Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dry Season

Seasonal fluctuations between June 2010 and January 2011

The winter is a strange time for Floridians. At least three times out of the year we look to our fellow Americans for commiseration when we have to scrape the ice off our windshields before going to work. Instead of empathy and solidarity, I get "You have no idea what cold is." Just once though, I would like to hear "Oh, man, I know, it's brutal isn't it?" I am reminded constantly by my northern friends that I shouldn't complain about 40 degree mornings and that they don't consider Florida really even having seasons. I mean how can a state that's only 1,600 miles from the equator be affected by the earth's axis, especially if this state only consists of four biomes: Miami, Disney World, beach, and golf course?

Well, for all those non-believers out there, here's my rebuttal. This past weekend a college friend from New York, Adam Sittler, escaped the snow and came down to visit. He had never been in a swamp before so I took him to one of my favorite cypress sloughs. He learned pretty quick that the water does in fact get cold down here, as we plunged into a canal, hoping we wouldn't attract any gators with our splashing.

Canal crossing on the Tamiami Trail

His main goal was to see an alligator "in the wild" as he put it, so I promised him at least fifty before we even got out of the car. This is not a lofty goal along the Tamiami Trail on a sunny winter day. As water levels drop and the mercury falls, reptilian sunbathers line the shores of the canals to warm up before the cold night. Tourists also line the waterways equipped with cameras and binoculars, but Adam specifically required "in the wild," so we went slogging in hopes of finding an untamed swamp dragon. I didn't know we would find the strangest looking alligator I've ever seen.

I have no idea how this happens, but perhaps this one lost a territory battle... 

All along the way we saw barred owls, egrets, and ibis combing the shallow waters for fish and invertebrates.

Great egret

When we got back in the car, I saw him turn the heat on before reaching for a fleece. This was my silent victory.

Top photo: high water in June 2010
Bottom photo: low water in January 2011

We may not always have harsh reminders like snowstorms that remind us the earth is still spinning but I think that's why I've fallen in love with Florida. There is very little here that is overt; no towering peaks, no deep gorges or valleys carved by glaciers. You have to look hard, and in doing so, you often see so much more.

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