Friday, January 16, 2015

Hickey's Creek Mitigation Park

Inquiring minds may wonder what a mitigation park is.  A sign at this park answered that question.  Environmental mitigation is "an attempt to offset the detrimental impacts of development on a certain species or a type of native plant community".   Hickey Creek Park was originally established by the Florida Wildlife Commission to mitigate for gopher tortoises who have lost a lot of their habitat due to development in southwestern Florida.  However, from what we saw while wandering on the trails of this park, feral hogs seem to have taken over this land.  Not sure how the tortoises appreciate that!.  While hiking many parks and preserves in this area we have seen how they churn up the soil while rooting for food.  They eat everything from plants, tubers, snails, and fruits to carrion.
Pictured above is a section of the trail at the Bald Cypress Bridge which has been totally obliterated by the hogs.  Some trails at this park were a bit treacherous, not only because of the ruts made by the hogs, but also by the presence of saw palmetto roots.  It still is a beautiful park, with wide expanses of saw palmetto, slash pine, and live oaks.  The scene below is on the pine palmetto trail.
  Hickey Creek runs through a section of the preserve, and that was perhaps the trail we enjoyed the most.   Even though it is the dry season at present, this area is quite moist; moss and ferns can be see on the ground and on the trees.  Along the creek is a lot of the same plants and trees which we saw last week at Six Mile Cypress Slough.  I mentioned in that posting the many different ferns we saw, but only showed the shoestring fern.  Pictured below is the leather fern, unlike most ferns its leaves are coarse in texture.
One other fern I found fascinating is the whisk fern.  It looks like it could be used as a broom.
You may notice a white area on the tree, below the fern.  That is lichen which is formed when algae and fungus take a liking to each other (a joke we once heard from a park ranger).  We learned from Russ our guide last week that white lichen is healthy- any other color indicates pollutants in the environment as sulfur dioxide or heavy metals.  We did not see any wildlife during our time in this park, however many birds were flitting about, some of which were robins.  That was a surprise to me as I did not realize they came this far south during the winter. 

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