The Home for Tropical Seabirds on the Mend!
In Tavernier, Florida, miracles occur EVERY DAY!! Over 1000 various tropical seabirds like: pelicans, ibises, herons, egrets, and spoonbills, who have been mortally wounded due to assorted "too close" encounters with mankind and his artillery of spears, fishing line, hooks, beer can plastic holders, propeller blades, rudders, and other non-nature objects, must be provided hospitalisation with transplantation, surgery, wound repair, bone repair, fluids, and...food, food, and more food!
Their mission at The Florida Wild Bird Rehab Centre, is simply stated:
to reduce the suffering of sick or injured wild birds,
A very small caring band of volunteers, led by a "young" 72-year-old woman named, Laura Quinn, provide these birds the emergency medical treatment, feeding, and the love, they require, or they would surely die!! In this mangrove estuary, the miracle of life is re-enacted many times a day! Armloads of fish are fed, twice a day, to hungry pelicans, ibises, cormorants, herons and other birds who could not survive on their own due to permanent injuries, like blindness due to fishing hooks & other dangerous boating encounters!! Tis the Fla. Keys Wild Bird Rehab Centre team to the rescue, again!!
Here, deep in a tropical mangrove hammock, a congregation, of wild seabirds, seldom seen in any such number, even in the storied and fabled Everglades, are regular visitors, often by necessity. In fact, this environment is so kind to them, that rare species, like roseate spoonbills roost and breed here, like nowhere else in the world, literally! Yes, this a true place of daily miracles! Hundreds of majestic seabirds seek human refuge here, away from the hazards that nature never prepared them for.
At sunrise and at sunset, one can view mating of these huge, yet usually timid wild birds, as close as a metre away! I, myself, photographed these wild seabirds, without them ever fearing me, and we grew to trust and bond, it seemed, with each other! I visualised what it must have been like, here in extreme southern subtropical Florida, before 4 million of us humans lived here, year-round, and another 5 million people visit here each year! What an environmental overload! Our intrusion into their habitat has forever changed their world!
It seems like we OWE them this care, for our "insult" of their natural environment. We've come, gathered, and plundered, and left them virtually defenseless, I thought! Now, they are hurt and/or dying, and still WE multiply! Still we live this so-called, "good life", always at their expense! This unique & important seabird hospital is crippled by rising property taxes, rising costs for food and medicine, few new volunteers that care to give up a bit of their own good time in the sun, to feed the birds, and too few dollar donations...but the birds ALSO continue to come for life-saving help! Your "Wise Gardener" & Chef Brad were both moved beyond our own prior expectations, and we looked at this fragile Florida Keys environment, in a new and more environmentally-sensitive light. This sensitivity was reinforced, on our trip home!!
Driving north, towards Fort Lauderdale, we chose to take the longer "backroads" route, instead of using US 1, or the Florida Turnpike, (to, hopefully, see "real" nature!) We chose the environmentally "richer" Card Sound Road, or (C.R. #905) North, through Key Largo Key. We continued north, past "town", (a new shopping centre), and followed a sign that heralded: The Ocean Reef Club (1 and 3/4 miles). This road seemed promising at first. We passed numerous mangrove hammocks, and signs the indicated that this was now a designation part of the National Wildlife Refuge. I had read previously, in The Miami Herald, that this land was originally supposed to be the sprawling Port Bougainville "luxury" development, but this "atrocity" has, at least for now, been halted! Good; that's ONE victory for environmental causes!
We were intrigued; what development could be this secluded, and why hadn't we ever heard of this protected enclave before? We drove north, and were so surprised to come in contact with the Ocean Reef Club, where the "Taj Mahal meets South Beach"!! Serious security awaited us ahead! We couldn't enter but rather veered left and continued onto the Card Sound Bridge. What a "eye-opener", friends, it was! Pristine mangrove wetlands eco-system (outside the gates!), that was literally covered in trash!! What a mess!! All road bridges, that also afforded boat access ramps for fishermen, were covered in graffiti (in Spanish, mostly), and under these bridges, (at the boat ramps), was found a plethora of all sorts of consumer garbage, from diapers, to hamburger wrappers, to beer bottles & cans! I was becoming more ill by the moment, friends!
It is important to interject here, that this view was within ONLY a kilometre or two of The Ocean Reef Club (where empty lots sell for upwards of $4,000,000.00, we discovered, after we returned home, and did some internet "research!") How insane this all seemed! Selfish and egotistical ultra-millionaires who don't give a shit what is "out there", and their golf and boating estate homes (used only to escape the winter months up North!), inside the impressive O.R.C. gated entrance, while garbage continues to collect outside the gates, and WITHIN A NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE!! I was shocked & horrified...and incredibly outraged!! How dare such a precious resource as this subtropical aquifer and eco-system, be used so carelessly!
After having just been to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Centre, where injured birds a treated for man-induced wounds, I could see why injury to seabirds was so prevalent! Plastic Can Holders, beer cans with rough edges exposed, fishing line, as well as hooks! All disasters ready to maim these precious wild sea birds. And debris of all sorts entangling the life-giving mangrove roots! We wondered: "how can these shameful Americans care so very little! Is Florida all about real estate, artificiality, and the "plastic" life? We guessed that the answer was "yes", unfortunately!
I plan on featuring environmental topics in future wisegardener.com editions; let's "clean it up, folks!" We're not the only people using this earth; let's respect nature for future generations, or indeed, the future is quite ominously "dim!" Besides, nature was here way before we all were!
Paul, "The Wise Gardener!"
This is the area of Florida we are discussing
O.R.C. Membership Information (See if YOU qualify!)
IMPORTANT MANGROVE TREE INFORMATIONAL SITES TO VISIT BELOW!: