Monthly Archives: March 2016

Wading Birds

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Wading Birds are a unique species of birds in South Florida and they can be distinguished by their long legs, long sharp bills and plumage of feathers covering their bodies. They use their long legs to wade through the shallow waters of shorelines, lakes, rivers, swamps and other bodies of water looking for fish to eat.

The most common and easily seen Wading Bird is the Great White Egret which is a large bird with long white neck, plump body covered with white feathers and a long yellow bill. Another common Wading  Bird  is the Blue Heron which is also large, has a gray-bluish body, long legs which appear like sticks and a yellow to gray bill.

One of the best natural parks and preserves that I have been to in SW Florida where you can see Wading Birds is Audubons’ Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Located in Naples, Florida, the sanctuary consists of thousands of acres of dry prairie land and swamps that provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. The Audubon Society lists 17 species of wading birds in the sanctuary including the White Ibis, Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tri-Colored Heron, White Egret, Snowy Egret, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Roseatte Spoonbill, Limpkin and Sandhill Crane.

Wading Birds were almost hunted to extinction due to the popularity of their feathers which were worn on top of womens hats. It took an act of Congress to put them on the Endangered Species list.

I have seen and photographed many of the birds shown above near my hone in Ft. Myers at parks including the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, John Yarbrough Ten Mile Linear Park, Lakes Regional Park and the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tricolored Heron

The Tricolored Heron –  (Egretta tricolor) –  in the pictures shown above were photographed on Sanibel Island while they were walking along the ground near a fresh water lake looking for small fish to eat. The Tricolored Heron is a medium sized bird, smaller than its counterpart Blue Heron and can be distinguished by its while belly. It was formerly known as the Louisiana Heron. It is commonly seen in the Southeastern portion of the United States in coastal areas along mangrove marshes, lakes and swamps. It is also seen in inland areas along swamps. freshwater lakes and estuaries. It’s diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, frogs, salamanders, lizards and spiders and it catches its food by stabbing it with its long sharp bill.

The Heron has an impressive wing span and is pretty to watch fly. The Tricolored Heron nests in colonies in trees and mangrove forests along with other herons and wading birds. The male constructs the nest and females are attracted to the males in this way. The female lays 2-7 eggs per year and they take about 27 days to hatch with both male and female providing help with incubating the eggs. The young birds can begin to fly within 5 weeks after hatching.

I found some good information about Tricolored Herons at the Audubon Guide to North American Birds website. I also like Cornell University’s Allabout Birds website which includes audio clips of the birds’ sounds and calls.

 

 

Dolphins in Estero Bay

I had the opportunity to see a large number of dolphins while on a pontoon boat in Estero Bay. Our group was actually on a boat excursion for Birders that were attending a seminar at FGCU. We did see a lot of birds including an American Bald eagle but the most memorable sights I had on that trip was seeing all of the lively and friendly dolphins that swam near and around our boat. We motored out of the Fish Tale Marina on Ft. Myers Beach which has nature boat excursions which I would recommend to anyone wanting to see wildlife and the beautiful Estero Bay.

After about an hour on the water we started to see a group of dolphins surfacing and then diving under the water, There were a few groups of the dolphins swimming together and I rushed to get my camera before I lost sight of them. Luckily they reappeared right next to our boat and seemed to like the attention they were getting from us.

The Defenders of Wildlife website gives some interesting and extensive information about the lifestyle and habits of dolphins. Dolphins are mammals and are part of the toothed whale family that includes Orca’s and Pilot Whales. Dolphins are mostly gray with a few dark spots and they are carnivores and eat fish, squid and crustacean’s. They hunt and navigate through the waters by using Echolocation which is a method of sending out sound waves through the water and waiting for them to bounce off objects and coming back to them.

Dolphins are found mostly in tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. Their mating season is year round and females give birth to calves after a gestation period of 9-17 months. The young are fed by their mothers for up to 2 years and then accompany their mothers for another 3 to 8 years before they head off on their own.

 

 

 

 

 

Oil Fracking bill dies in State Senate

Oil Drilling Rig in Caracara Preserve, Naples,FL

Oil Drilling Rig in Caracara Preserve, Naples, FL

 

 

 

 

 

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The controversial method of extracting oil and natural gas from the ground in Florida is being debated in the state legislature in Florida. One senator in the state legislature wanted to introduce and pass through a bill that would allow fracking companies to operate in Florida under certain conditions. Some environmental groups including the Conservancy of SW Florida vehemently opposed the bill and many people sent in angry emails attacking the proposed bill.

The cities of Bonita Springs and Estero have already passed local laws that prohibit the Fracking method of drilling for oil and natural gas within their city limits. The state law that was proposed would have given authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate and give permits to oil drilling companies.

The efforts to allow Fracking in Florida is not over and it is up to market forces, and the price of oil worldwide which will put pressure on Florida’s landowners to allow oil drilling to some degree. The oil drilling rig shown in the picture above is pumping about 100 barrels of oil per day in the Caracara Preserve in Naples. The oil drilling rights were maintained by the landowner even though the land is used as a nature preserve and cattle grazing area.

Environmentalists argue that Florida’s very sensitive system of underground aquifers which supply most of the drinking water to Florida’s residents should not be jeopardized by oil drilling and Fracking. Fracking opponents say that the chemicals that are pumped underground to release the oil and natural gas would contaminate and destroy the water in our aquifers. The National Geographic Society has produced a concise 2 minute video which explains the Fracking process and where it is currently being used in the United States.