Green Anoles, Anolis carolinensis, are native to Florida. They are found in natural and suburban areas throughout our entire state.
Adult Green Anoles grow to 5-8 inches long. Males have a solid pink throat fan known as a dewlap. Anoles can quickly change from bright green to a dull brown color to blend into their surroundings. Their favorite foods are roaches, beetles, flies, spiders, and other small invertebrates which makes them beneficial to your garden.
In cool weather, you may find these lizards hiding in shingles, under tree bark or in rotting logs. In warmer weather, look for them basking in plants, on fence tops or rooftops. Females lay single, round, eggs in rotting wood or moist soil throughout warmer months. The tiny lizards emerge from their eggs looking like miniature adults.
The biggest threat to Green Anoles is the introduced Cuban brown anole. Because they are great climbers, Green Anoles move vertically up in their habitat which allows them to decrease competition by claiming the higher habitat among the trees as their own.
House sparrows were introduced at various stages throughout New York (Barrows 1889), Maine, Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia. Some of these releases were a sentimental connection to the homeland of many European immigrants. Others were to help control cankerworms or linden moths(Marshall 2014). In some cases, the release of house sparrows failed and the birds died without breeding. One of the more successful attempts was in Nova Scotia. This population spread and the presence of other populations in the U.S. Northeastern states may have helped them thrive.
Today, house sparrows have spread throughout all of the United States, most of Mexico, and the southern parts of Canada. They have even made their way to South America. In most regions, they are considered an invasive species due to their aggressive and territorial tenancies. They will even go to such extremes as to damage the nests of other birds. They out-compete many native birds for food and reproduce at a rapid rate making them difficult to control. Oddly enough, many places in Europe are seeing declines in house sparrow populations. The United Kingdom has a 71% reduction since the mid-1990s. This decline has been linked to avian malaria and areas of increased nitrogen dioxide. Italy experienced a 49% decline in house sparrow populations from reductions in nesting sites, reduced food availability, and possible disease. Paris reported a 12.4% reduction by year primarily due to city gentrification. Yet, these birds continue to thrive in North America.
One way you can help is by providing a nesting box for house sparrows. If eggs are laid you can simply poke them with a pin to prevent the eggs from further developing. Removing the eggs entirely can cause the female to produce more eggs at a faster rate. Removing an entire nest could force sparrows into more wild landscapes and could pose a greater threat to native birds. While we might never be able to fully eradicate house sparrows from Florida, it never hurts to try and reduce the growing population.
The photos below show a male (Left) and female (Right). They are sexually dimorphic with the male having a classic black mask across his eyes.
Photo credit: Aymee Laurain Reference: Barrows, W.B. (1889). “The English Sparrow (Passer domesticus) in North America, Especially in its Relations to Agriculture”. United States Department of Agriculture, Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy Bulletin (1).
“This park is like nothing else in Florida. Being able to see the stars at night in unbelievable detail was absolutely worth the trip.” Jonathan Holmes, IOF Contributor
There is a place in Florida that is world-renowned for stargazing. Designated as a Dark Sky Park due to the absence of light pollution, the stars and planets can be enjoyed the way nature intended.
Located in Okeechobee, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is part of the headwaters to the Everglades and is the largest remaining dry prairie ecosystem in Florida. Once spanning coast to coast and from Lake Okeechobee to Kissimmee, the prairie has been reduced to a mere 10% of its original expanse.
Throughout the years, humans have altered the prairie to suit their needs. The State Park is working to restore the land to pre-European influence. Over 70 miles of ditches and canals have been restored to swales and sloughs. Old plow lines are slated for reconditioning, and a cattle pasture will be restored to native shrubs and grasses. As a fire and flood dependent ecosystem, these efforts will allow the prairie to thrive once again.
The most famous resident of the prairie is the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. Critically endangered, the sparrows rely on a healthy prairie ecosystem for survival. Crested Caracaras, Burrowing Owls, Wood Storks, Swallow-Tail Kites, and White-Tail Kites find refuge at the park. Watch for Bald Eagles, White-tailed Deer, and Indigo Snakes. Native wildflowers are abundant. Look for Blazing Stars, Yellow Bachelors Buttons, Meadow Beauty, Pipewort, and Alligator Lilies.
There is plenty to do at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. Hiking, horseback riding, and biking are wonderful ways to experience Nature up close. Camping, primitive camping, and equestrian camping are offered for those who want to spend the night. A ranger-led prairie buggy tour and an astronomy pad are spectacular ways to enjoy the park.
Creeping indigo is an invasive plant that originated in Africa. This plant is particularly concerning due to its toxicity. It is highly toxic to cows, horses, and donkeys. Symptoms include a wide range of abnormal behavior such as mouth ulcers, dehydration, heavy breathing, high temperatures, rapid heartbeat, foaming of the mouth, pale mucous membrane, light sensitivity, lethargy, odd gait, pressing their head into a corner, etc. Any abnormal behavior should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian.
This plant can spread rapidly and is difficult to remove due to its strong taproot. If you spot these popping up in your garden remove them before they become overwhelming.
What other invassive species can you think of in Florida?
One mile of shoreline, wildflowers, and birds draw over 200,000 people each year to the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands which is commonly known as Viera Wetlands. Named in honor of a long-time Brevard County employee and awarded a grant by the Florida Wildflower Foundation, the wetlands are a popular destination for ecotourists, birders, photographers, and wildflower enthusiasts.
There are 200 acres to explore at Viera Wetlands. Walk or bike around the berms. Enjoy the scenery from your car as you leisurely drive no more than 10 mph along the one way, unpaved road. (The road is occasionally closed to vehicles when too wet.) Revel in the beauty of wildflowers along the banks of the lakes and ponds. Notice the different plants in dry areas as well as those in wet areas. The plants work together to stabilize the soils without the need for fertilizers and irrigation. What pollinators will you discover?
Birds abound at Viera Wetlands which is included in the Great Florida Birding Trail. Get a better view of the wetlands from the observation tower. Keep your eyes open otters, marsh rabbits, and raccoons who make their homes there along with an abundance of amphibians and reptiles. Look for beautiful butterflies and striking Painting Buntings.
These cute little fuzzy spiders are typically found around immature woodland habitats. They can also be found hanging out on your windshield. Males are identified by their black and white features. Females are grey or brown in color. These spiders may be expert jumpers but they also produce a dragline in case they miss their target.
Males perform a romantic dance to woo the females. They show off their handsome leg fringe and bright metallic green chelicerae. If the lady is impressed they will cohabitate in dried leaves such as old palm fronds. When the mating time arrives the male does another type of romantic dance that is different from his courtship dance. During this dance, he shows off his dance moves and then plays a game of peek-a-boo with the female through the tent-like web. Once the female allows him in, he softly pets her several times before mating occurs. Quite the charmer isn’t he?
When it comes time to lay eggs the female will produce several nests under pine and oak trees. Several hundred eggs can be laid during this time. Babies will consume small invertebrates. While they may strike fear into other insects they are relatively harmless to humans. Rough handling of the spiders may prompt a bite which can sting for several minutes before subsiding.
Do you know an animal that performs an interesting mating dance?
“Nice morning walk warm-up. I loved seeing all the Florida pond apples. A plethora of water birds. Definitely bring your camera when you stop here.” Bobby Putnam
Located in suburban Delray Beach, Wakodahatchee Wetlands is the perfect place for a morning walk. A 3/4 mile boardwalk makes it easy to stroll leisurely through 3 of the wetland’s ponds. There are benches and gazebos to sit and enjoy the views. Interpretive signs will help you learn about the history and ecology of the wetlands as well as water purification.
Wakodahatchee Wetlands, a Seminole Indian word meaning “created waters,” was built by Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department to act as a natural filter for about 2 million gallons per day of treated reclaimed water. While cleansing the water, the wetlands provide a home for an abundance of wildlife.
Forested wetlands, marsh areas, ponds, and islands have been designed to attract an abundance of birds and other wildlife. Part of the Great American Birding Trail, Wakodahatchee Wetlands boasts sightings of178 species of birds. Raccoons, rabbits, otters, frogs, turtles, and alligators call these wetlands home. Native plants are used as buffers to hide human neighborhoods.
Bobcats, Felidae rufus Floridanusare, one of two predatory cats native to the Florida region. The bobcat is more common and much smaller than the panther. Bobcats are found throughout the state from the deepest swamps to suburban backyards. The Florida bobcat is immediately identifiable by its short tail or bob. They also have fringes of fur that outline the sides of its head. It weighs between 13 and 30 pounds. Its tail has white on its underside and black markings on its top side. They have spots of white fur on all parts of its body, which can range in color from reddish-brown to grey. The adult bobcat can grow to about 50 inches in length and stands 21 inches tall on average. When an adult reached 35 pounds, the bobcat is similar in size to a young Florida panther for which it is sometimes mistaken. The female bobcat needs about 5 square miles of range while the male requires 15 to 30. The range may consist in part of both wilderness and developed areas and will include enough unpopulated land for a den. The bobcat lives for a period of up to 14 years in the wild and can coexist with the panther, as the two do not share prey. The den can consist of a hollow tree, cave, rock outcropping or other open shelters. Bobcats are mainly nocturnal hunters and their diet consists of small rodents and birds to carrion. They are opportunistic eaters and will eat local fauna including squirrels, opossums, rabbits, and raccoons. During winter months, they shift attention to the many species of migrating birds. The Florida bobcat has a litter of one or two kittens after a gestation period of 50 to 60 days. The mating season runs from August to March with the babies being born in the early spring. A single male may sire several litters at one time. Florida Bobcats are seen in all types of habitats including suburban yards, and even city streets from time to time. Bobcats typically do not approach humans but will do so if fed and taught to associate people with food. Bobcats can swim and climb trees with ease, two factors that prevent them from falling prey to natural enemies besides human hunters. The Florida bobcat is not endangered.
Twice the size of domestic cats and weighing 12-28 pounds, Bobcats, Lynx rufus, are beautiful, stealthy, and secretive. This native species is abundant in Florida and can be found in forests, swamps, and hammocks as well as rural, suburban, and urban areas.
Bobcats are often mistaken for Florida Panthers. Despite being the only two native wild cats to Florida, they diverged from two different lineages. Bobcats are a species of lynx. The lynx line diverged from a common ancestor 7.2 mya. The Puma lineage which the panther diverged from did not appear until 6.7 mya.
Dense shrub thickets and saw palmetto provide cover for private dens. Breeding takes place in August through March with the peak time occurring in February and March. After a gestation period of 50 to 60 days, mother bobcats give birth to 1-4 cubs. The cute cubs are spotted or mottled and have distinct facial markings.
Bobcats usually hunt at night but can often be spotted during the day. Dinner consists of rats, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and squirrels. Towhees, thrashers, catbirds and other ground-dwelling birds provide winter treats. Coyotes effectively regulate the Bobcat population when they prey on cubs.
Bobcats are elusive and show no interest in people. They play an important role in the ecosystems they inhabit by helping to control populations of their prey animals.
When living with Bobcats, we must do our part. Secure chickens and other small pets in an enclosed pen. Domestic cats and dogs should not be left alone in your yard or on a screened porch. Always walk your dog on a leash. With just a little common sense, we can truly coexist with these magnificent cats. #ConnectRespectCoexist
Hiking the 7.1-mile loop trail along the St. John’s River in Seminole County’s Black Bear Wilderness Area will provide a great opportunity to view many of Florida’s native species. The trail system in this 1600 acre Wilderness Area winds through a Hydric Hammock, Wet Prairie, and Cypress Swamps. Because it is established on levees, it stays dry most of the year. However, it can experience flooding during the wet season since it is located within the St. Johns River’s floodplain. Blue Blazes will show you the way along this remote trail and boardwalks provide a dry passage over wet areas.
The Black Bear Wilderness Trail plays an important role in connecting the Ocala National Forest with the Wekiva / St. John’s basins. Look for River Otters, American Alligators, White-tailed deer, and Swallow-tailed Kites. We hope you are the lucky ones who get to see a Florida Black Bear in the wild.
The Leavenworth’s tickseed is an endemic flower that provides food for several pollinators. It can usually be found in pine flatwoods where the soil is dry but can adapt to other regions. Here we have pictures with a species of fruitfly, Dioxyna picciola and a Green sweat bee, Agapostemon splendens. Most flowers are produced in spring but flowers can be found year-round. Have you spotted these beauties anywhere around the state?