Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary closing for hurricane Isaac

Hello all!

Well hurricane preparations have been in full swing, and the decision has been made to close the sanctuary boardwalk and visitor center on Sunday August 26th and Monday August 27th for the safety of our visitors and staff. It will also be closing at 5:30 tonight.

Are you prepared? Hmmm...I wonder what all the critters do when hurricanes come through. Food for thought. Be safe!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blog changes...and Popcorn Sedge!

Hello all! As you can probably tell, I am in the midst of making some changes to my blog. Please bare with me as I try and update it. Hopefully I'll find some cool new features to add!

From late March into November, treatment of invasives kicks into high gear on Panther Island. Timing for treatment of an invasive plant can mean its eradication from an area or if I miss the window, I’ll have to make adjustments the following year. An example of an annual that can be eradicated with persistence and good timing is popcorn sedge (Scleria lacustris), a.k.a. Wright’s nutrush.

Above left: Broad view of popcorn sedge Above right: close up of nutlets

In its native range of tropical Africa and the Neotropics, it is relatively rare. How it came to Florida is unknown, but in 1988, it was first recorded in the Upper St. John’s River Basin and has spread since then. Birds and airboats (along with drainage ditches) are likely vectors that are helping in its spread. Freshwater marshes that exhibit seasonal fluctuations in their water levels seem to be most susceptible to infestation by this invader. I typically begin to see popcorn sedge plants start to establish in late spring, early summer when the marshes are dry.

Above: stem of popcorn sedge

It seems to have spread more readily during the drought years as well. As water levels start to come up the young plants are fine and continue to grow and reach
maturity in late summer. From late August into December, nutlets (with seeds inside) can be seen. And true to its name, the nutlets look like popcorn! Ideally,
plants will be treated before reaching maturity and beginning to produce nutlets.
Towards the end of May, I start scanning marshes specifically for this invasive. This year I have tackled this plant in a variety of ways: via ATV, swamp buggy, and on foot using a backpack sprayer. The second round of treatment is completed,
and a third is underway. Today a volunteer and I actually went and removed seed stalks from the plants. I want to see if this rather labor intensive action is beneficial.

It is hot, physically taxing work, but the benefits of keeping the ecosystem healthy far outweigh any discomfort. Plus during treatment I get to interact and see so many neat native plants, insects, and animals!

Above: Photo of marsh where popcorn sedge is being treated

Monday, August 13, 2012

Second smaller Ghost Orchid discovered off of the boardwalk!!!

Wow! So I had intended to start a series highlighting different species of invasive wildlife already established or in the process of becoming established in Florida, but this is really cool!

Just yesterday, another smaller single ghost orchid was found off the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk. Over the last few years, the super ghost orchid has gotten tons of well deserved press for its rarity, succession of blooms, and amount blooms per blooming cycle. For those who aren't familiar with the ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii), it is a rare, perennial, epiphytic orchid that is listed as endangered. It was formerly classified in the genus Polyrrhiza but recently moved to Dendrophylax. One of the neatest things about this plant is its co-evolution with the Giant Sphinx moth. I love these guys...and the fact that they are the only (known) pollinators of the rare Ghost orchid bump them up on the "Coolest" insect list I have in my mind. To see the pollination occur check out and skip to about the 1:10 mark. While I am tempted to write more about the biology of the Ghost orchid, I would be reinventing the wheel. The website below does a great job of covering information about the ghost orchid's biology.

However, if you want to see one (or two at the moment!), then you should definitely go check Corkscrew out. The super Ghost is in bloom right now, and the boardwalk naturalists have a scope up on it so it can be seen. To see photos and learn more visit our website below.

Sorry guys but I don't have any pictures of the ghost orchid!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raising your voice!

So now that I have inundated you with information about HR 5864 the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, you might be wondering "what can I do...I am just one person...?" This is true, but every person has a voice. You just have to raise it!

When in DC waiting in offices to meet with Congressional and Senate aides, I was amazed at how many phone calls from constituents came in encouraging them to vote for or against a particular piece of legislation. They DO pay attention to people taking time to make a phone call. So one thing you can do is pick up the phone and call your Representative or Senator, at their local office or in Washington, D.C. And a key here is to give it a week or two and make a FOLLOW-UP call. This helps to emphasize that you feel an issue is important!

Another action you can take is to send an email. I am sure we ALL get those "Action Alerts" from different organizations making a push to get legislation pushed or blocked. It is great when you go through these, but even better is to add a PERSONAL touch to the pre-written response. There IS someone in the office reading these, making notes, and reporting on it. Do it at the very beginning to add impact and get them to realize you took time out of your busy schedule because you care about the issue. Your time is just as valuable as theirs, and this personal touch does make them take notice. Again, it is key to take the time to send a short, to-the-point follow-up email a couple of weeks later.

A third thing is to get your friends talking! I know there is an age old phrase..."Never talk about religion or politics." But how can we learn from one another and come to a compromise if we don't have discussions about topics that make us uncomfortable? An issue doesn't have to be force fed down another's throat but can be tactfully broached. Entering into conversations about an issue opens the door to point out important legislation and help educate others are things they might not be well versed in. Education is a key. Talk about what you are passionate about!

Keep in mind, these views about raising your voice above are from my own personal experience and NOT a view necessarily of my organization. However, National Audubon Society and Florida Audubon DO endorse the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act HR help us out and raise your voice! Pick up the phone, write an proactive!!!

Give mothers like the bobcat pictured below and her kittens (off the side of the road unseen in the photos) a fighting chance!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bald Eagle Success in Florida!!!

How cool is this! Florida has surpassed Minnesota as the state in the lower 48 with the most active bald eagle nests.

Cut and paste the link below to read more!