Wetlands are one of the major features of Florida’s landscape.
Before the draglines and the steam shovels that preceded them turned lush landscapes into drained wastelands, wetlands were an even more prominent landscape feature in this state.
Some restoration has occurred since then.
The Kissimmee River marshes are returning. So are parts of the historic Everglades marshes farther south.
The Banana Creek Marsh at Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland was once pumped dry for cattle grazing. It’s now wet again.
Lake Gwyn Park in Wahneta was created after a drainage ditch was filled in and natural water regimes were allowed to return. Lush wetlands followed.
There are smaller examples of less extensive wetlands within subdivisions or at the edges of local parks.
Some are managed for the vegetation and wildlife populations they harbor, providing important microhabitats.
Others are overmanaged, perpetuating the unnatural idea that landscapes should be neat and tidy with no room for wildness. Habitat is not the vocabulary of those sites’ managers.
That approach summons the memory of the Scythians, an ancient tribe that laid waste to everything in its path to deprive pursuing armies of any resources to sustain them.
Habitat needs to be sustainable if it is to have any real value.
This was brought to mind when word reached me that May is American Wetlands Month, an observance created in 1991 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to celebrate the importance of wetlands by educating the public about their features and how to enjoy them.
I’ve been enjoying some local wetlands lately.
Most recently I visited some neighborhood wetlands.
I saw wading birds, marsh birds, marsh rabbits, dragonflies and wildflowers. I saw several species of sedges, the cousins of our grasses. A Brown Pelican, some Wood Ducks and a pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks passed overhead.
Before that I hiked on a berm through a larger regional wetlands.
The wildlife species was even more diverse. I saw more than 25 species of birds during just a short visit.
Black fuzzy Common Gallinule chicks trailed their parents at the water’s edge.
A pair of Sandhill Cranes foraged with their nearly full-grown offspring.
Migratory species are still around.
A startled Sora, a species of rail, suddenly leaped out of the tall grass and settled in just as quickly.
A flock of Bobolinks was still fueling up amid a stand of Barnyard Grass.
An Osprey circled overhead before diving for a fish.
The more time you spend watching wetlands, the more its floral and faunal diversity will become evident.
It should make anyone an advocate for protecting them.