Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), Florida's iconic wading bird.

Striking, beautiful, bizarre, fascinating.....all are adjectives used to describe Florida's iconic Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja).

The pink color of it's feathers is diet-derived, from carotinoid pigments.

Spoonbills wade through the shallows, swishing their spoon shaped bills from side to side...feeding on crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and small fish.

Hunted almost to extinction by "plume hunters," spoonbills have made an impressive recovery.   Feathers were worth $80 an ounce and Florida's birds were hunted unmercilessly.

Spoonbills are a neo-tropical species with the northern edge of their range in Mexico and Florida.

Florida's wading birds are indicator species for mercury contamination in the Everglades.  In the last ten years this has improved thanks to better agricultural practices, protective regulations and accurate monitoring.

photo by Olivia Scott
Good places to look for Roseate Spoonbills....Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Myakka River State Park, and The Celery Fields in Sarasota.

photo by Olivia Scott

Always something interesting to see in our "Natural Florida."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spiney Orb Weaver Spider

Spiney Orb Weaver Spider (Gasteracantha canciformis).  Found here in Florida most often around citrus trees....both in groves and suburban yards.

Known locally as the "crab spider" due to their crablike carapace,  they belong to the family of orb weavers, Arneidae, and are quite harmless.

The Spiney Orb Weaver spins a large and strong web (like the Barn Orb Weaver  Araneus cavaticus  in Charlotte's Web) with a distinctive curiosity....random tufts of silk, which entomologists speculate are there to warn birds and flying insects not to fly into the web.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Green Heron

 The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is one of six herons found in Florida, the others beign the Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tricolor Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron.

 This small wading bird (19 inches) is a still hunter, found waiting in ambush on the edges of marshes, ponds, lakes and rivers...both fresh and salt water.
Here's a great video of a Green Heron using a piece of bread as bait in order to catch small fish....what an intelligent bird!!
A year round resident of the Sunshine State, Green Herons are found all throughout the Eastern U.S., on the West Coast and into Mexico, Central America and the Northern tip of South America.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Rambur's Forktail, (Ischnura ramburii)

Rambur's Forktail (Ischnura ramburii) is a small (27mm or 1.06 in.) damselfly of the Coengrionidae (narrow winged damselflies) family.  This is a female with orange markings.  The male will be green with blue on abdominal segments  8 and 9.  All this can get confusing, as females can also be red....or even green like the males!!

Bug Guide link
Named after the French entomologist Jules Pierre Rambur, who wrote the tome, Histoire naturelle des insectes (1842).

You can read it online, in French, at the University of Michigan archives!

This Forktail's habitiat is near ponds, streams, and even near brackish estuaries.....most often spotted basking in the sun.
Interested in Damselflies (Zygoptera), check out a copy of Princeton's Field Guide.....at Amazon.com

Princeton's Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East

Be sure to get out and enjoy even the smallest creatures in nature....sometimes they are the most fascinating!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tricolor Heron, Egretta tricolor

 Formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, the Tricolor Heron (Egretta tricolor) is a mid-sized wading bird native to the Gulf Coast of the U.S.

One of only four Herons found in the U.S., the Tricolor feeds in marshes and shallows by kinking up food with it's feet.

 Most closely related to Bitterns (Ardeidae), Tricolors are seemingly secure with a worldwide population of 500,000....but losing it's wetland habitat.  They are also hunted in South America and "permits to kill" are issued in the U.S. to marine farms.....not to mention the disaster of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

I am including this pic.....I like it because, although the colors of the heron are "blown out," the reflection is sharp!!  Serendipity, but I love the effect.