Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pioneers in Space


Part of the challenge in habitat restoration that entails clearing mechanically or with herbicide is just what will take advantage of all that new growing space. Often it is not the species you desire. Case in point; the ubiquitous Caesar weed (Urena lobata). This aggressive pioneer species has taken advantage of the recent cleaning and clearing around the outdoor stage complex.


A vast carpet of paired cotyledons glow green from a thick compost of sand live oak leaf litter. I am amazed at the density of seedlings in this area. It makes me ponder dozens and dozens of children attentive to some program on the stage. Mindlessly they pluck away at the sticky burs caught in their clothing on their trip through the woods and drop them to fertile earth at their feet. There they lie in thick litter beneath a dense canopy, made denser by invasive vines, suppressed from growth. Then noble intentioned conservators armed with sharpened metal and the fruits of chemical ingenuity release vital elements of life, growing space. Then did mother nature let forth the final ingredient, a deluge of rain. It rained, they were sown, they conquered….time to break out the Round-Up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Welcome Rain

sinkhole wet II 5-14-09

I had been watching tensely as the dry days kept coming following our recent pine planting. I was cringing as the candles on the longleaf seedlings wilted in the heat. I was afraid we were going to lose significant numbers of trees. Fortunately, the recent rains have provided some much needed moisture and relief from the heat. Most of the pines are perky and happily soaking up every last drop the sky lets loose on them.

The wetlands are filled to capacity again and water is still overflowing Buttonbush pond to the sinkhole complex (pictured above). The frogs are in heaven. The cacophony of courting following the first really significant deluge was nearly deafening. I heard way too many non native Cuban tree frogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis) and a few greenhouse frogs (Eleutherodactylus planirostris) in the mix but, was pleased to hear competing choruses from southern toads (Bufo terrestris) and a few green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea). I really need to buff up on my frog calls to better determine the diversity our anuran residents. Check out the Frog Listening Network to beef up your own skills and take part in citizen science network of collecting data.


Find out more about Florida frogs and toads at this UF Wildlife Extension page

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cypress Twig Gall Midge


Insects fascinate me almost as much as plants. Their unique evolutionary ties with plants whether commensal, beneficial, or parasitic are a source of endless wonder to me. I share with you today, the cypress twig gall midge. I found these guys on the lower limbs of bald cypress in natural wetland when I was trying to find immature cypress cones low enough to photograph. You can just see (below) the top of the same tree loaded with ball shaped cones. If you don’t hear from me in a while it is probably because I fell out of a cypress trying to get a picture.


Brown Thrasher

DSCN7772 I was delightfully startled by this Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) sitting on a nest. Normally considered fairly aggressive when nesting, I was cutting grape vine with a foot or two of this bird before I was aware of it as it finally hissed and jumped from the nest. This is easily one of my favorite birds of the Back Woods.