Please, your help needed in counting critters in our area
Birders and biologists are looking for our help in
identification of critters in and around the water
of Anna Maria Island. Let's give 'em a
the Florida Audubon Society, there have been tremendous
fluctuations in the population of Roseate spoonbills
in the past century. The big pink wading birds, with
the spoon-shaped beak used to snorkel food, were at
one point prized for their plumes back in the 1800s.
Their numbers plummeted as the plume market rose. Then
came people and the development of the species' habitat,
namely wetlands, and the numbers dropped even more.
But even as the
population of spoonbills lowered in Florida Bay and
near the Florida Keys, the Tampa Bay spoonbill crowd
began to grow. "Whether these birds are moving
from Florida Bay to Tampa Bay is unknown," according
to Audubon experts.
What is known
is that the birding folks want our help in identifying
birds, many of which have been banded to help in figuring
out where they've been and what they're
an aluminum band on the lower leg just above the foot
on some birds, and a colored band just above some of
the birds' "knees." Audubon and other
would like to know what you can see about the bands,
what colors they are, which leg of the bird they're
on, even markings if you can get close enough without
disturbing the bird.
Let them know
by either calling the Coastal Islands Sanctuaries folks
at (813) 623-6826, or you can log your report onto
a Web site at audubonflorida.com.
There used to
be lots of spoonbills in and around Perico Island,
both north and south of the road, in years past. Development
has somewhat hampered their traditional wetland haunts,
but I've still spotted a few in the area every
once in a while.
Springtime thoughts of horseshoe crab love
are spawning this spring, and scientists are looking
for our help in counts and locations.
tides are a good time to watch for the dinnerplate-sized
critters, which are coming up April 13. Anyone who
spots a spawning location or lots of crabs should contact
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg,
research.myfwc.com/horseshoe_crab, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call toll-free to 1-866-252-9326.
also want to know how many horseshoe crabs observers
count and whether the horseshoe crabs are spawning," according
to the FWC. "Researchers said horseshoe crab
harvests are too high in some states. To manage the
species more effectively, the Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission requires all Atlantic coastal
states to identify horseshoe crab spawning beaches."
crabs, more closely related to spiders than mollusks,
are a useful creature for scientists."
on the compound eyes of horseshoe crabs led to better
understanding of the human visual system, and horseshoe
crab blood is useful in the biomedical industry," according
to the FWC. "A special substance in their blood
is a component in testing for bacterial contamination
in human blood and commercial drugs. In addition, manufacturers
use the material that makes up the horseshoe crab's
shell (chitin) to make contact lenses, skin creams
and hair sprays."
There have been
some problems of overfishing of horseshoe crabs in
the Northeastern Atlantic states in the past few years,
and the accurate census numbers are needed to come
up with a population base and location analysis.
crabs are generally larger, and will attract one or
more male crabs in a kind of train as they crawl along
in the water. Most of the crabs seem to work their
way into the shallows - I've mostly seen them
in the bays - and they then burrow partly into
the sand, where the eggs are laid and fertilized.
Keep your eyes
peeled in the next few weeks and give the scientists
the benefit of your local knowledge. One spot I've
noted the crab orgy is Prices Key at the mouth of Palma
Sola Bay, and off Gilligan's Island near north
Perico Island, but I'm sure there are many, many
more crab bordellos out there.
Good luck in
Wetland expansion, or demise?
just gotta shake your head about the thought processes
of our governmental leaders.
a vital piece of the environmental chain that provide
home, food and shelter to countless species of critters.
What were once thought of as worthless swamps are now
recognized as being invaluable areas worthy of protection.
Of course, in
Florida and elsewhere, those swamps are also prime
real estate for waterfront homes, and the desire to
dredge, fill and build is such that developers have
nasty dreams about changing the ecosystem to fit their
will - and the will of filling their wallets.
a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there
were 520,000 acres of wetlands in the country destroyed
for development from 1998 to 2004, as reported in the
St. Petersburg Times.
But get this:
The feds are saying that there was actually a net increase
of 715,000 acres of wetlands, because the sampling
method used included retention ponds, lakes on golf
courses and other manmade water bodies.
see if this is right. You take an ancient mangrove
forest that has trees that date back a hundred years
or so, bulldoze it, put up a bunch of condos, plunk
in a mandatory retention pond with a few exotic cattails
in the middle of the project, and then lean back and
say you've done good?
At least the
Fish and Wildlife folks are clinging on the end of
a dying limb, so to speak, in their argument, based
on the "no net loss" program findings' opposition
from other federal and state agencies, as well as environmental
The idea of mitigating
wetlands is generally agreed to be a poor solution
to protecting the environment. The issue isn't
so much quantity as quality, and a pristine wetland
is going to do much, much more for the environment
than some drainage canal or a pond in the middle of
a grassy golf course, regardless of how many acres
may be involved.
But the development
community apparently has embraced the new numbers,
and is crowing about how much they're giving
back to the environment through good stewardship via
mitigation, or some such drivel.
Many years ago,
a buddy bought a new condo in an inland development.
It was his first home. He was proud of it. He was especially
proud of the waterfront vista he had, for which he
paid only a few thousand dollars more.
It was a nice
place, and the retention pond outside his window was
OK, but he was less than pleased when I pointed out
that it was indeed a development-mandated retention
pond outside his living room and not a small natural
I suppose I should
have shut up and let him live his fantasy, kinda like
what some of the feds appear to be doing with their
wetland shell games.
Bay Estuary Program did a study years ago on the nutrient
loading of water bodies adjacent to waterfront golf
courses. The premise was that with all the fertilizer,
pesticides and other chemicals sprayed or dumped on
the courses, the surrounding water would be filled
with all sorts of nasty chemicals.
The results were
the opposite. As hard to believe as it may seem, there
were no signs of excess runoff chemicals found in the
receiving waters near golf courses, at least no more
than what are found in any other waterfront development
other than natural wetlands.
at golf courses are apparently so well trained in using
the exact amounts of chemicals to keep the grass just
right that there isn't any excess to flow into
the bays or Gulf of Mexico.
maintenance practices have minimal impact on groundwater
quality," the study concluded.