Diario del proyecto Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

07 de marzo de 2021

Okefenokee Birding: Double-crested Cormorant

Cormorant Okefenokee Swamp
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat observation: 30501781 Double-crested Cormorant perched above Billy’s Lake; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 11, 2015.

Found throughout the United States, the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is one of the common waterbirds found in the Okefenokee National Refuge throughout most of the year. These somewhat goofy acting birds can be seen milling about on bare cypress trees and snags over the open spaces of the swamp.

With feathers that are not water repellent, most of their body typically sinks below the water’s surface as they fish and dive. Afterwards, while roosting upon a limb, they spread their wings to dry them in the sun.

Because of their color, size and behavior, they are often confused with the Anhinga. But the cormorant’s bill is shorter and hooked at the end, unlike the long spear-like bill of the Anhinga. And while it is just my opinion, they seem less graceful than the sleek Anhinga.

Learn more about the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia by checking out the Okefenokee NWR project on iNaturalist or following www.okefenokee.photography

Ingresado el 07 de marzo de 2021 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

02 de marzo de 2021

Okefenokee NWR: For the Birds!

Immature Ibis Okefenokee Swamp
Juvenile White Ibis foraging in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 12, 2015. © Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 30501973

When the Okefenokee’s time for preservation had finally come, varying governmental departments and environmental groups had diverse visions for the swamp’s future use. Some wanted a National Park, like Yellowstone or Yosemite, “for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” Others wanted a National Wilderness Area where “human activities are restricted to scientific study and non-mechanized recreation.” Management philosphies rocked back-and-forth between an escape for the people, and a refuge for the wild.

But in the end, the Okefenokee was designated “for the birds”! Executive Order 7593 signed on March 30, 1937 declared the Okefenokee a National Wildlife Refuge to be “reserved and set apart… as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.

While there are several miles of beautiful waterways that are maintained for ecotourism, the vast majority of the 400,000+ acres is uncrossed by canoe trails, and untouched by recreation and hunting, leaving thousands upon thousands of acres solely for the birds and wildlife. Truly, the Okefenokee is for the birds!

-- Source: Constantino G and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. 2006. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge: Comprehensive Conservation Plan (https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/DownloadFile/1508)

Ingresado el 02 de marzo de 2021 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de febrero de 2021

The Beautiful Okefenokee Swamp… what is it?

The beautiful Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. What is it? It is colorful Golden Club flowers lining the canoe trail; it is Parulas and the sound of frogs providing a background chorus; it is towering cypress and waving curtains of Spanish Moss; it is dark alligators swimming in blackwater swamp; it is raccoons cautiously exploring for their next meal. It is beauty… it is mystery… it is majestic! That’s the beautiful Okefenokee Swamp.

Ingresado el 22 de febrero de 2021 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

08 de febrero de 2021

It’s Okefenokee’s turn to take the global stage

Elise Pautler Bennett Guest columnist
February 2, 2021

Anhinga Darter, Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 36774453

From its sweeping pine savannas to the intricate mosaic of wetlands patrolled by wood storks, alligators and snapping turtles, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a crown jewel of the southeastern United States. But its significance extends far beyond our own backyard.

With hundreds of species of birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, Okefenokee is globally exceptional as one of the largest substantially intact freshwater ecosystems remaining in the world. That’s why I’m urging the Biden administration to grant Okefenokee the acclaim it deserves by nominating it for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The list is reserved for cultural and natural sites that have “Outstanding Universal Value” to all people of the world across generations. Current natural World Heritage sites range from the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley to the rocky ridges of South China Karst and include many notable wetlands like the Pantanal Conservation Area in Brazil and Everglades National Park here in Florida.

Okefenokee Zale Moth Caterpillar
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 47382643 - Okefenokee Zale Moth caterpillar - Zale perculta

As home to a flourishing diversity of plants and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, Okefenokee deserves its place among these globally important sites. It is the largest blackwater swamp in North America. Unlike many wetlands, which receive water from rivers, Okefenokee is the source of two rivers — the St. Marys and the Suwannee.

The remarkable array of species supported by the refuge includes 48 mammals, 200 birds, 101 reptiles and amphibians, 33 fish and as many as 1,000 species of moths. Many of these species, like the red-cockaded woodpecker and alligator snapping turtle, are globally imperiled. Okefenokee also offers key unfragmented habitat for large mammals like the federally endangered Florida panther and the black bear.

Okefenokee is renowned for its impressive variety of reptiles and amphibians, many of which depend on multiple, distinct habitat types to survive. For example, globally imperiled striped newts live out much of their lives buried in the ground in pine forests until breeding season, when they search out temporary, fishless ponds for courtship. Gopher tortoises dig intricate burrows that they share with hundreds of other species.

Okefenokee Hooded Pitcher Plant and Bidens gold wildflowers on peat hammock
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 65080214 - Okefenokee Hooded Pitcher Plants on a peat blowup, Sarracenia minor var. okefenokeensis

The refuge also holds closely guarded secrets about our collective environmental history. Below Okefenokee’s waters, centuries of decomposed vegetation forms a thick bed of peat that contains information on global environmental changes over the past 5,000 years or more. Unstable masses of peat may push to the surface of the swamp or tremble, giving rise to Okefenokee’s name, a Choctaw word meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Indigenous people have lived in and around Okefenokee for thousands of years, marking the swamp’s deep historical and cultural significance.

It’s no wonder Okefenokee is a must-see tourist destination. It draws visitors from across the globe to stand in reverence under canopies of endangered longleaf pine forests or silently glide in canoes or kayaks through 400-year-old cypress stands rising from the tea-colored waters. The vast wilderness areas totaling more than 350,000 protected acres offer a sanctuary of solitude and deep connection with nature. Dark skies, unmarred by artificial light, are a stargazer’s delight.

It is all of these features — and more — that make Okefenokee a compelling candidate for inscription on the World Heritage List, which would bring no additional restrictions on the refuge or surrounding properties, only benefits. The international designation would attract tourists and scientists from across the globe, boosting local economies.

Joining the ranks of globally renowned cultural and natural sites is the highest honor Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge could receive. It would spotlight that the unique wild wonder of Okefenokee must be preserved, just as it is, for future generations to explore and enjoy.

Ingresado el 08 de febrero de 2021 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de enero de 2021

Not Safe Yet - How Biden climate policy might impact Georgia

While many environmental groups may have let out a sigh of relief after the presidential election outcome, the Okefenokee isn't totally safe yet...
Entering National Wilderness Area kayak Canoe trail direction sign Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia USA
© Photographer: William Wise

Excerpt from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
How Biden climate policy might impact Georgia
January 28, 2021

One of the most watched environmental issues in the state is the fate of a proposed titanium mine a few miles from the Okefenokee Swamp. In October, state officials determined that the wetlands in the proposal are not subject to federal approvals based on new regulations established by the Trump administration.

While Biden’s executive order, which included a mandate to review the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” is encouraging, it may have little impact on the mining project, said environmental advocates.

“ ... that review does not stop projects like Twin Pines’ proposed mine near the Okefenokee Swamp from destroying our vital resources, which is why we are continuing to challenge the rule in court,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Jennette Gayer, director of Environment Georgia, said it was unclear what the timeline might look like for reinstating protections of certain wetlands. “There is definitely some urgency for the swamp,” she said.

For detailed information about the issue, see https://protectokefenokee.org/

Ingresado el 29 de enero de 2021 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de enero de 2021

Red-cockaded Woodpecker Artificial Nest Cavities

As I sit roadside peering into a batch of white-blazed Long-Leaf Pines, my eyes watering and blurring from over a half-hour of anticipatory scanning, I am amazed to think that at one time, millions of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers drummed across the eastern United States. But as the forests fell, so did the numbers of Dryobates borealis. In 1973, it was listed as an endangered species. Given my difficulty in spotting one on multiple trips to their prime habitat, it is obvious they are still in peril.

© Photographer: Liam Wolff (ospr3y) | iNat Observation: 35495207

The USFWS has been making attempts to bring back this little black-and-white woodpecker here in the Okefenokee Swamp. Along the western entrance to the refuge (Highway 177), tall stands of Long-leaf Pine, the primary nesting tree of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, are managed through prescribed burns and advanced forestry techniques. And high in those trees are placed artificial nest cavities for the woodpeckers.

Artificial nest cavity in Long Leaf Pine tree for endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 68679310

Bearing a white ring at the base, the pines with the artificial nest cavities are easy to spot as you drive through the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Another tell-tale sign of woodpecker activity is the oozing white sap, like melting candle wax, that drips down from woodpecker excavations in the Long-leaf pines. This sap provides a sticky defense against climbing predators, such as snakes.

White blaze indicating artificial nest cavity in Long Leaf Pine tree for endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 68679310

I hope these efforts pay off and that one day, instead of squinting for hours just hoping to see one Red-cockaded Woodpecker, we can let an unexcited exclamation of "there goes another one. Man, these woodpeckers are everywhere!" Until then, look for the white blazed tree and hope to spot this endangered little woodpecker. ​

Ingresado el 27 de enero de 2021 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

26 de enero de 2021

Okefenokee West Entrance Roadway

No matter how many trips I make to Georgia's Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, my excitement always builds exponentially as I near the refuge border. It is a twenty mile drive from Fargo, Georgia on the western edge of the Okefenokee until you reach the dead-end within the Stephen C Foster State Park campground. This long stretch of Highway 177 can seem quite boring if all you notice are the telephone-pole-straight pines that seem to go on endlessly to your right, left, forward and behind. The tendency can be to “gun it” and get to the swamp more quickly.

Wild Turkey foraging in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 68610850 Wild Turkey foraging along Highway 177 between Fargo, Georgia and the Stephen C Foster State Park in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge; January 21, 2021.

But if you slow down and take your time, you just might find some critters along this drive (and not splat them into roadkill as well). White-tailed Deer and Wild Turkey often emerge from the dense Saw Palmetto to forage on the roadside grasses. In January 2021, I also spotted an American Black Bear crossing the road far ahead, but alas, no photograph. From spring to fall, Highway 177 is a great stretch for “herping”, as the snakes like to crawl out onto the warm pavement in the evenings and overnight.

White-tailed Deer foraging in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 68610847White-tailed Deer along the west entrance to the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: January 21, 2021.

~ William Wise, www.okefenokee.photography

Ingresado el 26 de enero de 2021 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de diciembre de 2020

Rena Ann Peck: Save the Okefenokee Swamp


Okefenokee Hooded Pitcher Plant and Bidens gold wildflowers on peat hammock
Okefenokee's Hooded Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia minor var. okefenokeensis © Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 65080214

Since 2018 when Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, first proposed mining for titanium along Trail Ridge adjacent to the Okefenokee Swamp, advocates from across the nation called on science to inform federal and state decisions about the proposal.

Of course, mining next to one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders, a 438,000-acre expanse of wilderness, is inherently a bad idea, especially when the sought after mineral is neither rare nor hard to obtain. It is a common mineral that is readily available elsewhere, but the Okefenokee Swamp is uncommon — the largest blackwater wetland in North America and one that has been named a Wetland of International Importance.

If you are going to dig 50-foot pits in the ridge next to the swamp that regulates water levels in this natural treasure, you should understand how that activity might impact it. You gain that understanding through scientific study and inquiry.

Since 1972, the federal Clean Water Act has allowed us to use science to guide such decisions, but earlier this year, the Trump Administration knee-capped that federal law. It implemented a new rule that greatly reduced the kinds of streams and wetlands that are protected. The rule changed tossed science to the dumpster.

And at the proposed Twin Pines mining site, it did so with potentially devastating effects.

Roughly 400 acres that were previously protected under the Clean Water Act were suddenly removed from protection.

When Twin Pines discovered this, the company that for the past two years has continuously attempted to dodge any serious scientific studies of the mine’s impacts they were, no doubt, ecstatic. The feds granted a pass; no federal oversight would be required, nor would any scientific studies to inform decisions. The company has gone straight to acquiring the final necessary state permits.

Rightfully, the citizens responsible for sending some 60,000 letters and emails to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in opposition to this mine are indignant. So too are the scientists at federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that expressed concerns about the mine’s impact on the swamp.

The rule change effectively silenced science and these thousands of voices. Now Georgia’s leaders are all that stand in the way of potentially devastating and irreversible impacts to the swamp.

Gov. Brian Kemp, state leaders, and the state’s Environmental Protection Division must demand the science that the federal government has abandoned. While the feds might treat one of our seven natural wonders cavalierly, the state shouldn’t.

Georgians can let the governor know they want him to save the swamp by sending him a message through Georgia River Network’s online action alert at www.protectgeorgia.org/#/244.

Rena Ann Peck is the executive director of Georgia River Network and founder of Watershed Sustainability LLC.

Ingresado el 01 de diciembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

23 de noviembre de 2020

Prescribed burn 122 acres around Okefenokee Swamp

USFWC Fire Southeast plans to set controled fires Friday
Danielle Uliano, Meteorologist and reporter
Published: November 20, 2020, 12:08 pm

Burned cypress tree stump in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
© Photographer: William Wise | Website: www.okefenokee.photography

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Southeast plans to set the woods around the Okefenokee Swamp on fire Friday. This prescribed burn of 122 acres is designed to reduce the fuel load in the pine flatwoods that surround the swamp.

Why do these burns take place?
According to the USFWC Fire Southeast, “Frequent fire is necessary to maintain the open nature of the iconic longleaf pine-wiregrass habitat. Longleaf seeds that germinate in the bare, mineral-rich soil left behind after a burn.” These prescribed burns can also help trees release their seeds and feed certain animals. The endangered Key deer of Florida will actually feed on the fresh tufts of vegetation that emerge after the landscape is burned.

What steps are taken before the burn?
Safety first always. The USFWC Fire SE specialists will consider the following before the decision to burn, including weather, wind speed, nearby roads and communities, time of the year, and more when determining the right time and place for a prescribed burn.

Ingresado el 23 de noviembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

02 de noviembre de 2020

Environmental Groups Set To Continue Fighting Mine Near Okefenokee

Environmental Groups Set To Continue Fighting Mine Near Okefenokee
October 27, 2020 2:29 PM |Updated: October 28, 2020 8:50 AM
By: Emily Jones

Old logging railroad pylons in Mixon`s Hammock; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Georgia USA
© Photographer: William Wise | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Environmental groups said this week that they’re exploring options to keep fighting a mining project near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, now that the mining company plans to proceed without a federal permit. The Army Corps of Engineers recently determined that the wetlands on the tract of land to be mined no longer have federal protection under a Trump administration rule change.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is challenging that rule change in federal court in South Carolina. The outcome will affect this mine, and projects across the country.

In the meantime, Bill Sapp of SELC said the mine near the Okefenokee still needs at least two state permits. “So we’re turning our attention to those, and we’re going to be talking to folks in the government and in the agency, and we’ll keep moving forward,” he said.

In order to proceed with mining for zinc and other heavy minerals, Twin Pines Minerals will need state permits for withdrawing groundwater and for operating a surface mine, Sapp said.

SELC is also working to get protections for the Okefenokee written into state law.
The federal change is known as the “replacement rule” and is part of broader rollbacks to environmental protections by the Trump administration. The rule says that ephemeral streams — temporary waterways that run when it rains — as well as wetlands adjacent to them are no longer protected under the Clean Water Act.

Ingresado el 02 de noviembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario