Monday, February 23, 2009

Backyard Bird Count - Green Cay Oasis

Invariably during each Everglades tour I remind people that "this area used to be wetland". From Fort Myers to Naples to Miami to West Palm Beach, nearly half of the Everglades has been "reclaimed".

While the niece and nephew were in town, my sister Tiffany and I took them to an area of Boynton Beach called Green Cay Wetland which seems to be the last remaining oasis in Palm Beach County that hasn't been developed (although it is a "constructed wetland"). It also happened to be during the Great Backyard Birdcount - so here's my unofficial tally.
Green-backed Heron

Pied-billed Grebe

Glossy Ibis

American Coot (look at those crazy toes!)


Mottled Duck

Common Moorhen

Little Blue Heron

Blue-winged Teal

Purple Gallinule

And an Alligator in the Duckweed

Monday, February 9, 2009

Swim with Caution

I would never think of swimming with alligators. Which isn't to say that I haven't been in the water with them. I've been in canoes and have had them swim under me. I've waded in thigh high water with them nearby. But I won't swim with them. When I was 3 years old, a 16-year old girl was attacked and drowned while swimming in this pond at Oscar Sherer State Park in Osprey, Florida. That was 35 years ago. Since that time there have been 20 other fatalities from alligator attacks in the United States.

During school outings and community events over the next few years, that fatality would haunt me. Alligators were few and far between in the 70's. They were endangered and numbered around 10,000 in the state compared to their historic numbers which have been estimated to be 4 million in Florida alone. But it hadn't occurred to me that this was a rare incident - an unfortunate accident. In my head, alligators were bad and this was a bad park.

When you consider that 40,000 people are murdered annually in the United States, it puts into perspective the causalities from alligators, let alone any wild animal. That's not to say that we should ignore the threat, but respect the animal and its natural behaviors. Typically people are too big for an alligator to consider as a meal, but on rare occasions they bite off more than they can literally chew. In fact alligators can't even chew. They chomp. But I digress. Today there are more people in Florida than ever and alligator populations are estimated at around 2 million. That means more alligator and human interactions.

At least 13 of the 21 fatalities from alligator attacks happened while swimming. When you swim you tend to splash and thrash. An alligator may perceive it to be an wounded animal - an easy meal. I don't swim with caution around alligators. I just don't swim around alligators at all.