Just in case you missed the last one, RCW’s are red cockaded woodpeckers, an endangered species. Big Cypress National Preserve is a huge place, so to try and ﬁnd these RCW homes (speciﬁc pine trees) is quite a challenge. Being out in the wilderness in Big Cypress is like being out in a maze; every direction looks the same! It’s hard to catch a bering point and when every tree looks just like the one next to it.
We started by jumping in a vehicle that was new and interesting to me: a swamp buggy. To summarize, they look like mini-monster trucks. In fact, our guide and park service rep, Bill, informed us that the gear shifter in the buggy was the same that they use in monster trucks. Bill also informed us that he himself had custom designed some of the very buggies that we were riding in. Just shows that you experience all sorts of new and unanticipated things on a trip like this.
Once we got out to our site, we started our hike out to the marked area of RCW-nested trees. There was a lot of swerving around thickly forested areas that we might not have been able to wade through, even though it is the dry season here and most of the swamp waters have receded.
Upon ﬁnding a couple of the RCW trees, we took a quick lunch break and then jumped right into the clearance stage. To protect the RCW houses, we have to clear approximately a 10ft radius, tearing out all grass and low vegetation within the designated circle. This is critical because a lot of the RCW houses have been demolished by forest ﬁres, which can jump up a tree and burn out their nests. It felt great to do some work that, while it may not have an immediate impact, will come into play during the next wildﬁre.
….more to come tomorrow!