Friday, August 28, 2009

Feature: Harns Marsh Preserve

Harns Marsh Preserve, including a north and south marsh, located in Lehigh Acres, Florida, is a wildlife venue I strongly encourage you visit as I hope to many times in the future.

The Turkey Vulture above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

Currently at 578 acres in size, Harns Marsh is under control of the taxing authority, East County Water Control District (ECWCD), whose mission, in part, is to preserve and protect, in a financially responsible manner, water resources within 68,000 acres in Lehigh Acres (in Lee County), and about 2000 acres in western Hendry County.

Harns Marsh's construction was completed in 1985 after four years of effort after its initial design. 478 acres of property had been excavated at that time to improve storm water storage.

The Snail Kite above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

It wasn't until 2007, when a drought in southwest Florida allowed dredging of 182 acres of the North Marsh's sediment and silt with removal of invasive plants and dead trees improving water quality and allowing significant water retention capability with hopes to minimize potential flooding of the Orange River and its adjacent communities during severe tropical storms or hurricanes.

Although not clearly noted in the source for the information above, there was hopefully revenue generated from the soil removed at that time to facilitate, at the end of the real estate boom, much needed repairs of the water structures in the area. ECWCD will be benefiting from federal stimulus funding in addition to local monies to progress with improvements within its jurisdiction.

The Limpkin above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

Harns Marsh Preserve will be undergoing major water storage facility improvements to its inflow and outflow weirs (small dams) in the winter of 2009 and in 2010. Harns Marsh Preserve is expected to become a Lee County Regional Park in 2011.

Improvements you will see at the preserve include a planned boardwalk. There will be extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities going forward whatever happens, with plans as well to facilitate fishing at the preserve. The boardwalk will eliminate the experience of grasshoppers beating you in the chest as you currently must walk through the knee high grass they inhabit. I suspect there's a mowing of the grass at some point, but saw no recent evidence of it upon my first visit.

The Snail Kite above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

I consider this venue as part of the Great Florida Birding Trail although it is not officially so yet.

It was here this week, upon my first visit to the preserve, that I was pleasantly surprised by what I observed. The water level from what has appeared an average summer rainy season was appealing. This may be perceived a classic case where water is an essential ingredient to viewing of relative wildlife rarities. Drought conditions would certainly negatively impact the presence of wildlife species here.

The Little Blue Heron above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

What appeared to be the greatest amount of litter at the preserve were the shells of snails along the water's edge (hence the presence of the Snail Kite) which unfortunately included many plastic bottles and discarded shoes.

After reading of the abundance of fire ants here, I was pleased not to experience them at all, but there is poison ivy that should be avoided.

The Snail Kite above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

I observed species of bird here that I have not seen anywhere else in my two years of diligent birding throughout southwest Florida which included the Limpkin. I found this species to be extraordinary in how its voice gave the venue the appeal of a jungle environment.

I also had the experience of observing a helicopter make a couple of flyovers of the marsh which included a landing that didn't seem as disruptive to the birds as was recently experienced at Bunche Beach Preserve.

The Snail Kite above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

The chopper made its landing within the preserve beyond some trees and across the marsh which lasted for several minutes. I remember technical advice given to me to try to capture the blades of aircraft in motion which I believe I was able to master on this visit to the preserve. Unfortunately, I was not able to catch the entire "bird" in the frame.

I was tempted to wade in the water as I do at Great Florida Birding Trail venues for the enjoyment of it and to get closer to the wildlife as well. However, I didn't do so here as I was completely unfamiliar with the surroundings and especially didn't know if there were any alligators in the area. I didn't observe any in my hike around the marsh.

The aircraft above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in August 2009.

I observed a handful of bird species of the the 100 plus wildlife creatures identified by Cathy Olson, affiliated with Lee County Parks and Recreation, with cooperation of local wildlife organizations and chapters, thus far at the preserve.

I'm very much looking forward to further observations at this venue.

The Great Egret above was photographed at Harns Marsh Preserve in September 2009.

The Snail Kite and Limpkin species are without question the highlight of Harns Marsh Preserve.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob,
    For some reason I ended up on this post while surfing google one night. I have also been "walking" the birding trail starting in FM where I live. I did not know about Harnes until seeing this, so thanks for pointing it out. I have made a few trips and have added it to my blog also.

    Maybe we will meet some day on Bunche, it is my favorite place to relax with a camera. Thanks for the ideas you left.

    Mat Gaige