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Posts tagged ‘endangered’

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

There’s so much color in the depths of South Florida, but this little one’s not native to the area. It’s native to a region where I was raised (roundabout, anyways). When I think of COLOR, my brain always returns to the petite endangered Gouldian Finch — also known as the Rainbow Finch, appropriately.

This spectacularly-colored little bird is native to Australia, where their numbers have decreased dramatically throughout the 20th century due to habitat loss. They remain an endangered species in their natural habitat, with less than 2,500 remaining. While attempts at their reintroduction have proved unsuccessful, thankfully these lovely finches are the subject of a conservation program in Australia. There are currently plans to recover and conserve their natural habitats, with management guidelines in place to educate landholders about land management, promoting the recovery program, and Gouldian Finch conservation. They’re also popular birds in captivity and among breeders, which keeps their general populations higher.

Gouldian Finch (Rainbow Finch), Butterfly World, Florida

Gouldian (Rainbow) Finch posing at his sanctuary in Butterfly World

In 1992, the species was classified as endangered in the wild. That same year, Catwoman stuffed a poor Gouldian into her mouth in Batman Returns — some say, to raise awareness for their plight.

Here’s to wishing all the best for this beautiful and bright little bird!

 

The First Everglades Day: April 7, 2013!

Everglades Poster Celebrating Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Everglades Poster Celebrating Marjory Stoneman Douglas

The first-ever EVERGLADES DAY is this Sunday, April 7…. Fantastic! Many thanks to all of those who worked so hard to make this a legislative priority, highlighting and escalating issues surrounding the Everglades, as well as renewing the area’s restoration efforts. What a perfect time to visit and explore the ‘glades — and love this beautifully vital, rare, but endangered and always-threatened ecosystem. Check out the link below for events from Miami to Naples to West Palm Beach!

From the Everglades Foundation:

The first official Everglades Day will be celebrated on April 7, 2013. In addition to recognizing what an important resource this ecosystem is, not only to the state of Florida, but to America, the day  will also honor Everglades activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, as it is designated to be held on her birthday.

The Florida Legislature voted  in favor of an Everglades Day on March 7, 2012. From a National Parks Conservation Association press release: “The state’s support for an official Everglades Day will ensure that the Everglades ecosystem remains a top priority for elected officials and all Floridians while honoring Douglas’s legacy for protecting the River of Grass. . . Each time we turn dirt on an Everglades restoration project, we are protecting our drinking water supply, creating jobs and fulfilling a promise to protect our national parks, wildlife, and family memories….”

Some of the sights from one of the event locations, Grassy Waters:

Alligator, Florida Everglades

Love and respect this place. Please.

Everglades Vista Along the Hog Hammock Trail, Grassy Waters Preserve, Florida

Everglades Vista Along the Hog Hammock Trail

NENA Signage, Hog Hammock Trail, Grassy Waters Preserve, Florida

NENA Signage

Critical Habitat Protection at the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park in Stuart (Martin County) is a must-visit: a gorgeous area encompassing 5,800 acres of pristine wetlands and uplands, which provides critical habitat for endangered species of animals and plants. The ecosystem encompasses pine palmetto flatwoods, wet prairie, sand pine scrub, oak hammocks, mixed hardwoods, and freshwater marshes. It includes one of the largest areas of natural land remaining near the Florida Coast.

The natural Atlantic Ridge ecosystem is comprised of 16,000 acres in its entirety. Outside of the already-acquired 5,800 acres, some more areas are on the county’s list for lands to be acquired for purchase of conservation lands and parks — so keep your fingers crossed, because this is some truly beautiful pristine land. The Hobe Sound Irrevocable Trust is proposing to give away approximately 2,300 more acres, enabling the county to provide additional public access to this park, and to preserve the environmentally sensitive land in perpetuity as part of the State park system. The donated lands will create a wildlife, greenway, and recreational corridor running north from Halpatiokee Regional Park (also in Stuart) through the Atlantic Ridge State Park, and south to Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

Pine Flatwoods, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Pine Flatwoods (Tree = Tree)

Pine Flatwoods, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Pine Flatwoods

There’s always an exchange: here, it’s houses. In exchange for the conservation lands, the remaining 400 acres will become a new community, the Atlantic Preserve. This new Planned Unit Development (PUD) will contain 650 homes.

Prairie, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Prairie

But for the 2,300 acres of donated lands that will be protected in perpetuity, this area will serve as the missing link that will connect the Atlantic Ridge State Park ecosystem. This area includes the headwaters of the South Fork of the St. Lucie River and the Loxahatchee River — the first nationally designated “Wild and Scenic River.” The donation and preservation of this land is critical in the ongoing efforts to restore the historic waterflow of these ancient waterways.

Pines, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Into the Pines

Prescribed Burning Signage, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Prescribed, or Controlled Burning Signage

Many animals make their homes in these protected and pristine acres, including anhingas, egrets, herons, owls, hawks, sandhill cranes, and osprey. Bobcat and coyote are also abundant, but as always, these guys were shy as ever. It was equally wonderful to see such healthy and abundant Native flora for the wildlife.

Coyote Prints, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Lots of coyote prints, but no real critter… Drats!

Feral Hog Trap, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

(Invasive) Feral Hog Trap… Here, piggie piggie

Hmmm

Really have to take that Naturalist Class….

Hmmmm

Suggestions?

Click Here for a Map to the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park.

The only other people I saw here were on horseback — two of them! But be forewarned, having learned this from the ranger…. Apparently the Palm Beach Hunt Club likes to visit on the occasional Saturdays with their 20-something dogs and horses, spreading a scent and letting their collared dogs run free throughout the Preserve. Needless to say, I’ll never be visiting this location on any Saturday. I’m VERY confused by the County allowing this practice — that is, allowing a HUNT CLUB and their dogs roam free in sensitive, threatened habitat, with wildlife?? Am I missing something?

There’s one public access point, via Cove Road in South Stuart. Before entering, make note of the fee required at the honor station. ALSO: Call Jonathan Dickinson State Park at 772-546-2771 for the entry gate code. Sometimes the gate is closed upon entry, sometimes it’s open. Either way, you NEED THIS ENTRY CODE to leave via a locked gate!

Slash Pine Close-up, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Slash Pine Close-up

Animal Bridges and Wildlife Crossings

I recently read a statistic — nearly 70% of Florida panthers were killed by vehicles in 2012. That’s stupendous; visit Wildlife Extra to learn more. So while overall their populations are faring well, our state could definitely use some more of these most amazing animal bridges in key wildlife areas….

TwistedSifter

 

Animals bridges, which may also be known as ecoducts or wildlife crossings, are structures that allow animals to safely cross human-made barriers like highways. A wildlife crossing is the broadest term and can include: underpass tunnels, viaducts, overpasses and bridges, amphibian tunnels, fish ladders, culvets and green roofs. [Source]

Wildlife crossings are a practice in habitat conservation, allowing connections or reconnections between habitats and combating habitat fragmentation. They also assist in avoiding collisions between vehicles and animals, which in addition to killing or injuring wildlife may cause injury to humans and property damage. It has been reported that vehicle-animals collisions costs the United States a staggering $8 Billion a year.

The first wildlife crossings were constructed in France during the 1950s. European countries including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and France have been using various crossing structures to reduce the conflict between wildlife and roads for…

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A Lush and Rocky Little Trail

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

We recently visited Grassy Waters Preserve and the short Eagle Trail, a narrow trail of sand and exposed limestone outcroppings that loops around Gator Lake, and meanders through wet prairie and cypress. It’s truly a lovely little hike, and reminiscent of some areas of Big Cypress Preserve (adjacent to Everglades National Park). Afterwards, we enjoyed a picnic in the shade, before hitting a longer trail….

Lush Trailhead of the Eagle Trail

The Mini-Mini has taken a beating on our ventures…

Slash pines and palm along the trail

Abundant berries…

Rocky limestone outcroppings

Everglades vista

Vestige of the Everglades: Grassy Waters Preserve

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. —John Muir

Grassy Waters Preserve in West Palm Beach presents the natural history of Florida in its pristine and wild 23.5 square miles. Today, the Preserve serves as the freshwater supply for the city and its associated municipalities — but historically the area was the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River (Seminole for River of Turtles). It was also a key component of the Everglades watershed, which began north of Orlando and flowed through rivers that emptied into the vast Lake Okeechobee, where the lake’s waters flooded into the Everglades Basin and slowly flowed into the Florida Bay. Humans have since severely altered this historic water flow — although efforts have begun in earnest to resolve years of detrimental impact. The Grassy Waters Preserve (GWP) represents a remnant of the once-magnificent Everglades ecosystem.

Numerous hiking and biking trails wind throughout GWP, including the Apoxee Trail — “beyond tomorrow” in the Miccosukee language (pronounced A-po-hee). We weren’t prepared for a flooded-trail hike, so we drove north to the Hog Hammock Trail, where we were delighted to be completely alone for our 5-mile venture, save the critters. What’s wonderful about GWP is the variety of trails offered — long, short, easy, advanced — you have your pick.

Wildlife sightings include alligator, deer, armadillo, wild turkey, feral hog, bobcat, otter, osprey, great-horned owl, hawk, assorted wading birds, and snail kite. The survival of snail kite — the logo for the Preserve — is dependent on the preservation of pristine wetlands like those at Grassy Waters. Sadly, like so many other species, it’s estimated that this amazing bird of prey will most likely face extinction within the next 30 years due to habitat loss and other factors. But at Grassy Waters, snail kite sightings are common — proving that this iconic Everglades resident is allowed the quality habitat it needs for a fighting chance at survival.

These images were taken during our Hog Hammock hike, which we did in its entirety, including the mile-long dead-end trip…. As we were leaving the trail, I was yapping about something terribly important and startled a magnificent great-horned owl, which alighted immediately in front of us. Argh for the failed photo op!

Cypress Tree

Here There be Gators: Adorable but Flighty Juvies!

Outside of the trail…

Entering the trail…

Everglades Vista

Everglades Vista

Nature’s design: Slash Pines

NENA Signage

Hang On

“All you need to do is hold on tight…and believe.” —Stephen King

We made our second visit to a wonderful 24-mile-large Everglades preserve this weekend (more images forthcoming, it’s beautiful land) — an area new to us, so each trail is an adventure. What’s so wonderful is that we’ve been completely alone each visit, save the rustling of the critters, a magnificent great-horned owl (sadly, no picture, as we startled each other within a matter of feet), and the awe-inspiring trees, wetlands, and swamps. Entering one trail, there was a ruckus among a saw palmetto plant, and a tiny lizard popped out of its depths — it doesn’t take much to create a cacophony in their noisy fronds. He simply sat on a nearby twig, seemingly perturbed at the brief interruption. Cutie.

Brave Lizard Along the Trail at Grassy Waters Preserve

Trailhead at Grassy Waters Preserve

Everglades Vista of the Grassy Waters Preserve

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