Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Prairie Creek Preserve: Cracker Cows and Meadowlarks

                                                     Prairie Creek Preserve link
1600 acre mixed environment preserve

Prairie Creek, Shell Creek, Scrub, Piney Flatwoods, Wet Prairie

Cracker Cow

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)

Florida is much more than Disney and Miami Beach!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yucca Pens, Rattlesnakes and Panther Tracks

"Yucca Pens" is the local name for the Charlotte Flatwoods Environmental Park.
This section features Pine Flatwoods, swamps and a very uniuqe Spartina Marsh.

There is a nice trail around the marsh.
Slash Pines (Pinus elliottii)
Sparina marsh.

Great White Heron (Ardea herodias).

Saltmarsh Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora).

Yellow Buttons (Balduina angustifolia).

Field Sandspur (Cenchrus incertus).

Glades Lobelia (Lobelia glanulosa).

Bay Lobelia (Lobelia feayana).

Bloodroot (Lachnanthes caroliniana).

Large-Flowered Sabatia (Sabatia grandiflora).

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciollis).

Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans).

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus).

This big fella was sunning himself on the trail.

He was over 4 feet long and we gave him ample room to move away.

Count the rattles!

Further down the trail we found these tracks.

Florida Panther (Felis concolor).

Reflections of a wonderful day afield.

About half of these photos were taken by my wife, Olivia.
Here are a couple of links for Yucca Pens and Babcock-Webb WMA.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Florida Scrub Jays

 Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens).  Endangered species found only in Florida from the Panhandle down to the Northern Everglades. Habitat is Pine Scrub, Sandhills, and lately suburban developments.  Inquisitive and easily tamed.  Feeds on Live Oak acrorns and store bought peanuts!

Stump Pass Beach State Park

 Located at the south end of Manasota Key, this Florida State Park has an unspoiled beach on the Gulf of Mexico, a pass into Lemon Bay and a long mangrove lined channel perfect for kayaking.  A three mile hike throught the barrier island habitat reveals much interesting flora and fauna.  These photos were taken in December after a hard frost, so much of the plant life was dormant.

 The channel into Lemon Bay...."Ski Alley" to the locals....lots of small mangrove islands for kayakers.
 Sea Grapes (Coccoloba uvifera).  In season you can eat the grapes or make some jam.

 Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) and stump of Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia).  These trees were eradicated by the park service as invasive species...originally planted to provide shade for are popular roosts for ospreys, owls and nesting spots for other birds.
 Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata).
 Great Blue Heron (Adrea herodias).

 Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres).
 Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus).
 Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis).
 Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae).
Currently they are dredging Stump Pass at the south end of the things are a bit of a mess.  Try a trip here in the spring!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Big Cypress

Big Cypress Preserve

Recent trip to Big Cypress December weather brings out all the big gators to bask in the sun and wonderful colors of the sawgrass and cypress trees in winter.

The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), grows to over 12 feet long is usually docile but extremely fast moving and dangerous if surprized, disturbed, or even approached to closely.  Habitiats include ponds, swamps, rivers, marshes.  They prefer fresh water, but are occasionally seen in mangroves or the Gulf of Mexico.  They all seem bigger than my kayak!