Welcome to my Website and Blog OurWetlands in Florida. This site is meant to inform readers about the importance of wetlands or land that is partially or fully submerged in water for most of the year. Florida was once mostly a wetland consisting of swamps, marshes, estuaries and shallow bodies of water south of Orlando that flowed south towards the Everglades. Wetlands in Florida and in other states filter and clean the water we drink, and provides a healthy habitat for wildlife. Included in this blog/website are photos of parks, preserves and wildlife that depend on healthy wetlands. Browse around to the different posts and pictures by clicking on one of the recent posts, categories or the archives. I have included many links to other websites if you want to learn more about a specific topic. The pictures are originals that I took with my digital camera unless otherwise noted. Click on pictures for larger images. Comments are appreciated and make a blog more interesting to readers. Thanks for visiting. – Dave Zuhusky
The Florida Intracoastal Waterway which runs from Boston to Florida and along the Atlantic East Coast and Gulf Coast is a series of canals, rivers, bays and inlets which runs parallel to the shoreline. I recently visited St Augustine, Fla. and saw part of the coastal waterway that runs through town and along the Atlantic Ocean coastline. The river closest to the ocean is the Salt River seen from the top of the lighthouse which connects with the Intracoastal Waterway which lies further inland.
Some parts of the waterway is naturally made with islands and rivers separated by the mainland and some parts were made by people such as engineers, town officials and land developers. The concept of building a inland/coastal waterway in Florida began in 1885 when the Florida Canal Co. began to dredge a canal between Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River which is just north of Merritt Island. USA Today published an article about the Intracoastal Waterway which described its purposes, location and early designers.
Some parts of the waterway is used for commercial purposes to transport ocean freight, marine cargo and some parts of it are used exclusively for recreational purposes. Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway which lies between a barrier island and the mainland is called Millionaires Row because of the expensive homes and boats that line the waterway. There are many people who take their boats up through the Intracoastal Waterway for several states. In my area of SW Florida the Caloosahatchee River runs from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee inland and then through the St. Lucie River until its connects with the waterway on the east coast. Wikipedia also has a lot of interesting facts about the Intracoastal Waterway.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse shown in the pictures above replaced the old Spanish Watchtower that was constructed in 1824 which was also the first official lighthouse in Florida. The St. Augustine Lighthouse was finished in 1874, took over 1 million bricks to build and stands 14 stories tall.
I didn’t have much time to visit St. Augustine and there is a lot to see and enjoy especially if you are a history buff so I chose the historic lighthouse for my short visit and I was not disappointed. The winding staircase inside the lighthouse with 219 steps is wide enough for two people to walk abreast or past one another. When I made it to the top, there was a circular walkway around the top where you can see for miles and enjoy the panoramic vistas of the city of St. Augustine, Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal waterway.
I found out from reading Wikipedia that St. Augustine was founded by Spanish explorer Admiral Pedro Menendez de Avites who named the city St. Augustine because some of his sailors sighted land eleven days earlier on August 28th which is the Feast Day of St. Augustine. St. Augustine who lived around 354-450 was a very important person in the development and foundation of the early Christian Church and religion.
The grounds around the St. Augustine Lighthouse have the original Innkeepers house, now a museum, artifacts from shipwrecks off the beach, an active boat building area where volunteers are building small boats of earlier times like the “Skipjack” and “Yawl” which were used by local fishermen and British Warships. St. Augustine was once the center of the shrimp fishing industry in the U.S. The website VisitSt.Augustine has some good information about what to see and do in this town. Floridahistoriccoast is another good travelers website.
The pictures shown above are of the visitor center and paths through the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation on Sanibel Island, Fla. SCCF is one of the many attractions on Sanibel because they have several preserves, trails, a garden center and exhibits that show and explain how coastal and inland habitats live and thrive under unique conditions. The main mission of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation is to conserve the coastal resources and aquatic habitats on Sanibel and Captiva and surrounding watershed.
The SCCF has several scientists on staff who monitor the water quality around Sanibel and report on the amount of pollution, dissolved oxygen, salinity and other factors of the watershed. The waters around Sanibel were once filled with healthy oyster beds but they have been diminished and threatened by the amount of pollution coming from nearby places.
The Visitor Center at the SCCF is a great place to see the native animals and plants that live on Sanibel-Captiva including the turtles who nest on the islands. There are live turtles to view and exhibits of habitats. If you have the time and like hiking, there is a trail that winds through the several hundred acre preserve where you can view fresh water habitats, native birds and trees on Sanibel. The trail is well marked and you can take a short stroll or walk the whole length of the preserve which can take an hour or two. The trail contains an observation tower as well.
One of the best well known and cared for parts of SCCF is the Native Garden Center which was recently moved to a better and larger location on Periwinkle Way which contains several acres of plants and shrubs to view or purchase. It is managed and cared for by employees of SCCF and many volunteers.
I came across a large number of Monarch Butterflies while bicycling along a road in Southampton, Long Island this summer. The amazing thing that caught my eye was the number of Monarchs that were flying around and feeding on the flowery shrub along the road. There must have been over a 100 Monarch Butterflies feeding on the nectar of the flowers. The Monarch has black and orange wings with whites dots on the tips of its wings and on its head. There are also black veins running lengthwise down its wings. The pictures shown above are the butterflies I photographed this summer. Click on any one of them for a larger image.
Monarch Butterflies are unique in the Butterfly kingdom because they only feed on the milkweed plant during its caterpillar or larval stage. The chemicals from the milkweed plant make the Monarch toxic to any predator that might want to feed upon it. Monarchs are also unique because of their migratory patterns. They fly over 1,200 to 2,800 miles each year from northern states and California to Southern California and Mexico. They also make the return trip when warmer weather returns. They can fly over 20 miles in a single day. I saw this batch of Monarch Butterflies in August which is the start of their trek south from northern states.
This butterfly is an endangered species because the change in climate which is happening due to global warming disrupts their habitats. The loss of habitat due to human causes such as over development in rural areas also hurts the lifestyle of the Monarch. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service shows the migratory patterns of the Monarch on maps on its website along with other interesting information of this unique butterfly.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USBG) is an organization founded by a group of environmentally minded individuals who direct an effort to promote environmentally efficient buildings of all types, including commercial, industrial and residential buildings that meet certain sustainable and conservation criteria. The U.S. Green Building Council holds conferences nationally that update builders and environmental design engineers of the latest developments in green buildings.
The standards aim to promote water conservation, smart use of materials in building construction, conservation of energy and other factors that lessen our use of earths natural resources. The USBG created “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” a rating system to give buildings points and that rank them according to how environmentally efficient a building is. Platinum is the highest ranking followed by Gold, Silver, and Certified.
I have been spending the summer in Southampton, New York, located on the East End of Long Island and there are several buildings that have achieved the LEED Certification including 2 on Stony Brook University’s Southampton Campus.Two of the buildings include the Marine Sciences Lab Bldg. (Silver) and the Library (Gold) which are shown above.
A group of buildings in Lee County< Florida have been designated as green buildings and been certified as LEED buildings. The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve Interpretive Center, Jet Blue Baseball Stadium, the Ft. Myers Regional Library and Sanibel Recreation Center are some of them. More and more buildings strive to attain the U.S. Green Building Councils attainment of a LEED Certified ranking. You can learn more about the technologies of LEED certified buildings, conferences and leaders in green building design by visiting the USGBC website.
Click on one of the photos above for a larger image.
The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve consists of 3,500 acres of wetlands which vary from slow moving swamps or sloughs, dry areas consisting of hammocks and forests containing many of the native trees of Florida.
The Six Mile Slough was created in 1970 with the encouragement of concerned citizens who saw the natural ecosystems being destroyed by heavy commercial and residential development in South Florida. Sloughs are slow moving swamps that move rainfall over the landscape and help to filter the water as it seeps into underground aquifers.
The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide and is one of the few areas where visitors can visit a wetland that resembles an ecosystem that dominated the landscape years ago. The depth of the water is usually 2-3 feet deep but the unusual heavy rains and tropical storms this summer have made the slough over 10 feet deep. It is located in Ft. Myers, off of Six Mile Cypress Pkwy.
The South Florida Management District keeps track of the monthly and yearly rainfall levels in South Florida and Lake Okeechobee. Visitors to the slough can enjoy a scenic walk on a 2 mile boardwalk through the slough and also visit the interpretive center which has exhibits of old Florida and plants and animals which inhabit the slough.
The pictures shown above are of the slough. Click on any image for a larger view. The park employs naturalists who give tours of the park on the boardwalk and also give wet walks through the swamp for those who are more adventurous. The Six Mile Slough is also a great place to go birding and view many of the birds who make wetlands their home. Visit their website at https://www.sloughpreserve.org/
I became aware of CREW when I took a naturalist course through the Florida Master Naturalist Program offered through the extension office in my county. (Lee) About 25 of us took a full day class every week for about 8 weeks examining the “Wetlands” in South Florida and learned about the importance of keeping water resource areas such as swamps, lakes, ponds and other fresh water bodies of water safe and protected. Wetlands provide a natural recharge place for rain water to filter back into the ground, and recharge aquifers where we get most of our drinking water. Our class shown above took a field trip to CREW one day and our nature walk took us through different ecosystems of trees, plants, dry and wet areas. Our experienced nature guide explained the different kinds of plants and animals that lived in this 60,000 acre region and what areas get particularly flooded during rainy season.
CREW has a staff of volunteers that work there at different times of the day and week that can offer visitors chances to take guided nature walks through the area. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning more about Florida’s natural areas and inland regions. Visit their website to learn more about this watershed and how to take advantage of its learning and ecotourism opportunities.
The New York Times published an article on July 28th, titled “Study Shows Rising Risk to Waterways from Fertilizers.” The article states that increased use of fertilizers from homeowners treating their lawns and from farms use of fertilizers on their crops can result in harmful algae blooms in nearby waterways during heavy rainfalls. The rains wash nitrogen and other chemicals off of lawns and farmland into lakes, streams and rivers which pollutes our sources of water for drinking, fishing and recreation.
Climate Change will increase the rate of rainfall according to the article which will increase the amount of chemicals pouring into our waterways. Scientists urge agricultural businesses to rethink their use of fertilizers when their properties are located near lakes, streams and rivers. Eutrophication is a term used to describe the growth of plant life such as algae which occurs when excess nitrogen washes into waterways and cuts off the supply of sunlight and oxygen. The depletion of oxygen in a waterway creates a dead zone in which other forms of life cannot live.
One of the biggest dead zones in the U.S. is the mouth of the Mississippi River which covers an area of 10,000 square miles or about the size of Vermont. Billions of gallons of water laden with chemicals comes coursing down the river from cities and towns in the middle and upper Mississippi River Water Basin. The pictures shown above left to right are of the Caloosahatchee River, Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee which are all affected by nitrogen, fertilizer and sewage runoff resulting in Eutrophication and dead zones. The South Florida Water Management District has good information about their efforts to control pollution runoff and protecting our lakes, streams, beaches and other wetlands from pollution.
Red Cardinals are supposed to be good luck when you see them and this summer there has been no shortage of Cardinals appearing in many places I have visited. I normally write this blog for SW Florida but I have been staying on Long island for most of the summer. Red Robbins seem to be the dominate bird species in my area of Eastern Long island but Red Cardinals have been flying around frequently and making their calls or songs as song birds do.
The Red Cardinal that I photographed above was in the Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge located in Noyac, New York. Noyac is located near Southampton, New York and the preserve which is part of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge system consists of 187 acres that is located on a narrow peninsula that juts out into the Little Peconic Bay. It is definitely worth the visit because of the beautiful views of a forested nature preserve and the beaches and views of the Peconic and Noyac bays. I also saw several wild turkeys walking along the nature path.
The female Red Cardinal is bright red all over except for the black patch on its face. The male cardinal has a brownish color over its red body. They both have sharp and short bills and a red crest on the top of their heads. They live in nests in short bushes, wooded forests, and backyards with birdfeeders.
You can hear the call and song of the Red Cardinal by visiting the All About Birds website and clicking on the sounds tab and then choosing either of the green arrows below. They make a loud whistling sound with a distinctive series of whistles.
Click on either of the 2 photos above for larger images
Sea Oats cover many of the sand dunes and beach areas in SW Florida and coastal communities on the East coast from Maine to Florida. Sea Oats grow up to 6 ft tall and perform an important role in protecting coasts from erosion.
Sand Dunes form on a beach when sediment of sand is blown upwards on a beach where it accumulates and is suspended around obstacles likes plants, fences, and driftwood. Plants are the best solution to keeping sand dunes in place because their roots hold them in place when flooding from winter storms occurs or severe events like hurricanes happen.
The pictures above are of Sea Oats on beaches on Sanibel Island, Florida and Southampton New York. Both of these areas see their beaches diminished and reduced because of winter storms, tidal currents and other forces. The Sea Oat plant is a favorite anti erosion plant because they are hardy plants that are tolerant of salt water, winds and their ability to send their strong root structures called rhizomes underground.