Monday, June 19, 2017

The Water is Rising

Sunday June 18th

I hadn't planned on walking the four miles around the north cell at Harns Marsh, but the weather was tolerable. Not terribly hot, not very buggy, there was a nice breeze and its not raining.

Sandhill Crane at Harns Marsh

Harns Marsh is operated as a storm water retention facility by the East County Water Control District to control flooding in the area. Just a few weeks ago the marsh along with this entire region  of Florida were suffering from drought conditions. Most all of the wetlands here had dried out.  Drainage ditches had dried out and were populated with vultures working over the remains of the many dead fish left behind. These conditions were also bad on the wildlife depending on these wetlands Limpkins and many other wading birds have been concentrating at the few wet holes still remaining. Species like the gray-headed swamphens and purple gallinules have disappeared.

Brownheaded Cowbird seen at Harns Marsh

But the rains have arrived.  Heavy rains.  Lots of water. Lots of sheet flow. All of these dried out canals, lakes and wetlands are now full.  Very Full. Today the water levels are too high and moving too swiftly at Harns Marsh for the wading birds. But today I'm walking the four miles to see if any of the swamphens or purple gallinules could be relocated elsewhere on the property. Did sight a couple of Snail Kites and a count of sixteen Limpkins, plus a Least Bittern and a handful of Mottled Ducks. But no swamphens or purple gallinules.

There is a species that benefits from the earlier dry down conditions. The Wood Stork. Wood Stork nesting is about water levels. A good wet season, enabling prey species to multiply followed by a drying down, to concentrate these food sources needed for raising their hatchlings. This nesting season saw the first nesting colony at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary since 2014 with as many as four hundred nests. These numbers as a fraction of the annual thousand nest that used to colonize Corkscrew Swamp not that long ago. As our human population expanses in south Florida all our wading birds are suffering

Live Apple Snail photographed at Harns Marsh

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating lesson on the importance of water levels to our waders, Tom! Great job!