Since the field season has entered the summer months, we field technicians have met challenges that were quite rare in late March and early April. For example, this past week brought forth a series of rain events that were never a concern in the beginning of the field season. When we check our radar phone app at 5:00 in the morning and see strips of thick red, orange, and green blobs, we know that storms are on their way.
More than three inches of rain fell on Everglades soil. The periphyton can only absorb so much before there is over-saturation, which soon leads to us sloshing through areas of deep water. Small divots in the ground from the limestone allow water to collect, turning puddles into lakes. The thunderstorms have kept us back as we try our best to monitor, band, and nest-search as carefully as we can in the open and exposed prairie.
Due to the dramatic rain storms, we have lost the privilege of flying out to one of our sparrow populations. We have also had the “pleasure” of meeting some of Florida’s native reptiles. The Cottonmouths, also known as Water Moccasins, have been appearing everywhere in the field. They are not so easy to spot, and can not only be slightly terrifying, but deadly. The other day, I almost stepped on one and while backing up in a hasty manner, fell backwards and succeeded in getting my body and backpack entirely soaked. In addition to the snakes lurking in the waters, their are swamp angels (mosquitoes) lurking in the air. Every day they are getting more and more distasteful. Our cars fill up with them, our bodies are covered in either blood or bumps, and there is no escaping, no matter how much DEET we spray.
But, one thing is for sure, rainwater is a good and healthy nutrient for the Everglades. More wildlife, even the threatening variety, is essential for the ecosystem to function. Because of the increased water level, sparrows are able to find food more readily.
Even though we have more challenges at hand, we are doing our best to carry on with our work and be successful. Plus, we should have expected this. After all, we are in the Everglades during summer.