It’s Sprummer!

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Orphaned baby opossum on his way to the wildlife sanctuary.
Photo by Tara Powers


 

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Male painted bunting visiting the feeder.
Photo by Tara Powers


 

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Cattleya orchids in full bloom.
Photo by Tara Powers

It’s Sprummer!—the season in Florida that follows our two brief months of winter.   If you live here, you understand.

I’ve heard folks from other states opine that Florida does not have seasons.  As a native Floridian I can attest that we actually do.   They are just more subtle than those up north.   We joke that we only have two REAL seasons—Tourist and Hurricane–but observant individuals will notice the changes we experience.

True summer sets in during May.   It gets hot—really hot.   And if a west wind blows across the Everglades, it gets even hotter.   Early in May twenty years ago, I chaperoned a field trip of kindergarteners to Miami’s Metro Zoo.   It was 98 degrees in the shade with a hot wind blowing from the glades.   I can’t remember the animals we saw, but I can recall every water fountain we stopped at.   May can be fickle—nice one day, brutal the next.   But some of our most beautiful trees—like the flame red Royal Poinciana and purple Queen’s Crape-Myrtle—burst into dazzling bloom at this time.   By June the daily afternoon thunderstorms build up, and this pattern lasts through September.   To make things more interesting, this also coincides with the height of hurricane season.

Autumn heralds its arrival with a change in the light.   The sunlight shifts and softens in the house.   Usually by the third week in October we finally get some relief with a mild cool front.   Migrating birds pass through, and our family of painted buntings settles in for the next six months.   It often warms up again for Thanksgiving, just in time to wilt the holiday trees that have sprouted under roadside tents.   By Christmas I am praying for a blast of arctic air, but more often than not I’ll have the air conditioning chugging away as we open gifts and listen to carols.

Finally January brings some beautiful crisp cold air, and my Irish blood is happy.   Some trees, realizing they missed autumn, now change color and drop their leaves.   I enjoy two months of cool weather while listening to tourists complain that they came down here for warmth.   I smile and invite them to return in August.   The backyard is full of wildlife enjoying the bird feeder.   The birdbath is even busier as winter can be dry and parched.   And the golf courses are dotted with the flamingo pink and lime green plumage of the annual snowbirds.

But in March Sprummer sets in. It’s too warm to call it spring.   The patio orchids explode into bloom, and flowering trees decorate the landscape.   Brightly colored butterflies and bees flitter and buzz among the blossoming bougainvillea and petrea vine.   Winter birds journey back north while native ones court, nest, and raise their young.   Yellow crested flycatchers return to the nest box, and catbirds splash in the birdbath with delight.   Bunnies scamper through the yard, a muddy mess from the raccoons digging for grubs and worms.   Meanwhile the house periodically shakes from the squirrels rampaging across the patio screen.   Alligator mating season commences, and they occasionally wander around the neighborhood looking for love.   And baby opossums, turtles, snakes, and lizards appear, delighting (or terrifying) residents working outside.

So enjoy our Florida Sprummer.   It’s warm enough to enjoy the pool and beach, but the humidity is still somewhat tolerable.   That won’t last.   The sunlight will strengthen and shift again as we prepare for the long hot months ahead.   I dread the thought of a hurricane, a constant concern once June arrives.   But on the plus side, traffic is a lot lighter.   And for those tourists seeking warmth—you’ll really enjoy August!

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Momma Gator and baby.
Photo by Tara Powers


 

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Petrea Vine in full bloom.
Photo by Tara Powers


 

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Gulf Fritillary Butterfly emerging from chrysalis.
Photo by Tara Powers


 

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Orphaned adorable baby opossum on his way to the wildlife sanctuary.
Photo by Tara Powers

Manatee Madness

Manatee at Conch Key Note Scars and Tail Notch

Manatee at Conch Key, FL.
Note Scars and Tail Notch

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Manatee cruising by the dock.
Conch Key, FL

 

Well, they are at it again.  Another attempt is being made to take the manatee off the Endangered Species’ List.  Apparently all those darn regulations have actually been working, and the number of manatees has increased.  So if something is working, then we must change it.

As ridiculous as that sounds, that is exactly what some residents wish to do.  Never mind that according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission we had a record 830 manatee deaths last year.  Previous estimates of manatee numbers was around 4800, so if 830 died, they lost about 17 percent of their population.

There are plenty of reasons that some people want to throw the manatee under the bus…er, boat.  The chief complaint is that boaters don’t want speed restrictions to ruin their fun on the water.  No wake zones feel tedious and boring.   What’s the point of having a powerboat or personal watercraft if you can’t run full throttle wherever you feel like it?

I enjoy motor boating.  I was born south of Miami, and I’ve been boating since I was a toddler.  So I understand the thrill and desire for speed when cruising our waterways.  But I have more sympathy for the manatees.  I’ve spent many hours in a canoe and seen first hand these docile creatures who want nothing more than a safe warm harbor and some tasty grass to chew on.  Most of the manatees I’ve come across bear the scars of multiple propeller injuries.  They just can’t get out of the way of a speeding boat fast enough.

Manatees continue to face many threats.  While we can’t do anything about cold weather, a leading cause of death to them, we can lessen the dangers created by humans.  Boat collisions and propeller trauma are drastically reduced in the no wake zones—the residential areas of the manatee world.  There is a reason we don’t speed in neighborhoods.   Children, pets, and others are in close proximity to the road, so we slow down to avoid injury.  We should give the same courtesy to a mammal who has inhabited Florida’s waterways since long before humans dramatically altered the landscape with development.

So let’s hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carefully considers this latest attempt to change the manatees’ status.  Without protections the manatees never would have made their meager strides so far.  They still face an uncertain future.  Removing them from the Endangered Species’ List would be profoundly wrong at this time.

 

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Manatee surfacing for air.
Conch Key, FL.

 

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Snorting Manatee at Conch Key, FL.