Category Archives: wildlife

Reintroducing Myself to Pelican Island’s Paul Kroegel

Reintroducing Myself to Pelican Island’s Warden, Paul Kroegel

-A 30 year old Jacqui meets the Paul Kroegel statue, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Sebastian, Florida, 1994.  Photo by mother, Sandra Thurlow.  -A 57 year old Jacqui reintroduces herself to the Paul Kroegel statue, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Sebastian, Florida, 2021. Photo by husband, Ed Lippisch.

The Story of Recreating the Photo

Last week, when I told my mother I had an Indian River Lagoon Council meeting in Sebastian, she forwarded me a 1994 photograph of me with my hand on the shoulder of statue Paul Kroegel. I vaguely recalled visiting the statue twenty-seven years ago during a family outing to the St Sebastian River.

“You’ll have to reintroduce yourself to our friend, Mr Paul Kroegel,” mom said. “You know, the man who inspired Theodore Roosevelt to create the Pelican Island Reservation that became the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903. Mr Kroegel was appointed the United State’s first warden. He loved and protected thousands of pelicans!”

“I’ll do that mom. I’ll find the statue. I do remember that day,” I replied. “You, dad and I were canoeing and got caught in a thunderstorm.” It all started coming back to me…

The more I thought about it, the more I stared getting excited about finding the statue…

On Friday, August 13, I attended the Indian River Lagoon Council National Estuary meeting. Afterwards, using Google Maps, a devise not available in 1994, I found the Kroegel statue in Riverview Park just down the road from Sebastian City Hall.

There Warden Kroegel stood smoking his pipe, pelicans at his feet,  just a shiny as ever! Someone had patriotically placed an American flag in his arms. It blew in the wind as pelicans and wading birds flew by. I took a deep breath, stood tall, and using my best manners reintroduced myself to Warden Kroegel. Looking into his bronze eye was almost real. We looked at each other for a long time. I placed my hand on his shoulder as in the original shot but had to turn around to take a modern day selfie. No one was there to take my picture, so I was unable to recreate the 1994 photo for my mother.

-Sculpted by Rosalee T. Hume

Luckily when I got home that night at dinner, I convinced Ed to drive up with me to Sebastian on the weekend, Sunday, August 15, to recreate the photo. We had a blast! First, it is such a beautiful drive to Sebastian from Sewall’s Point along historic Indian River Drive. Second, Sebastian is small and beautiful.  A lot like Stuart was when I was a kid. We really enjoyed our visit there. After finding Riverview Park and enjoying the scenery, I introduced Ed to Warden Kroegel and we took the picture!

-Riverview Park, Indian River Lagoon -Ed looks out to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Indian River Lagoon -Standing at Paul Kroegel’s statue  -Ed takes the iconic recreation photo of Jacqui and Warden Kroegel 27 years later! 

Pelican Island and the legacy of Paul Kroegel are on display in Sebastian just about everywhere, but first and foremost at the remains of his Homestead at Kroegel Produce, right at the corner of Indian River Drive and U.S. 1. Pelican Island proper  is “right behind” the old Homestead out in the Indian River. On land, the tomatoes were the best I’ve ever had! If you visit Sebastian, please take a photo with Mr Kroegel and send it my way. I’ll share it with my mother too.

And thanks to my husband, Ed, for helping me recreate the 1994 photo with Paul Kroegel. For mom, for fun, for history!

Information on Pelican Island today, Sebastian Chamber of Commerce.

Meeting up with Cinnamon Girl to Document the IRL

Friday night, August 6, 2021, Ed, Luna, Okee and I spent the night on Adrift, after meeting up with “Cinnamon Girl,” the craft of Dutch and Mary Radabaugh. Their name may ring a bell as Dutch and Mary were the face of Central Marine during the infamous toxic algae outbreaks of 2005, 2013, 2016 and 2018. Fortunately, there is no blue-green algae bloom  in the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon today as they ACOE has not discharged from Lake Okeechobee since April 10, 2021 due to algae sitting at the gate of Port Mayaca.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, the rains have begun, rainy season is upon us, and although stormwater runoff and C-23/24 are tainting the river brown, it is remains beautiful and safe so Ed and I decided to take Mary and Dutch up on their offer to meet and anchor in the IRL near Boy Scout Island. We had done this two years ago. How time flies!

It turned out to be a wonderful weekend and we got to observe. The seagrasses were no where close to as thick as they were in 2019, but they were there, and and recovering.  Macroalgae coated everything. This is disappointing but is happening across the entire Indian River Lagoon due to nutrient conditions. Nonetheless, thankfully, at low tide the wading birds were abundant. We also saw manatees, sea turtles, stingrays, snook, hermit crabs, one large conch and hundreds of shiny minnows. I was impressed!  I think there is no more beautiful place that the Indian River Lagoon at sunrise or sunset. Glorious…

We must remain vigilant.

Lake Okeechobee reached 13.87 feet over the weekend, eyeonlakeo, thus the C-44 canal with its surrounding runoff will start flowing to the St Lucie once the lake achieves 14 feet. So is the operation of the Central and South Florida System. This will certainly affect the clarity of our waters. Thankfully there is still #NoLakeO.

I share these photographs to document and to celebrate a good year thus far in 2021. Let’s continue “Riverlution” to keep it that way!

-St Lucie River -headed southeast into Indian River Lagoon Indian River Lagoon. There’s Cinnamon Girl! -Ed with Luna going to say “hi!”-Dutch with Holly-Okee stays inside Adrift. She likes sitting on maps.-IRL at sunset, silvery. -After a peaceful night’s sleep under the stars, Okee awakes to watch a golden sunrise -Sun’s up! Time to paddleboard and check out the conditions. JTL, Mary, Dutch and Ed. -Ed takes a break-Water brownish from rain and canals C-23/24. Greenish in bright light. -Mangrove island in the area known as the Sandbar. Many birds roosting! Mostly ibis. -Bare bottom with a some seagrasses surrounding mangrove island and sandbar area. Mary noted in 2007 this area had very lush seagrasses that have since been destroyed by Lake O discharges. Today there are sprigs. -Water looking greenish in bright light -Ed checking out the conditions and happy as a clam-Macroalgae (below) coats everything ground and seagrasses- not good. Many believe this system is replacing seagrasses through out the IRL. Water quality is key to keeping seagrasses! After our journey out we return to Cinnamon Girl. There are visitors!-Nic Mader and I relax. Nic is a dolphin specialist.  Bottlenose dolphins like all creatures of the IRL are intricately connected to the seagrass habitat and the life that grows there.-Getting some exercise-Rains are beautiful falling in giant sheets from the sky! -Nic paddles towards home while looking for dolphins. 

-Mary Radabaugh is a very good photographer always carrying her camera. She captured these images. The roseate spoonbills and American egret were on the sandbar along many other wading birds. Wonderful to see! Watch the link below (in red) to watch a manatee video Mary took as well.

What a place of beauty. The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon  was once considered “the most bio-diverse estuary in North America.” Let’s continue to fight to regain that status! We are on our way back. Such a stunning, special place! Thank you for getting us on the ground out to see.  We love you Cinnamon Girl!

MANATEE SWIMMING IRL  IMG_0638

-Saturday afternoon, on our way back to the Harborage Marina in Stuart. Another memorable sunset…

This is the Life

On Saturday, June 5, 2021, Ed took me for a ride in the Maverick. Sometimes I am fussy, refusing to go if the waves are too big or the wind is too strong. But on Saturday, conditions were perfect.

It was a beautiful day, and I was grateful. I was grateful that the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was not a toxic soup this year. I was grateful for the small amount of life in the river. Ed and I  put in at the Jensen Beach Boat Ramp and it was crowded. Resident wading birds were there waiting to see if someone would throw them a fish. I noticed, thankfully, the county had put up a sign since the last time Ed and I had visited. Once Ed and I got beyond the docks and out into the Indian River Lagoon the wind picked up and I held on tight! I Suddenly it seemed we were weaving in and out of other boats. I kept yelling “Be careful of manatees!”

“I’m in the channel!” Ed replied, looking at me  incredulously.

First we visited Boy Scout Island between Sewall’s and Sailfish Points as I wanted to check out the seagrass or lack thereof. It was growing! There were different kinds, one like a feather, (Johnsons) the other like a thick hair (Shoal). I saw blue crabs and hundreds of small snails. I was so happy to see this. I remember other times recently when there was not one bit of life. Still, it hurts that I have to “be happy” for such a small banquet of what I experienced in my childhood.

“If we can just hold off Lake Okeechobee releases…” I thought and was pleased the ACOE has done so for most of this year. Lake Worth Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee have not been so lucky.

Here, the rains began in late May and the river’s a little darker, not the turquoise blue you sometimes see. Nonetheless, the water looked good and and many families were enjoying themselves. Ed anchored being careful of grasses. I took a walk while he fished. Together we photographed the area.

-Boy Scout Island lies between Sewall’s and Sailfish Points near the Sailfish Flats and St Lucie Inlet -Seagrass beds slowly recovering  just off Boy Scout Island 6-5-21 -Excessive sargassum weed and macro-algae not as welcome to see a budding seagrasses-Head  of horseshoe crab – maybe molted. Good sign they are still here! -Thousands of snails leaving paths in the sand-A small hermit crab took someone’s shell. A nice one! -Little snails up close-Hand sized hermit crabs, old friends. Once there were thousands. We held races on the beach.-Boy Scout Island is a mangrove island with tidal areas for wildlife. We visited at low tide.Next, Ed and I got back in the boat and jutted through the Crossroads, me holding on for dear life again, -Ed in his glory! Spray on our faces! We arched off around the sea of boats onto a large sandbar close to the St Lucie Inlet.

It was a great adventure anchoring and then walking in the waist high water to the sandbar. I felt like I was a kid again roaming around, looking for shells, breathing in the clear air, lost in the happiness of the experience. We found quite a few fighting conch, pin shells, and clam like creatures all alive inside their shells! But no queen conch. Ed decided to go check that the anchor still held.

I wandered around losing track of time. I don’t think think there is anything more I love than this. I collected shells. Looked in holes. Birds rested and hunted for food. I even saw an osprey catch a fish in the lagoon’s shallow waters. The cloud formations were unbelievable.

When I finally returned to the boat, Ed was asleep. What a classic!

“This is the Life.”

This is the life indeed!-Pin shell and mollusk-Fighting Conch – orange in color -Tiny bit of seagrass and macroalge -Ed sleeps, Sandbar, St Lucie Inlet 

 

A Little Piece of Florida Along US1

I had driven past hundreds of times, but never stopped. Mostly because of the traffic and because by the time I noticed the sign, it was well in my rear view mirror as I navigated a sea of cars. This small section of Savannas Preserve State Park lies on the west side of US1 just south of Crosstown Parkway not too far from the boarder of Martin and St Lucie counties.

This past weekend, I passed it again and was determined this time to visit. It required a few back and forths,  but finally I turned into the “Savannas Preserve State Park, Evan’s Creek.

There were no signs of people. I put a few dollars into the state payment box and tore off the lip of the baby-blue envelope to hang on my mirror.

“Wow. This is cool I thought. I’m finally here.”

I noticed a sheriff car. I drove down a winding road through the middle of Florida scrub and what was perhaps once pine flatwoods. As in all Florida, drainage and development has altered the landscape but here there was plenty of “Old Florida” remaining. I felt relaxed and a hundred miles away from civilization!I drove slowly hoping to see a gopher turtle, noticing a sign to share the road.“This is amazing,” I thought. Once, all along US1 was scrub habitat. Think of all the animals. Think of all the birds. Think of the Native People. Think of the pioneers who where the first to clear this land…

I saw beautiful white sand, pine trees, woodpeckers, and little sparrow like birds I didn’t know. I saw sand pines and slash pines. One slash pine so large I wondered if it had escaped the loggers and turpentine men. I turned my head to see an osprey gliding over the savannas.

-A sand pine-Scrub habitat-white sands-a slash pine“Praise to the people who saved these places.” I thought. I could hear the hum of US1 in the near distance…

Finally,  I made it down to the end of the road, maybe a half mile or so, and there was a cul-de-sac and neatly folded information under a shaded area.

“Oh my gosh” I thought, “I’m at the river. I’m at the North Fork of the St Lucie River!”

I guess I knew that, but I certainly wasn’t thinking I was that close to the north fork every time I drove down busy US1 to Stuart. Somehow with all the cars, with all the noise, with all the technology, with all the billboards, it seemed much further away.

I parked, got out of the car, and walked around. I looked in the tannin waters. I thought about how great it was that no houses were here. “All these years; my whole life really, and I have never visited this place! Incredible.” It was so good to see fish jumping and wading birds hunting in almost total privacy. And for people there was a great canoe/kayak launch. As I walked back towards my car, I couldn’t believe my luck. A gopher turtle was happily eating along the dunes. I pondered the passage of time knowing this gopher’s ancestors also ate from these dunes, hundreds of thousands of years ago when they were islands in an inland sea…

It felt magical to be here knowing a busy modern world was only feet away. A little piece of Florida along US1 can go a long way.

“When Flows Return to the River of Grass” -Dr Mark Ian Cook

Dr Mark Ian Cook is smiling. And he should be. It is looking like the the birds and wildlife of the Everglades may end up having one of the best years ever! Dr Cook is the Scientific Section Lead of the Systemwide Everglades Group for the South Florida Water Management District. He received his B.S. at Bangor University; his M.S. at the University of Durham; his Ph.D at the University of Glasgow; completed Post Doc work at UC Berkley;  then in 2004 was hired SFWMD Lead Scientist rising to his position today. Cook’s seventeen years of SFWMD scientific photography and publication has required him to take hundreds of helicopter flights throughout the greater Everglades-and literally hundreds of thousands of aerial photographs (data). Dr Cook has seen it all. He was there last year when the rains came early and thousands of wood storks and other wading birds watched their almost fully fledged chicks starve. But this year, this year is different! This year, more chicks may fledge than Mark has ever witnessed…

Before I wrote this post we spoke by phone. “Hello Dr Cook,” I said. “Please call me Mark,” he replied. “We just landed in Homestead to fuel up.” I could hear the helicopter blades swishing.

“How are the birds? Are they still doing well? “ I asked, speaking very loudly.

“They are phenomenal! They are in heaven!” He replied in a wonderful English accent.

“That’s great!” I said.“Tell them hello!” I heard him laughing.

Thank you to the Arts Council of Martin County for featuring Dr Cook’s 2021 Virtual Gallery, “When Flows Return to the River of Grass.” I invite you to partake in this wonderful year for our Everglades wildlife. Take a look at what happens “When Flows Return to the River of Grass.”

(Click on highlighted link above to walk through virtual galley)

Roseate Spoonbills feeding at sunset. Dr Mark Ian Cook.
A Great Egret on its way to build a nest. Photograph Dr Mark Ian Cook

*You can also learn and enjoy from Dr Cook’s work on Facebook.

Protecting Bird Island from Kayakers and Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Bird Island, officially known as MC2, is a “no trespassing zone,” with ten large signs around it stating 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!

 

-Earlier blog post about Bird Island and diversity of species. 

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.