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.
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.
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 American White Ibis is a very common bird. You may have seen a group of them passing through your yard using their beak to probe for insects. The males tend to be larger with longer beaks. They breed along the Gulf Coast and when not breeding they drift further inland and to the Caribbean. These birds are monogamous and both parents help to take care of the young. Aside from garbage the larges threat to these birds is methylmercury that leaks into the environment. This alters the hormones in the birds and interferes with their reproduction and breeding. Methylmercury concentrations are increased when waste and fossil fuels are burned. Resevoir flooding can also cause in increase. This chemical is a neurotoxic and also inhibits part of the endocrine system. It prevents males from producing sex hormones that would lead to courtship behaviors. Courtship behaviors are very important in most birds. Without these behaviors the females will not find an interest in the males and reproduction will not occur. It can also lead to females abandoning their nests and reduced foraging.
Other threats include harvesting of their food source such as crayfish, hunting, degradation of habitat, and other chemical uses. If you see these birds passing through, know that they will help your yard by removing pest insects. If you see smaller brown ibis, those are juveniles. Have you seen Ibis around your house?
Safely remove the tortoise from the road and move him/her in the direction in he/she was heading to the grass or wooded area on the side of the street.
-DO NOT put a tortoise in water. Tortoises, unlike turtles, can’t swim.
-DO NOT try to relocate a tortoise. Gopher tortoises have an amazingly strong homing instinct and will try their best to return to their home burrows. This puts them at greater risk for road mortality, predation as they lack the protection of a burrow as they wander, and exposure to the elements. Females have also demonstrated behaviors of nest-guarding and if removed from those areas during nesting season it could negatively impact the survival rate of the hatchlings. (Gorsse et al 2012)
-DO NOT handle them beyond the length of time it takes to get them across the street to safety. A study published this year found that brief handling did not cause a stress reaction but handling for more than a few moments caused stress hormones to increase greater than 200-fold. (Currylow et al 2017.)
Remember, Gopher Tortoises are a Threatened Species, therefore it is illegal to relocate a tortoise without a permit or to keep them as pets. (Florida Statute 372.0725; Chapter 68A-27; Rule 68A-27.003)
If you see a tortoise that will require additional assistance, contact the FWC weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm at 1-850-921-1030 or after hours or on the weekends at 1-888-404-3922
Let’s all work to protect our amazing animal friends that we are so lucky to share this state with!
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Mosquitos lay up to 200 eggs in moist areas. When water is added by rain or humans, the eggs become larvae. Once the larvae are mature enough, they will become pupae. During this stage, metamorphosis takes place and an adult mosquito is born. The entire process takes 8-10 days.
The most common mosquito in Florida is the Aedes aegypti. The females are carriers of West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Zika virus. Female mosquitos need blood to produce eggs, therefore they love to live where people and pets are abundant.
What can you do to stop mosquito breeding in your yard? Mosquitos only need 1-2 centimeters of stagnant water to breed.
1. Change water in birdbaths 2x/week. 2. Be sure flower pots and dish underneath does not contain standing water. 3. Be sure gutters are debris free so that water will not collect in a leaf “dam.” 4. Bromeliads are a perfect habitat for mosquitos to develop. Flush bromeliads with a garden hose 2x/week. 5. Check yard toys and yard ornaments for standing water. 6. Check for leaks from outdoor faucets and around your air conditioner. 7. Is there standing water in your boat or any other vehicle stored outdoors? 8. Look for standing water near your swimming pool, pool equipment and pool toys. 9. Check for standing water in holes in trees and bamboo. 10. Walk around and look for water in things like trash cans, trash can lids and any container or object where water can accumulate. —— Install a Bat House ——– Bats can eat up to 600 mosquitos in an hour!!
IOF is honored and grateful to Ethos for partnering with us and donating 5% back to our organization. If you haven’t tasted their delicious plant based food, be sure to stop in the next time you are in Winter Park. We promise you, the food is delicious.