Great Egret (Ardea alba)
The Great Egret shown in this photo was wading through the shallow swamp water in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. The Great Egret was an endangered bird at one time because they were hunted for their feathers which were used for decorative hats. They have rebounded in number and are protected from hunting mainly due to the efforts of the Audubon Society. The Great Egret hunts for small fish, frogs and aquatic animals by wading through fresh and salt water areas and then stabbing their prey with their sharp bills. I like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website to learn more about Florida birds. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary if you are in Southwest Florida. You will see all kinds of birds and animals that are native to Florida and there is a great visitor center and boardwalk.
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Sea Grape Plant
Sea Grapes ( Coccolaba uvifera) are large flowering plants or shrubs that are often seen in coastal areas in sand dunes and near beaches. They are hardy plants, very salt tolerant and make excellent plants to halt erosion on beaches and also act as wind breakers for nearby homes. The plant grows large grape like clusters that are reddish looking fruits. The tree or shrub often grows to large sizes and can be several feet wide and 50 ft high although the ones I have seen as usually 5-8 ft tall. The shrub in this picture was photographed in a sand dune on Sanibel Island. The barrier islands that line the coasts around Florida have some of the worst erosion problems due to tides, wind, currents and occasional storms and hurricanes. Communities plant grasses, plants and trees in and around beaches to prevent erosion and to protect homes. Some other commonly seen plants and grasses include Sea Oats, Saw Palmetto, Spanish Bayonet, Century plant and Beach sunflower. The Floridata Plant Encyclopedia has some good additional information about the Sea Grape plant. To learn more about other beach and sand dune plants check out the Florida Plants.com website.
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