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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Writing Eco Mysteries 3

Aug. 11, 2012: Ebenezer Tupelo Swamp Ecological Preserve.
Our journey continues here as we step off into the unknown of a writing project and see it through to its destination . . .
Questions? Comments? contact:
Ghosts may be haunting the story I’m stitching together for Return of The Red-cockaded Clan.This eerie thought pops into my head as soon as I hear that we are headed for Ebenezer Tupelo Swamp. You see I cannot help associating Ebenezer with Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas. And in our previous adventures (see Blog 2), we stumbled upon a ghost town, which led to a story about bridge with a haunted history on the road to Sweetwater Mansion.
On the short drive to the swamp, I allow my imagination to run wild! In my mind’s eye I picture the corpses of soldiers slain in battle, of lights, flickering like candles, luring travelers to touch the bodies and drown, which haunt J. R. R. Tolkien's Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings. Should the six girls in my story find themselves in a swamp? How would a swamp fit into the plot, since the Red-cooked Woodpecker lives in longleaf pine forests?
When we arrive at Ebenezer Swamp, the bright afternoon sun dispels these ghostly images. Shafts of sunlight sift down through the Tupelo Gum (Nyssa aquatica), spreading amber reflections on the water.

Ebenezzer Tupelo Swamp HDR

We amble happily along the boardwalk, built by the University of Montevallo, into the heart of the swamp, teaming with a rich and colorful mosaic of life, far more fascinating than imaginary ghosts can ever be. From the perspective of the swamp’s denizens—beaver, American woodcock, turkey, great blue heron, timber rattlesnake, water moccasin, copperhead, raccoon, opossum, and freshwater clam—their habit is seething with delicious, edible things, crunchy and soft, or squirming and flying. I do not see these inhabitants, but I sense their hunters’ eyes watching, waiting motionless ready to snap up their prey in the blink of an eye! There appear to be oily patches on the water, but our guide assures us that they are caused by beneficial bacteria, which help to break down the organic matter and cleanse the swamp. This classic upland hardwood swamp located in Shelby County is one of the fastest disappearing wetlands in the Southeastern United States. It is a complex eco system that is a crucial home to many species. A few years ago, a Tennessee company applied for a permit to open a quarry just miles from the swamp. The residents were strongly opposed, as was the University of Montevallo, knowing that the acid leached from the quarry into the spring feeding the swamp would damage the eco system. Fortunately, the company backed out when they were threatened with litigation. This is another happy example of citizens banding together to protect significant natural habitats.  (So much for ghosts—but wait, I found this link about ghosts at the Ebenezer Swamp in Georgia.
Links to explore:
Birmingham Audubon Society
Ebenezer Swamp, University of Montevallo
Limestone Park, Alabaster, Alabama
Southern Highlands Appalachian Birding Trail

Tupelosis rustica HDR
What strange bird haunts the swamp?

Blue Ribbon Cutting at Limestone Park
Together with local birdwatchers, we enjoy a front-row seat at one of Shelby County’s most active wildlife spots as the Mayor of Alabaster cuts the blue ribbon, officially opening the new birding observation deck at Limestone Park. The ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates Limestone Park as a “magnet site” on the new Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail, which features 38 sites in Shelby and several other surrounding counties. We all applaud the fact that Alabaster teamed up with the Birmingham Audubon Society to construct the handicap-accessible wooden observation deck, elevated above a large wetland area. At the end of the walkway we relax on benches beneath a covered roof to spot birds and munch of granola bars generously provided by the city of Alabaster. Perhaps the Sizzling Six could be part of a community-wide effort to build a birding observation deck? This would be an excellent example of civic activism, don’t you think?
Limestone Park’s open meadows, Tupelo gum swamps, and nearby woodlands, attract a wide range of birds, including great egrets, anhingas, great blue herons, woodstorks and roseate spoonbills. While the experienced bird watchers spot several of these species, I glimpse only the egrets and a blue heron. No doubt that I need to sharpen my birding skills. I’m thinking that the protagonists in my story will learn how to become good birders, thereby sharing these skills with their readers.
For additional information visit: Birmingham Audubon Society