Category Archives: wildlife

The Return of the Majestic Mastic

The mastic tree had been in my yard for many years before I noticed it. Cradled next to a giant strangler fig, the trees’ high branches are mixed together in a very high canopy. Over the years,  I realized it was a special tree that I should know more about. Mastic trees are high hammock trees native to Florida, attracting much wildlife and growing slowly to great size. The mastic tree, the hammock tree, the forgotten tree, the tree mindlessly chopped down in my hometown of Sewall’s Point…

There used to be a large mastic at the entrance to High Point at River Road. It was cut a few years ago in favor of pentas and mulch. A few months ago, I  discovered another one on an empty lot located at about Ridgeview and River Roads. Covered in a thorny vine, few would notice the huge trunk covered in different colored fungi, like a piece of God’s art. Ancient and otherworldly. A reminder of days long past before non-native plants, floratam grass, fertilizers, and pesticides would replace a tangled forest and contribute to the death of the St Lucie River.

Just recently, my mastic dropped gooey, orange berries and the wildlife ate them with relish. I have been trying to grow the seeds, now wrinkled and brown, in my quest to bring my yard closer to what it was prior to development and help the river and soil, but the squirrels and raccoons raided my pots! Proud to outsmart my four-legged friends, I “ingeniously” figured out how to protect the seeds in an old aquarium. But just today,  I learned that mastic trees are male and female. Dropping the orange seeds, I believe I have a female.

I am afraid I might have one of the last mastic trees in Sewall’s Point. She needs a companion if there is to be the return of the majestic mastic. We are calling your name…

http://sfrc.ufl.edu/extension/4h/ecosystems/_plants/Mastic/index.html

Historic photo of Sewall’s Point’s once “tangled forest”: Andrews in Sewall’s Point Hammock, approaching a giant mastic tree, 1905. Courtesy Thurlow Archives, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Remembering the Scrub Jays of Our Childhood Backyard

A Florida Scrub Jay: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Florida_Scrub-Jay/id

When I was a kid, my brother, sister and I lived on Edgewood Drive in Stuart. My parents were great about teaching us to appreciate, respect and love wildlife. Today, many of our actions would be frowned upon. We fed the animals, and at one time or another, had wild pets. It was wonderful!

This weekend unable to garden trapped inside by relentless rain, I started thinking to myself “what did the ecosystem of my childhood backyard really look like?” That was the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Could I find anything that looked like it today? Does my yard, today, resemble it at all? 

So I took a drive to the old neighborhood.

St Lucie Estates looks a lot the same but our family house has been knocked down and replaced by one much larger. Also every lot is developed. When I was growing up, our house was surrounded by a number of empty lots and as kids we roamed freely.  These undeveloped lots allowed my siblings and I to have native nature right in our “backyard.” 

I racked my brain to think of where I might find a comparable lot to the ones in St Lucie Estates. I wanted to see what plants were on it. What trees. The color of the sand.

I drove east on East Ocean Boulevard.

Near Kingswood Condominium I found one lot that looked a lot like the ones I ran around in as a kid. Although drained and full of invasives, the space held a few recognizables: a sand pine, a stand of sand oaks, yucca, palmettos, prickly pear cactus, and other flowering plants and grasses whose names I never learned.  

Seeing the Kingwood lot brought back a lot of memories and I thought about how this once familiar habitat is basically gone. This rare Florida Scrub has  been covered with shopping malls and subdivisions most sporting heavily fertilized floratam along with a variety of ornamentals.

I wondered why developers just cleared the natives. I am realizing that my childhood home must have been a Florida Scrub environment. For goodness sake, one of our favorite wild friends was the very smart Scrub Jay! We never thought  that our house may have destroyed their favorite bushes. We just smiled and lifted our arms strong and high -palms perfectly flat balancing one nut. Always, they came. So smart! So consistent!

Of course Scrub Jays are now a threatened species whose habitat is considered to be one of the most endangered in the world…

~The location of my childhood backyard.

After getting the photos from Kingwood, I decided to drive north to Jensen to visit Hawk’s Bluff off of Savannah Road. Here I could walk and remember the some of the sights of my childhood. This is one of the few places the Florida Scrub Ecosystem has been saved.

~The wind whistled through the trees. I felt timeless. The rain had brightened the usually muted colors. I sat on the bench. Lake Henderson’s grey and purple reflection resembled a Monet. It was beautiful!

I was alone in my childhood backyard…

I raised my arms above my head, hands upright bent -perfectly flat.

Would a Scrub Jay come to visit?

I held my arms up until I could no longer -putting them down- I got up to walk my adult path.

My little sister, Jenny, proudly feeds a neighborhood Scrub Jay, St Lucie Estates, Edgewood Drive, Stuart, ca.1972. (Family Album)
Cousin Drew Hudson and I feed the Scrub Jays 1972, St Lucie Estates, Stuart, FL (Family Album)

Visit #1 one of the last undeveloped lots near Kingswood Condominium, East Ocean Drive, Stuart, Florida, still reveals native scrub vegetation:

Somehow this cactus garden has grown and survived! Prickly pear is a common scrub plant and a favorite of gopher turtles.
Prickly pear.. Ouch!
Scrub oak and palmetto in a remaining lot off East Ocean Blvd.
A rare sand pine of the Florida Scrub was once prolific requiring fire for pine cones to open and take seed.
Flower of the scrub
Prickly pear in sandy soil with other ground cover

Florida Scrub:

http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/Extension/florida_forestry_information/forest_resources/scrub.html

https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/na0513

Scrub Jays:

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/florida-scrub-jay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_scrub_jay

 

Visit #2 Hawk’s Bluff in Savannas Preserve Park is rare gem of the Florida Scrub landscape and it’s wildlife:

New signs including Scrub Jay and Florida Scrub Habitat signs, Florida Park Service, photo album below from Hawk’s Bluff, 11-3-19

 

 

 

Backyard Pythons? SLR/IRL

Skilled hunters, Burmese Pythons are one of the five largest species of snakes in the world and native to South and Southeast Asia. They are a threatened species in their native lands, but today there are breeding populations in a new environment, the Florida Everglades.  Image public domain.

I have this dream that I am enjoying walking around in my garden,  I look down, and there is a seventeen-foot python curled up under my house. Sounds ridiculous, but one day this may not be that far fetched.

This past week, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) https://myfwc.com held their meeting at the Hutchinson Island Marriott, just over the Ernest Lyons Bridge from Sewall’s Point. One of the things they discussed was the overpopulation of Burmese Pythons that are ravaging native wildlife in Everglades National Park and other parts of South Florida.

I have been vaguely aware of this for years. My previous Sewall’s Point neighbor was a python enthusiast. Around 2012, he wrote TCPalm a letter to the editor in the python’s defense arguing that the Burmese Python did not bring itself to South Florida, people did! According to FWC pet pythons have been released since the 1960s but it was after Hurricane Andrew’s 1992 destruction that a breeding facility was destroyed, pythons escaped, the population exploded, and a breeding community arose.

I do believe “in all God’s Creatures,” but this is a nightmare-dynamic for Florida’s native wildlife. Public speakers noted Everglades National Park is “devoid of small mammals.” This is not an exaggeration, perhaps down 98%, and “small mammals” are not just what’s for dinner. Meals also include birds, eggs, bobcats, deer, alligators and who knows what else. Mr. Kipp Frohlich of FWC estimates a range from tens-of-thousands to over three-hundred-thousand snakes could be living in the Everglades. We really don’t know. One was even found in Florida Bay all curled up on a buoy. Oh yes, they can swim.

If I were a python and my friends and I  had eaten everything down south, what would I do? I’d slither north…

Opossums, armadillos, and families of raccoons visit my yard a few times a week. ~For now…

python-snake, public image

 

Please see links to learn about what is being done to controll and educate ourselves on the python:

FWC Presentation

Division: Habitat and Species Conservation
Authors: Sarah Funck, Kristen Sommers, and Melissa Miller, Ph.D. Report date: July 2019

https://myfwc.com/media/21029/10b-presentation-python.pdf

 

Smithsonian article shared by SFWMD:  Snake Landia_Smithsonian Article_07-2019

*Florida still allows breeders of Burmese Pythons in Florida, but they can only sell the animals outside of the state. All things considered, at the meeting, FWC Commissioner Gary Lester questioning the wisdom in this. I agree. Considering this is how pythons got out of control in the first place.

The Florida Channel videos of FWC meetings in Hutchinson Island; pythons: day 2:

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/7-17-19-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-2/

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/7-18-19-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission/

Silver Manatees Inspire, SLR/IRL

Silver Springs, photo Dr Robert Knight

With the mid-term election behind us, it’s time to get to work, and along the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River that means it’s time to get reconnected to Nature during the cool season before the Algae Monster arrives again.

Last week, as the keynote speaker for the Florida Springs Restoration Summit in Ocala, I had an amazing back to nature experience.  On a Silver River Guided Paddle Adventure with Dr Robert  Knight leading the way, five manatees swam underneath my kayak!

Five manatees!

They looked so beautiful, so graceful, so confident, and so powerful!

I could see them perfectly through the clear water of Silver Springs. During the summit, I learned that only recently the spring’s water magnitude had increased to historic levels ~after aquifer recharge of a very rainy 2017, thanks to Hurricane Irma.

Florida springs suffer from lack of water because the Water Management Districts, at the direction of their leaders, over-permit water extraction for more agriculture and development. Also, nutrient pollution haunts the spring-shed due to nitrate leaching of old septic tanks. When flow is low and nitrate high, benthic algae grows on the once white sand bottom of the springs. Almost all Florida springs deal with this issue.

Manatees, Silver River, Dr Robert Knight

But on this recent day, the day of my tour,  Silver Springs was glistening, and its bottom bursting with eel grass. The manatees munched at their leisure, mothers and calves reflecting a bluish hue underneath the clear, streaming water.

As the manatees swam under my little boat, I felt a joy unknown since childhood. “An ancient herd of elephants just swam under my kayak!” I thought, laughing out loud.

And in this moment of pure inspiration, I recalled an image from home of a starving manatee struggling to eat weeds and grasses along the Intercostal. Of course after years of harsh discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals, the sea grass forests are dead.

Beyond heartbreaking…

I brought my mind back to this present gift before me. And told the Silver manatees I would  return home inspired to fight for all, and that were were indeed, one Florida water family.

Image pulled off my iPhone, #Toxic18 site 10-28-18, Rita Hendricks Salazar

 

Links:

Silver Springs: http://www.silversprings.com

Springs Institute:https://floridaspringsinstitute.org

2018 Springs Restoration Summit:
https://www.springsrestorationsummit.org

Dr Knight Bio: https://floridaspringsinstitute.org/our-team/

Silver Springs Study Delayed, Gainesville Sun, Dr Robert Knight,:https://www.gainesville.com/opinion/20180118/robert-knight-silver-springs-study-delayed-restorative-action

An Owl In My Kitchen, SLR/IRL

A rather remarkable thing happened. There was an owl in my kitchen. Yes, an owl, a real owl.

I woke up, went outside to get the newspaper, and then I fed my fish. When I looked from the dining room into the kitchen, I saw the silhouette of a little owl patiently seated on the back of a chair in our sunroom open to the kitchen. Of course, I did a double-take! And then I thought to myself: “Is it that owl? Is Ed playing a trick on me….?”

Why a trick?

Just a few days ago, I had bought a fake, feathered owl at the Lamp Shop. I attached it to a fake palm tree in my sunroom. You know, the kind of thing with wire for feet, so you can twist it around the branches?

So, in the darkness of early morning, I wondered if Ed had put that thing on the back of the chair just to freak me out.

He had not. I looked again and again, and for certain, a living screech-owl was sitting in my sunroom, in my kitchen. Unbelievable!

I quietly snuck over and closed the surrounding pocket doors to that area. And then quickly went to find my husband, Ed.

From afar, I whispered sounding panicked: “Eddie! Eddie!”

Ed got up out of his chair, leaving the computer with the dogs gleefully trailing behind him.

“Put the dogs in the crates, now!” I said.

Ed looked at me,  confused.

“In their crates! ” Again, I stated.

“O.K. he said.” Looking bewildered.

“Turning around, Ed took Luna, an 80 pound, black, German Shepard, and Bo, an old and now crippled Corgi, to the other side of the house…

Ed returned.

“What’s up with you?” He inquired, irritated. Not even a  “good morning” ?”

“Ed, there’s an owl in our kitchen.”

“What?” He inquired.

“An owl!”

“Do you mean that owl you bought at the store?” Ed snickered.

“No.  A real owl. I think it was attracted to the other owl.”

“What are you talking about?….” He said…

I slowly slid open one of the pocket doors. Sure enough, the beautiful little owl sat there with its head turned towards the fake owl.

Ed let out an explicative and shut the door.

“The owl must have seen the other owl from outside.” I whispered.

” How did it get in?” Ed quietly asked.

“I don’t know, from you? When you let the dogs out? I don’t know, but we have an owl in our kitchen!”

Ed and I looked incredulously at one another, then smiled.

Gently opening the door, we slowly snuck over, as quiet as could be. Ed started removing the screen from behind the joulosy windows. The owl lifted off the chair and flew about the kitchen landing by the fake owl, but the plastic branch sunk under its weight so it flew off and around the kitchen in high circles without a whisper. Ed and I were transfixed, fascinated. When it landed, we took pictures.

Ed  finally got the screen off and cranked the window. It popped open, braking the silence of the morning. Wind blew inside the room.

The owl looked back to its friend, and then, without a sound, flew through the window, and was gone.

same owl with ears up and lit up when it landed a top the refrigerator arrangement

The River of No Return, Idaho

Boundary Creek, Middle Fork/Salmon River, Idaho. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Gasiorek.

I am back from the “River of No Return,” and before I return to writing about the toxic algae crisis, I’d like to share my experience…

Camping? Are you kidding me?! I had not been camping since my parents took the family to Boy Scout Island to see the full moon over the Indian River Lagoon ca. 1978. Five nights, six days camping and rafting in Idaho with friends, the Wigleys, was great fun, but I am certainly aware that I am in no condition to survive in the wilderness!

Let’s remind ourselves – Where’s Idaho? Far out west, just east of Washington and Oregon, and just west of Montana and Colorado. Although a different world, dealing with fires not hurricanes, we do have a connection. We both have federally protected scenic rivers.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River, A.K.A. the “River of No Return,” was one of the first eight rivers to be protected under the federal Wild & Scenic Rivers Act in 1968: (https://rivers.gov). In Florida, we have two designated Scenic Rivers: Indian River Lagoon neighbor, the Loxahatchee River,  and the north central Florida’s Wekiva River: (https://www.rivers.gov/florida.php). Only a handful of U.S. rivers hold this special, protected status.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon with clean, clear water, challenging rapids, and spectacular mountain and desert scenery flows free for 104 miles. Nonetheless, due to dams along the connected Snake River, the salmon, for which the river is named, are far and few between compared to the pre-gold rush times when the native Shoshone “Sheepeater” people could “walk across” this river of salmon.

There is much talk in Idaho about removing dams, and of course a huge conflict with stakeholder farming entities. Sound familiar? Whether is the Florida Everglades’ River of Grass diversion to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, or Hells Canyon Dam in Idaho, people are looking for ways to undo some of what has been done to kill the rivers of the United States. Water is meant to flow, and when it does not, eventually sickness sets in, not only for wildlife and fauna, but for people too. It was Stuart’s famed environmentalist and Stuart News editor, Ernie Lyons, who said it best: “What people do, they can undo…” and this I believe is our journey, everywhere.

Since pictures speak louder than words, I will stop here, and say that even though the river was beautiful, and I was super excited to sees two bears, mountain sheep, eagles, and a plethora of other awesome animals – the most memorable experience I have no photo of, ~just a memory~ of endless stars in a black velvet sky with the Milky Way so thick and bright I felt like I could touch it, that I was it…

Remembering that we all are but a flicker in the grand scale of time, and most certainly, part of something much greater than ourselves.

Mexican night. Thank you to the Wigley family for inviting us on this trip!

Links:

USDA, Salmon River – Middle Fork, IDAHO: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/scnf/recreation/wateractivities/?cid=stelprdb5302105

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is not dammed ~running free, but connected to the Snake River that is: Dammed Rivers of the US: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dams_and_reservoirs_in_United_States

Breaking Through Water and Sky, Believe

If you feel anything like me, you’re not just tired, but sick of heart from looking at dead animals. The atrocities of our estuaries this year, especially for the Caloosahatchee, are Armageddon like in nature.

It is natural to be saddened, but we must stay strong and find inspiration. When we look around, even on the bloody environmental battlefield, it is there.

Today, I share the beautiful photos of local St Lucie River photographer Stephen Duffy, his Anhinga series shows this symbolic bird in all its glory. These special, yet common birds have no oil on their feathers, so they can both swim underwater and fly above the Earth. Thus the Native People held them sacred.  ~The bird that can fly and swim. The bird that can do “anything.” The bird that breaks the wall of water and sky.

When you see the anhinga remember: fly, swim, break through walls, and most important, believe.

Links:

https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/anhinga.htm

https://childrenofthesunnativeculture.com/cosnc/?q=node/187

Documenting the Discharges, June 2018, SLR/IRL

When the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon start to deteriorate due to discharges, things start going downhill fast. And when my husband Ed and I start taking and sharing aerial photos, my world becomes a bit chaotic.

Sometimes there are days of hundreds of photos to look through, and knowing the importance of getting them out immediately, choices have to be made. Facebook is a better medium than my blog for real-time info as it takes less time, but my blog is better for historic documentation as it is “permanent.”

So today I am sharing more of Ed’s photos from 6-5-18, and some you may have already seen. Mind you, after heavy rains, stormwater has been pouring in from many canals but, always, like clockwork, after the ACOE starts discharging from Lake Okeechobee, the river looks not just cloudy-coffee brown, but contaminated.

The ACOE started discharging from Lake Okeechobee on  6-1-18, and as most of you know, now, there are not only algae blooms spotted in the lake, as Ed accidentally found on 6-2-18, and others also documented, but also in the St Lucie River. More than likely, there will be more and more  algae bloom popping up as the Lake O water makes its way down the estuary, over the tip of Sewall’s Point, towards the St Lucie Inlet. Algae floating down the river is disgusting enough, but toxicity is the real question…

Ed and I will take and share more aerials  in the future, to document the algae blooms should they explode, but until then, here are some photographs from 6-5-18 that I had not yet archived on my blog. Sadly enough, although there is no algae in these pictures, I cannot say they will make you feel any better.

Never take the pressure off politicians to build the EAA Reservoir and get it to where it needs to be to clean and filter this water to send south as Nature intended.  Government knowingly contaminating its citizens is not an option. Health, Safety and Welfare is a responsibility.

Photos taken 6-5-18 showing SLR/ILR near Sewall’s Point; Jupiter Narrows; Atlantic Ocean/beach over nearshore reefs along Jupiter Island just south of St Lucie Inlet; out in ocean near Peck’s Lake; Sailfish Point/Sailfish Flats area; and Bird Island, a Critical Wildlife Area, for many threatened and endangered birds.

SLR on west /IRL on east – looking towards Sewall’s Point
Jupiter Narrows near St Lucie Inlet
A Coffee Ocean along Jupiter Island just south of St Lucie Inlet
Discharges in waves looking east to Peck’s Lake
Discharges going over near shore “protected” reefs
Discharge plume
Plume out about 2 miles in Atlantic/documented at 5 over days by fisher people
Similar photos give felling of flying over
Reefs with plume coming on
Selfish Point and Sailfish Flats area one the “most biologically diverse in North America.” Seagrass is gone due to receptive discharges episodes
Circling home- close up souther tip of Sewall’s Point
Again circling ove Sailfish Flats on way back to Witham Field.
Bird Island just off of southeast Sewall’s Point is home to hundreds/thousands of birds. Many threatened and endangered species raise their young on this island that was designated a CWA or Critical Wildlife Area by FWC in 2014. At the time it was the first to be designated in 20 years.

Our Most Beautiful Bird of Prey, Right in Our Backyard! SLR/IRL

Steve Duffy, taking photos in his backyard, Stuart, Florida.

I don’t ever remember seeing them here when I was a kid. But then in the 1970s there were no osprey in Stuart either …

The first time I saw a Swallow-Tailed Kite, “our most beautiful bird of prey,” was in Okeechobee. The distinctive soft-feathered black and white hawks fly in broad circles. Their sharp forked-tails gliding them stealth-like over the pine trees….

Just a few years ago, seeing my first one, I pulled over my car. “What is that?” I thought , not thinking much more about it. Thinking it must be a bird of Lake Okeechobee.

And then somehow over the years they seemed to pop up everywhere, not just at Lake Okeechobee. I saw when driving north on I95, driving south to West Palm Beach, and yes, even driving in the my hometown region of South Sewall’s Point! I came to consider them a new gift, a good luck symbol. Something beautiful. Something to give me hope as the river dies before me.

But I really did not know anything about them. Until recently that is….

At last month’s March for Maddy, (https://www.crowdrise.com/marchformaddie), I ran into an old friend from Martin County High School, Steve Duffy. He was carrying a camera around his neck and shared some of his photographs. I was astounded. There were photos of hummingbirds, dragonflies, and other animals, but what really caught my eye was what I was calling a “Kite.” That beautiful bird.

I thought Steve must be going somewhere distant to get such shots, but he laughed and told me they were taken right in his backyard!

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Near North River Shores.”

Thank you to Steve who agreed to share his photos on my blog of the rare and properly named Swallow-Tailed Kite, also known as the Swallow-Tailed Hawk. And it’s clear. We may see more of them. They love it here! 🙂

“Our most beautiful bird of prey, striking in its shape, its pattern, and its extraordinarily graceful flight. Hanging motionless in the air, swooping and gliding, rolling upside down and then zooming high in the air with scarcely a motion of its wings, the Swallow-tailed Kite is a joy to watch. At one time it was common in summer over much of the southeast, but today it is found mostly in Florida and a few other areas of the deep south.” Audubon Society, 2018

Audubon 1: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/swallow-tailed-kite

Audubon 2: https://www.audubon.org/birds-of-america/swallow-tailed-hawk

Jacqui:

All of these pics are taken just off my back patio are with my Nikon D5500 camera and telephoto lens. These are a pair of swallow-tailed kites courting then mating above the tree approximately 100-150 ft away. And then to my delight the pair landed and mated in my pines.

Swallow-tailed Kites are raptors (birds of prey) very distinct because of their black and white color and forked-tails with wing spans of 3.5 – 4.5 feet.

“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Steve 

In the Garden of Impatience, SLR/IRL

“Patience is a virtue…” 

Yesterday, I went to my garden. A garden for butterflies that I planted in 2011 during my mayorship for the Town of Sewall’s Point.

It was at this time, that I realized I needed a place to go, close to home, to get away, when I was grinding my teeth so hard at night that I would awake with headaches. This garden has calmed many nerves, and brought both beauty and delight to Ed and my home.

I learn a lot of lessons from my garden. But I still have a lot to learn…

…Upon getting the newspaper from the driveway, I noticed a monarch butterfly that had just emerged from its chrysalis drying its wings on the shrimp plant by my front door. The orange, black, and white pattern against green and red was quite striking. I decided to do something I have never done, watch the butterfly dry its wings, and to wait to watch it fly off.

Every few minutes its stain-glassed wings would open to the sun and wind, and then it would sit motionless. When its wings opened again, I could see its body tighten and contort, pumping liquid deep into its wings. It looked uncomfortable this miraculous metamorphosis. Finally, it seemed erect and proud; I kept waiting for it to fly off, but it didn’t.

I counted the white spots on its wings and body to pass time. I studied its bizarre mouth and antennae. I laid on the ground. I took pictures. I tried to be patient. I thought about all I needed to do. I thought about how I would be breaking a deal with myself ~to see a newborn butterfly fly away, if I walked off.

“Come on butterfly!” I said. “You can do it!” But it did not fly off. It just sat there.

I thought about how in the garden there is no rush, as in my own life, to finish the “task.”  Things take the time needed to take, and that is all…

I waited. I wondered. I wished.

I started to get impatient.

“I can’t believe I am losing my patience with a butterfly,” I thought. “This is not good; my plan is backfiring.”

I took some breaths, calmed myself down, and tried to be like nature. Ever-present. Ever-enduring, patient in my Garden of Impatience…

It did not work. I noticed I was grinding my teeth. ” I’ve got so much to do!” I walked two steps towards the rose-bush, just to regroup, taking my eyes off the butterfly for the very first time… It could not have been more than a second.

When I turned around, the butterfly was gone!

I smiled, in disbelief, thinking for a moment “I can’t believe I wasted all this time,” looking into the sky for fluttering wings, but there were none. There was just the sound of the wind and the warmth of the sun — the eternal.

There is no time wasted in the lessons of nature, I suppose…

I walked back into the house “to get things done.”  🙂

Monarch Butterflies, Florida,IFAS, UF:http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw311

“Look Who Showed Up Last Night” Sailfish Point’s 16th Hole, IRL Eagle Pair! SLR/IRL

Photo of eagle pair at 16th hole at Sailfish Point’s golf course, photo by Susan Kane taken the evening of 3-17-18

🦅

Some things are so beyond words, so wonderful, so “perfect,” that you just have to wonder….

Yesterday morning, on Sunday, March 18th, the day after I had written a blog post about meeting Mrs Susan Kane, and her sharing her eagle photo the night before, –and my noting that I had never seen a eagle along the Indian River Lagoon, or the pair that is rumored to hunt there– she sends me this photo above along with a short message: “Look who showed up last night.”

Call it coincidence, call it a God-wink, or maybe the eagles read my blog!

In any case, such experiences make life absolutely the best! 😁

Thanks Susan! Thank you eagles❤️🇺🇸 Fly high and may the SLR/IRL waters be clear and clean so you can catch the fish!🐟

Previous post: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2018/03/17/the-eagle-of-the-16th-hole-sailfish-point-slr-irl/

The Eagle of the 16th Hole, Sailfish Point, SLR/IRL

Eagle, Sailfish Point, 3-18, by Susan Kane

Last evening, at a gathering of friends of my mothers, I met Mrs Susan Kane. The conversation started as usual with someone I do not know, but quickly, somehow, the our words turned to eagles living along the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon.

I told Susan, I had never seen one here flying, ever, but I knew they were here as Greg Braun, formerly of Audubon, took photos of one sitting on a rock at Bird Island…. I  had also heard that there was a pair that hunted from a tall, dead, Australian Pine tree by the Marriott’s Indian River Plantation Marina. But again, although I walk the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island quite often, I had never seen them…Once, while driving on Highway 76  in Indiantown, I did see an eagle, and was so excited that I parked my car on the side of the road and with trucks zooming by I watched it soar. I was smiling from ear to ear.

Susan listened politely, and then replied, “Well recently, Jacqui,  I took a photograph of an eagle on the 16th hole of the Sailfish Point golf course.”

“You’re kidding?” I inquired.

“Yes, the eagle captured a fish right there in the pond at the 16th hole of the golf course.”

“That’s incredible.” I replied, taking a large sip of my cocktail, to hide my bird envy.

Over the course of dinner, Susan pulled out her photos and shared. They are wonderful! And today I am sharing her photos with you.

Look at this eagle. Its expression!

What a sight I hope I get to see! 🙂

Eagle of Sailfish Point, by Susan Kane
Photo by Susan Kane
Photo by Susan Kane

Sailfish Point: http://www.sailfishpoint.com

Former post on eagles of the IRL:
https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/11/21/id-rather-be-an-eagle-than-a-turkey-st-luice-riverindian-river-lagoon/

Thank you Susan for sharing your photos of the eagle of Sailfish Point along the Indian River Lagoon!!!

Update on the Constitution Revision Commission and Our Environment

Early in 2017, the work of the Constitution Revision Commission began. There were multiple public hearings around the state and thousands of public proposals were submitted for consideration. Out of the two thousand or so proposals, 103 of these were chosen by commissioners to be sponsored, or considered. 37 made it through the arduous committee process. Here is a list of those 37: http://flcrc.gov/PublishedContent/ADMINISTRATIVEPUBLICATIONS/CRCActiveProposalsHearings2018.pdf

Mind you, this list is difficult to interpret unless you go to the CRC website, hit the “Proposals” tab and  put in the number of the proposal to read the text along with the details. This takes a lot of work. http://flcrc.gov

An easier approach, to get an idea of each of the 37 proposals, is to refer to this Sun Sentinel article that list all 103 proposals with a short summary: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/florida-politics-blog/fl-reg-constitution-revision-commission-final-proposals-20171120-story.html Obviously, just go the numbers and read “the 37,” from the first list I provided. You may need to print them out.

In the end, only a few of these 37 will be placed on the ballot for voter consideration. The full CRC will determine this after the second round of public hearings that is happening now.

As far as my proposals. I had 5 environmental proposals: #23 A Right to a Clean and Healthful Environment; #24 Commissioner of Environmental Protection; #46 Clarifying Amendment 1, Land Acquisition Trust Fund; #48 FWC/Wildlife Corridors; and #91 No Oil and Gas Drilling in Floirda’s Territorial Seas.

One proposal made it through committee out of five. P91 or “No Oil and Gas Drilling in Florida’s Territorial Seas” I am thankful, and cannot look back, or mope over what did not get through; I  must now turn all of my energy to this one proposal. And a remarkable proposal it is! I hope you will support it too, even if you had your hopes up for one of the others, as P91 is the sole environmental proposal of the 37, and a monumental opportunity.

This proposal would protect our territorial seas, our state waters, the waters under our jurisdiction. These waters have been drilled before and, hands down, if the oil and gas industry can, they will influence our state legislature so that they can drill our coastal waters again. There is no doubt about it. Just study history!

If this proposal makes it to the ballot it will be absolutely historic. Don’t think about the politics, think about the legacy. We would be the only state in the nation to have this in our state constitution. This would sound a loud environmental message, forever…

We all know, drilling so close to shore, as is done in other coastal southern states, would be visually, environmentally, and economically destructive to Florida’s unique/peninsular marine, wildlife, real estate, and tourism resources.

It is written in Article II of our state constitutional that “we shall protect our natural resources and scenic beauty.” P91 belongs in Florida’s Constitution. It would be an enormous statement on behalf of the people of Florida and would have major policy implications on many, many levels.

Thank you for following the CRC process and I will keep you appraised of P91 as the CRC process continues and we move towards what gets on the ballot for 2018.

In the meanwhile here is the CRC’s second round public hearing schedule:https://www.flcrc.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/1071

You are welcome to speak and encouraged to attend!

Jacqui

Florida Channel videos of all CRC meetings: https://thefloridachannel.org/programs/constitution-revision-commission/

_MG_1455a_small_Robert_Holland_original

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a member of the 2018 CRC:http://flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch

Paynes Prairie ~A Lake With a Road Through It…

I remember my historian mother telling me that Paynes Prairie was once a giant lake and that in the mid-1800s, before a sinkhole drained the lake, famed pioneer and pineapple farmer, Capt. Thomas E. Richards sailed from the St Johns River, in Jacksonville, over the lake, only to wind up at the Indian River Lagoon in Eden, near today’s Jensen.

Well this past Friday, on my way to Gainesville for the “Future of Florida Summit” (http://www.futureoffloridasummit.com) Paynes Prairie looked like it had become a lake once again. Although it is not a truly a lake any longer, it must be flooded as the prairie’s water levels go up and down.

As my grandparents lived in Gainesville and I graduated from UF, I have driven across the prairie many times, but seeing it from the air “all wet looking” really took me aback.  Like a miniature Tamiami Trail, one could see Highway 441 going right through this “lake!”

Apparently in 2000, eco-underpasses were installed as it has been widely documented that thousands of animals, mostly reptiles, have been killed on this road. And yet, many animals, reptiles and other, continue to be killed.

I know it would be expensive, but since transportation is perhaps one of the most highly funded of all state departments, in the billions and billions of dollars, and since Florida’s wildlife and natural lands rank as a portion of the state’s number one economic driver, tourism… could not, over time, Hwy. 441 become more like the Tamiami Trail is becoming, more bridged than flat…

It just doesn’t make sense to have a lake, or an Everglades, with a road through it.

Ed and I, a selfie on the way to Gainesville
A rainbow in the sky

Links:

Paynes Prairie website: web site: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Paynes-Prairie

Good historical article on Paynes Prairie: Chicago Tribune1991:http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-12-29/travel/9104260758_1_wild-horses-bison-spanish-florida

FDOT http://www.fdot.gov

2017-18, Funding for FDOT, state of Florida: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2017/02/01/see-which-local-highway-port-programs-just-got.html

Abstract, animal mortality along 441 in Paynes Prairie and eco-underpass: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24321153

Oh Beautiful Panther! Something to Dream About, SLR/IRL

This photo of a panther in Sebring was recently shared by a friend. I do hope this magnificent creature has visited western Martin County. Since late October, it has certainly made the rounds. Males roam hundreds of miles, a female less, but easily could cover ground between almost neighboring Martin and Highlands counties.

Can you imagine trying to navigate today’s world? Freeways, subdivisions, fences, shopping malls, the great forests gone…Canals cutting the lands and watersheds apart?

Over 34 panthers were killed on Florida highways in 2016, and at least 23 in 2017. With an estimated 230 in the total population, those are terrible numbers. We must work harder to complete wildlife corridors across the state to allow these animals to breed and travel into north Florida and Georgia. Being stuck in South Florida is a radio-collared death wish.

If this panther does visit Martin County, we’ll probably never know it; though large they are smart to be very, very, shy.

I must say, lately I’ve been hearing rumors of panthers (yes, a pair) in Martin County near Highway 96 out by South Fork, but no photos yet…

Thank God there is something left to run wild in the world; 😊 it gives me something to dream about.

http://www.mysebring.com

How to report a panther sighting, FWC: https://public.myfwc.com/hsc/panthersightings/Default.aspx

http://myfwc.com/panther

Death reports Nov 2017 https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/environment/2017/11/28/florida-panther-hit-killed-vehicle-lee-county/900626001/

https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/environment/2017/12/06/panther-deaths-2017-signs-point-rebound/926796001/

Toxic Beauty, SLR/IRL

Growing up in Stuart in the 1970s, my mother and father gave me full reign to explore the undeveloped lands in the area of St Lucie Estates. I remember endless summers, wandering around in “the woods” and of course my eyes were drawn to the vine of the widely dispersed, perfectly shaped, red and black seeds known as rosary peas.

I would collect them tightly in my little, sweaty hands, pushing them far down into my pockets. I recall the first time I brought them home, my mother said, “Yes, they are very pretty, but don’t eat them, they are poisonous.”

“Hmmm,”I thought. “How can something beautiful be poisonous?”

I continued to collect the seeds, and over the years filled up many clear glass bottles that sat in my window sill; the sun never fading their brilliant color.

Later in life, I learned that bright color patterns, especially red, black, and yellow, as with some caterpillars, or the famous, shy, and deadly coral snake, are “warnings” in nature and actually provide the animal with protection from being eaten.

As I walk through Hawk’s Bluff today, I am thankful to my parents who allowed me to explore the natural world and grow confident, unafraid, even with all of its toxic beauty.

http://floridahikes.com/savannas-preserve-hawks-bluff

Rosary pea, known many other names: https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/abrus-precatorius/

Colors in Nature: http://flnps.org/color-nature

Coastal Connections, SLR/IRL

Child’s drawing of tailless Winter and new friend baby Hope. Both of these dolphins were rescued from the IRL and now reside at CMA, in Clearwater, Fl.

The first thing I noticed flying in to St Petersburg was that they had a lot  of seagrass beds…

“How in can a place with so many people have so much more seagrass than Stuart?” I thought to myself. “Well, number one, they don’t have releases from Lake Okeechobee destroying their estuary every few years, and they are known for the state’s most successful estuary restoration program–of Tampa Bay (http://www.tbep.org) something we are trying to emulate for the Indian River Lagoon (http://www.irlcouncil.com).

It was the new year’s weekend and Ed and I had decided to “get away.”

What I had forgotten is that Clearwater, our destination, is home to Winter and Hope, Indian River east coast dolphins who were rescued by Harbor Branch (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/marine_mammals/) based in St Lucie County who were then rehabilitated at Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the west coast.  These dolphins could not be released. Winter, an amputee due to a crab trap cutting off her tail, and Hope, an orphan who was suckling on her dead mother when found never learned life skills…

Today these dolphins are alive, friends, inspiring thousands of people including a multitude of veteran and children amputees, have starred in two feature films, and have made Clearwater a favorite nationwide family destination: (https://www.seewinter.com)

The experience of visiting the aquarium, made me think about how connected we all really are. How much we can do together. If Harbor Branch had not saved these IRL dolphins, Winter and Hope would not be the worldwide ambassadors for their species that they are today.

Yes, we are all connected across our great state! Happy 2018 Florida!

 

Seagrass beds as we approach St Petersburg

At the CWA having fun
Clearwater Causway
Ed in his Bullsugar shirt along the causeway

End of Year Water-Warrior, A Humpback Whale! SLR/IRL

Pinterest image, uncredited, 2017

As the year 2017 comes to a close, we had a special guest sighted in our offshore waters. On December 17th, a Humpback whale was seen breaching in the Atlantic off of Stuart!

Although these mammoth creatures do migrate, and thus navigate our seas, this is a special and rare site.

Perhaps this is time for reflection…

Just as with the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, the Native People also give whale sightings and experiences special significance.

According to native lore, “whales visitors/spirits were used to convey a message of power and might, representing the need for strong, silent deliberation.”

Native Images, whales

In the story of Jonah, having turned away from responsibility, and being thrown as “bad luck” from a ship, Jonah is swallowed by a giant whale, reflects, repents, is renewed, is given a second chance, is ejected, and fulfills his responsibilities….

Perhaps there is a lighter message from our visiting whale, like “Happy Holidays,” and “Merry Christmas,” or a fun breach-splash saying “Yahoo! Keep up the fight for clean water!”

For me, the whale visitation made me reminisce on Ed and my visit to Baja, in 2013, to visit the Grey Whales once slaughtered, and now a great tourist attraction, and how this experience of seeing these huge mammals adapt to our human world, especially the mothers with their calves,–the controversy, and alteration in both human and whale actions—– changed my life, and my outlook forever.

Grey Whales, San Ignacio, Baja, 2013 Mexico https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/08/gray-whales-baja-mexico/
Saying hi to Grey Whale
Baby Grey Whale encouraged to visit side of boat by its mother

In any case, the season is upon us and I am grateful for all of the work done this year for our waters and for our Florida. Thank you River Warriors! Thank you Bullsugar! Thank you Captains for Clean Water! Thank you people of Florida! Thank you President Negron! Thank you all, so many others across our great state! And in closing, thank you visiting whale!

Sometimes it is hard to stay motivated,  but like Winston Churchill said: “Never Give Up.” Our work is so important!

…Yes, in 2018, in spite of the difficulties, we will continue to be the strong, silent or screaming giant that dominates the conscience of Florida…

Humpback whale, Stuart, Dec 17, 2017

Watch TCPalm video here: http://www.tcpalm.com/videos/news/local/martin-county/2017/12/18/video-humpback-whale-sighted-off-shore-near-stuart/108725684/

Video credit:
Mattanza Charters, based in Pirates Cove Resort and Marina in Port Salerno, posted video taken Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, of humpback whales breaching near Eight Mile Reef in the Atlantic. VIDEO PROVIDED BY CAPT. MIKE MURRAY Wochit

—————————–

http://us.whales.org/species-guide/humpback-whale

http://www.whalesforever.com/whales-in-art-literature-mythology.html

http://www.esotericmeanings.com/jonahs-whale/

Florida’s Flood System Built on 1947 Hurricane Season, Now Irma, SLR/IRL

Florida hurricane of 1947 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgAHv_Z5wqE

As the possibility of a direct hit from Hurricane Irma approaches, I can’t help but reflect.

Looking back, we see that it was the severe flooding and the hurricane season of 1947 that led Florida and the U.S. Government down the track to where we are today through the creation of the Florida Central and South Florida Flood Project, (CSFP).

In 1947, during the United States’ post World War II boom, Florida had a very active and destructive hurricane season. This slightly edited excerpt from the  ACOE’s book  River of Interest does a good job giving a short overview of that year:

 “…Rain began falling on the Everglades in large amounts. On 1 March, a storm dropped six inches of rain, while April and May also saw above average totals. The situation became severe in the summer…

As September approached and the rains continued, the ground in the Everglades became waterlogged and lake levels reached dangerous heights. Then, on 17 September, a hurricane hit Florida on the southwest coast, passing Lake Okeechobee on the west and dumping large amounts of rain on the upper Everglades, flooding most of the agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee.

George Wedgworth, who would later become president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and whose parents were vegetable growers in the Everglades, related that his mother called him during the storm and told him, “ this is the last call I’ll make from this telephone because I’m leaving. . . . “We’ve got an inch or two of water over our oak floors and they’re taking me out on a row boat.”

Such conditions were prevalent throughout the region. Before the area had a chance to recover from the devastation, another hurricane developed, moving into South Florida and the Atlantic Ocean by way of Fort Lauderdale. Coastal cities received rain in large quantities, including six inches in two hours at Hialeah and nearly 15 inches at Fort Lauderdale in less than 24 hours.

The Everglades Drainage District kept its drainage canals open to discharge to the ocean as much of the floodwater in the agricultural area as it could, exacerbating coastal flooding. East coast residents charged the District with endangering their lives in order to please ag- ricultural interests, but this was vehemently denied…

Whoever was to blame, the hurricanes had devastating effects. Although the levee around Lake Okeechobee held, preventing the large numbers of deaths that occurred in 1926 and 1928, over 2,000 square miles of land south of the lake was covered by, in the words of U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, “an endless sheet of water anywhere from 6 to 7 feet deep down to a lesser depth.” The Corps estimated that the storms caused $59 million in property damage throughout southern Florida, but Holland believed that the agency had “under- stated the actual figures.” The destruction shocked citizens of South Florida, both in the upper Everglades and in the coastal cities, and they demanded that something be done.”

Cover of the “Weeping Cow” book. (South Florida Water Management District)

Well, what was done was the Central and South Florida Flood Project.

Key Florida politicians, and the public demanded the Federal Government assist, and as both the resources and will were present, the project was authorized in 1948 with massive additional components making way not only for flood protection, but for even more agriculture and development. In Martin County and St Lucie County this happened by the controversial building of canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and “improving” the infamous C-44 canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee. This construction was basically the nail in the coffin for the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon.

Map showing the Jacksonville District’s initial comprehensive proposal, 1947. (Claude Pepper Collection, Claude Pepper Library, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida)

But before the death of the environment was clear, the Corps developed a plan that would include 1,000 miles of levees, 720 miles of canals, and almost 200 water control structures. Flooding in coastal cities and in the agricultural lands south of Lake Okeechobee would be minimized and more controllable.

Yes, a goal of the program was to provide conservation areas for water storage, protecting fish and wildlife habitat. Although water conservation areas were constructed, conservation of wildlife did not work out so well, and has caused extreme habitat degradation of the Everglades system, Lake Okeechobee, the southern and northern estuaries, the Kissimmee chain of lakes, and Florida Bay.  Nonetheless, this project made possible for over five million people to now live and work in the 18,000 square mile area that extends from south of Orlando to Florida Bay “protected from flooding” but in 2017 living with serious water quality issues.

With problems apparent, in 1992 the Central and South Florida Project was “re-studied” and we continue to work on that today both for people and for wildlife…

Irma many be the system’s greatest test yet…

Yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineer Periodic Scientist Call was focused on saving people’s lives and safety. After the built-system was discussed, Mr Tyler Beck of the Florida Wildlife Commission, and Mr Steve Schubert of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported on the endangered Everglades Snail Kites and their nests at Lake Okeechobee. Like most birds, pairs mate for life. There are presently fifty-five active nests, thirty-three in incubation, and twenty-three with baby chicks…

In the coming days, as the waters rise on Lake Okeechobee, and the winds scream through an empty void that was once a cathedral of colossal cypress trees, Mother Nature will again change the lives of Florida’s wildlife and its people, just as she did in 1947. Perhaps this time, she will give us vision for a future where nature and humankind can live in greater harmony…

Hurricane Irma as a category 5, 2017
Everglades Snail Kite, Florida Audubon
SFWMD basin map for SLR showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.
South Florida today…
Florida map 1500s

Links:

1947 Hurricane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Cape_Sable_hurricane

1947 Hurricane, 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Fort_Lauderdale_hurricane

Central and South Florida Flood Project full text: https://archive.org/stream/centralsouthernf00unse/centralsouthernf00unse_djvu.txt

Restudy of CSFFP: http://141.232.10.32/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx

Central and South Florida Flood Project Restudy, 1948Sofia: https://sofia.usgs.gov/sfrsf/entdisplays/restudy/

River of Interest, ACOE, Chapter 2: http://141.232.10.32/docs/river_interest/031512_river_interests_2012_chap_02.pdf

US Fish and Wildlife: The endangered and beautiful Everglades Snail Kite:https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/snailkite.htm

What Happened to all the IRL Horseshoe Crabs? SLR/IRL

Young horseshoe crabs, public photo, 2017

When I was a kid, I often walked to the Indian River Lagoon and just stood there in amazement watching the hundreds, if not thousands, of baby horseshoe crabs winding their way through the sands. They left circular trails, crossing over and over again…

Where were they going? What were they doing? Why were there so many?

Photo by Anthony J. Martin

Every once in a while, I would pick one up and place it carefully in the palm of my hand. Its sharp tail and prickly feet pushed against me. I watched in wonder at its strength as it bent in half. Once returned to the sand, the little crab went back to work immediately as if nothing had happened at all.

My mother had told me the horseshoe crabs were more ancient than the dinosaurs and had been here “forever.” “They are living fossils” she would say. “And they can live over 20 years and take 10 years just to mature.”

Although I picked them up with such care, today, forty years later, when I try to find them, they’re gone.

What happened to the horseshoe crabs of the Indian River Lagoon? How did a creature so ancient, resilient, and prevalent almost “disappear?”

Although there is quite a bit of literature on the Central Indian River Lagoon, I could not find much on the Southern Lagoon. Some of the best documentation came from Gretchen S. Ehlinger and Richard A. Tankersley. On line, they are cited multiple times for their paper “Reproductive Ecology of the American Horseshoe Crab, Limulus Polyphemus, in the Indian River Lagoon: An Overview.”  I was also able to read “Evaluation of the Horseshoe Crab Fishery in the Indian River Lagoon Using Catch Data From Two Power Plants,” and a September 2014 “FPL Cape Canaveral Energy Center Horseshoe Crab Deterrent Fence Specifications” publication.

All of these lead to the following observations: decline of the species has been noted  for around three decades. There  have been UME’s or “Unexplained Mortality Events” where up to a 100,000 have died in the same area around the same time.

Factors that are related to their overall decline in the lagoon include intense coastal development, shoreline breeding grounds destruction, and unbridled  human population growth; expansion of agriculture drainage watersheds into the IRL; deteriorating water quality; power plants sucking up as many as 100,000 a year into their intake canals; and over-fishing. The crabs are used as bait, collected for marine purposes, and more recently captured live and bled for their “blue-blood”that is invaluable to human health.

Unfortunately, for many years, the value and importance of the horseshoe crab was not recognized. For instance, Ehlinger and Tankersley note  a one year study in the early 2000s at two Indian River Lagoon power plants that recorded a total of 39,097 crabs trapped on the intake screens at Cape Canaveral, and 53,121 at the Orland Utilities Plant. The scientists also mention a previous study from 1975 that estimated 69,662 at the Canaveral Plant, and 104,000 trapped annually at the Orlando Utilitility’s Indian River plant. “This alone could easily account for a decline in the Indian River population.” (Ehlinger and Tankersley 2007)

The St Lucie Power Plant  located here in the southern lagoon did not agree to be part of the study and there is very little research one can now find on the subject.

In any case, the good news is that just recently the Cape Canaveral plant has installed a wall to protect the horseshoe crabs and science’s recognition of the species has people wanting them to come back.

The Florida Wildlife Commission notes:

“Horseshoe crabs are extremely important to the biomedical industry because their unique, copper-based blue blood contains a substance called “Limulus Amebocyte Lysate”, or “LAL”.This compound coagulates in the presence of small amounts of bacterial toxins and is used to test for sterility of medical equipment and virtually all injectable drugs.  Anyone who has had an injection, vaccination, or surgery has benefitted from horseshoe crabs!”

…”in March 2000, a series of management measures for horseshoe crabs went into effect in Florida. The regulations required a license to harvest and set a limit on the number of animals each licensee could harvest per day (25 to 100 animals allowed per day per person depending on the permit). In 2002, a biomedical permitting rule created a mechanism to allow for biomedical collection.”

Yikes!

Horseshoe crabs being bled. Image as shared by FWC in 2017, first published in Popular Science.

Personally, looking at these photos of the horseshoe crabs being bled is like a science fiction movie to me. Never as a kid would I have imagined my little friends with needles in their heads being milked for their blood.

….But if this is what is going to save them… I must say, if they could talk, I bet now is the strangest part of their 450 million year journey. In my mind, they will always be free and drawing circles in the sand.

Ancient horseshoe crab fossil. CREDIT CARBON NYC / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

 

Horseshoe crabs gather under a full moon to procreate. Photo, National Park Service.

Links:

Horseshoe crab eye, JTL.

Ehlinger and Tankersley: http://www.horseshoecrab.org/research/sites/default/files/DONE%20Ehlinger%20and%20Tankersley.pdf

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1999-08-22/sports/9908220099_1_crabs-mosquito-lagoon-titusville

FPL wall to protect marine life, central lagoon:
http://www.nexteraenergy.com/energynow/2015/0915/0915_marinelife.shtml

St Lucie Power Plant effects on IRL and environment: https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0214/ML021430397.pdf

Changing Global Perspectives on Horseshoe Crab Biology and Conservation Management: https://www.kobo.com/at/en/ebook/changing-global-perspectives-on-horseshoe-crab-biology-conservation-and-management

Bleeding Horseshoe Crabs for Human Health: http://www.americanpharmaceuticalreview.com/Featured-Articles/167236-The-Incredible-Horseshoe-Crab-Modern-Medicine-s-Unlikely-Dependence-on-a-Living-Fossil/

FWS: https://www.fws.gov/northeast/pdf/horseshoe.fs.pdf

FWC:
http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/horseshoe-crabs/fishery/

http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/horseshoe-crabs/facts/

continued….

Me with horseshoe crab on my head, Spoil Island family boat outing, IRL, 1980. Photo Sandra Thurlow.

Ehlinger and Tankersley Links:

Addendum to FPL CCEC Horseshoe Crab Fence ERP Application

Ehlinger and Tankersley 2007 Fla Sci

Power Plant Study

The Amazing Dupuis Alligator March; Too Many to Count Indeed! SLR/IRL

https://clydebutcher.com

I love alligators. Their population comeback is one of the great success stories of Florida conservation. They are an ancient and modern-day inspiration. https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/alligator.pdf

The video I am sharing today was filmed by the late Dr. Dale Hipson. Born and raised in Stuart, Dr Hipson was an avid wildlife lover, and very involved at the Stuart Heritage Museum. http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com

Through the help of my mother, Dale’s family, and the community, I share one of Dr Hipson’s most famous videos from 2006 filming what seems to be hundreds of alligators marching across Powerline Road in the Dupuis Wildlife Area. I recall asking Dr Hipson why they were all crossing the road. “They are seeking more water,” he said,  “levels change abruptly all the time.”

In the video, Dr Hipson and Shirley Corley’s “amazements” can be heard in the background. The video is quite delightful, even funny at times,  and deserves to be reintroduced to the public. I know you will enjoy it.

Go Gators!

(video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRbOjKbbfk0)

Dupuis, FWC: http://www.myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/dupuis

*Thank you to Treasure Coast Multi-Media for transferring the original VHS to digital formant!http://tcmultimedia.net

Aerials of Our Rain Stained Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Recently, it seems to rain almost every day!

TCPalm’s Elliott Jones reported this morning that Stuart has received a whopping 11.30 inches of rain just so far this month! (The average being 7.14.)

Although due to the recent drought, the ACOE/SFWMD are not dumping Lake Okeechobee through Canal C-44, canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and areas along C-44, as well as our own basin, are draining right into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Very little of this water is cleansed before it enters and thus is damaging to the eco system. Next time you see water draining through a grate in a parking lot, think about this. Remember too that before the major canals were constructed the 1900s, the river received less than half the water it gets every time it rains today.

IMG_5231.JPG
SLR at “Hell’s Gate” looking at Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point and the St Luice Inlet
photo drainage basin
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original watershed. Yellow and pink have been added since ca.1920. (St Lucie River Initiative’s Report to Congress 1994.)

The aerials below were taken 6-13-17 by my husband Ed Lippisch and pilot Dave Stone. It is important to monitor the river all of the time so we can view changes.

“Rain stained” we are; please remember not to fertilize during the rainy season. The birds on Bird Island will appreciate it! (http://befloridian.org)

Canals

TC Palm, Elliott Jones, 6-19-17
Bird Island, IRL east of Sewall’s Point
Bird Island
IRL St Lucie Inlet and Sailfish Point
Sailfish Flats, IRL
Crossroads, confluence SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point
Spoil Island off Sailfish, bird also roosting here!
Sick looking seagrass beds in IRL looking south towards Jupiter Narrows
SL Inlet near Sailfish Point, no black plume but darker colored waters