Friday, October 23, 2020

How Does Mother Nature End the Year?

STEPPING STONES


Clinton, a female alligator, has not produced hatchlings this season. High water levels from rains and hurricanes may have interrupted incubation of eggs in the nest. Photos by Bob McConville

Clinton, a female alligator, has not produced hatchlings this season. High water levels from rains and hurricanes may have interrupted incubation of eggs in the nest. Photos by Bob McConville

Out with the old, in with the new…let’s make resolutions… always look forward, never look back. These sayings and others are commonly heard this time of year. We will all reflect on the past 12 months and try to be our best for 2018. It is an annual tradition.

Have you ever sat back and thought if Mother Nature reflects on the last four seasons? Will she be making some resolutions along with us?

A tri-colored heron reflects on its image while searching for food in a Big Cypress canal.

A tri-colored heron reflects on its image while searching for food in a Big Cypress canal.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen. There is no January 1st in her calendar, or Christmas or Memorial Day. She just plugs along, one second at a time, adjusting to the seasons, currents and winds.

Events like fires and hurricanes are just part of her annual routine.

Whatever she has in store, the plants and animals will adjust. Most will adapt to change, but a few will not and life will go on. Events like fires are necessary and natural. They burn out the underbrush and provide new shoots upon which animals feed. Natural phenomenon such as hurricanes, I have not figured out why they are needed. The same could be said for monsoons, typhoons and tornadoes.

 

 

For the local humans, the anthem “Marco Strong” rang loud and clear when Hurricane Irma slammed into our coastline. The resilience of the human spirit was echoed as the country watched us come together and help one another. Last spring, as wildfires decimated a large portion of Collier County, again the compassion of one human towards another was undeniably paramount.

We humans are part of the animal kingdom. Sometimes we forget that, but we have evolved to act above our instincts and to provide assistance to our own kind when needed, even if it sometimes means sacrificing our own food and shelter to help others. So take that, Mother Nature, as we will remain unshaken as a species in spite of your ability to test our fortitude.

Other area life forms are not so fortunate. The record rainfall this past summer is still affecting the feeding habits of many wading birds.

As I walk through certain areas of the Everglades it is obvious that some habitats are still filled with water. Higher levels along the shorelines of lakes and ponds make it too deep for waders to feed. If they can’t get to their food source they must relocate or perish. I should say here that I saw two dozen wood storks the other day but they were along a canal on Pine Ridge Road, not in the ‘Glades where they belong.

One of my favorite gators, Clinton, has not produced any hatchlings as of this writing. The high waters may have flooded her nest and interrupted the egg incubation. Hopefully there is a chance that some hatchlings may still be seen but this lady has produced young by late October or early November for three years straight. I’ll keep you posted.

With the exception of just a few, the population of dolphins in the Marco River and along the intracoastal are all where they should be, doing what they are supposed to do. In addition, five new calves have been sighted in the river area.

So again I say, “Take that, Mother Nature!” You can throw your fires and storms at every species in this area and we will adjust. You can try to defeat us but we will survive. The resilience of life in general will persist and not go down without a fight.

So the answer is no, Mother Nature does not know a January 1st or a Christmas Day or Memorial Day. New Year’s Eve will just be another nightfall and the following morning another day on the geological clock that spans millions of years. But whatever she throws at any plant or animal species in 2018 you can bet that the challenge will be answered!

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone who has supported my efforts to shed some light regarding the habitats and the life that we find here. It touches me deeply when someone says thanks for a bit of information and I appreciate that more than you know.

It is humorous sometimes when someone says, “You’re the guy who writes that column and says he loves his wife very much at the end.”

I always smile and say “Yes, that’s me. Do you know what the column was about?” Many times the response is “I don’t recall. I just know that you love your wife very much!” As a member of the human species I will take note of this, evolve and adapt my priorities for 2018.

Happy New Year everyone! May your journey be filled with adventure!

Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours, providing walking tours of the western Everglades. He is also a naturalist on board the dolphin survey vessel Dolphin Explorer. His new pictorial book “Beneath The Emerald Waves” is available at several area locations as well as on his website steppingstoneneecotours.com. And yes… Bob loves his wife very much!!!

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