Today, we’re taking the kids out to ephemeral wetlands in the Apalachicola National Forest. Our purpose? To show them that right now, the wetlands aren’t so wet.
It sounds like a crazy reason to drag kids out to the forest on a Sunday morning. Last year, we adopted two wetlands with two other families, my son Max’s first grade classmates. So they’ve already started learning about this environment and formed positive memories after spending time here with their friends.
We’re here today because there’s a tremendous value in visiting the same spot in nature over time, through different seasons and climate cycles. Nature isn’t static. Individual plants and animals change through the seasons. The wetland itself changes over the course of wet and dry years. Being here is the best way for kids (and adults) to get in tune with the workings of any wild space.
And even in its current dry state, we still have the opportunity to see some things. In particular, Max, his friend Dylan, and little brother Xavi might get to see the gopher frog, a species of concern.
(Above) Zoe, Dylan, and Max sit in a field of bog buttons after a day of sampling ephemeral wetlands in the Apalachicola National Forest. Read more about their adventures in citizen science below. Thanks to Dylan’s dad, Don, for letting us use his photo. And thanks to my wife, Amy, for taking most of the photos below.
In this two minute video, we can see monarch caterpillars eat, grow, form a chrysalis, and emerge as butterflies. All while two young children look on. Look for a video on butterfly gardening on October 20 on Local Routes (8 pm ET on WFSU-TV), featuring Lilly Anderson-Messec of Native Nurseries.
Once again, Tallahassee’s own Hot Tamale composed some original music for us to use in this segment. Thanks again Craig and Adrian!
Over the summer, my family and I have been witnessing a one-of-a-kind migration pass through a critical habitat: our backyard. It started last month, when I spotted several monarch caterpillars munching on our garden milkweed. We brought them into our home. It was a great opportunity for my sons to witness the life cycle of the most intriguing butterfly species to (temporarily) call our area home. Continue reading Monarch: From Caterpillars to Butterflies (and right in our kitchen)→
The striped newt is a bridge between the longleaf pine ecosystem and the many local water bodies that connect to our aquifer. If you want to know more about other longleaf species like red cockaded woodpeckers (one of whose cavity is taken over by another species in the video below) or gopher tortoises (in whose burrows striped newts may shelter during fires), you might enjoy our recent Roaming the Red Hills series. The location of our gopher tortoise video is Birdsong Nature Center, where the stars of our striped newt adventure will be leading the first ever Ephemeral Wetlands Extravaganza this Saturday, May 21 (EDIT: This is event is being rescheduled due to storms forecasted for Saturday morning. Keep an eye on the Birdsong calendar or Facebook page for more information) .
Like in Roaming the Red Hills, original music was composed for this video by local musicians. Hot Tamale has contributed music to EcoAdventures in the past. In one of the first ever posts on this blog, Hot Tamale’s Craig Reeder wrote about their song Crystal Gulf Waters, which was inspired by the 2010 BP Oil Spill. The segment below aired on the May 19 episode of Local Routes.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Ryan and Rebecca Means put the future of the striped newt species (in the Apalachicola National Forest, anyway) in the hands of young children. They didn’t intend it to be symbolic; it just seemed like it would make for nice video. And it was. The images do, however, reflect a central mission of the Means’s work with the Coastal Plains Institute: to foster a love of our local ecosystems in the young, with the hope of creating a new generation of stewards. Continue reading Bringing the Striped Newt Back to the Munson Sandhills→
Welcome to Part 6 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the April 7 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes. Through ten 3-minute videos, we’ll explore the natural soul of the Red Hills of Florida and Georgia, from the pine uplands down to its rivers, lakes, and farms. Thanks to Tracy Horenbein for creating original compositions for this video series. The series is narrated by Jim McMurtry.
“Oh those sandbars, mere words cannot portray,
Shining in the moonlight, take our breath away…”
These words are from Gary Asbell’s “The River,” a song about the Ochlockonee River that we featured in our last video. After that workout of an EcoAdventure, kayaking the Georgia part of the river, we spent a day splashing around in the Florida Ochlockonee. Unlike in the song lyrics, which are about camping on the river, there is no moonlight for us today; but the line does hit home for me in a way that relates to the activities we’ll cover today. Camping on a sandbar with my son Max may have been the most fun we’ve had together, and I saw firsthand what a magical place a sandbar can be to a child. In this video, a few families will experience this wild wonder as Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy hosted one of its first ever Bio-Blitzes. (Max was unfortunately sick that day) Continue reading Ochlockonee Bio-Blitz | Kids Experience Florida River Wildlife→
WFSU producer Rob Diaz de Villegas heads down the Apalachicola River once again, this time with his best adventure buddy. This year’s RiverTrek also featured the very first River Ride, with cyclists hitting small river towns and forest roads.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Max wanted to do one thing above all else: climb Sand Mountain. But, as I was gathering camping gear for our trip on the Apalachicola, I got an e-mail from RiverTrek coordinator Georgia Ackerman. The water was high this year, and she wasn’t sure there would be a place to park our kayaks on the steep face of the giant sand spoil. As a parent of a four-year-old, you learn the dangerous nature of expectations. You have to be careful never to promise anything which isn’t 100% guaranteed to happen. Four-year-olds don’t necessarily grasp “maybe.” Continue reading Kayaking the Apalachicola River with my Four-Year-Old Son→
Thieving raccoons, high water on the Apalachicola, and learning to follow trail blazes make for a memorable camping trip for a WFSU producer and his son.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
One Sunday, I was planting seeds with my son Max when I decided that we needed to go camping that next weekend. We were at the tail end of what I guess is Festival Season in Tallahassee, and it had been fun. We saw a lot of cool things, got a little wet as nature tested the “rain or shine” claims on festival posters. But it was an awful lot of spring weekends in town. It was time to get out. Continue reading Father and Son Hiking and Camping at Torreya State Park→
This past Saturday, my son Max and I returned to Owl Creek to join a few dozen paddlers for a special event. The Apalachicola Riverkeeper welcomed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition as they continue to make their way from the headwaters of the Everglades to Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola. While on the water, I could see that people liked the image of a father and son in a kayak. Other paddlers would occasionally say things like “That’s the right way to raise a kid.” Max and I made a little game of picking up trash along the creek, which garnered more positive comments. It feels nice to hear those things because, honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m just making things up as I go with this kid and his outdoor experiences. Continue reading Raising a Kid with Nature Takes Creativity, Persistence→
Over the last two years, WFSU’s Rob Diaz de Villegas has documented the RiverTrek kayak journeys down the Apalachicola River. While he didn’t participate in this year’s paddle, he was able to tag along for a small stretch. He took with him the biggest fan of the work he produced on those trips- his son Max. Camping and kayaking with a three-year-old has its challenges, but can be rewarding in many ways.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Pulling into the Hickory Landing campsite on Owl Creek, I’m happy to see so many familiar faces. It’s the final night of RiverTrek 2014, and the paddlers’ families have been invited to camp out and see their loved ones off as they make the final approach towards Apalachicola. Some of us are here as part of the extended RiverTrek family, such as fellow ’12 paddlers Jennifer Portman and Chris Robertson, who were nice enough to bring a tandem kayak that I could use to explore Owl Creek with my son Max. If my participation in RiverTrek has reached one person, gotten just one person interested in the Apalachicola River, or in paddle sports, it’s this kid. And I couldn’t be happier to have him get a taste of the RiverTrek experience. But first I have to wake him up. Continue reading Father & Son Apalachicola River Kayak Adventure→