Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Glades

On our annual visits to Florida we spend much of the time in the vicinity of Tampa Bay where my parents stay for the winter. Occasionally we travel further afield. This year we explored the Everglades of southern Florida.

My arrival to Everglades National Park was highly anticipated

The term "Everglades" is somewhat confusing, because it is used differently by different sources. For example, the Everglades is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Everglades National Park. The park, however, only comprises the extreme southern portion of the much larger Everglades drainage basin. Another source of confusion may arise because the boundaries of the Everglades as a natural feature are imprecise. Unlike, say, the Grand Canyon that has an easily recognizable rim to mark its boundary, the Everglades is demarcated by hydrological conditions that are not as simple to observe and that are constantly changing. Further confusion may arise from the fact that significant portions of southeastern Florida that were once a part of the Everglades are now either heavily urbanized (in particular the area of the Atlantic coast from West Palm Beach south to Miami) or have been intensely modified for agricultural production.

Purple Gallinule

One final source of confusion is that the Everglades is often associated exclusively with one particular plant community: sawgrass marsh. Although sawgrass marsh is the habitat most characteristic of the region, and there are indeed vast areas of this particular community, Everglades is actually a complex and interdependent system that includes cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, estuarine mangrove forests, and the marine environment of Florida Bay.

Crested Caracara

Approximately speaking, the Everglades is the area of southern Florida that includes the Kissimmee River watershed south to Lake Okeechobee, and the area south of the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Canal.

Snail Kite

Birdlife in the Everglades is weighted towards species with a lifestyle that is in some way aquatic (e.g. ducks, rails, herons, ibises), but there is a considerable abundance of passerine birds as well (e.g. tyrant flycatchers, swallows). Also well represented are birds of prey (e.g. vultures, osprey, hawks, kites and falcons) and pigeons & doves.

White-winged Dove

Also present in the Everglades is a growing list of introduced exotic reptiles, the most destructive of which are probably the Burmese Python and the Argentine Black-and-white Tegu.

What, Me Worry?