The Everglades is the Ultimate Protector

evergladesWhy is the Everglades such an important asset to the world? Why should we spend so much money restoring it? Well, there’s many reasons, but for this article, we wanted to focus on one. The Everglades is a wetland, which means it’s a natural defense or buffer against disasters. Wetlands can be used to minimize damage from disasters such as flooding, tropical cyclones, hurricanes, and tsunamis, and droughts.

Back in 2012, it was estimated that wetlands helped avoid an additional $625 million in damages because they acted like a sponge to reduce flooding. Wetland truly can make a difference in the amount of damage from a natural disaster. In the city of Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka damage from the 2004 tsunami reached out 50 meters inland; this city was near offshore coral reefs. In a nearby city of Peraliya, the damage reached inland by 1.5 kilometers, because the coral reefs around this area were damaged due to coral mining.

Throughout the year, if there is a dry season, wetlands release stored water, which reducing the chances of a drought or water shortage. They also can make a difference after a disaster occurs. Wetlands can help restore proper water and nutrients to the environment after a storm hits. In 1999, a cyclone hit a town in eastern India; it was found that rice paddies protected by mangroves recovered and produced far more quickly than those that were not protected.

By protecting, restoring and saving the Everglades, we are not only protecting the wildlife and plant life that live within it, but we are also protecting nearby farms and communities from taking the brunt of any natural disaster or hazard. The healthier the Everglades is, the better surrounding communities can bounce back from a disaster.

Want to explore this mystical wetland for yourself? You can on an airboat tour. Fly through the grass and swamps while getting to see some beautiful views and animal life. To book a tour, call Captain Mitch’s Airtboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click here.

 

Earth Day is Important for the Everglades

Each year, Earth day is celebrated on April 22. Back in 1970, 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day celebration. Fast forward 47 years, and we now have the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Florida is home to the Everglades, many species of animals, fish and birds, and thousands of plant life, so Earth Day and these environmental laws have special meaning to this state.

Two years ago, President Obama visited the Everglades on Earth Day to speak on climate change. South Florida, including the Everglades, is extremely vulnerable to climate change. South Florida has a high population, and a low, flat landscape; it’s beaches are eroding and flooding occurs often during high tides. As the sea level continues to rise, this not only compromises the land, but the drinking water available to South Florida’s residents, as well. With higher sea levels, the drinker water will become saltier for millions of people.  This is because the Everglades refills and protects the basin Biscayne Aquifer that supplies drinking water to one-third of Florida. Obama expressed during his Earth Day speech that we cannot deny the effects of climate change, and its biggest impacts will be happening in South Florida.

Every year, the Everglades does something for such an important day for the wetland. Check out https://twitter.com/EvergladesNPS for news and updates on events and happenings occurring.

Also each year, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center hosts an Earth Day celebration with activities and events for all ages. More than 1,200 people attend this celebration. Some activites include: animal programs, boat tours, food, music, educational programs and lectures. For a full list of this year’s activities, click here.

Through environmental awareness, the Everglades has been slowly going through restorations. The damage currently done can show us all how important it is to fix what we’ve done to hurt the environment before it’s too late.

Explore one of the Earth’s greatest treasures on an airboat tour. Captain Mitch’s Airboat tours brings visitors across thousands of acres of private swampland. Captain Mitch and his familh have been in the airboat tour business for more than 60 years. On a tour, visitors will get a chance to see alligators, birds, fish, snakes,  and more. Book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch today. Click here or call 800-368-0065 to schedule a trip. Visit here for a $3 off per person coupon.

Everglades Bird Spotlight: Laughing Gull

laughing gullDo you know what the most common gull in the Everglades is? The laughing gull! These gulls are medium in size with long wings and legs. They are a coastal warm-weather species, which is why they can be found hanging around the Everglades year round. Below, we wanted to share some fun facts about this bird.

  • They can even be found inland around plowed fields, rivers, garbage dumps, and parking lots.
  • As their name reveals, this species of gull is very vocal; their call is loud with a series of “laughing” notes that last at least three seconds long. When threatened, laughing gulls make a short alarm call, but this can get more intense and last a long time if they are defending a nest.
  • When in the Everglades, on the shoreline or a beach, you can identify this gull by its black hood and red bills. Their back and wings are also a bit darker than other similar-sized gulls. They stand in groups.
  • Laughing gulls eat a variety of different species including crustaceans, worms, insects, snails, crabs, fish, squid, berries, offal, and human food found on the beaches.
  • When mating, both the male and female laughing gull build the nest. Often, the male will start to build the nest in hope of attracting a female.
  • Their nests can be found on sand, rocks, or hidden in plants or dead plants.
  • They remove the egg shells from the nest after each bird hatches; the shells can potentially get lodged on top of another egg and cause the bird not to hatch.
  • In the late 19th century, this bird was overhunted for its eggs and plumes (hate trade). But since 1966, the population has increased.

Want to see and hear these birds? Take a trip on an airboat ride that can bring you all around where these birds live. Call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours today to have an experience of a lifetime. Click here or call 800-368-0065 to schedule your tour through an American gem.

Everglades Fish Spotlight: Gulf Toadfish

gulf toadfishThere are around 300 different species of fish swimming in the waters of the Everglades National Park. Some of them look straight out of pre-historic times, like the Gulf toadfish. These fish make their presence know. They’re one of the few fish out there that can make sounds that humans can actually hear. Read the list below for some more interesting facts on this fish:

  • The fish gets its name because the sounds it makes are toad-like grunts; they make these noises to attract a mate.
  • These fish are in abundant quantities in the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades because it is not considered a game fish and known to be poor quality when it comes to eating. It’s slimy outside can be toxic, so people avoid eating it.
  • They are brown fish and they spend a lot of their time hiding in sand and seaweed. They prefer shallow waters.
  • They are known to be a sluggish fish. They can live as deep as 820 feet in the water.
  • It darts out from seaweeds to go after prey.
  • They Can stay alive out of water for a decent amount of time.
  • They lack scales.
  • They can grow up to 12.8 inches in length and weigh up to one to three pounds.
  • They are a bottom feeder feeding on crustaceans, annelids, mollusks, and gobies.
  • Their slimy coating on their body can cause physical irritation to humans.
  • It is also known as a dogfish, mudfish, and oysterdog.

Take a ride through the Everglades yourself to see the vast wetland that is home to so many different species. An airboat ride gives visitors an up-close look at the Everglades; visitors have the chance to spot many different animals, replies, fish, and amphibians. Book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours today by calling 800-368-0065 or clicking here.

Photo courtesy: Rob Myers, www.flmnh.ufl.edu

Everglades Invasive Species: Brazilian Pepper Plant

Brazilian pepperAround 26 percent of the animals and birds in South Florida are exotic; this area also happens to have one of the highest numbers of exotic plants in the world. Because of this, the Everglades has suffered in many ways, including losing many native plant and animal species. Currently, the cost to control invasive species is $500 million a year, but there is still 1.7 million acres of land in South Florida, including the Everglades, that is still infested with these invasive species. One such invasive species is the Brazilian Pepper plant.

The Brazilian Pepper plant is a bushy, evergreen tree; it can have multiple trunks and branches. The plant ranges from 15 feet to 30 feet in height. It produces tiny white flowers and red berries. The berries are similar to holly berries, so the plant is also referred to as the Florida holly.

This plant came over to this country from Brazil/Argentina/Paraguay in the 1840s to be used for ornamental purposes. However, over the years, it has spread and invaded pinelands, hammocks, mangrove forests, farmlands, and roadsides. How is this plant spreading? Animals and birds, like racoons and robins, are known to eat and move the berries long distances, which is helping the plant spread.

It is an aggressive plant. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most invasive plants that is in Florida covering around 700,000 acres of land. There are large, dense forests of this plant adjacent to mangroves along the southwest part of the Everglades and the coastal areas of both South Florida and the west central part of the state.

The plant is fire resistant and salt tolerant. Not only does this plant produce chemicals that suppress the growth of native plants, but this plant is harmful to humans. The chemicals found in the Brazilian Pepper plant’s leaves, flowers, and fruits can cause irritation of the skin and respiratory system. The berries also have been known to have a toxic effect or act as a narcotic to the native birds and other wildlife.  This

Because it is an invasive, aggressive plant, it is illegal to plant or sell this plant in Florida.

Visit the Everglades

The Everglades is a breath-taking sight, but unfortunately a lot of the plant and animal life are disappearing from human interference, climate change, and invasive species, like the Brazilian Pepper plant. Fortunately, there are conservations plans put in place now working at fixing the damage done to this beautiful wetland. Come check out this amazing place on an airboat tour with Captain Mitch. To schedule a tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

Learn About Royal Palm State Park

Royal Palm State ParkThe Everglades is vast, and it has so many different areas for people to explore. One such area is Royal Palm State Park. This Park was established in 1916, but it was surveyed back in 1847 by Jack Jackson. Scientists studied the area and it became known for its botanical diversity and hammock.

In 1916, the state of Florida said 960 acres would be set aside as a state park so it could be safe from  development. At the time, Henry Flagler owned much land in the area and the Florida Federation of Women’s Club was afraid he would build on this land. This group’s campaign to save this land is what made the state grant the land to them as a park. Five years later, the state donated 2,080 more acres to the park. Now, Royal Palm State Park is 4,000 acres in size.

In this park, visitors can find lots of trails, Research Road, the Nike Missile Site HM-69, bird watching, camping, biking, programs, boating, slogging, horseback riding, tours, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and the Pine Rocklands. There is also an information station and bookstore that is worth visiting; there are vending machines and restrooms. The information station/visitor center offers ranger-led walks and talks in the area. The center is a little over a mile from the Homestead Park entrance.  The Park stretches from the Homestead entrance to the Flamingo Entrance.

Visit the Park

If you’re looking for a great place to explore, Royal Palm State Park is a great place. The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (December to April) and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (May to November).  If you want a more expansive way to view the Everglades, you can jump on an airboat and take a tour. Click here or call 800-368-0065 to book a tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours today.

Photo courtesy: National Park Service

Joe Bay and Snag Bay Reopen

joe bayIn case you missed it, Everglades National Park opened both Joe Bay and Snag Bay back up to the public on November 24, 2016. This is the first time in more than 30 years these bays have been opened to the public. Joe Bay, which is adjacent to Snag Bay in the park, is now the area’s first “catch-and-release” fishing area.

In the 2015 General Management Plan, it was decided to re-open the bays. The bays are reopened with proper protection; it will also provide a new experience for visitors.

The bays were closed to help restore the declining American Crocodile population, which was near extinction. Since the number of crocodiles has risen, the Park decided it was time to reopen the bay.

These bays can be access from Trout Cove and Trout Creek. To enter the bay area, people must use a paddle or push pole. If people want to enter the area by boat, they need to remove combustion engines and/or trolling motors from the transom and/or bow before going into Joe and Snag Bay. The bays are now no-motor zones. In all areas, people are asked to follow rules to protect the shallow water areas. People can explore the bay in kayaks and canoes.

Joe Bay and Snag Bay were part of the Crocodile Sanctuary until it closed in 1980 to the public to protect the crocodiles, along with other endangered species. There are still other areas of the sanctuary that are closed to the public.

Explore the Everglades

The Everglades are full of bays and creeks for people to explore, as long as they follow Park rules and respect the wildlife and plant life in the area. The reopening of these bays show a victory in conservation efforts in the Everglades. If you’re looking to explore the Everglades in another way, try an airboat tour. To book a tour, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click here.

 

Everglades Invasive Species: Australian Pine

Australian PineThere are around 18,000 plants native to North America. These plants provide food, fiber, and habitats that people and wildlife depend on. Unfortunately, many invasive (non-native species) plants have become a threat to the native plants and are the second greatest threat (next to humans) to them. Many of these invasive plants have found their way into the Everglades. The Park staff work throughout the year to remove these plants whenever they can in order to protect the natural habitat. One of these invasive species is the Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia).They have invaded thousands of acres in southern Florida.

The Australian Pine, as you may have guessed, is native to Australia, but also to Malaysia and southern parts of Asia. This plant came to Florida in the late 1800s and was used for ditch and canal stabilization, along with for its shade and lumber.

This tree is tall and can grow up to 100 feet or more. Its needles have a soft appearance and it produced small, oval cones. This tree grows fast and can provide thick shade to an area. Its leaves and fruit completely cover the ground under it. The checmicals from the leaves and keep other plants from growing in that area. Because its roots can produce nitrogen, it can grow well even in soil that is poor. However once it is growing, it can change the light, temperature, and soil of the beach habitats because it displaces native species and destroys the natural habitat for wildlife and insects. Because of these shallow roots, they tend to topple over during storms and high winds, which can cause hazards. Since it does not have thick of shallow roots, it helps contribute to beach and dune erosion, which negatively affects the ways sea turtles and alligators nest.  By displacing deep-rooted native plants, beaches are more prone to erosion.  They also provide little to no habitat for the wildlife in the area.

As of right now, manual removal of seedlings and saplings is recommended. If there is a heavier infestation of the Australian pine, a systemic type of herbicide is applied to bark, stumps, or foliage. Planned fires also are used when able. They are resistant to salt spray.

Visit the Everglades

If you’d like to help with the removal of invasive species, contact the Everglades National Park service and see what you can do to help. Many times, if you spot a plant in the Everglades that you think is invasive, you can notify a park ranger and they will look into it. While you’re visiting the Everglades, explore the area even more on an airboat tour. Call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click here to book a tour today.

Update on Everglades Funding

evergladesIn December, President Obama signed a bill that authorized $2 billion to go towards restoration efforts in the Everglades. This bill was called The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016. This act provides half the funding needed for the Central Everglades Planning Project, and the other half of the funding will come from Florida.

According to the Everglades foundation, the Central Everglades Planning Project will remove levees, so a more natural flow of the water will flow across the plain. As of now, and for decades, the water is diverted east and west. With this project, the water will no longer be restricted from flowing south from Lake Okeechobee, which is the natural flow. For many years, people have been complaining about the negative impact of this water restriction and were looking for a permanent fix to redirect the water to its natural flow.

This issue is important to many Floridians because they want to ensure their water is clean; the water people used to drink, shower, water their lawn, and so on, comes from the Everglades.

This bill was pushed by Congresswoman Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Congressman Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, and Congressman Patrick Murphy of Stuart. Congressman Deutch hopes there will be a future commitment on the federal level for funding.

With this project, the state is also looking for solutions on where to put the water. It has been proposed that the state could by 60,000 acres of land in western Palm Beach County, which is currently owned by sugar producers. This land would be used as a reservoir to store water from the Lake, so it will no longer run east and west. This will be further discussed by state lawmakers in March of this year (2017).

Visit the Everglades

The Everglades is one of the world’s gems, and thankfully more efforts are being taken to restore it before it disappears. If you want to take a trip through this beautiful wetland, jump on an airboat tour with Captain Mitch. Captain Mitch’s airboat tours will give you an up-close-and-personal look into this mystical place. To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Cacti and Succulents of the Everglades

cacti Did you know cacti and succulents grow in the Everglades? Surprising, right? These plants don’t just grow in deserts. In fact, many grow in tropical and subtropical climates. The species, native to the Everglades, thrive off the frequent rainfall and the sunny dates. They require a balance of wet and dry conditions.

In the Everglades, the Simpson’s applecactus (Harrisia simpsonii) is listed as endangered by Florida. This cacti has white, large, night-blooming flowers that are quite fragrant, and it produces a prickly fruit. It is known as “Queen of the Night” because the flowers open only during the night. Bats, moths, and other insects pollinate the flowers. Along with the Simpson’s applecactus, the mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera) is also endangered and hasn’t been seen in the park in 12 years after the last plant was destroyed by a hurricane.

Many species of the prickly-pear cactus exist in the Everglades; these cacti is known by its fleshy green pads, large yellow/orange/red cup-shaped flowers and reddish-purple pear-shaped fruits. The fruits it produces are called tunas. Each flower only blooms for one day.

Lastly, the columnar dildo (triangle cactus) is in the Everglades and can grow up to 23 feet; it has large, white flowers that open from midnight to dawn. This plant produces shiny, red fruit.

As far as succulents go, the agave decipiens grows on shells mounts in the Everglades that were created years ago by Native Americans; they are bright green and have spiny leaves. Tequila, mescal, and other drinks come from the Agave. The wormvine vanilla (Vanilla barbellata) is an endangered succulent with a thick stem that stores water; they product beautiful flowers. Shoreline seapurslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum) grows on coastal prairies and beach dunes in the Everglades. It has thick leaves and a reddish/green stem with pink flowers that only open a few hours a day. It is a ground-covering species that stabilizing sand dunes, which helps prevent beach erosion.

Check Out These Everglades Plants in Real Life

Looking to catch a glimpse of some of these beautiful cacti and succulents? Well, then it’s time to take a trip to the Everglades. While you’re there, try out an airboat tour. You won’t be disappointed. To schedule an airboat tour, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click here.