Category Archives: wildlife

Feeding the Hungry, 1 Wild Hog at a Time

~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?” 

 ~Below, JDSP, biologist, Rob Rossmanith briefs the group about hog destruction within  Atlantic Ridge State Preserve  within the context of the park’s  Management Plan.Map of Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

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.The joy I felt earlier had diminished. After a about twenty minutes, we disembarked.

“We have one large electronic trap on the property” Gary explained. “I manage it on my cell phone.  We could use five more.”

I listened.

The men talked of various types of traps. 

Gene Colwell and Rory Feeney shared tips of the trade. John spoke about long-standing hog issues at Jonathan Dickinson. As they interacted, I kept hearing expressions like “out-smart,” “probably in the palmettos,” “intelligent,” “cannot eradicate.”

I continued walking; the damage was everywhere I looked. I took pictures and searched for hiding hogs. I brushed a palmetto bush, hoping one would come crashing out. They remained quiet. I looked up to the sky. I love all God’s creatures, but this hog destruction situation was truly horrible. Where would it stop? -SFWMD senior scientist, Gene Colwell, shares tips form the SFWMD. The SFWMD is partial owner of the Atlantic Ridge lands. Wild pigs were introduced to Florida in the 1500 by the Spanish and no one can deny them their success. The problem is, they’ve been so successful that they are wrecking it for everything else. 

The photograph below from the Florida Wildlife Commission  displays the pointed snout, a multi-use tool, that allows hogs to be very successful. 

Gary taught me that a group of females and piglets is called a “sounder.” Males are solitary except during breeding season. A female has two litters of 1–13 piglets per year, usually 5-7. She can bear young at 6-8 months and her gestation period is 114 days. According to the 2020 Feral Pig Working Group, Florida is only second to Texas in wild hog population.  2020-WPC-State-Update_Florida

Gary and the officials from JDSP also explained that public hunting in Florida state parks is forbidden. So the hogs that Gary hunts by bow are hunted outside of the park. As an Atlantic Ridge volunteer, Gary captures the wild hogs in traps, humanely euthanizes them, and then shares the meat with those in need. 

Gary explains: 

“As a volunteer with Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park I helped with hog trapping and it was heartbreaking to see the ranger dispatch the trapped hogs and then leave this wonderful meat for the coyotes and vultures.  The nearest butcher associated with a wild game food bank was in Arcadia, and I actually made the 5-hr round trip to deliver a dispatched hog.  I couldn’t find any local or statewide food bank that would accept wild hog.  There are a lot of misperceptions about the potential risk of human diseases from eating wild hog.  It is true that, just like domestic pets and livestock, small percentages of wild hogs carry brucellosis and trichinosis.  The good news is that observing common sanitary practices while handling the animals and preparing the meat are adequate to ensure minimal risks.  Nationwide, the CDC estimates that of the 3,000 deaths associated with food-borne diseases, it is likely that only 1 is related to brucellosis and trichinosis – and this could have been from contact with domestic animals.  Statewide, the Florida Game Commission estimates that 40,000-50,000 wild hags are harvested by hunters each year, and the Dept. of Health reports deaths from hog-related disease is exceptionally rare (1 hunter in the last 10 years.)

In the last couple of months I renewed my efforts to find charitable organizations that would accept wild hogs.  After countless phone calls, I located three organizations that feed the hungry with wild hogs I’ve trapped at Atlantic Ridge Park.  In the last month I’ve delivered over 1,500 lbs of hog – enough fresh lean meat to serve over 2,100 meals!” ~Gary Goforth 

What can people do to help?  Help us connect organizations that feed the hungry with great free range, locally sourced lean meat!

  • If they belong to an organization that feeds the hungry (a church, charity, etc.) and have the ability to process a whole hog into meals, have them contact me at 772 223-8593!
  • If they are a butcher and would be willing to donate a couple of hours to process a whole hog into roasts, shoulders and other cuts, have them contact me at 772 223-8593! Once processed the meat would be donated to organizations that feed the hungry.
  • If they could ask their butcher if they would be willing to donate a couple of hours to process a whole hog into roasts, shoulders and other cuts, have them contact me at 772 223-8593! Once processed the meat would be donated to organizations that feed the hungry.
  • If they have a pickup truck and would be willing to deliver dispatched hogs from AR Park to a butcher or charitable organization, have them contact me at 772 223-8593!

Kudos to Gary Goforth, feeding the hungry, one wild hog at a time, and keeping Atlantic Ridge beautiful!



Beyond Pythons

The first time I became interested in pythons was the day I saw this chart. The year was 2016, my husband Ed and I were visiting Everglades National Park, and the ranger informed us that 98% of the small mammals were gone…Terrible! 

In 2019, when I was appointed by Governor DeSantis to the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, he made the SFWMD Python Elimination Program a priority. Those involved in this program hunt to remove these incredible animals. The largest caught was just under 18 feet 9 inches. So the connection? At Governor DeSantis’ announcement of this program, I met Mrs Donna Kalil. “If you ever want to go, let me know,” she said smiling in her trademark pink shirt. Just recently, on March 8, 2021, I took her up on it.

-Everglades Holiday Park, Governor DeSantis announces expansion of the SFMWD Python Elimination Program, August 8, 2019. ~Photo SFMWD.Ed and met Donna at the same place she and I met, Everglades  Holiday Park. Gregarious,  and easy to talk to, Ed and I felt like we’d known her for years, by the time we got to the L-28 canal -running north almost between Big Cypress Park and Water Conservation Area 3, just north of Tamiami Trail. She unlocked the gate, and we began our adventure.

My not being a hunter, not being able to even step on an ant, I was glad that if we caught a python, it would be bagged, and humanly -under strict rules- euthanized. I thought about how the first pythons released into the Everglades in the 1970s had been pets that somebody loved, pets that outgrew their terrariums. Now we have a major wildlife disaster on our hands. A disaster that could end in many of our back yards

Ed and I grabbed the rail atop of Donna’s SUV and stared down. We looked until our eyes popped! Donna had taught us how to distinguish the shiny skin pattern of a python in the vegetation, and immediately one saw how well they are camouflaged! 

It was a beautiful, very cool day and I found myself looking beyond the roadside to the gorgeous scenery. We came upon a rookery of maybe a hundred birds. -Wood storks, great egrets, anhingas, little blue herons, white egrets, great blue herons, ibis, and others I did not know. Alligators were nearby, abundant, black and shining, with their classic grins. As we slowly approached, they stayed either completely still or rushed the waters like angry bulls, branches crashing! After we went by, we could hear them grunting in the deep marsh. Cypress trees were getting their foliage and tender, light-green branches emerged against a blue-clouded sky. It was early morning and everything was just coming alive. 

“Oh!” I thought, “I am supposed to be looking for pythons!” I looked at Ed, and he was glued to the levee bank like a hawk. “Thankfully, he’s with me, I thought, I am a terrible spotter!” But I had never witnessed these Everglades lands. Spectacular!  

Donna was looking too. Suddenly, she jumped out of the vehicle. “Oh my gosh, she going to get one, I thought.” She gracefully came out of the woods with a huge yellow rat snake. “Just like our yard!” I yelled, snapping shots of her smiling and the snake looking very calm. I am not afraid of snakes, but 18 feet? 

“She’s a snake charmer,” I said to Ed. He smiled. “Just like when she told us she ran that program of parents at the PTA.” I laughed. I was so glad Ed was with me to experience this. Our next stop was also beautiful, in the classic Everglades way. We headed south into Everglades National Park from the SFWMD S-333 structure and Old Tamiami Trail. It was exciting to see the trail as it being removed to allow more water to enter the park. Even now, the water flowed south like a river,  Ed took pictures of me beaming.

The air was fresh and cool. The tall grasses and tree islands looked otherworldly waving in the afternoon light. As the clouds floated by, purples, burnt oranges, and greens took on one hue and then another. “A Monet painting,” I thought. “The Creator’s palate.” Cool winds blew, I zipped up my jacket and tightened my scarf. 

“Look at the road!” I heard myself think.“Pythons, I am supposed to be looking for pythons!” Ed smiled. “This is incredible,” he said. I grabbed his hand across our station top the vehicle. 

We did not find a python that day. I’m not sure if it is because it was in the 60 and 70s and the pythons couldn’t get moving, or if I missed about twenty of them. One thing is for sure, they are there. Donna is a top producer! Ed and I plan on going back out with Donna. She is looking for volunteers, so if you think you can keep your eyes on the road and off the stunning scenery contact her! ~join Donna Kalil, python huntress, on Facebook. 

In the meanwhile, I will be happily remembering my day “beyond pythons.” 

I. L-28 Canal between Big Cypress Preserve and Water Conservation Area 3/4. -Donna looks along the levee for pythons warming themselves in the sun II. Canal south at S-333 and Tamiami Trail, Everglades National Park

-Donna points to the an round impression in the grass from a python; she is constantly reading the environment for clues! 

-Farewell to a beautiful day! -Jacqui and Ed before the SFWMD S-334 Structure at Tamiami Trail “Hey Ed, is do you think this water is moving south?!”


1.-Alligators are eaten by pythons; until now, they were the top predator. Luckily, in this video they look like they are having a very good day. 

2. “Sending water south” Old Tamiami Trail!



Thousands of Flying Fish Crows!

Yesterday, February 7, 2021, before the Super Bowl, Ed and I took the binoculars and walked to watch sunset at Bird Island. The Indian River Lagoon on the east side of Sewall’s Point is always spectacular at this time of day. Once we took a seat, we were amazed to see an almost endless flock of cawing fish crows making their way to roost somewhere south of Bird Island, maybe in the area of St Lucie Inlet State Park. We could see the shifting shape flying from the horizon miles away. They appeared like little mosquitoes approaching from the distance! There were thousands and thousands of fish crows! 

Although I was born in 1964, and grew up in Sewall’s Point and Stuart, the first time I noticed the massive flocks was along the St Lucie River in North River Shores back in the late 90s. I would watch with amazement for hours as they steadily made their way across the sky. “Where are they going?” I thought. “Where do they come from?” Although Fish Crows are listed as being at risk due to Climate Change, it certainly seems that their numbers are increasing. 

I include a couple of videos and encourage comments on what readers may know of this  incredible phenomenon. This survivor of a bird! 

Video 1: Thousands of fish crows fly over east Sewall’s Point near Bird Island. Video 2. Same but even better view hundreds more in the near distance. Incredible! 

Fish Crows: John J. Audubon

Walking for Panthers

~Above photo: FWC public records. FWC officer documents young male Florida Panther hit on Hwy. 710, November 2, 2019. 

I waited a long time to share this photograph. It’s almost too much to take.

This panther was hit and killed November 2, 2019, on Highway 710, less than a mile south of Indiantown in Martin County, Florida. Today I share this photo because of an article I read in TCPalm by environmental reporter, Max Chesnes. The title of the article is Man Walking From Vero Beach to Key West to Tallahassee for Panther Donations.

It is a story of loss and inspiration.

Mr Chesnes explains that when tragedy struck, Mr Steve Fugate “hit the road.” Fugate had lost his son to suicide and his daughter to accidental drug overdose To cope, the 74 year old Vero Beach native, began walking, finding solace and inspiration in Nature along the way…

There are panthers in Martin County.

In 2016, I wrote about one sighted in Allapattah Flats – ten miles west of Palm City, where in fact, SFWDM just held a Ribbon-Cutting. But because Panthers are few and far between compared to the south west coast of Florida, in my opinion, they do not get the government press or the protection via fencing and wildlife underpasses they should here. There is no urgency anyway.

“It was just one hit in twenty years.” I’ve heard. “Most are on the west coast…”

I think there should be signs, underpasses, fencing, and press on the east coast as well. For Mr Fugate and others, every life counts. Thank you to reporter, Max Chesnes and thank you to Mr Fugate, I am inspired!  I will be making a donation on the panther’s behalf! 

TCpalm: In an effort to raise awareness, and funding for the critically endangered Florida Panther, Vero Beach native, Steve Fugate has partnered with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and started on a nearly three-week, 1,600mile walk around Florida. Photo PATRICK DOVE/TCPALM. Click here for full article. 

Chesnes writes:

“Now, Fugate hopes to give back to the natural world and its inhabitants that embraced him throughout the years. His latest walk, which started Saturday, will take him from Vero Beach — through St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties — to Key West, then up Florida’s west coast from Naples to Tallahassee.

The nearly three-week, 1,600-mile journey is meant to raise awareness and funding for the critically endangered Florida panther, he said. 

“They’re just gorgeous animals,” Fugate said of the species, named in 1982 as Florida’s official state animal. There are only an estimated 120 to 230 wild panthers left, according to data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

More:FLorida panther deaths map and details”

~Florida Panther, Florida public photo




Africa’s North Fork of the St Lucie

I felt like I was in Africa…

It’s strange to find perhaps the most untouched part of the St Lucie River in the heart of Florida’s eighth largest city, Port St Lucie. In fact a full trip up the North Fork goes all the way to Ft Pierce. Although many of the trickling branches once running to the river have been developed, some have not, and the immediate area around the oxbows was left wild. 

Poor water quality from agriculture and development’s runoff plague this 1972 designated Aquatic Preserve but nonetheless it is an incredible relic! Today I share phots and videos of this remarkable place. The photos of mangroves and sable palms look a bit flat and repetitive, but the videos really reveal the dimension of the experience. 

Port St. Lucie 1967, mouth of North Fork looking  from south, St Lucie River- Photographer,  Aurthur Ruhnke, Thurlow Archives, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Ed and I took put the Maverick in at Leighton Park in Palm City. Other than screaming a few times when gigantic wakes almost enveloped us, it was a great trip- a trip I have not taken in many, many years.

This excerpt from  the 1984 Aquatic Preserve Management Plan notes that the North Fork was straightened and channelized by the U.S. Army during World War II, nonetheless much of the fork has the wonderful oxbows as you can see from my phone’s screenshot below. These oxbows are an incredible thing to see and definitely give one the feel of someplace wild and exotic like Africa. Like Florida was not too many years ago…

“Water is the one resource whose characteristics most directly affect this

             estuary’s habitability and healthiness for the plants and animals naturally

             adapted to living there. The drainage basin of the entire St. Lucie River has

             been modified by agricultural drainage and residential development. The North-

             Fork-St. Lucie River receives the outfall of two major drainage canals (C-23

             and C-24) and many other drainage sources in the upper headwaters. The

             freshwater flow from the St. Lucie Canal on the South Fork may also affect the

             North Fork indirectly. The uplands surrounding the preserve area are also

             modified by the extensive Port St. Lucie residential development and the other

             residential developments along the river. The North Fork was also modified by

             the U. S. Army during World War II. Those modifications involved the

             straightening and channelization of the upper section of the river

             (Environmental Quality Laboratory, 1980). The result of all of these

             modifications to the river and its basin is that rainfall that may have taken

             months to get to the river by natural drainage now takes only hours. The

             river that once meandered through a broad floodplain now flows down a deep

channel.” -1969 Internal Improvement Fund via 1984 N.F.A.P.M.P. 

Photos North Fork, St Lucie River January 3, 2021

-Pond Apple 

-My favorite photo! A turtle sunning itself! 

Videos St Lucie North Fork Oxbows

List of Birds/Wildlife/Plants seen 1-3-21 SLR and North Fork

Great Egret
5 ibis
Little Blue Heron
Blue Heron (young) 
Pair ospreys
2 Little Blue Herons
Turkey vulture
Floating flock of seagulls
Floating flock of pelicans
Kingfisher-N. Fork
Little Blue Heron
7 mullet jumping- Mud Cove
Little Blue Heron and ibis 
Little Blue
Pond Apple 
Frilly fern?
Leather fern
Saw palmetto
Seagulls hunting  S. of PC Bridge



Nature’s Ultimate Transformation

-Newly born MonarchFor me, there have been a few positive aspects regarding “Terrible 2020. “Covid-19’s Zoom World  isolation has given me time to learn to cook and also to study butterflies.

Recently, I decided to learn the difference between the celebrated and now endangered Monarch and the lesser known Queen. Walking my garden, I had noticed two similar but different caterpillars on milkweed that I had not seen together before. When the weather got unusually cold, I decided to bring them inside on their hosts plants.

“You are going to make those butterflies weak!” My husband Ed told me.

I smiled, replying, “Well at least they will live.” I had researched and learned that about ten percent overall make it due to predation and the elements. 

-Queen rust colored (below) all photos JTL-Monarch orange (below) both have white dots and stain glass window patternWith a little convincing, Ed helped me carry a heavy, old, lidded aquarium into my office, and the magic began. Within a few days all of the caterpillars were hanging upside down and turning into chrystalises. I noticed right away that the Queen’s case, although almost identical to the Monarch’s, was smaller and sometimes a cream-pinkish color rather than bright green. All had the distinctive and beautiful gold dots!Ed look!” Suddenly, he was captivated! 

“What are those gold dots for?” He asked.

“Perhaps camouflage, coloring -like many things with these butterflies, science doesn’t really know. An article in Scientific America says, best understood, to transform into a butterfly, a caterpillar first digests itself. But cells called imaginal disks survive, turning the soup into eyes, wings, antennae and other structures. When I look at the gold dots, they seem to line up with designs on the wings. But who knows? “

Ed quietly studied the gold spots and the emerging transformed creature. He like me, was intrigued!

So the original goal, the simple visual difference between the two?

The easiest way to show the basic differences between the Monarch and the Queen is to share some photos. It’s very clear when they are not flying around! Seventeen were born by yesterday, December 30th, 2020: seven Queens and ten Monarchs.

Ed and I released them all and all were healthy. It took about twelve days to witness Nature’s ultimate transformation. Certainly an inspiration for whatever is coming in 2021. Transform we must indeed!

-Queen -Above, newly born Queen. Below, Queen & Monarch chrystalises/markings the same but Queen smaller and sometimes cream in color rather than green-Monarch with one Queen and one Monarch broken casings/Monarch caterpillar gets ready to change -Queen caterpillar (below)-Monarch caterpillar (below) -Monarch more orange (below) -Queen more rust colored (below) -Can you tell the difference between the Queen and Monarch? I bet you can! -Release! Videos Queen opens wings to fly off; mating Monarchs in my yard:

Renewal By Fire

Born in the 1960s, I am a child of the Smokey Bear generation taught -at all costs- to avoid forest fires. Times have changed and we now know that fire is a necessary part of Florida’s ecology bringing renewal. As a Governing Board member of the South Florida Water Management District, I decided before 2020 ended, I should learn about this first hand.

Recently, Section Leader, Jim Schuette,  Land Management Department,  was my guide. We met near Cypress Creek in Palm Beach County near the Loxahatchee. We arrived early and were greeted by a small herd of adorable Zebu cattle – like miniature Cracker Cattle! 

Shortly thereafter, Gene Colwell, Senior Scientist, and Land Management Techs, Hal Camp and Marshall Davis arrived. Gene led the detailed safety/info briefing. “I hope I can do this,” I thought. Jim gave me some fireproof clothing and a hard hat. Suddenly, I was just “one of the guys.”

-Senior Scientist, Gene Caldwell leads briefing-Loxahatchee River Area near border of Martin & Palm Beach countiesThe fires were set with cans of diesel and gas and I noticed the pine needles that carpeted the forest burned slowly first. I was concerned about the wildlife. 

When the animals smell this they leave the area,” Jim said. 

“Are there any gopher holes for the smaller animals to hide in?” I inquired. 

“Yes, and the ground is moist.” He placed a handful of soil into my hand and explained that due to time of year and wet conditions, it would not be a towering fire. Jim noted that the team always worked to protect the canopy of the pine trees. I knew that in spite of the best circumstances, sometimes, there must be casualties, but for the health of the forest over-all it’s beneficial. 

Stepping away from the heat, I read my UF handout:” Ecological research shows that fire is an integral component in the function of natural habitats and that the organisms within these communities have adapted to withstand, and benefit from wildfires. In fact, many Florida habitats only exist due to the presence of wildfires. Some were created by frequent fires, others by a few big fires decades apart.” 

As time went on things heated up; I watched as Marshall and Hal used fire guns that ignited diesel filled ping-pong balls that were shot into the woods. Later in the day, I was asked if I wanted to participate under the supervision of the team. 

Getting my nerve up, I grabbed one of the heavy fire-lighting containers.

Mr Calwell instructed me to start the fires a good distance apart along the edge of the forest. The pine needles ignited first, cracking and moving like a living organism all its own. It felt strange lighting the woods on fire.

“There were a lot of things we believed in the 1960s that we no longer hold true.” I thought to myself.

The can was heavy and I used both arms. My neck ached. The sound of the fires popped and cracked as tall tongues hissed in the oily palmettos. Suddenly, liquid like flames traversed the bark of the pine trees creating a windstorm of fiery renewal. I was told the new growth would start coming back within just two days…

-Hal Camp with fire gun-Jim Schuette reports smoke situation on 1-95 “visibility is good” -Palmettos and sable palms are oily and burn quickly  -Post burn using water to cool hot spots-Fire brings renewal. Within just days green sprouts will emerge!  Above Jim wets embers


Thank you to Jim Schuette and the SFWMD Land Management team for this experience! 


The Dream of the Sleeping Jellyfish

When I saw them I was immediately struck by their shapes. They looked like hundreds of snowflakes lying at the bottom of the mudflats in the Florida Keys’ Tavernier mangrove swamp.

I became preoccupied with them, checking them during different times of day.

“I’ll be there in a few minutes, I’m going to visit those underwater snowflakes.” I told my husband, Ed.

“Are they sea anemones?” I wondered. “Are they some kind of tropical underwater flower?”

I lay prone on the dock, staring. And there I saw it. I saw upside down jellyfish- yes standing on their heads as if they were sleeping. I realized the beautiful geometric shapes, the snowflakes, were their out folded branching tentacles.

How bizarre!

Some of the jellyfish were “breathing,” their heads expanding and contracting, pushing water, while others seemed completely comatose, not moving at all.

A few smaller ones were actually swimming heads-up the way I would expect a jellyfish to!

I took lots of photos while hoping no boat would disturb their slumber.

I read, laughing, when I learned that they are indeed known as Cassiopea, the “upside down jellyfish,” ironically, all part of a symbiotic relationship with algae. (

I really fell in love with this snowflake jelly forest. Now, before I go to bed, I often wonder what they are dreaming about.

Perhaps clean water and a healthy sea…

119 Miles and Only a Barracuda?

My brother Todd took a family fishing expedition on Saturday, June 28, 2020. 119 miles! His journey may not have revealed many fish out in the deep ocean, but there was tremendous visible life in the Indian River Lagoon and nearshore ocean. Good to see!


“Beautiful flat day. 119 miles and only a barracuda, but it was fun.

Saw hundreds of Pelicans diving on the silver minnows near the power plant. That is probably to most Pelicans I have ever seen in one place locally, including bird island.

Also in all my life I have never seen the fin of a shark at the sandbar. After looking at my photos, I am pretty sure is was a little Scalloped Hammerhead. I cropped a comparison from the online guide and a link to the entire guide. I couldn’t see the head but the fins seem to match. The few people who saw it thought it was a Bull Shark but I didn’t think so. A Bull Shark fin isn’t as sharp.”

Below are photos of the hundreds of happy brown pelicans and also photos of the juvenile scalloped hammerhead shark. Don’t be scared! It’s just  a young shark. The estuaries are their home. These and all sharks are protected species and many like the scalloped hammerhead, globally endangered due to overfishing. Mostly for shark fin soup! Awful.

Well, there’s nothing like a day on the water! Fish or no fish. 119 miles is never for nothing around here!

The Power of Regeneration; Our Indian River Lagoon 9-Armed Starfish

I have always looked to Nature for inspiration and “regeneration.” A short walk in my yard, my neighborhood, or over the bridge almost always brings positive results.

Today, I wanted to share photos from a recent outing where I unexpectedly came upon a multitude of nine-armed starfish at Stuart Causeway, St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon. I had not seen them for many years during the almost decade of discharges from area canals and especially Lake Okeechobee. To see these striking creatures once again is a very good sign for the recovery of our waterways! And how cool is it that when they lose an arm they can regenerate?

A powerful story indeed!

“The starfish is a resilient creature that constantly regenerates, intuitively navigates the sea, and directly impacts its ecological community. An ancient name for the Virgin Mary, the Star of the Sea symbolizes guidance, intuition, and vigilance.~Ancient saying

9-armed starfish


PICTURE c. 1974, MY SISTER JENNY THURLOW FLAUGH HOLDS A FIVE ARMED STAR FISH, STUART, FL  photo Sandy Thurlow. In any era, kids always are amazed by starfish!

Life Returns to the St Lucie River-Indian River Lagoon


It is an amazing thing, what happens, when you give something time to heal. Life rises from the ashes, it returns. After some of the worst toxic discharge years -2013, 2016, 2018- the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in Martin County is healing.

Let’s be clear. ~She is not flush, but she is healing.

Ed and my weekend aerials and boat excursion show absolutely beautiful water and God’s creatures on the rise! Seagrasses, once completely gone, are visible, but dormant from winter months, it still looks pretty barren. Hopefully, upcoming visits to the same area will reveal plush meadows by June or July.

These are awkward and difficult times, with Coronavirus restrictions quickly bearing down on us; so I wanted to share  some “good news.”

We must not forget to focus on the gift of blue water and  the miracle of resurgent life. Life that always returns if given the chance. ~It is all around us.











From Girl Scout to Activist, Rediscovering the Seeds of Jonathan Dickinson State Park

In the 1970s, my girl scout troop often spent the night in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. At the time, almost all of Martin County was undeveloped so it really didn’t hit me – the value in this very special place.

We girls collected dried flowers, seeds, and grasses to be bound with ribbons and given to our mothers; we lay our packs on bunk beds in musty cabins; we hiked through the pines; we sat around the campfire telling ghosts stories and speaking of bears until too scared to  sleep; we sat in a rare silence, together, staring at the bright stars while eating marshmallows…

Last weekend, I went back to Jonathan Dickinson ~45 years later, this time with my husband Ed, and our dog, Luna.

Although I have aged, the place was even more beautiful!  Almost immediately, I  knew that even though I hadn’t walked it’s piney paths in such a long, long time, it had been an inspiration all my life. A seed growing within me. 

Ed and I chose to walk the trail of Kitching Creek. My attention was captured  by the beauty of the small flowers and I took as many pictures as I could. Slash pine trees abounded, like sentinels, second generation, the magnificent virgin forest cleared in the the 1920s.  Woodpeckers flew from tree to tree looking for insects or maybe a place to set up house. Ed walked far ahead with Luna, stopping every time he came upon a number; I would catch up and read aloud from a pamphlet available at the trail head. 

On our walk, I recognized some of the same grasses I used for my bouquet in 1974. But I knew this time I would not pluck them from the Earth, but take them to heart as inspiration in our fight for clean water, -the St Luice and Loxahatchee-, and the future of Florida.

~I then I realized that long ago, I already had. 

Before drainage there were times the surrounding wetlands, the St Luice, and the Loxahatchee Rivers were wet enough that people could  paddle between them. Today the Loxahatchee suffers from too little water and the St Lucie too much.