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TFGT: Flight of the Invaders

A cache by Manatee_County_NRD Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 07/26/2012
Difficulty:
1 out of 5
Terrain:
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: other (other)

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Geocache Description:




Please do not take the stamp or the stamp pad from this cache. As it is a **letterbox** these items must remain inside and be available for those people who are stamping their Passport for the GeoTour.

Anyone can claim this cache, but to be eligible for the Taking Flight Geo Tag you must stamp your passport with the stamp from inside the cache. Please do not take it or the stamp pad – leave these for other cachers to find. As this is a letterbox hybrid, please feel free to bring your own stamp and pad to stamp the logbook!

Did you know that each day Florida is visited by aliens? As you read this cache description, Florida is being invaded! We’re not talking about space aliens, though, but these invaders can do just as much damage. The aliens we see regularly in Florida are exotic plants and animals that are not part of the natural landscape. These exotic invasive species are introduced to the habitat, either intentionally or accidentally, and can have an extremely negative impact on the environment. An invasive species can take over habitat and resources from native wildlife and plants, out-competing the natives for food, water, shelter, and space. In some cases, they may even eat the native species and impact the population by preying upon the locals. Invasive plants and animals can alter the food web. When they crowd out other native plants or animals the creatures that rely on that particular native species may not be able to feed off of the invasive threatenting their survival. Because the invasives are exotics there are usually no ecological “checks” on them, like predator insects or animals that would eat them, and they often can grow unchecked and quickly overtake an area.



Invasive Burmese python in the Florida Everglades

Invasive species impact humans too. They’re very expensive – each year local, state, and national governments along with private homeowners spend money to remove stubborn exotic plants or eliminate pesky wildlife. Believe it or not, the annual estimated cost in the United States of invasive species control is about 120 billion dollars per year!


Air potato infestation: This exotic plant is a problem in many Manatee County preserves and each year the Natural Resources Department relies on volunteers to help remove these exotic invaders. Air potato grows quickly, over taking all the native plants in its path, and produces a great number of potatoes on one vine to seed new plants. Left unchecked it will quickly overgrow an area and shade out the native plants. Photo by Forestry Images

Many of the exotic invaders in Florida are plants or invertebrates (animals like snails and insects), however recently the state has seen its share of larger wildlife invaders including pythons, Cuban tree frogs, lionfish, and even coyotes. There are even a few types of invasive birds, such as the Muscovy duck, house sparrow and European starling. Here in Manatee County, we have seen an increasing number of one particular invasive bird, the easily identifiable and often comical Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus.


Monk Parakeets. Photo by Maureen Leong-Kee


The monk, or quaker, parakeet appeared in Florida in the 1960s. It is an extremely unique type of parrot as it is one of the few that actually builds its own nest out of sticks and twigs, rather than utilize a cavity in a tree. Because of this unique adaptation the bird has quickly managed to colonize much of Florida; it is currently present in over 50 of Florida’s 67 counties. The little green birds are, like most parrots, quite clever and have adapted to using many of our manmade structures for their nesting sites. Unfortunately, one of their favorite places to build their homes is in and around electrical equipment and telecommunication towers, often providing problems for local power companies.


A monk parakeet nest on a power station. Photo by Florida Power and Light (FPL)
As with many exotic invasive species, Florida’s warm tropical weather has proved to be a great attraction to the little birds and has benefited them greatly helping their numbers to swell. However, they are not the first parrots to have lived in Florida and have rapidly assumed a niche left vacant by the disappearance of the United States’ only native parrot, the Carolina conure. These birds lived in the same areas in which the monk parakeets have rapidly colonized and feast upon many of the same foods. A number of factors led to their demise, most notably hunting for food and for their beautiful plumage, farmers who killed them because they considered them to be a crop pest, and the destruction of the trees in which they nested. The monk parakeets on the other hand survive and flourish due to their ability to create their own nests.

Carolina conure (now extinct) drawing by John James Audubon

The modern parakeets are an excellent example of how one invasive exotic can move in and quickly take over another species’ role, whether it is living or already extinct, and flourish when there are no environmental factors to help control it. Organizations such as Manatee County’s Natural Resources Department, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, and Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program work to help educate the public about the importance of exotic invasive species control and eradication. They also stage a number of volunteer workdays to visit public natural lands and help remove exotic species. You can help by making sure your yard is free of exotic invasives or by participating in exotic based volunteer workdays in your home area.

The cache itself is in full view, so you will need to use stealth to claim this cache.

Anyone can claim this cache, but to be eligible for the Taking Flight Geo Tag you must stamp your passport with the stamp from inside the cache. Please do not take it or the stamp pad – leave these for other cachers to find. As this is a letterbox hybrid, please feel free to bring your own stamp and pad to stamp the logbook!



Visit the sites along the Taking Flight GeoTour (TFGT) and learn about Manatee County’s wild spaces and the amazing feathered friends that live in them. Along the way, you will be challenged to become a citizen scientist, a preserve ranger, a detective, a historian, and of course an excellent geocacher in order to find all of the caches in the trail. Caches are located in birding “hot spots” throughout Manatee County’s publicly accessible conservation preserves. Each one highlights a specific bird species or aspect of bird life providing you with opportunities to learn more about these creatures and what we can do to help them survive. Caches also focus on protecting the region's waterways, bays, and natural watersheds, and habitat areas for many of our area’s feathered fliers.

The Taking Flight GeoTour includes 15 caches within Manatee County. A custom Taking Flight Geo Tour trackable geo tag will be awarded to the first 300 geocachers, while supplies last, for locating at least 12 TFGT caches. To be eligible for the tag, geocachers must download a passport from the TFGT Website or pick one up at the Manatee County Natural Parks & Natural Resources Department office at GT Bray Park 5502 33 rd Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton, FL., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Geocachers must log at least 12 finds, answer the question from each cache on their passport, and complete any additional requirements for specific caches (such as posting photos for earth caches). After finding a minimum of 12 caches, participants can have their passports validated in person or via mail at the Manatee County Natural Parks & Natural Resources Department office at GT Bray Park 5502 33 rd Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton, FL 34209, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. News and updates on tag availability and validation hours can be found online at the Parks & Natural Resources Department's website.
Thank you for assisting with the Taking Flight GeoTour:


Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Vg'f ryrpgevp! Obbtvr Jbbtvr Jbbtvr!

Decryption Key

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M
-------------------------
N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



 

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