Leon Bay, where the Shark River and other rivers carry the water of Shark River Slough into Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Along the way, we passed a mangrove forest that contained giant remnant black mangroves the size of oak trees! I even saw a tree snail. I had never seen such a big tree snail either!
All the way home, I felt renewed.
I will never forget this special day. The day Ed and I had a Captains’ introduction to the Shark River -and so much more! Ed and I are forever grateful.
With every experience like this I can see, really see, what needs to be done to send more water south, to save the estuaries, and to replenish Florida Bay. Having met the Shark River, may just have been the ultimate inspiration.
-Ponce de Leon Bay mangrove forest. -Hugging an enormous ancient black mangrove.-An Everglades tree snail!-Captain Chris overlooks Ponce de Leon Bay. -Heading home! -Back on land at Flamingo Marina. A final farewell selfie. -Crocodile loves the comfy boat ramp.-Ospreys feed their rapidly growing young. All animals of the Everglades need flowing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. We must continue to send more water south!
Videos: 1 & 2 on the way to the transition zone of the upper forks towards Shark River Slough.
3. Approaching Ponce de Leon Bay that opens into Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico.
-St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon March 27, 2021. Photos Dr Scott Kuhns.As we all know, the ACOE began discharging 500 cubic feet per second of Lake Okeechobee water to the St Lucie River on March 6, 2021. At this time the lake was at 15.23 feet. There were/are great concern as wet season is rapidly approaching…
Since March 6th, Ed and I have been documenting the discharges for 2021 so that visually we have a record of changes as time goes on. We have been doing this since 2013’s Lost Summer that spurred a River Movement that turned over the tables, has evolved in many directions, and continues to work on changing Florida water policy today.
In today’s blog post it not Ed and I, but friend Dr Scott Kuhns who is documenting the discharges. Unlike me addicted to my iPhone, Scott uses a professional level camera. Wow!
Presently, Ed’s plane is in the shop so I am very grateful to pilot Steve Schimming and pilot/photographer Kuhns, for filling in and taking these excellent aerials yesterday, March 27, 2021 around 10:30 am. It was a full incoming tide with full moon rising today, March 28th. The water looks beautiful. The photos even reveal the near shore reefs!
Such conditions can push back against 500cfs coming from S-80 as presently there are no discharges from canals C-23 and C-24 because it is bone dry right now. Lake Okeechobee is evaporating and is now at 14.56 feet. This remains high. Please view the information I have included at the end of this blog for details of conditions from Florida Oceanographic as well as SFWMD & ACOE content. No discharges are good discharges but it is wonderful to see these blue aerial photographs as Spring is sprung and wildlife is procreating! Hopefully oysters, fish, and bird life will have a good season and mature before summer storms are arrive.
In closing, thank you Scott and Steve for a classic view from the Cub also known as the “River Warrior II;” so good to see her! She was and remains the “original!”
~Documentation St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, March 27, 2021. Scott Kuhns & Steve Schimming reporting from the Piper Super Cub.
-Over nearshore reefs off Peck’s Lake, all photos by Dr Scott Kuhns.-Wide views St Lucie Inlet State Park and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.-Sailfish Point and St Lucie Inlet note near shore reef! Beautiful! Also damaged by discharges as documented by Harbor Branch. -Great shot of nearshore reefs off the St Lucie Inlet.-Looking towards Stuart and the Crossroads over St Lucie Inlet.-Part of Sandbar area. Could that be seagrass coming up?-Opening to Jupiter Narrows. Note dredge.-Sailfish Flats still devoid of seagrass.-Sewall’s Point between St Lucie River on west and Indian River Lagoon on east-Over south Sewall’s Point looking towards Stuart -Hell’s Gate, bottleneck between Stuart and Sewall’s Point, St Lucie River.-Witham Field, Stuart and looking west.-Below: Over Langford Landing that still looks like an atom bomb hit after five years of development-after they tore down all of Francis Langford’s beautiful trees and flattened the historic bluff that pirates used to use for an outlook. I hope they plant some vegetation soon! Aggg!-Roosevelt Bride over St Lucie River.-Looking west towards the Roosevelt Bridge, Palm City and Rio in foreground. South Fork and Beginning of North Fork visible-Another view of Langford Landing with no trees after five years, the former home of the famous and generous Frances Langford.-Langford Landing marina is filling up and is located at the merging point of north Sewall’s Point and Rio. This would look a lot better with some stately trees.-Here we see the Harborage Marina near the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart/Rio. River water is not blue here as flushing is poor compared to St Lucie Inlet. The St Lucie has been ravaged by discharges from C-44, Lake O, C-23 and C-24 beginning in the 1920s.-Looking west over the Roosevelt Bridge note C-23 Canal in distance that separates Martin and St Luice County. Over-drainage is the root of Florida’s water problems today. As a farmer once told me, “We spent 100 years taking the water off the land, and we’ll spend 100 years putting it back on…”
~Dr Gary Goforth displays two hand made bows, Atlantic Ridge. “Hiking with our kids on public lands throughout Florida opened my eyes to the extensive damage caused by feral hogs. Beautiful pristine landscapes all over the State were being destroyed by their aggressive rooting and predation. As an omnivore, they are opportunistic eaters – and are known to eat turkey eggs, beneficial snakes and even small fawns – in addition to roots and grubs. After seeing extensive hog damage during a hike at DuPuis Wildlife Management Area, my wife, Karen, turned to me and said – “You’ve got a bow – you should start hunting them!” So I did and we have enjoyed wonderful lean additive-free pork for years; now I feed the hungry.” Gary Goforth
Dr Gary Goforth is an incredible person with more than thirty-five years of experience in water engineering. I met Gary through the St Lucie River Movement. Recently he has been devoting time as a volunteer at Atlantic Ridge State Preserve. On March 10, 2021, I joined Gary; John Lakich, Johnathan Dickinson Park manager; Rob Rossmanith, Johnathan Dickinson Park biologist; and two South Florida Water Management representatives, Rory Feeney, bureau office chief-land management; and Gene Colwell, senior scientist. We met in the early morning at the entrance of Atlantic Ridge State Preserve off Paulson Road in Martin County.
Atlantic Ridge contains 5,747 acres and was acquired in 1999 with funding from the CARL/P2000 program, assistance of the South Florida Water Management District, and Martin County. The park is still coming into its own and updating its management plan, thus the help from Johnathan Dickinson.
Gary invited me as a governing board member of the SFWMD to see the beauty of these lands, but also to witness the overpopulation of feral hogs that is threatening the area. The goal? To turn a negative into a positive. Could we help spread the word about Atlantic Ridge and could we help Gary feed the hungry?”
After our briefing, I followed Gary to a monster vehicle, climbed atop, and held on tight! As the rest of the crew took their spots we eased off into the pine forest and adjacent wetlands. I looked over the remarkable landscape of undeveloped pristine land. “This is beautiful!” I exclaimed. My heart stopped. I noticed very large areas of torn earth and uprooted vegetation. My eyes moved toward the horizon. Pocks filled the landscape. -Atop the monster vehicle: JTL, Rory Feeney, SFWMD; Rob Rossmanith, biologist JDSP; Gary Goforth, volunteer Atlantic Ridge; Park Ranger, John Lakich, JDSP.-Note destruction of lands due to wild hogs along pathway and deep within forest.