I noticed the raptors earlier than I noticed the Lake Jackson sinkhole. Osprey and Turkey Vultures wheeled in tight circles above a small pool of water, surrounding by the sloping sides of what had been the lake backside. I walked to the sting, shielding my eyes towards the intense summer time solar to absorb a Wooden Stork probing the mud for prey, and almost a dozen different vultures sitting on uncovered earth, maybe digesting bellies filled with fish that hadn’t made it when a gap opened within the limestone shelf and drained the lake.
Now, the sinkhole and surrounding lake melancholy have develop into a birding hotspot.
Lake Jackson encompasses about 4,000 acres simply north of Tallahassee. Although its deepest reaches prolong down 25 ft, a lot of the lake is shallow, lined in a blanket of vibrant inexperienced lily pads. Throughout prolonged dry durations, the aquifer under the limestone recedes, and the lack of equalizing stress ultimately results in the opening of a sinkhole that carves deep valleys into the lake flooring as water rushes to flee.
I visited once more a couple of days later, and the small pool had disappeared. Fish skeletons littered the drying mud, and the place as soon as I had seen principally raptors, I now noticed wading birds. White Ibis, Nice Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and even Roseate Spoonbill looked for fish and different meals between and underneath the remnant lily pads or within the pockets of water that remained. Within the distance, an airboat carved a path by means of the vegetation, scattering dozens extra egrets, herons, and ibises. I for one felt grateful for the avian clean-up crew; I had anticipated the entire space to reek of lifeless fish, however all I may odor was the earthy odor of the drying lake backside.
To make sure, when the lake is full, you possibly can see wading birds and different species, however proper now there are lots of extra waders within the space than regular.
Lake Jackson drains so frequently that its unique title — Okeeheepkee — means “disappearing waters.” Close by lakes additionally periodically drain, together with Lake Iamonia, Lake Lafayette, and Lake Miccosukee. Lake Jackson drained in 1999 and 2006 (with prolonged low durations in between), in addition to in 2012 and now 2021. Because the area turns into dryer because of local weather change, draining occasions may develop into extra frequent.
Every sinkhole occasion opens a smorgasbord for birds and different scavengers. The ensuing dry down is nice for the ecosystem’s total well being, because the sudden onslaught of air accelerates decomposition of the underside, conserving it from changing into too mucky and accumulating an excessive amount of partially decomposed vegetation. The fish want exhausting backside for his or her spawning depressions, and the birds in flip want a wholesome fish inhabitants.
Finally rain will recharge the aquifer, and as soon as the sinkhole is plugged the lake will refill. Heavy storms ought to velocity the method alongside, most likely this summer time. Till then, birders, geology lovers, and locals and guests alike will proceed to flock to the location.