Rare sawfish videos from Florida, USA

From Naples News in the USA:

VIDEOS: Kayakers get a rare sawfish sighting in Everglades National Park


* Posted October 13, 2009 at 3:55 p.m.

NAPLES — A Lehigh Acres kayaker got an eyeful during a Labor Day weekend kayaking trip to Everglades National Park — and got it all on camera.

Don McCumber, 55, and his girlfriend, Brenda Anderson, were heading back to Everglades City on the tail end of a 30-mile trip through the Ten Thousand Islands when they stopped off at Rabbit Key.

As they waded in the shallows, the two spotted a trio of eagle rays — McCumber says one large female and two smaller males — gliding through the water. The largest was as wide as McCumber’s outstretched arms, maybe 6 or 7 feet, he said.

McCumber grabbed his video camera and started recording. And then it happened: “A sawfish!” McCumber is heard to yell on the video, almost 15 minutes of which McCumber posted to YouTube.

The sawfish, an endangered species, cruised back and forth along the shoreline, as the more frequently seen eagle rays chased each other at McCumber’s and Anderson’s feet.

“It’s still an exciting thing to see something that large flying through the water,” McCumber later recounted about seeing the eagle rays. “But the sawfish, aw geez, I was thrilled. What an amazing thing to see.”

McCumber, who has kayaked in Southwest Florida waters for the past 20 years, had almost given up on ever seeing a sawfish, he said.

Only the threat of an afternoon rainstorm and miles yet to paddle to get to Everglades City could pull McCumber away from the scene.

“I reluctantly shut off the camera and off we went,” he said.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is one of the most significant natural areas in Florida, containing the largest virgin cypress swamp remaining in North America. The Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed Project was designed to further protect the Sanctuary by purchasing surrounding habitats, including a direct link to conservation areas to the south. Corkscrew Swamp receives 100,000 recreationists annually and contains an environmental education center for about 6000 schoolchildren each year: here.

For the Everglades, a Dream Loses Much of Its Grandeur: here.

12 thoughts on “Rare sawfish videos from Florida, USA

  1. Wading birds’ rebound is boon for Everglades

    After the third strong breeding year since 2002, there is increasing optimism that wading birds are rebounding from decades of decline in the Everglades.

    Wood storks doubled the average number of chicks per nest over the past decade.



    Wading birds, the most beautiful residents of the Everglades and key measuring sticks of its biological health, have been breeding in numbers last recorded more than a half-century ago.

    An annual survey released Thursday counted more than 77,000 nests in the Everglades and South Florida’s sprawling wetlands this year. One species, the endangered wood stork, was found doing the wild thing at a rate that would put Tiger Woods to shame, its nesting activity increasing an astounding 1,776 percent over a terrible 2008.

    “It’s just one of those years,” said Sonny Bass, a biologist at Everglades National Park. “All the stars aligned just right.”

    Those stars — a not completely understood combination of water levels, rainfall timing and food supply — have aligned with increasing frequency in the past decade. That’s often enough that scientists are cautiously optimistic that populations are recovering after decades of development and water mismanagement put the birds into a death spiral.

    “It seems to be a rebound,” said Mark Cook, a senior environmental scientist with the South Florida Water Management District who compiles the South Florida Wading Bird Report with the help of other scientists across the region.


    Because nesting is so closely tied to water levels, sharp year-to-year swings are common in the Everglades. But 2009 proved the largest yet of three strong nesting seasons since 2002, matching the historic highs of the 1940s, when flocks of wood stork, white ibis, snowy egret and other elegant birds darkened the marsh sky.

    Equally encouraging, birds have returned in increasing numbers to long-abandoned nesting grounds — settling down in Lake Okeechobee marshes, along the floodplain of the restored sections of the Kissimmee River and in the coastal estuaries of Everglades National Park, once thriving rookeries that had been largely lifeless for decades.

    While state-owned water-conservation areas bordering suburban Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties remain the main breeding areas, Everglades National Park recorded 15,432 nests — the largest number since 1941. That was six years before the park was created and Marjory Stoneman Douglas published The Everglades: River of Grass.

    Bass was particularly surprised by wood storks, a rare wader typically fortunate to produce one or two chicks. Nesting numbers and chicks roughly doubled the average over the past decade.

    “It was amazing to go up in these nests and see them with three or four young standing there,” he said.

    The wading birds of the Glades were nearly blasted into oblivion in the 1900s by plume hunters supplying a craze for feathered hats. By the 1930s and ’40s, after a public outcry brought a crackdown on hunting, breeding rebounded, resulting in 35,000 to more than 200,000 nests each year.

    But after the ’40s, drainage canals, flood-control levees and rampant development reduced the historic Everglades by half, cutting populations of the nine surveyed species by an estimated 70 to 90 percent. Poor water-management practices helped drive nesting to a low of just 5,000 in 1983 and 1985.

    There have been occasional upticks — about 56,500 nests in 1972 and 1992 — but it’s only been over the last decade or so that the trends began steadily improving.

    Scientists don’t fully understand everything driving the recent surge, which is happening without any of the promised benefits of the $12 billion Everglades restoration plan.

    Droughts appear to spark the bird booms, with exceptional nesting years occuring two years later. The prevailing theory, said Cook, is that the dry spells knock back populations of large fish that feed on crayfish and smaller fish that make up many birds’ primary diet. When the water comes back, the plentiful prey help power the avian sexual surge.

    “We’ve been observing that pattern for a good number of years now,” he said.

    Birds begin breeding as water levels fall, so rainfall timing and volume are clearly key. But other factors certainly play some role, as well, said Cook — from declining levels of mercury, which can weaken birds, to a larger breeding stock after several good nesting years, to wiser water-management decisions.

    Biologists now regularly sit in on water-management meetings, and, when possible, the district will divert or delay water releases that might impact foraging or nesting.

    “We can’t say with any certainty what has caused it,” Cook said. “We can say we have managed the system better.”


    While wading birds are considered “indicator species” — or barometers for the broader Everglades — scientists aren’t ready to pronounce the struggling River of Grass healthy again. For one thing, the numbers of some wading species — the snowy egret, tricolored heron and roseate spoonbill — remain low or in decline.

    “Things do look better,” Bass said. “We have colonies back in the areas where they were historically. Now the question is, will that persist?”



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