Category Archives: wildlife

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