Monthly Archives: October 2016

Save Our Water

“Save Our Water” has been the title of a series of news articles run by the Ft. Myers News Press during the 3rd week of October which helps to explain the water quality problems that are affecting the coastal communities of Ft. Myers on the west coast and Stuart on the west on the east coast of Florida.

            The problem in short are the massive amounts of water released from Lake Okeechobee which sits in the middle of these two coastal communities. Lake Okeechobee is a very large lake covering 730 square miles and is surrounded by an earthen dike which helps protect the towns around it from flooding. It receives most of its water supply from the Kissimmee watershed to the north which starts near Orlando. The Army Corp of Engineers tries to keep the lake levels to less than 14 ft. and when it surpasses that level billion gallons of water are released through the locks down the Caloosahatchee River to the west and the St. Lucie River to the east. Lake Okeechobee contains excess amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals which create algae blooms and the “browning of the water” . Other harmful effects of the release of water is the killing of sea grasses, destruction of oyster beds, and creation of a harmful bacteria called cyanobacteria.

This past year has seen an unusual wet winter with over 10 inches of rain in January alone. The result has been more water coming into the lake carrying with it chemicals from farms, over fertilized laws and town runoff from communities in every direction of the lake. Large plumes of brown water and a blue-green algae has covered both rivers and the coastal communities they drain into on the west and east coasts of Florida. 

Environmental activists and angry citizens affected by these water quality problems have been calling for the state to buy land south of the lake to store and move water towards the Everglades National Park where it once traveled before the dike was built around Okeechobee. State legislators in Tallahassee have been reluctant to do this saying other solutions need to be completed to alleviate the problem instead of more land purchases. In the meantime, our rivers and beaches have continued to be damaged and citizens whose properties have been affected are very angry. Learn more about the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project and efforts to halt the flow of harmful water pollution by the South Florida Water Management District.






White Ibis

click on pictures for larger images

           The White Ibis is a wading Bird that lives in the deep South of the U.S. . It is easily recognizable because of its’ long curved red bill which it uses to snatch its prey. The White Ibis also has a thick and large white body and red legs.

            I photographed the White and Juvenile White Ibis birds at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve and near a drainage swale in Ft. Myers, Fla. These birds eat mostly small fish, invertebrates and insects. They are most commonly seen in tidal flats, mangrove swamps, shallow water drainage areas and in peoples yards. The Immature or Juvenile White Ibis has a different color during its early years exhibiting a darkish body.

            The Florida Audubon Society lists the White Ibis as an imperiled bird which means its numbers have declined over the years and bird conservationist s have been keeping a  close watch on its population. Several reasons could be the reasons for their decline including chemicals which are released into their environment and habitat loss.

            This bird  makes a sound that sometimes sounds like a honk or horn while they are flocking together. You can hear their sounds and calls on the All About Birds website.  Click on the audio button and you will hear their audible sounds.







Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker








            I love seeing and hearing the Red Bellied Woodpecker in nature preserves that I visit because of their bright colors and sounds which bring life to the woody forests where they live. The Red Bellied Woodpecker are a medium sized bird and has a red head with wings that are covered with black and white stripes and dots. Their belly is all white. They have sharp beaks and like a hummingbird have tongues that can extend out to grab and feed on their food.  

The Red Bellied Woodpecker that I captured with my camera in the photograph above was in the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in  Ft. Myers, Florida where birders often go to see many kinds of birds because of the dense forest canopy. The Woodpecker makes its nest in the trunk and branches of old trees including oak and pine trees. The repeated knocking sound that you hear from this bird comes from its carving out of the wood from trees for its nest. It also makes a high pitched shrill and other distinctive sounds which make them easy to identity. You can see and hear the sounds of the Red Bellied Woodpecker at the All About Birds website which was created by the Cornell Univ. Lab of Ornithology.

            The diet of the Red Bellied Woodpecker consists of insects, spiders and nuts and seeds from plants in the forest. They also eat fruits including grapes, hackberries, oranges and mangoes. They often fly very swiftly and erratically through the tree canopy and scientists think this may be a habit which they practice to evade other birds and predators. Their nests are sometimes overtaken by Starlings who overpower them because of their size. They are commonly seen in forested areas of the Southeastern U.S








Ding Darling Days

The Ding Darling Wildlife Society, Friends of the Refuge will be sponsoring a week of activities beginning Sunday Oct 16th, 2016 to help celebrate the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuges 140th birthday. There will be a week of events including free tram tours of the refuge, films, lectures on migratory birds and fun events such as face painting, and displays of the butterfly house and a  touch tank of fish. Visit the website for a list of events during the celebration.

    The Ding Darling Wildlife Society is a volunteer organization made up of many people who support the mission of the refuge and provide  educational and recreational activities at the  Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. The DDWS has raised over $3 million dollars to help build the visitor center. It has also helped to pay for the acquisition of more land on Sanibel Island to add to the refuges size. There are many events held in the visitor center including films and lectures by experts that speak about conservation efforts of land, migratory birds at Ding Darling and around the U.S.

     The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is one the most visited national refuges in the U.S. with tens of thousands of people visiting the park each year including professional photographers and birding enthusiasts. The Tarpon Bay Explorers is a private concession located within the refuge that rents kayaks, canoes and gives boat tours of the waters in Ding Darling.

    The National Wildlife Refuge System has been around since 1869 when Presidents Ulysses S. Grant created the Pribilof Islands Refuge in Alaska. Florida’s first refuge was established by President Teddy Roosevelt who created the Pelican Island Migratory Bird Reservation on the Atlantic coast of Florida.