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Limpkin

— Limpkin —

The Limpkin (Aramus guaraunas) is a unique looking bird. It is brown with white spots and streaks, densest on the head and neck, with a long yellow bill. The Limpkin is 25 to 29 inches long, with a wingspan of 40 to 42 inches. Because of their long toes they can stand on floating objects as well as swim. Limpkins get their name from the seeming limp when they walk. They are also known as the wailing bird or crying bird due to their loud, mournful call at night.

Limpkins’ diet consists of apple snails and freshwater mussels. Adapted for foraging on apple snails, the bill is slightly curved to the right so it can slip into the snail. When closed, the bill has a gap right before the tip. The bill then acts like tweezers when it needs to feed. They will also eat, worms, insects, frogs, and lizards.

The Limpkin’s habitat includes the shores of ponds, lakes, rivers, swamps, and open freshwater marshes. Their nests are made up of twigs and any kind of vegetation. They are built on anything from floating vegetation to tree limbs. Both parents incubate the eggs during the day but only the females incubate at night. The clutch size is between 3 to 8 eggs which range in color from grayish white to deep olive with brownish or purplish gray streaks. When they are born they can run, walk and swim. This bird was once very common in Florida but because of the decline of its primary food the Florida Apple Snail and loss of habitat, it is listed as a species of special concern.

Did you know: A group of limpkins is known as a “hobbling”.

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Perico Preserve

— Perico Preserve —
—– Get Outside! —–

A stroll through the Perico Preserve will take you through coastal scrub, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, stands of seagrass, and coastal hammocks. The Perico Preserve is located on what was once 175 acres of fallow farmland, located in Bradenton. Instead of letting the 175-acre site be turned into condos, local officials decided to restore coastal habitat and provide support for wildlife.

Emphasis has been placed on habitat diversity, so the Perico Preserve encompasses several plant communities. Grasses at the Preserve are Florida natives and include several that are common such as Pink Muhly. Others are less common, like Maidencane (Panicum hemitomon). These native grasses attract beneficial insects and make an excellent cover for wildlife. Over 100 species of native plants have been used on this restoration site.

The preserve hosts an assortment of birds as well. Tri-colored Herons, Osprey, Roseate Spoonbills, Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Great Egrets, are just a few you will observe of over 50 bird species. The area is located on several migratory routes. A rookery in the center of a pond, within a seagrass habitat with bird viewing platforms, allow the public to enjoy seeing the birds without disturbing them.

The Perico Preserve lies next to a neighborhood and extends beyond the houses to a coastal bayou. It was planned for public use and education, so it includes trails, viewing areas, shelters, and educational materials. This is a successful restoration project on Florida’s central Gulf Coast.

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #PericoPreserve #GetOutside

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Barred Owl

— Barred Owl – Strix varia —

“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” hoots the Barred Owl in a rich, soulful voice.

Barred Owls are native to North America and can be found in low-lying swamps, dense forests and most commonly, in deciduous or mixed woods. A suburban neighborhood can offer ideal habitat for Barred Owls when large trees are present although risk of being hit by a vehicle poses a danger. Pleistocene fossils of Barred Owls have been dug up in Floridaindicating these magnificent birds of prey have inhabited our state for at least 11,000 years.

Adult Barred Owls are 16–25 inches long and have a wingspan of 38–49 inches. They weigh 1.10 to 2.31 pounds. Their faces are pale with dark rings around the eyes and they have yellow beaks. Their chests are barred horizontally and their bellies are barred vertically. Barred Owls are the only species in the Eastern United States who have warm, dark brown eyes.

Prey consists mostly of small mammals, however, Barred Owls will also prey upon other small animals such as amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Hunts generally occur during dusk or dawn, although Barred Owls may be found hunting during the day when it’s raining or when raising young. Barred Owls have keen eyesight and will often perch on a branch while waiting for prey to appear. Using their night-vision, they will take flight and silently swoop in on their prey. Without any warning, they will snatch up the unsuspecting animal in their strong talons.

Perched close to each other when courting, both male and female will bow and bob their heads, raise their wings, and call out to each other. Barred Owl nests are often found high in a tree cavity although they have been known to move into an abandoned nest originally created by hawks, crows, or squirrels. Clutches consist of 2 to 4 white colored eggs. Eggs are brooded by the female during which time the male brings the food. Owlets hatch in approximately 4 weeks and are ready to take flight in about 6 weeks.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Owl #BarredOwl

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Whitetop Pitcherplant

WHITETOP PITCHERPLANT Sarracenia leucophylla

Florida has more carnivorous plants than any other state. They are mostly found in the panhandle but can be found in bogs as far south as central Florida. Their roots are mostly used to hold the plant in place. Many of the carnivorous plants reproduce by flowering and producing seeds. Some of these plants produce beautiful and showy blooms to attract pollinators.

The carnivorous plants that make Florida their home are not your typical potted Venus fly trap yelling, “Feed Me, Seymour.”. These plants fill Florida’s sandy, wet plains, and bogs. The soil in which carnivorous plants are found tends to be poor in nitrogen due to the wet environment. The nitrogen washes away before the plant can absorb it but these plants have adapted. Using several methods, carnivorous plants are able to trap the bugs and small mammals they need for this vital nutrient.

The whitetop pitcher plant, also known as the Swamp Lily, is endangered. It’s habitat consists of mixed-grass wet prairies, wet flatwoods, seepage slopes, streamside seeps, and wet prairie ecotones of dome swamps and depression marshes. Flowering time is from March to May.

Insects are attracted to the pictherplant’s sweet nectar which is secreted by its leaves. Once on top of the pitcher, the insect slips on the waxy opening and falls into the plant where fine hairs prevent it from escaping. Enzymes will produce a digested insect which provides the pitcherplant with much needed nitrogen.
Carnivorous Plants are sentinels of the general condition of their environment. One of the first things to go when wetlands degrade is its carnivorous plants.

Threats to pitcherplants include fire suppression, disrupted hydrology, feral hogs, and poaching of the plants.

Learning about Florida’s carnivorous plants may transform you into a naturalist!

Photo Credit – Andy Waldo
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Pitcherplant #SwampLily

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Green Heron

The Green Heron (Butorides virescens), is a solitary, secretive bird. They inhabit coastal areas, mangrove swamps, freshwater ponds, and wetlands.

Green Herons stand with their bodies stretched and horizontal, ready to thrust their bill into prey. They use twigs, berries, and feathers as bait. They drop the bait into the water and wait for it to attract prey. Fish are the primary food but they also eat aquatic frogs, crustaceans, insects, grasshoppers, snakes, and rodents.

Nests are constructed near water. The male begins building the nest and the female finishes it. The female lays 3-5 eggs and both Mom and Dad incubate the eggs for 19-21 days. Once hatched, both will feed the young with regurgitated food. The young learn to fly at about 23 days but both parents will continue to feed the young until they fledge at about 30 days.

The Green Heron is a dark colored, stocky bird. They have a dark neck, gray belly, and a greenish, blue back. The upper part of the bill is dark, and the legs are bright orange. Green Heron populations seem to be stable but accurate numbers are difficult because of its secretive nature.

For the Green Heron, protection of wetlands is especially important.

Green Heron – St Petersburg Mangroves
#ImagineOurFlorida #GreenHeron #IOF #Mangroves #Wetlands

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Miami Blue Butterfly

(Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri).

Miami blues are as big as a blueberry and have the weight of a dandelion puff. They were once found abundantly through 700 miles of Florida coastline, up and down both of Florida’s coasts and the Florida Keys. Their preferred habit is the beach berm. These butterflies pollinate the shoreline which helps prevent shore erosion. Due to the development and remodeling of the natural seashore and mosquito control spraying, Miami blues were unofficially declared extinct after Hurricane Andrew wiped out their last known colony in 1992.

Wildlife biologists found a couple of small populations in an uninhabited island in the Florida Keys Wildlife Refuge and began a breeding program. The butterfly uses two coastal plant species to lay its eggs, blackbead and gray nickerbean. Each can be found in abundance on many of the untouched Key Islands. These plants are ideal for the butterfly, who in its caterpillar stage, feeds on new growth found on the branch ends.

Adult Miami blues have a lifespan of between one and two weeks. They will stay within 30 feet of their birthplace. During that time, the females will lay between 20 and 100 eggs a day on host plants. It is suspected that when there is no new growth on the plants for them to feed on, ants colonies are store the butterfly eggs until more favorable conditions arise for them to hatch and become caterpillars. In exchange for this, the ants receive a sweet sugar substance from the caterpillar cocoon and do not harm it.

Miami blues are an endangered species and part of a 25-year long conservation effort. Vulnerable to hurricanes and climate change, this endemic butterfly can now be found only in Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo: Mark Yokoyama

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Coquina

Coquina (“co-keen-ah”) is a sedimentary rock consisting of loosely consolidated fragments of both shells and coral. The cemented fragments are generally calcium carbonate or phosphate. The shells and coral are compressed and turned into a mass as rainwater filters through. The rainwater dissolves the shell’s and coral’s calcium carbonate which then glues them together. Coquina forms inshore environments such as marine reefs.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, coquina is a loanword from Spanish meaning “shell-fish” or “cockle” which is a type of bivalve mollusk. The word Coquina was first used as a reference to building stone in 1837 in the book The Territory of Florida by J.L. Williams.

There are many different kinds of shells and coral that can cement together. By identifying the shells or coral you can determine the age of the coquina. Sometimes the coquina may be covered in mud or weathered with age making the identification of the shell and coral difficult and that particular piece may remain a mystery. Many coquina rocks have only been formed in the last few thousand years but others can go back to different periods of time such as the Miocene age (20 million years).

Identifying the coquina and where it’s found is important to local geology. Since Coquina forms inshore environments, either marine or on land, determining the ages of coquina deposits can help reconstruct sea level rise and fall over time.

Florida has large deposits of coquina, and the soft, white rock was ideal for building. Coquina is a very soft building stone and needs to be dried out for a few years before it can be used. The Castillo of San Marcos Fort in Saint Augustine was built of coquina by the Spanish in the late 1600s. When the British attacked the Fort in 1702 during the Siege of Saint Augustine, they fired cannonballs at the Fort which had no effect. The cannonballs kept sinking into the soft coquina. Coquina is used as an ornamental landscape material today.

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Cane Toad

The cane toad (rhinella marina) is an invasive species. Native to Central and South America, it was released in Florida in the 1930s-1940s to control sugar cane pests.

Cane toads grow to between 4 to 6 inches. Their coloration ranges between tan, brown, reddish brown to gray. The skin is warty and the back is marked with dark spots. They do not have ridges or crests like the native southern frog. They do, however, have large triangle-shaped parotoid glands, which appear prominently on the shoulders. Breeding takes place from March to September along vegetated, freshwater areas and they lay their eggs in a long, string line, like native toads.

Cane toads are predominantly found in Central and South Florida. They can be found in urban areas as well as agricultural areas, flood plains, and mangrove swamps.
Cane Toads prey on anything that fits in their mouths. Unfortunately, their prey often consists of native frogs, lizards, snakes, and small mammals.

Toxin from a cane toad can irritate a human’s skin and eyes. If a pet bites or swallows a cane toad, they will become sick and the toxin may be fatal. FWC states, “A cane toad’s toxin can kill your pet in as little as 15 minutes without proper treatment. If your pet bites or licks a cane toad, it will likely start acting strangely with frantic or disoriented behavior. It may also have brick-red gums, seizures, and foam at the mouth.”

FWC recommends “If you see these symptoms and believe your pet licked or bit a toad, immediately wash toxins forward out of the mouth using a hose for 10 minutes, being careful not to direct water down the throat. Wipe the gums and tongue with a dish towel to help remove the toad’s milky, white toxins that will stick to your pet’s mouth. Once you have done this, get your pet to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.”

Keep your cats indoors and your dogs close by when you take him or her outside.

FWC offers these tips to make your yard less attractive to cane toads:
Cut your grass regularly and keep it short.
Fill in any holes around structures.
Trim the underside of shrubs and keep branches off the ground.
Clear away brush piles and remove clutter.
Feed pets indoors when possible and bring outdoor pet food and water bowls indoors at night.
Clean up any food scraps from pet bowls or outside tables and grills.

For more info, click here: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/239ad8f?reqfrom=share

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Sweat Bee

Sweat Bees (Halictidae) are also known as Halictid bees. They vary greatly in appearance. The majority are dull to metallic black, with the remaining species being metallic green, blue or purple. These bees do not sweat, they are attracted to human sweat. These non-aggressive Bees use the salt from human sweat for their nutritional needs. Sweat bees are important pollinators for many wildflowers and crops, including stone fruits, pears, and field crops. Halictids typically nest in bare soil located in a sunny location. Most halictids nest underground, but some will nest in rotting wood. The bees help speed the decay and decomposition of deadfall trees. In the spring or summer the female mates. She then begins digging a nest and providing cells with pollen and nectar. Cells containing an egg or larva are lined with a waxy substance which is extruded from a gland on the underside of the bee’s abdomen. In each cell, a single egg is laid. When the larva hatches it eats the pollen provided. Once that is eaten it must become self-sufficient and find its own food source. Males will usually resemble the female of the same species but the male sweat bee does not have an area of long dense hairs on its hind legs used for carrying pollen. They may have a yellow spot below the antennae on their face. As these bees feed on nectar and pollen they are pollinating in the process. These technicolor bees do add a flash of brilliance to a spring garden.

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