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Clearwater Lake Recreation

Clearwater Lake Recreation

Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at the beach at the Clearwater Lake Recreation area. Located at the southeastern edge of the Ocala National Forest near Paisley, Clearwater Lakes serves as a peaceful respite from the stresses of everyday life. Hike, bike, or camp in the pinewoods and scrub habitats. Canoe on Clearwater Lake or enjoy the swimming beach.
There are 42 shady camping sites along the lake where you can pitch your tent or hook up your trailer. Rent a canoe or bring your own canoe or kayak and paddle on the peaceful Clearwater Lake.

Hike the 1.3 mile Clearwater Lake Nature Trail Loop. Interpretive signs will guide you on a leisurely stroll through oak scrub, pine flatwoods, and a freshwater marsh. Rest on one of the benches as you take in the sights and sounds of Nature.

The 22- mile Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail Loop runs between Clearwater Lake Recreation Area and Alexander Springs Recreation Area. Park your car at Clearwater Lake Recreation Area and begin your backpacking hike through the Ocala Forest on the 62-mile Florida Trail.

Whether you are spending an afternoon or a few days, Clearwater Lake Recreation Area is a place where people of all ages can immerse themselves in Nature and learn to connect, respect, and coexist with our wild friends and within our shared ecosystems.

National Parks and Coronavirus: https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/public-health-update.htm

For more information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ocala/null/recarea/…

Photo Credit: With gratitude to IOF Contributor
Jonathan Holmes. Images captured early Feb 2020

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Ceraunus Blue Butterfly

Ceraunus Blue Butterfly

Take time to stop and look at the little things.

With a wingspan of only 1 to 1 3/16 inch, the Ceraunus Blue Butterfly, Hemiargus ceraunus (Fabricius), is easy to overlook. This tiny butterfly is commonly found flitting just above the vegetation in sunny habitats including parks, scrubs, along roadsides and in your Florida landscape.

Look for the prominent orange-rimmed black marginal spot on the hindwing. Females are usually a darker blue. Tiny blue eggs are laid on the flower buds of herbaceous legumes. The host plant provides food for the larvae with flowers, buds, and new growth. Multiple generations are born each year.

Do Ceranus Blue Butterflies live in your outdoor space? What butterflies have you seen in your yard?

Photo Credit: Aymee Laurain and Andy Waldo

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#CeraunusBlueButterfly #GetOutside
##Butterfly #ConnectRespectCoexist

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John C. and Mariana Jones Hungryland Wildlife and Environmental Area

John C. and Mariana Jones Hungryland Wildlife and Environmental Area

Walk where Native Americans once walked with Mastodons and Bison. Hike where Seminoles escaped to hide from the U.S. Army in the 1800s. The Army cut off food supplies to the Seminoles and the area became known as Hungryland. The Hungryland Slough once was used for grazing cattle.

Have your elders ever talked about a real estate scheme that had people buying swampland in Florida? Pal Mar, a part of Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area (WEA), was divided into several thousand lots by developers. While attempting to drain the area via newly dug canals, the lots were sold to unsuspecting out-of-state buyers. However, the developers failed to obtain the proper permits and Martin County stopped the construction of drainage canals.

Considered to be conservation land by the citizens of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the land was purchased through the Save Our Rivers program in 1994 and 1997 and through the Conservation and Recreation Lands Program in 1999. Johnny and Marianna Jones advocated for the protection of Florida’s fish and wildlife throughout their 61-year marriage. They were passionate about preserving Hungryland WEA and their name was added to honor their efforts.

Today, Hungryland WEA is managed by FWC and offers plenty of opportunities to get outside. Hike, bike, or horseback ride along one of the trails. A 6.5-mile and a 2-mile trail are best explored in the dryer months of March-May. There is a 1.5-mile trail on the north end and a 4-mile trail around a citrus grove. As part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, be prepared to observe snail kites, bald eagles, wood storks, limpkins, egrets, and herons. Watch for bobcats, coyotes, turkeys, deer, hogs, alligators, otters, turtles, and snakes.

Primitive camping is permitted year-round. In February, the IOF Board of Directors held its annual meeting at Hungryland WEA. Some of the board members camped and the rest made the drive on the day of the meeting. The area is vast and gave us plenty of opportunities to capture the beauty of the land with our cameras. Aymee made a delicious pot of campfire chili. It was a perfect dinner to celebrate IOF’s past accomplishments and to kick off our goals for 2020.

For more information: https://myfwc.com/recreation/lead/jones-hungryland/

Photo Credit: IOF Board of Directors

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Sky-Blue Lupine

Sky-Blue Lupine

This Florida Native Lupine, (Lupinus diffusus) thrives in the dry, sandy soils in sandhill and pinewood habitats as well as in pastures and on roadsides.

A member of the pea family, Sky-blue Lupine has fuzzy grayish-green leaves and beautiful blue flowers emerging from the central spike. This low growing shrub blooms from mid-winter through spring. Seeds are dispersed by animals and the wind.

Lupines can make a wonderful addition to your native garden. In the fall, plant seeds in well-drained sandy soil in full sun. They will produce flowers early next year. At the end of the blooming season, they will reseed and new plants emerge annually.

Photo Credit – Andy Waldo at Lake Wales Ridge

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF
#Lupine #GetOutside

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Helen & Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary

Helen & Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary

The Helen and Allen Cruickshank Sanctuary is the perfect place to take a hike. Originally part of a large scrub habitat located near the Indian River Lagoon in Rockledge, this 140-acre sanctuary was acquired by the EEL program and is surrounded by development.
The Cruickshank Sanctuary is best known for its friendly Florida Scrub-jay population. The 1-mile nature trail through a pine flatwoods habitat offers opportunities to observe a variety of plants and animals who thrive in the sanctuary. Listen for mockingbirds, sparrows, Eastern Towhees, woodpeckers and more. Look up to see birds of prey. Admire the abundance of wildflowers and pollinators along the way.
There is not much shade so be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat.
For more information and hours: https://www.visitspacecoast.com/…/helen-and-allan-cruicksha…

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Ornate Bella Moth

Ornate Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

Most moths are nocturnal meaning they are only seen at night but, this beautiful moth can be seen fluttering in the daytime. A very distinguishing feature of the ornate bella moth is the bright pink color seen when flying. When at rest this coloring is often covered by the top wings. Their coloration greatly varies which for a long time confused taxonomists who had multiple names for the species based on their appearance. It turns out they were all a single species.

These beauties can be seen through most of the Eastern United States through the Midwest. The eggs are small yellow spheres. The larvae are an orange color with black patches and white spots with many hair-like structures called setae. The pupae are encased in a brown and black sac covered in a light coat of silk. A common native host plant for these moths is the Crotalaria avonensis, a beautiful plant with yellow flowers. These plants produce pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are toxic to many species, but not the ornate bella moth. These moths consume the plants and thus become toxic themselves. This toxicity protects them for the short three weeks of their life.

What wild things have you seen this week?

#ornatebellamoth #mothsofNorthAmerica #moths #Floridawildlife #Florida #Entomology #ImagineOurFlorida #IOF

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Tomoka State Park

Tomoka State Park

Walk where Timucua once walked. At Tomoka State Park there is a half-mile interpretive trail that leads you through a hardwood hammock and past the Timucuan village site of Nocoroco. Watch for common white-tailed deer, threatened gopher tortoises, elusive bobcats, and well-camouflaged rattlesnakes. Search for wild coffee, resurrection ferns, and indigo plants. Look up to see bald eagle nests, woodpecker holes in dead trees, and a variety of other birds. Bring your lunch and enjoy it at a picnic pavilion.

Sleep where Timucua once slept. Tomoka State Park has 100 campsites for your RV or tent, all with modern-day conveniences of electric hook-ups and water as well as a grill and picnic table. Invite your family for a reunion at the Tomoka Recreational Hall. You can host your next business meeting or get married in the hall.

Go boating where Timucua once canoed. Bring your own or rent a canoe or kayak at the park store. Explore and discover the peacefulTomoka River estuary and basin. The Tomoka River and its tributaries within the park are designated a manatee sanctuary. Be sure to follow speed and idle limits to protect these amazing animals. After all, it is the manatees who keep our waterways clear of vegetation for marine life and boaters.

Learn the history of Nocoroco, a Timucua village and the people who once thrived there. Mount Oswald, a cotton, sugar and indigo plantation, was once located at the highest point in the Tomoka Basin. Observe the preservation of history through restoration at Tomoka Point.

Tomoka State Park, located in Ormond Beach, is designated a Great Florida and Birding Wildlife Trail, a Greenway, and a Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.

For more information, reservations, prices, etc, click here: https://www.floridastateparks.org/Tomoka

Photo Credit Alex Clark

#GetOutside #Explore #Discover
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF
#SaturdaySaunter #TomokaStatePark

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Red and black mason wasp

—Red and black mason wasp (Pachodynerus erynnis)—

While everyone loves honeybees, wasps get a bad reputation. Although, both help as pollinators, both are capable of stinging. Wasps, such as this red and black mason wasp can usually be harmless.

Mason wasps are solitary and unless provoked they couldn’t care less about humans. Females will build nests made out of debris and mud. Each nest contains multiple compartments containing an egg and food source for the larvae to feed on once they hatch. Larval food consists of several garden pests such as cutworms and army worms. Adults feed on nectar from flowers.

Hopefully, you have a new respect for these busy garden buddies. Do you have a favorite type of wasp? What have you seen in the wild this week?

#fotofriday #redandblackmasonwasp #masonwasp #wasp #Florida #gardening #Imagineourflorida #IOF

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Scorpion-tail

Scorpion-tail Heliotropium angiospermum

These delightful little plants are members of the Boraginaceae family which include the common forget-me-nots. They can establish well in sandy and disturbed sites and are commonly found in coastal hammocks. They also make a nice addition to your garden.

They are host plants for Bahamian swallowtail, Cassius Blue, Florida white, gray hairstreak, great southern white, gulf fritillary, Miami blue, queen, rudy daggewing, Schaus’ swallowtail, and others.

Do you have a favorite Florida native plant in your garden?

#scorpiontail #Heliotropiumangiospermum #pollinators #Floridanativeplants #Florida #ImagineOurFlorida #wildflowers

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Weekiwachee Preserve

– Weekiwachee Preserve –

Located in Spring Hill, this 11206-acre preserve is just waiting to be explored. Weekiwachee Preserve provides a perfect habitat for the iconic Florida black bear as well as gopher tortoises, coyotes, bald eagles and more.

Weekiwachee Preserve is a part of a system of conservation lands. Because of public ownership, the preserve acts as a buffer from tropical storms and provides flood protection for human developments while the wetlands cleanse surface water before spilling the Gulf.

The southernmost hardwood hammock in western Florida thrives within the preserve. Experience pine-covered sandhills, dense hardwood swamps, and freshwater and saltwater marshes. Watch cattails sway in the breeze as you gaze into the lake. Refracting limestone particles from the limestone pit in which the lake is located create brilliant blue water.

Hike or Bike on the 5.5 miles of paved and unpaved trails. There are another 4.3 miles of marked, scenic woods trails to explore on foot. Birdwatch on the west section of . Launch your boat, kayak, or canoe on one of the lakes.

Bring your sunscreen. Be sure to look for bear paw prints in the white sand!

For more information, click here:
https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreat…/weekiwachee-preserve

photo credit: Aymee Laurain

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#WeekiwacheePreserve #GetOutside

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Cassius Blue

Cassius Blue Leptotes cassius

This common but beautiful little butterfly can be found in scrubs, open fields, or residential areas. They lay their eggs on flowers rather than leaves. Larvae feast on the leaves and seeds. They are small butterflies and can often be mistaken for a dried leaf. This little one was resting on a Simpson stopper and enjoying the sun. What is your favorite butterfly?

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

In 1962, NASA purchased 140,000 acres of land located adjacent to Cape Canaveral. The John F. Kennedy Space Center was built complete with launch pads. In 1963, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) and NASA entered into an Interagency Agreement. This agreement allowed USFW to establish the land that was unused by NASA as the Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Established to provide habitat for wildlife diversity, migratory birds, and endangered and threatened species, Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge consists of scrub, pine flatwoods, hardwood hammocks, saltwater marshes, freshwater impoundments, and coastal dunes. Over 1,500 species of plants and animals including 15 federally listed species make their homes here.

Walk, hike or drive the many trails at Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge. Stroll along the boardwalk located behind the Visitors Center. The 1/4 mile loop winds through a native butterfly garden, an oak hammock, and a wetland prairie, all with a view of two freshwater ponds. Take a walk on the 1/2 mile gravel road on the Wild Bird Trail. Hikers will enjoy the 1- mile Scrub Ridge loop, the 1- mile Pine Flatwoods loop, the 2- mile Palm Hammock Trail loop, and the 5-mile Cruickshank Trail loop.

Black Point Wildlife Drive is popular with nature lovers and birdwatchers. This one-way 7-mile drive offers loads of opportunities to view and photograph wildlife, migratory birds, and birds who live there year-round. Drive to Haulover Canal and look for old canals and foundations left behind by the people who farmed the lands long ago.

Watch for bobcats, otters, and deer. Lizards, snakes, alligators, and turtles make their homes here. 358 species of birds have been recorded at the refuge. Birds of prey include bald eagles, osprey, red-shouldered hawks, and American kestrels. Look for killdeer, Wilson’s snipes, and ring-billed gulls along the shore. Look up to see blue jays, barn swallows, American robins, pine warblers and more. Blue herons, ibis, and egrets are plentiful. Ring-necked ducks, blue-winged teals, and wood ducks can be seen swimming in the waters at the refuge. Threatened and endangered species such as the eastern indigo snake, scrub-jay, gopher tortoise, wood stork, West Indian Manatee, and Southeastern Beach Mouse find refuge here.

Grab some sunscreen and bug repellent. Take a drive, hike, or walk through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. See how a technology giant, NASA, and natural Florida coexist. It is a perfect example of how we too can #connect#respect, and #coesist with our wild friends and within our shared habitats.

For more information click here: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/

Photo Credit Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF
#SaturdaySaunter #GetOutside
#MerrittIslandNationalWildlifeRefuge

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Old Fort King Trail

Old King Fort Trail is an out and back trail and is about 10 miles long. It begins at John B. Sargeant Park in Thonotosassa and ends in Hillsborough River State Park. The first part of the trail is approximately 2 miles long and is paved. Once the trail crosses US 301, it becomes an unimproved path with some rough terrain. In some places, it may be muddy or even flooded after heavy rains.

Whether walking, running, hiking, biking, horseback riding, or walking your dogs on a leash, you are sure to be greeted by plenty of beautiful wildflowers along the trail. Take some pictures on the wooden bridge. Keep your eyes open for wildlife who cross your path and spend some time birdwatching.

Photo Credit – Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #OldFortKingTrail

#ConnectRespectCoexist #Explore #Discover

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Creeping sage

Creeping sage Salvia misella

These blue beauties are quite subtle but get a lot of buzz from the bees. It makes an excellent groundcover and does well in sandy soil. It has a slight aroma that is very earthy but not overwhelming and is a host plant for the fulvous hairstreak. It goes dormant in the winter but quickly returns when temperatures warm up for spring. Do you have an interesting native ground cover in your yards?

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Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park

Crystal clear water at a year-round temperature of 72* makes Blue Spring State Park the perfect destination for both visitors and those who make their homes there. Each day, the spring pours 100 million gallons of water into the St. Johns River.

Blue Spring State Park was established in 1972. Two years earlier, only 14 wintering manatees were tracked in the spring run. In 1971, Jacques Cousteau filmed a documentary about manatees titled ‘The Forgotten Mermaids.’ This film is thought to have helped convince the state to purchase the land. Ongoing conservation efforts including prescribed fire have restored Blue Spring State Park to its original splendor.

Up to 485 manatees now spend their winters in the warm spring waters. Endemic Florida Scrub-Jays, bald eagles, fish, turtles, alligators, and a bounty of other animals live there year-round. As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, 142 species including merlins, Mississippi kites, Blackburnian warblers, and chestnut-sided warblers have been spotted within the park.

Blue Spring State Park offers plenty of opportunities for everyone to get outside. Spend the day hiking or biking. Stroll along the boardwalk through the lush hammock to Blue Spring. Barbeque and picnic near the water. Take a hike along the 4.5-mile Pine Island Trail and look for wading birds, ospreys, kingfishers, Bachman’s sparrows, hairy woodpeckers, scrub jays and other animals who live within the different ecosystems. Free ranger-guided bird walks are offered in April and October.

Swimming, snorkeling, diving, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding resume when the weather warms and the manatees leave their winter home. Bring your own or rent a canoe or kayak. A guided Kayak Experience is available. Take a guided St. Johns Riverboat Cruise or a Guided Wilderness Escape Segway.

Look for middens, commonly known as shell mounds, and other archaeological sites within the park. Visit the Thursby house, built by European settler Louis Thursby in 1872 where steamboat passengers spent the night during their river trips. Today, the historic house is a place to enjoy interpretive exhibits, museum pieces, and from mid-Nov until the end of Feb, the manatee interpretive program.

If a day trip is not long enough, bring your RV, pitch a tent, or rent a cabin to be sure you have time to experience all the park has to offer.

Get there early since the park reaches capacity quickly. For reservations, rentals, and more information, click here: https://www.floridastateparks.org/pa…/blue-spring-state-park

Photo Credit: Alex Clark, Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF
#SaturdaySaunter #BlueSpringStatePark
#GetOutside #manatees

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