Wings of Florida Bay


Guest Post from Alex Perez, undergraduate researcher in the Seagrass Ecosystems and Marine Macroalgae labs at FIU.

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When one thinks of Florida Bay the connotation is that of a shallow water system that is surrounded mangrove tree islands and mud banks. The thoughts of aquatic vegetation and blue water coloration more diverse than your standard 8-pack Crayola box, is what I used to think of. That is of course before I began to notice what was soaring above the surface. My first taste of the birds of Florida Bay was an experience I have yet to repeat, one chilly winter day as we were making our run from the western portion of the Bay to the center of the Bay we came across thousands (not a hyperbole) of migratory birds. The sound of our outboard shattering the tranquil water exciting the birds to take flight, was the first time I really notice the birds. Seeing the white pelicans flying along side our boat was a sight that has changed the way I see nature and is what I consider to be breathtaking.

Although birds are fun to look at and admire aesthetically, we as scientist like to have an understanding of how a particular organism contribute or affect a given ecosystem. A very interesting parallel between and the system I work in (seagrass meadows) and birds exist.  Seagrass meadows in Florida Bay adjacent to bird colonies have an greater seagrass standing crop then seagrass meadows that are in the absence of bird colonies
.  The system is nutrient limited and receives needed nutrients via bird guano.

Some of the birds that we commonly see are cormorants, herons, ospreys, egrets, and kingfishers.


Double crested cormorant

As the seasons begin to change so does the bird diversity, during the wintertime we begin to see a higher abundance of pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and the occasional bald eagle.

Pelicans flying around a channel



The greatest thing about science is that you get to mix things that are beautiful and gain an understanding of all the interactions they may have in a given environment. So next time you visit Florida Bay make sure to get a birds eye view of all the scenery!!





Cheers,
Alex 

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