We just finished up January with record rainfall and we're currently seeing record-high January water levels in the swamp.
We received 12.9 inches of rainfall in January 2016, beating our previous record of 8.6 inches that was set back in 1991. We typically receive about 2.5 inches of rainfall in January and only a total of 20 inches from October and May.
As of January 31st, the staff gauge in our Lettuce Lake is at 3.3 feet which is about an inch higher than the highest water level we saw this hydrologic year (our peak this year was on 9/30/2015). Since 2000, our average annual maximum water level has been about 3.4 feet, so we're very close to our typical wet season high water level. We're currently setting the all-time high record for daily water depth in the swamp.
So what does this mean for Wood Storks? This time of year Wood Storks are counting on water levels receding so they can feed in pools of concentrated aquatic prey (primarily small fish and crayfish). Right now, because water levels are so high, prey densities are quite low which makes foraging more challenging for wading birds, particularly the tactile feeders (Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, White and Glossy Ibis).
Our research team continues to monitor hydrology and wading birds in our swamp and to use the data to better understand relationships between hydrology, aquatic prey, and wading bird populations.