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.
“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.
Named after a settlement in the 1840s, Old Miakka Preserve contains four miles of trails including scrub habitat, pinewood flatwood, and wetlands. The preserve is abundant in flowering plants with numerous pollinators and occasional gopher tortoises. One of the trails is named after Horticulturalist Tim Cash who spent years studying plants within the preserve. If you are looking for a calm trail with lots of sunshine and flowers, visit Old Miakka Preserve in Sarasota, FL.
Have you visited any interesting preserves lately? Message us with your pictures and some fun facts about your visit. Imagine Our Florida will feature your story as a Saturday saunter contributor.
This vine is native to Florida and contains casings with coarse hairy seed pods containing smooth seeds. The seeds inside, called Nickernuts, have had many purposes.
-Jewelry -Indigenous people used the seeds for medicinal tea. -Yellow and red dyes
These plants can be found around coastal areas of south Florida. The first specimens recorded in Florida were found in Monroe County in 1891. The ones in these photos were found at the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Hillsborough County.
The Sea Grape thrives in Florida’s sandy soils. This plant tolerates windy conditions and can act as a windbreak. As well as being salt and drought tolerant, it will stabilize sand dunes while providing habitat for wildlife. This includes protection for nesting sea turtles from artificial light. Look for Sea Grapes in their natural habitat along the beach.
The Sea Grape has an unusual texture with big, round leaves which grow upright on the branches. The leaves are leathery and grow 8 to 10 inches with a reddish tint. They have red veining and some leaves will turn completely red. The female shrubs produce clusters of fruit that resemble grapes that will start out green, and ripen to purple. This plant needs a male and female to cross-pollinate and bear fruit. A Sea Grape plant with its outstretched branches will grow between 6 to 8 feet tall and wide.
The Sea Grape is a small native evergreen tropical tree which can grow as a shrub or be trained as a hedge and does best in full to partial sunlight. Although sensitive to frost, Sea Grape plants can be grown in your yard or garden. Be sure to water until established. Their fruit is very sweet and when ripe provides a tasty treat for people, birds, and squirrels. Jellies and wine are made from the Sea Grapes. Consider planting a Sea Grape Plant in your Florida Native Garden.
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.
Saw Grass Lake in St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the book “Mangroves to Major League: a Timeline of St. Petersburg, Florida” in 1869 cattle ranchers in Pinellas county saw bears and panthers as a threat and began organized efforts to eradicate us from the area. Today, we have better technology such as electric fences that keep us out of areas where there are other animals or vegetables. Did you know if you have a farm you can contact your regional FWC office who can help by loaning electric fencing for a limited amount of time? When you’re done you only need to return the solar panel that powers the fence. Doing this ensures that we don’t become an unwanted guest who gets a bad reputation. We don’t want history to repeat itself, right?
In the meantime, feel free to visit Sawgrass Lake and see local wildlife. You might even be lucky enough to be greeted by my good friend Brutus, the alligator.
Hiding in the Goethe State Forest lives a Giant! A giant bald cypress tree named The Goethe Giant. At over 900 years in age, the massive tree is an amazing sight to behold.
This majestic old tree lives in Levy County, Florida and can be found by going down the Big Cypress Boardwalk Trail in the Goethe State Forest. Bring your bug spray for sure as this is a swampy location. The trail is a short walk to where the tree is located.
Visiting this old timer is a must do for anyone who spends enough time in Florida. The Goethe State Forest also has many miles of trails to hike and explore. Its a nice, quiet location, away from the noise of everyday life.
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?
Director, Dan Kon was driving through his neighborhood when he saw a young man on a bike who was stopped and staring woefully at a large bird of prey lying on the sidewalk.
Post by Dan: I stopped to see if the teen and the animal were ok but the turkey vulture was dead. The teen told me he was riding his bike when the bird fell from a tree above and landed on the sidewalk in front of him. I looked up and saw feathers on the power line above. Either the poor vulture was electrocuted or had fallen from the tree above and made contact with the line on the way down I took several pictures including the pole number and street signs nearby.
I immediately called Duke Energy. The person I spoke with was compassionate and determined to get any potential problem with the power line repaired. She asked for the street and pole number, then promptly scheduled a lineman to be sure the line was safe so no other wildlife could be harmed.
The Duke Energy Representative informed me that dry rot of the insulation, animal’s talons, or sometimes squirrels who tear off some of the insulation, will expose the live wire beneath.
A few days later, I followed up and learned the lineman did inspect the power line and it was not in need of repair. While I did not learn what caused the death of this creature, I did learn that Duke Energy is responsive to keeping our wild friends safe.
Duke Energy asked that if any you who are their customer see an issue like this, please report it to them as soon as possible. Be sure to write down or take a picture of the pole number, located on a tag on the pole, as well as nearby street signs. The company does not want Florida’s wildlife and flora harmed.
It’s good to see a company as large as Duke Energy has joined the worldwide movement to protect our wildlife.
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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Imagine Our Florida, Inc wants to thank the amazing photographic team of Matt & Delia at M&D Hills Photography. They gifted us with beautiful Black Bear portraits to be used by IOF. We are eternally grateful and honored to have people from all over the country donating and helping us carry out our mission right here in Florida. Be sure to check out more of M&D’s stunning art work at http://www.mdhillsphotography.com/ You may even find the perfect image to purchase for your home. Thank you Matt & Delia.
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!!