Monthly Archives: December 2015

Wood Storks


Woodstorks     –  click on picture for larger image






I saw and photographed this pair of Wood Storks near the intersection of Six Mile Cypress Pkwy and Plantation Rd. in Ft. Myers.  They were gathering with other wading birds to catch some small fish that were swimming by in a drainage canal that runs along the parkway. Wood Storks – (Mycteria Americana) are clumsy looking birds with large white bodies, bald heads, long curved bills and long legs. Wood Storks feed on small fish in a unique way by dipping their long bills into the water with their bill open and when they sense a small minnow or fish touching their bills they snap their bills shut in a nanosecond. It is this time of year in the fall and early winter when the water levels recede in the drainage swales, ponds and lakes and small fish are herded into a smaller area which makes them easier to catch for the Wood Storks. I have seen a great collection of Wood Storks, Great Egrets, Blue Herons, Spoon Bills and Glossy Ibis fishing and wading together.

The Wood Stork has been named a “threatened species” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hopefully their numbers will increase along with other threatened species as the state and environmental conservation groups work to preserve our parks and wetlands in Florida. The All About Birds website has some additional information and pictures of the Woodstork as well as an audio clip of their calls and sounds. I also like the Florida Audubon website which has a great supply of information about Florida’s Birds and conservation.




Aquifer levels dropping

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The large underground aquifer in the Midwest underlying 8 states known as the Ogallala aquifer is losing it’s massive quantities of water and its levels are dropping. The aquifer used by farmers to irrigate their crops, homeowner wells and industrial use for business is being depleted faster than rainfall and precipitation can  recharge the  aquifer.

Aquifer levels are being lowered in other states and regions including California, the Mississippi River Valley, and the Southwestern and Southeastern states as well. California has even seen land subsidence in parts of the state because the water levels are so low. During the year in 2011 Americans pumped 76 billion gallons of water out of the ground per day. Water conservation measures are the norm now in places  like California to lower water use.

The newspaper USA Today did an extensive study of 32,000 wells in the U.S. to determine how high the water levels were and found that 2/3 of them were much lower than previous years. The Plains states in the Midwest where much of the nations food is grown has average water levels 13.2 ft. lower today than in 1995. Agriculture accounts for about 2/3 of the nations water use of underground fresh water.

Florida has a similar problem despite the fact that the state gets almost 5 ft. of rainfall per year. During the 20th century, state land managers and developers had been turning wetlands into drylands by building canals, dams, levees and pump station across the state. The well meaning actions by land managers decades ago to protect people from flooding and make the wetlands useful for farming and home developments has now turned into a billion dollar effort to reclaim the land and turn dry land back into wetlands. Florida’s 20 million people need an adequate supply of fresh drinking water which comes mostly from underground aquifers.

Florida used to be a vast wetland consisting of swamps, sloughs, winding rivers and floodplains. Most of that has been wiped away from the efforts of mankind. Places like the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Ft. Myers which was re-established by county managers about 25 years ago is an example of re-claiming the land and allow it to absorb rainfall, storm water runoff and sheet flow of water running across the land. There are many other water reclamation projects being done in Florida by the Army Corp of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District and EPA.

There are some excellent websites explaining what aquifers look like underground and their functions which include the United States Geological Survey Science School. The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection also has a map showing the aquifers underlying the state and more information about aquifers.










Fishing near Sanibel Island

Fishing on and off Sanibel Island is famous for its abundance and variety of fishing opportunities. Anglers use the plentiful areas to fish from shore along the Sanibel Causeway or go wading into the shallow waters to fish further out. Spanish Mackerel, Spotted Sea Trout, Sheepshead, Redfish, Cobia and others fish are caught near the island in shallow waters. Offshore fishing in deeper waters gives sport fishermen chances to land Snapper, Grouper, Sharks and other large fish. Lee and Collier Counties has created many offshore artificial reefs from concrete bridge parts and sunken boats. The Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau website has some good information about fishing and other things to do while visiting Sanibel.

The pictures I have shown above include people fishing from boats off the Sanibel Bridge span, a person fishing from a sandbar, sea wall and a few men fishing by wading up to their waists off the coastline. There is a pier on the island where many fisherman cast their lines into the Pine Island Sound. On any given day you can see people fishing off the beach or on the many sea walls on the causeway and island. The local birds which either dive or wade through the waters compete with fishermen for local catches. Osprey, Pelicans, Blue Herons  and White Egrets wade through the waters  and fly over the waterways looking for a meal. The waters around the Sanibel Causeway are part of the Great Calusa Blueway where people kayak or canoe. Fishing from kayaks is becoming a major pastime.  You can launch your kayak or canoe off the causeway or from a public boat launch on the island. There are also many vendors renting kayaks on and off the island.

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Scarecrows at Lakes Park Community Gardens

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You know it is the Fall season when you see scarecrows in farmers crop fields and in homeowners gardens. Scarecrows symbolize the Fall Harvest season. The scarecrows in the pictures above were expertly decorated with colorful hats, clothes and faces by members of the Lakes Park Community Gardens. I had to take some pictures of these scarecrows in the community gardens  because they were so enjoyable and interesting to look at.

I am a member of the Lakes Park Community Gardens where people can rent a raised garden bed measuring 8 ft. by  4 ft. for $60 per year. There are over 70 raised garden beds in the fenced in area. I think some people got the fabulous idea to adorn the gardens with these scarecrows more for the aesthetic appeal than for the purpose of protecting their gardens from birds.

Scarecrows have been used by farmers all over the world for thousands of years to scare away birds who like to feed on the easy pickings of fruits and vegetables.  Egyptians used scarecrows on the banks of the Nile River to scare away quail from invading their crops. Japanese used them to protect their rice fields. Native Americans used them to protect their corn fields. The Ancient Greeks also used scarecrows to protect their vineyards.

According to the website, the definition of scarecrow is “ that which frightens without doing physical harm”.