Spinning tales about the Viera Wetlands
Charlotte's Web Spinning Tales
There is a wildlife haven in Brevard County — Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands (named after a deceased county employee), more commonly known as Viera Wetlands. This man-made habitat is as outstanding as any of Florida’s natural wetlands.
Initially, visionaries planned polishing ponds to help with water purification and also create wetlands. Hopefully, wildlife would be attracted, especially waterfowl. Moreover, the nutrient-enhanced effluent from the primary treatment process would support the food chain. Today, the synergy of water treatment and wetlands transcends expectations. Flora and fauna thrive.
In this sanctuary, simple dirt roads and grassy berms allow photographers, bird watchers and local or foreign enthusiasts to enjoy a leisurely drive, walk or restful stop among soothing surroundings. And one might just linger and chat.
Vegetation characteristic of natural environments — trees, grasses, rushes, aquatic plants — provides nourishment and cover for various creatures. Deer and alligators are common. A discreet photographer may capture an otter frolicking with her pups in the water. On summer evenings, a partially-submerged pig frog may be seen as it bellows pig-like grunts. How about the bobcat that climbed the observation deck?
Successful reproduction occurs in this refuge. I observed great blue herons utilize a cabbage palm for nesting. The female accepted sticks and twigs from the male and built the nest. Several days later, she lay three pale-blue eggs. Incubation was shared by both, and two nestlings emerged in 28 days. The unhatched egg disappeared the next day. The pair fed regurgitated fish and vegetation directly into their chicks’ bills. The younglings fledged in two months.
Stunning insects abound. The exquisite zebra longwing, the designated state butterfly, is identifiable by its striking black wings with yellow stripes. It frequents the passion flower vine, a larval host plant. The spotted cucumber beetle, with its vibrant coat of yellowish green accentuated with six black dots on each wing, also embellishes the local foliage.
Obviously, the wetlands is for all to conserve and enjoy. Recently, at the annual Viera Wetlands Nature Festival, Hailey Scalia, a second-grade student at the Ralph M. Williams Elementary School, received the top prize in both writing (poetry) and art at the Charlie Corbeil Conservation Awards. Her brothers Joseph and Evan were there to applaud her.
“Conservation is good because you can see the beautiful nature,” Scalia said. Indeed, the future of nature is in caring hands.