Monday, December 24, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Shrimp boats make for a good breakfast!

As I was driving around at the crack of dawn, I noticed a lot of bird activity on one shrimp boat in particular. It was apparent that it had shrimped the previous night and the nets still contained  some small fish and shrimp. Various birds were climbing about the boat looking for breakfast.

Immature black crowned night heron

Mature black crowned night heron,

Night heron finds a a small fish.

Night heron with a small flounder.

Great blue heron with a shrimp.

  Great blue spears a flounder.

Sometimes you have to take a break after all that eating.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wandering around the Bluff

Last week a friend called and said he had seen a bear or two, at the same time and place, on two afternoons. The next afternoon I was staked out across the street, fifteen minutes ahead of time, to see what would transpire. Sure enough after twenty minutes a head was peering out of the ditch.

It grazed along the ditch for a few minutes, oblivious to traffic.

Then it sauntered off through a locked gate to check for acorns.

This is one of our typical juvenile bears. In these pictures, the bea'rs head and ears appear large in comparison to it's body. As a bear matures the head will be proportionally smaller.

I've been back twice more and it's been there one of those times, 2 out of 3 is fine. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Return of the Whooping Cranes


Yesterday morning I arrived in St. Marks at 0715 to witness the arrival of  5 of this years hatchling cranes. They had followed an ultra-lite plane for 54 days and over 1100 miles, from Wisconsin to St. Marks NWR. Prior to the landing at the Refuge, they did a fly over at the city of St. Marks.

The birds have imprinted on the ulta-lite, treating it as another crane and if you look closely at the pilot he is dressed in an all white "costume". All the people that interact with the cranes dress in "costume" and do not speak, so that the young birds won't imprint on them.

Here is a handler in "costume" with the crane head used in training. They act as surrogate parents and teach the young birds what to eat and how to behave.

Off toward the refuge where they'll spend the next few months before returning, on their own. to Wisconsin, Hopefully, around this time next year, they will return to St Marks NWR with prior years classes.

The whooping crane has come a long way in my lifetime, As a child the total number of birds was around 40, today it is over 600. A big step, but was still a long way to go. If you would like to contribute or just gain more information, here is the group that brought the cranes to St. Marks.
Operation Migration

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Teenagers in the neighborhood

It's that time of the year when the yearling bears are chased away their mothers. This is part of the bear's breeding cycle. One of the results is the young bears come into town and start  attacking dumpsters, trash cans, pet foods, etc. They remind me of teenage kids...gangly, awkward, and hungry all the time. This little guy was about to hit a neighbor's trash can, when I interrupted him.

If you look closely under his right eye (click on picture to enlarge) you'll see that he has a fresh wound, probably a territorial dispute.

He finally tired of posing for me and loped back into the woods.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Across the Panhandle

After a non-existent winter, we're now blessed with a prolonged spring. Low humidity, cool nights and mildly warm days. You can't ask for much more! 

At the end of February my master naturalist class visited the St. Joe Buffer Preserve which is a classical mix of wet lands and upland habitat. The Buffer is home to a number of rare and/or endangered species of plants. The Chapman rhododendron is only found in 3 places in Florida. 

An unusual characteristic of the Chapman is they grow in pine flatwoods instead of the shaded hillsides and ravines that many of it's cousins prefer.

In March I was invited to visit Spring Canyon. A private oasis in the steephead and ravine country of North Florida, featuring a number of rare species of plants.

The head of an active steephead with spring eroding a ravine.

Mountain laurel

Coral honeysuckle

Florida anise

Flame azalea

If these sights and habitat interests you, Torreya State Park is nearby and offers similar habitat.