Controlled Burning by Barbara Edwards

IMG_0044There are so many things to see when you travel. We left our campsite early one morning and noticed smoke hovering over St. George Island.

Forest fires are common in Florida. Wild fires ravaged the swamps and land for centuries before the area was settled. The thick dry brush is ignited by lightning. The fires kept the brush low and allowed animals to find food and shelter. IMG_0058

The federal government decided they knew better than nature and insisted all forest fires be fought until extinguished. This national policy resulted in millions of acres being prime for huge fires. Firefighters lost their lives when the brush exploded in violent bursts. Finally the policy changed to clearing brush by cutting, and in many areas, by controlled burns.IMG_0063

Park Manager

The park rangers were in the process of controlled burning of the overgrowth. This is important for the safety of the residents. St. George Island is on the North American bird migration route and the birds managed before people when the barrier island was swept by natural burning every four or five years.

Ranger Melody

The rangers burn in controlled sections when the wind and humidity are right. Over the course of several years all the wild sections are burned to spurt regrowth.









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Back on Saint George Island by Barbara Edwards

Blue HeronAlthough we are also  back, I mean the Blue Herons are here. Their rookery was destroyed by last summer’s storms and I’ve been waiting to see if they would rebuild.  The Rangers told me the fresh-water ponds were low because it hadn’t rained for six months. Until we arrived that it. Two inches of rain fell as a precursor to the snow storm up North.

This morning I saw a Blue Heron carrying  a large twig in its beak. It circled gracefully before landing on a branch high in a tree. I could barely make out the pile of branches it was forming into a nest. Nice to know nature has a way of overcoming problems. I’ve counted six birds early in the morning when I walk Dixie.

I also learned the reason they encourage cleaning up after your dog is because the smell will frighten away the wild birds. I’m glad I was already being a good camper.

The island is on the migratory route for hundreds of species of birds and sometimes the noise from them is deafening. I’m not a bird expert but I love to see them.  A number of campers are also birdwatchers. I have the Audubon Bird Book so when I get a good look I can identify them.

I did recognize a Bald Eagle circling overhead. He’s nesting on the other side of the bay.

Last fall the Rangers finally had a chance to do a controlled burn out here. The brush was so thick it was a definite fire hazard, but everything has to be right. I wondered if the blackened tree trunk and scorched ground would recover. Controlled burn on Saint George Island

To my delight, ferns and other plants have poked green up along the paths.

The birds have found scorched pine cones to pick at and lots of bugs. Did you know many pines need to have the cones burned before they will sprout?

The biggest change is along the beach. Although the hurricane was considered mild it did a tremendous amount of change. In places the beach  is narrower. The dunes closest to the water were resculpted or removed.  The area where I saw the turtle eggs is almost flat.

The dunes were scraped free of vegetation on the windward side and some dunes IMG_0003further from the beach are higher.

Not too many shells are washed up whole since the bottom has changed, but I love to walk the beach. The water is warm enough to wade. The wind blows the sand and whips a foamy froth on the waves. The sun feels like a blessing. My writing is going well as I relax into that wonderful Southern mode.

I’m so glad to be back.

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