Monthly Archives: January 2016

Turtles at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

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I was walking through the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve on their boardwalk and happened to see and photograph this group of 7 turtles sunning themselves on a log in Otter Pond. The other picture is of a Softshell Turtle on a raft in Gator Lake in the preserve. Turtles are cold blooded reptiles who cannot regulate their body temperatures by moving around like mammals so they are often seen lying along the banks of rivers, ponds and swamps trying to soak up the suns rays. The turtle on the wooden raft is a Softshell Turtle and the ones standing on the log look like Red Bellied Cooter’s. Turtles feed on vegetation in their habitat along with small fish, insects, and crustaceans. Their predators include alligators, raccoons, foxes and skunks. The juvenile turtles can also be fed upon by raptors such as eagles and hawks.

Turtles such as the Red Bellied Cooter’s can submerge into water and breathe through gill like structures near their mouths. They can also breathe through their mouths. The Six Mile Slough Preserve is a fun place to see wildlife that includes a variety of birds, river otters, alligators, turtles and other small animals. The slough is a slow moving swamp which moves rainwater and storm water through a labyrinth of Cypress Trees, plants and low lying land which helps to clean our water resources and provide a home for all kinds of wildlife. Lee County manages the preserve and gives tours of the slough which is well worth the time. They also have a nature center with exhibits. The Florida Museum of Natural History contains a list of pictures and descriptions of Florida turtles.

 

 

 

 

El Nino brings heavy rains to SW Florida

The weather phenomenon known as El Nino has been bringing above average rainfall to Florida and the rest of the United States this year. S.W. Florida has already received 6.5 inches of rain for the first half of January when the average is around 1 inch for this time of year. The western part of the U.S. including drought stricken California has been getting drenched with much needed rain. The heavy rains will help to recharge the aquifers in California and the Midwest but much of the rainfall is diverted to storm water canals or rivers to prevent flooding of homeowner developments and cities. The storm water canals and rivers then send the water to salt water oceans such as the Pacific ocean, Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean where it cannot be used again for drinking supplies or irrigation. With aquifer levels dropping dangerously around the United States and water supplies shrinking, it makes me wonder why there aren’t ways to store these heavy rains and floods in large water basins for future drinking supplies and irrigation needs.

The term El Nino which means little boy or Christ child was originally used to describe warm waters in December in the Pacific Ocean by fishermen in South America in the 1600’s. The change in water and atmospheric temperatures usually lasts from 9-12 months but sometimes can last for years. La Nina (little girl) in contrast to El Nino  is named for the unusually cold waters and atmosphere temperatures over the Pacific ocean. They both bring unusual wet or dry periods of weather.

The pictures shown above are of a golf driving range on Daniels Pkwy in Ft. Myers. You can see the puddles which are covering the driving range caused by the heavy rains in January. The pictures of the Ten Mile Canal in Ft. Myers has above average water levels and you can see the rushing waters going over the weir in the pictures. The Ten Mile Canal collects storm water runoff from nearby roads and neighborhoods between Daniels Pkwy and Colonial Blvd. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a good website which describes the El Nino effect in more detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanibel Lighthouse

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The Sanibel Lighthouse has been an icon and landmark on Sanibel Island since 1884 and has drawn visitors to Sanibel Island for it’s historical significance and nearby beautiful beaches. It had acted as a navigational beacon for ships traveling around the barrier islands of SW Florida for over 100 years. There is a full time lighthouse keeper living next to the lighthouse and a nice path to walk around the lighthouse.

I made a trip to the Sanibel Lighthouse and beaches which surround the lighthouse on both the west and east sides of the southern tip of the island. It only takes a short walk to see the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island. If you walk to the east side of the island you can see the Pine Island Sound, Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel Bridge in the distance.

There is a lot of activity near the lighthouse with a fishing pier and water sports such as parasailing. I enjoyed seeing a man throwing a ball out into the Gulf and watching his Golden Retriever swim after it.  The waves are usually choppy and currents strong on this part of the island so swimmers should be very careful. It is safer to swim on the Gulf of Mexico side further north on the islands’ beaches where the currents are not so strong. There is public parking in a few different lots next to the lighthouse and its costs a few dollars per hour. There are also restrooms nearby. The pictures above show the lighthouse from both the Gulf and Pine Island Side as well as the beach. There are a couple of good websites to learn more about traveling and or staying on Sanibel including the Chamber of Commerce and official Sanibel City website.

 

 

 

 

Salt Water Marshes are Carbon Sinks

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Salt Water Marshes that surround some of our coastlines act as a carbon sink or repositories for vast quantities of carbon dioxide which is the main fossil fuel that causes global warming. Theses carbon sinks prevent the fossil fuels from entering the atmosphere. Scientists think that Salt Water Marshes, Mangroves and Sea Grasses can hold ten times as much carbon dioxide as the large trees in our forests. With global warming and sea level rise  becoming an ever bigger threat to our cities and towns we should protect and preserve these marshes, mangroves and sea grass beds wherever and whenever we can.  Mangroves and marshes which line our coastlines also serve to prevent erosion of our beaches and shores and provide an important habitat and ecosystem for marine life.

The problem with our coastlines is that they have been under attack by natural causes such as hurricanes and storms for thousands of years and man made obstacles such as waterfront homes, roads and commercial developments.  We have harmed and sometimes destroyed this natural buffer from the sea by altering the landscape near the coastlines.

The pictures shown above are of the salt water marshes around Amelia Island in northern Florida and birds occupying the salt water mangroves on Sanibel Island. Amelia Island and Sanibel Island seem to get it right by their conservation efforts to protect and preserve their coastal habitats. The National Ocean Service of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration explains how salt water marshes provide a vital link to the fish, birds mammals, and mollusks which depend on them for survival as well as preventing coastal erosion. The  NOAA Service Education also  has a good website which gives an illustration of salt marshes, mud flats and their benefits to wildlife and mankind. New Orleans is a good example of what can happen to a city when it’s coastal marshes and coastal barriers become diminished due to man made causes. Their salt water marshes have been diminished greatly over the years and their city is at greater risk for flooding, wind damage from storms and sea level rise.