Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Red- Cockaded Woodpecker

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) is an endangered habitat specialist of our southern long-leaf pine forests.
Living in family groups, it bores nest and roost holes in older (80-100 years) long-leaf and slash pine trees in forest which burns frequently enough to have a low understory and few hardwoods.

Though logging and development has eliminated much of America's pine forests, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker is doing better thanks to an aggressive recovery program by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and here in Florida by the State FWC.


We are fortunate here in Punta Gorda to have a breeding group at the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.

The birds excavate multiple holes in their family territory....using one for nesting and others for roosts.  The young are fed by both the parents and "aunt and uncle" family members.  The chicks fledge in less than a month.

Ants, beetles,  roaches, termites, centipedes and other arthropods are the favored diet.   Family groups forage together by flaking off bark from pine trunks and branches.....the males prefer the upper branches and trunk...the females the lower.


Wife, Olivia, looking for birds in typical habitat....older pines with low understory....here well maintained through controlled burning at the Babcock-Webb WMA.  Preserving habitat is key for this and many other species.

Non-migratory and maintaining a territory of up to 60 acres with multiple tree cavities, the birds peck small holes in the bark of nesting trees.  These exude sticky pine pitch which is a defense against yellow rat snakes and other predators.

These birds and "The Webb" are a treasure here in SW Florida.  Thanks to the US and Florida Fish and Wildlife services for all they have done for their recovery.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Leafless Beaked Ladies' Tresses

 Wild orchids on I-75!  Leafless Beaked Ladies' Tresses
(Sacoila lanceolata).  Also called Scarlet Ladies' Tresses.

 Large group of these showy terrestrial orchids seen in late May along the roadside of I-75, just south of Punta Gorda.
The above group photographed off exit 161.

Seen just by chance on the way to Babcock-Webb WMA.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Boca Birding

Learning of a shore bird nesting colony on Gasparilla Island State Park's middle beach....and wanting to try out Liv's new Nikon Coolpix P900....we headed to the beach.  Above is the view looking north.....not too crowded today!

Lots of barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico....Gasparilla is a favorite.

And here is the view looking south!

Protecting shore bird nesting sites is important.  Birds can easily be disturbed.  This one was taped off and well marked.  There are still natural predators....raccoons, gulls, iguanas.  But keeping people and especially loose dogs away really helps.

Not many birds today....what looked like Skimmers were actually decoys...to attract the birds to a safe colony.

Great idea...hope it works!

We did see a few Least Terns (Sternulla antillarum).

And some more birds...

 Black-bellied Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola).   I think this is  a pair....but we are right between seasons, so it may just be breeding and nonbreeding plumage!  Below pic is from Sibley's.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias).  Commonly seen in SW Florida, but always appreciated.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula).  Back from the brink of extinction, after being hunted for it's plumage!

Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregeta magnificens).

Snowy Plover (Charadrius rivosus).  Looks like an adult in breeding plumage.

Osprey (Pandion halieatus).  Best fisherman ever!

Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla).  Non-breeding and breeding plumage....L to R.

Black Iguana (Ctenosaura similis).  No...not a bird, but an invasive reptile.  Very much a predator of nesting bird colonies.  Much effort has been expended to remove them from the island....but they remain.  STOP THE EXOTIC PET TRADE!

We weren't the only photogs out and about.  Here is local pro, Dave Eppley, shooting the Tarpon Tournament.  Link below to see some of Dave's incredible images.

Dave Eppley on 500px

Bobbing around the pass in a big group doesn't seem like much fun or much sport to me.  How about some fly casting from a flats boat!

Can not resist another shot of the Boca Grande Lighthouse.

Great Southern White butterflies (Ascia monuste) are supposed to predict early summer weather and good tarpon fishing.  Check out this article in Waterline Magazine....my favorite!
Now for some photos around town.  We took a walk....somewhere between exercise and photo stroll and this is what we saw....

Sea Oats 

A flock of Ibis groundskeepers on the Gasparilla Inn Golf Course.

No that's not Maui....

Banyan St.

Lots in bloom around town....let's see what the P900 does with these colors!


Ginger blossoms!

Back to the beach....getting crowded...

What a nice day...birding, picnic, stroll...and some beach time!

The armamentarium....P900, S6300, D3300....see if you can guess which one shot which photo!

Always time to relax at Boca Grande!  See you again next time.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fakahatchee Hike

On the way home from a trip to Everglades National Park we visited Fakahathchee Strand Preserve State Park.
Great time of the year to visit....lots of butterflies...above is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papillio glaucus) cavorting with some young reptilian friends.

Hiking is easy along Janes Scenic Road and the Tram Trails.  You are also able to use one of the many small foot/game trails....or slog through the swamp!

I like the East Tram Trail.....


Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes asterius).

Cardinal Air Plant (Tillandsia fasciculata).   These giant Bromeliads are in danger from the Mexican Bromeliad Weevil (Metamasius spp.) there are three species in Florida.  Here is a link to tell you how this nasty little insect destroys the giant Bromeliads...

Evil Weevil link


Viceroy (Limenitis archippus).

Lots of gators...everywhere....big and small....always watching.  And sometimes you can hear this scary sound...

Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus).

 Orange on top (dorsal view), and brown on bottom (ventral view)...when it holds still it looks like a dead leaf!
 Range Map
Looks like some sort of  insect trap.  Maybe looking for Emerald Ash Borers?
wiki link photo

I didn't think they came this far south?

Great Southern White (Ascia monuste).   The harbinger of summer here in SW Florida.  Note the blue antennae clubs......Cabbage Whites look similar but don't have the blue!

Big mama....she owns the swamp!

Tropical Checkered Skipper  (Pyrgus oileus).

A wonderful stand of native Royal Palms (Roystonea regia) are found in the Strand.

The plan was to hike down the East Tram Trail....but there was a notice at park headquarters about gators blocking the trail.  It basically said....it's mating season, they are aggressive and won't back off....so give them plenty of room.  Well....this guy covered the 10' wide tram way and he wasn't about to leave....so we thought about a side detour......

Lots of little side paths in Fakahatchee.....all covered with leaves and debris....
This specimen was hiding in the leaves and "hissed" to make his presence known!   Well.....time to turn around and head back to the car.  The swamp really belongs to the critters.
Florida Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti)


Fakahatchee Strand is one of my very favorite places....wild and beautiful.  I will leave the trail to the gators and snakes today....but I'll be back soon.