Posts Tagged With: Florida
Some images from a recent stroll through the historic Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, Florida. It was the end of the day, and I had this small zoo/botanical garden to myself. Nothing like nature to lift one’s spirits and relieve the stressors of the day. I hope you have a chance to spend some time this coming weekend in the great outdoors.
We often travel to nature preserves near our home to try to catch glimpses of birds like pileated woodpeckers. A few weeks ago, I heard lots of tapping, walked out the front door, and looked up! And, there they were… not one… but TWO!
We’ve visited the Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers twice. Once last March and most recently this past January where we spotted the above alligator coming out of the cool water to sun itself. The cypress trees were bare and missing much of the water they are used to standing in during rainier times of year.
Many people think of Florida as the land of eternal summer, but that’s definitely not the case. The seasons here are distinctive, as any year-rounder will tell you. Of course, we don’t have the extremes experienced in more northern climates (and most of us probably like it that way), but if you live here long enough or visit at different times of year, you do notice the differences, especially if you come in summer. As you scroll down the photos below, you can see the changes between January (left) and March (right) – (or, perhaps, top/bottom, if you are viewing this on a cellphone/tablet); we visited at the same time of day, but you can see the lighting looks different; summer is on its way.
This is perseverance… at one point this Wood Stork drops the fish and seems to momentarily question the wisdom of what it’s doing… meanwhile, another wood stork ambles by in the background, along the water’s edge… when I drove by an hour later, this little fellow/gal was still at it.
For a little Friday relaxation, you may enjoy watching some manatees floating down the springs at Blue Spring State Park on their way to the St. John’s River. On cold winter days, manatees are typically abundant here as the springs remain a constant 72 degrees year round. Blue Springs State Park is in Orange City, Florida, an easy drive from Orlando, if you ever happen to visit the area. We did not see many on the day we were there, even though it was very chilly, but the sight of these three floating by made our trip especially worthwhile.
To see what’s happening right now, check out the live webcams! In 2018, 485 manatees spent the winter here–imagine that!
On a family history note, these springs (of which there are many in central and northern Florida) are not far from Enterprise, FL, the place my second-great-grandmother’s nephew, Charles Jaques Jr., passed away on May 10, 1886, at age 22. He was the son of Dr. Charles Jaques and Katherine Louise De Forrest.
Enterprise is just 7.5 miles from Orange City, and I can’t help but wonder whether Charles came upon these springs in his travels around this area, which back then (mid-1880s) would have been frontier land and just starting to get populated.
From the 1850s – 1880s, the St. John’s River was an important transportation route, and steamboats would have landed regularly at Blue Springs Landing. It seems possible that Charles would have made his way here via a St. John’s River steamboat, and I’d like to think that he saw manatees in the springs and the river along the way, sightings he would surely have reported back to friends and loved ones, and hopefully he had a chance to do that.
There is something very special and memorable about manatees, and if you ever get a chance to visit Florida in the winter, do your best to try to see some.
Happy New Year to you all; I am resurfacing after a pesky December health-wise, and a New Year’s Florida ‘staycation’ spent in and around the beautiful Ocala National Forest, north of Orlando. Today, I’m sharing a few scenes from the forest’s Silver Glen Springs at the south end of Lake George—its trails strewn with palmettos, its trees festooned with Spanish moss, and its crystal clear springs a steady 72 degrees F. year-round. Spectacular! I hope to gather steam as the month progresses and get back on track with some family history posts. Meanwhile, to all my many cousins (no matter how distant) among this blog’s readership, please feel free to write a guest post or submit information that can help me develop a post for you. Let’s get those stories ‘out there’!
We recently took a canoe ride along a portion of the Blackwater River which starts at the 7,271-acre Collier Seminole State Park on the western edge of the Everglades and takes you out several miles through a vast mangrove swamp until you reach the Ten Thousand Islands. Were it not for the fact that the mangroves produce tannin, the water would be crystal clear (which would be much more comforting for the purpose of alligator spotting!). It’s an incredibly peaceful experience; just remember your bug spray and sunscreen and to stay in your canoe so you don’t bring home any physical souvenirs (or lose a limb!). We’ve done this trip several times, and the mangrove tunnels where the river narrows are (for me) the most special part of the journey. The water is like glass and the reflection of the mangroves on the water makes for some heavenly scenes. In winter there’s the added benefit of seeing lots of birds.
When you go through such uninhabitable terrain, it is easy to see why the Seminole Indians were never defeated, and also easy to see why the author of the below small article on the Ten Thousand Islands, published in 1886, found this part of Florida “desolate” and “gloomy” in comparison with the northern part of the state, which was fairly well inhabited and offered comforts that clearly would have been absent in south Florida at that time. Coming here in the hot and humid months of the year especially, one can be eaten alive by no-see-ums and mosquitoes and burnt to a crisp by a relentless and unforgiving sun. The article was printed in November, so hopefully the author escaped the worst of the bugs and weather—in any case, he lived to tell his tale!
Thankfully, we 21st-century South Floridians are able to enjoy these wild environments by day and return to the comforts of our homes at night.
Have a tranquil weekend, all.
Daily Alta California, Friday, November 12, 1886 (Credit: California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside – . All newspapers published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain and therefore have no restrictions on use.)
After being vacant for almost three years, our bird house finally has a new tenant… he’s not what we were expecting, but we’ll take him. Rumor has it that he thinks his new digs are toadly awesome!
I pulled back the blinds one morning last weekend and instantly felt that kind of ‘wow’ kids feel when they wake up in the morning and catch their first sight of an overnight winter snowfall. But instead of a blanket of white snow, I saw a preserve dotted in white—a patchwork quilt of white ibis, palms, and cypress trees. And for every white ibis I could see, there was a brown ibis blending in with the debris and dark waters on the cypress preserve floor.
I guess we can thank El Niño for this unusual winter sight. Record rainfall has filled swamp areas back up to summer levels, and these ‘gals’ and ‘guys’ have come to scour the grounds for bugs and other edible critters. And throughout the past week, they have continued to turn up daily to put on their show. Greedy for more, I am now hoping some egrets, herons, woodstorks and roseate spoonbills decide to join them!
When one sees ibis in such abundance, it’s hard (and sickening) to imagine that there was a time 100-odd-years ago when ibis and many other of Florida’s beautiful birds were hunted down and slaughtered for their plumage with populations being decimated as a result. The author of the accompanying article from the Rome Daily Sentinel, published on 18 August 1896, attests to the fact that hunting for the birds had gotten way out of control and measures were desperately needed to protect them. Thankfully, that eventually happened, and hence, sights such as the one in my backyard are not uncommon in Florida today (they are just uncommon in my backyard!).
The 1896 article mentions the scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber) as particularly being singled out by hunters (image right) along with herons and snowy egrets, and song birds like mockingbirds and cardinals. (The American flamingo, mentioned in the article as being abundant in South Florida in the 1800s, has all but disappeared in the wild. If you happen to see one in Florida today, it is likely an escapee from an area attraction.)
I’ve never seen scarlet ibis in the wild in Florida, but apparently they are occasionally spotted. Their native range today appears to be along the northern and eastern coastlines of northern South America, down to São Paolo. They can appear as vagrants in Florida, Ecuador, and a number of countries in the Caribbean.
The current IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists the scarlet ibis as a species of ‘Least Concern’, which would please the article’s author, no doubt, if he were alive today, as would knowing that all of Florida’s birds became legally protected in 1913.
The Smithsonian article “How Two Women Ended the Deadly Feather Trade” describes how this hideous trade ultimately came to an end:
Egrets and other wading birds were being decimated until two crusading Boston socialites, Harriet Hemenway and her cousin, Minna Hall, set off a revolt. Their boycott of the trade would culminate in formation of the National Audubon Society and passage of the Weeks-McLean Law, also known as the Migratory Bird Act, by Congress on March 4, 1913. The law, a landmark in American conservation history, outlawed market hunting and forbade interstate transport of birds.
One hundred years later, we are blessed to have these birds in our midst, but the picture is far from 100% rosy as Florida’s current list of threatened and endangered species attests. Thirty-six species of birds are on the list, including the snowy egret, brown pelican, and white ibis, which are classified as ‘species of special concern’, so if they were ever completely ‘out of the woods’ after 1913, they are back in them now…something to keep in mind and let others know about, if they don’t know already.
Well, enough said—time to take another look out the back window.
Have a great weekend, all, and thanks for stopping by.
Rome Daily Sentinel, 18 August 1896 (Credit: Fultonhistory.com):