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Posts tagged ‘everglades’

An Earth Day Note of Gratitude

Since I’ve had my little blog, I’ve been blessed with requests from biologists, scientists, park rangers, national wildlife organizations, and artists to use my photos — my tiny glimpses into the continually threatened natural Florida. I always learn so much from them all, and am incredibly grateful to have met them.

In honor of Earth Day, I want to give an enormous THANKS to all of those who work so incredibly hard, often in dubious and/or dangerous situations, for our beautiful blue sphere — the hands-on scientists and rangers working directly with the wildlife and lands, caring for the welfare of so many threatened and endangered critters and ecosystems. An equal shout of gratitude to the writers, artists, and outspoken voices of our wonderful world!

Most recently, I met Everglades biologist John Kellam, and he kindly shared his amazing research on the endangered Florida panther. To say that this is a special and rare glimpse into the lives of these magnificent and elusive animals is an understatement! I hope you enjoy John’s images and descriptive text as much as I did — and another thanks to him for sharing his work for, and obvious love of, these endangered creatures.

From John: I am a biologist; Since 2006, I have been a member of the National Park Service Florida panther capture, research, and monitoring team, and the lead biologist of the first successful home range and habitat use study of the Big Cypress fox squirrel (a Florida State listed Threatened species) in natural habitats (http://www.nps.gov/bicy/learn/nature/big-cypress-fox-squirrel.htm).

Florida Panther Kitten  (Copyright  John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Florida Panther Kitten (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

More from John: The kitten in the photos is 1 of 3 kittens located in female Florida panther #162’s den on August 15, 2014 in the interior of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Florida Panther Kitten,  Copyright  John Kellam, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Florida Panther Kitten (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

When a female panther is denning and her kittens are @ 14 days old (based on radio-telemetry data), we wait until she leaves the den (typically to go hunting), then we locate the den and process the kitten away from the den site. Our medical work-up of kittens involves collecting biopsy, hair, and ectoparasite samples, inserting subcutaneous microchips (PIT-tags), obtaining body mass/measurement data, and administering oral medications. Once we have processed the kittens, we place them back in the den.

When kittens are handled at dens, we gain valuable reproduction information on litter size, gender, weight, genetics, and overall health of kittens. In addition, kittens with microchips provide us information on movements and survival if handled again as an adult.

Florida Panther Kittens at Den (Copyright  John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Florida Panther Kittens at Den (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Here’s much love and good wishes to a promising future for these amazing animals — Happy Earth Day!

It’s National Wildlife Week: March 17-23

It’s National Wildlife Week!

[Click on images for greater clarity]

Marsh Rabbit Baby, Florida Wetlands

The ridiculously adorable marsh rabbit baby in the Florida wetlands — or as I call them, swamp bunnies

Founded by the National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Week is the organization’s “longest-running education program designed around teaching and connecting kids to the awesome wonders of wildlife.” The theme of 2014 — Wildlife and Water — is an effort to “provide fun and informative educational materials, curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to use with kids.”

Sunning Alligator, Florida Everglades

A cuddly and lazy sunning alligator in the northern section of the Florida Everglades

Living on the edge / vestiges of the magnificent Everglades, the theme of Wildlife and Water is perfection. From the marshes and swamps, to the ‘glades, to the lakes and rivers and open ocean, the opportunities to explore the wonders and beauties of our unique wildlife are endless in South Florida.

Great Egret, Everglades, Florida

A regal great egret rests against the setting sun in the waters of the northern Florida Everglades

Visit their site to learn more, spread the word, and further the conservation efforts of these wonders.

An Everglades Valentine’s Wish

Where there is love there is life. -Mahatma Gandhi

Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the Everglades critters!

Mating Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus), Fern Forest Nature Center, Florida

Mating Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus), Fern Forest Nature Center

It doesn’t take much to find love on an excursion into the natural world, where it surrounds us at every moment — which is why I escape to it as much as possible. It’s a beautiful reminder.

Breeding Great Egrets Building Their Nest, Florida Wetlands

The boys hunt for, and bring the best sticks to build the new nest: Breeding Great Egrets Building Their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Alligator Pair in the Florida Everglades

Perfect headrest: Alligator Pair in the Florida Everglades. Recent studies have shown that up to 70 percent of alligator females remained with their partner — often for many years.

Alligator Pair in the Florida Everglades

Alligator Pair During Mating Season in the SWA Trail Network of Grassy Waters Preserve, West Palm Beach

Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Monogamous (at least during the breeding season!) Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at Their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

CUDDLES: Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Heart Tree at Fern Forest Nature Center, Broward County, Florida

Heart Tree Sends its Love at the Fern Forest Nature Center

Happy Trails, Peon

All good things are wild and free. ―Henry David Thoreau

At the beginning of what would be a 10-12 mile hike through the SWA system, along the Owahee Trail (near Grassy Waters Preserve) in northern Palm Beach County, this curious and bold fellow — majestic and magnificent, always — offered a steady and seemingly condescending gaze.

May your weekends be as wild and free as this beautiful creature!!

Red-shouldered Hawk, SWA Trail System, Florida

Sorry Mr. Red-shouldered Hawk — we simply cannot compete with that poise

Inside the Cypress Swamp

On the heels of Earth Day, I wanted to share an *internal* vision of one of the few remaining cypress swamps lining the Everglades…. It’s part of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and I spend much time there — and you can probably see why. It’s utterly beautiful. Just magnificent. We’re tentatively leaving the dry season here in South Florida (our daily afternoon rains haven’t quite started — that will be May), but the swamp is slowly coming into its glory, thanks to some plentiful April rainfall.

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Like most of Florida’s cypress, this area was thoroughly logged in the ’40s — so while the trees aren’t first-generation cypress, they’re beautiful nonetheless — and thankfully, they’re now protected by various federal and state agencies! In this swamp, among the bald and pond cypress there are also pond apple trees, as well as different species of ferns, some twice as large as I stand. It’s just magical. I always picture this land covered by such a vista…. Which, in the human timeline, wasn’t that long ago.

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A dense vista

This wetland habitat supports an incredible amount of life, although much less than it did in years past. Butterflies, alligator, snakes, frogs, bobcats, otter, birds of every variety, and raptors make their homes here. Larger predators, including panther and bear, would have freely roamed. And it’s fantastic: You may HEAR the Great-horned owl, but try finding him. If you’re not quiet and gentle out there — and observant — you’ll miss everything.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)

Dragonfly in Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Glowing dragonfly

Southern Leopard Frog, Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A Southern leopard frog just missed his meal ticket of a dragonfly, but hasn’t given up… Using his PERFECT camouflage

Red-bellied Cooter (Turtle), Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A Red-bellied Cooter sunning on a fallen log in the swamp = JOY!

Black Racer Snake, Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A well-hidden and quite harmless Black racer tries to sleep

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Looking up into the beautiful young cypress trees of the swamp

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

It’s NATIONAL WILDLIFE WEEK, and: Returning the Florida Panther to the Everglades

In honor of National Wildlife Week, March 18-24, here’s a special and rare event from last week:

A Florida panther was recently released into the Picayune Strand State Foresta rare event, in a bid to help save the species. The tagged female will hopefully become a safe and successful mommy!

She and her brother were raised from the age of five months at the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, rescued after their mother was found dead.

Rescued Florida Panther at Flamingo Gardens, Florida

Rescued Florida Panther at Flamingo Gardens: Sadly, this guy can’t be returned to the wild, because he underwent a painful de-clawing procedure at the hands of humans

From the article:

Florida panthers were among the first to go on the Endangered Species List back in 1973 when there were as few as 20 remaining individuals. Today they are still in great peril with as few as 100-160 in the wild, but biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) successfully released one female Florida panther into the Picayune Strand State Forest recently with the hope that she will become a successful mom.

Read more….

So much luck to this girl (and to her soon-to-be-released brother!) – AND so many thanks for the continued rescue and conservation efforts the world over!

Rescued Florida Panther at Flamingo Gardens, Florida

Another panther rescue: De-clawing exotic cats is still permitted, unbelievably. It causes extreme pain and lameness, and requires constant pain regulation. Horrific “legal” state minimum enclosure requirements for bears, big cats, and other wild animals (envision a tiny jail cell) are also allowed

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