Archives for the month of: February, 2013

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Alligator mississippiensis

Native

Designated as official state reptile of Florida in 1987.  This little over 6 footer is smaller than the average adult,  adult females reach about 9 feet and males much longer.   In 2011 and 2012  we saw few alligators on the creek, mostly juveniles.  However, there are gator trails into the water.   We inadvertently came across this gator, sunning itself on  November 20, 2012, in a small inlet while we were searching for a  plant to photograph.  In 2013 we have seen more gators, at least one every time we paddle the creek, and in May we saw three large ‘gators crossing the creek, submerging as soon as they detected us.   There are now more small branches off the creek, not deep enough to paddle far, but they extend into the woods.

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife fact sheet:  “Juvenile alligators eat primarily insects, amphibians, small fish and other invertebrates.   Adult alligators eat rough fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds…Courtship begins in early April, and mating occurs in May or June.  Females build a mound nest of soil, vegetation, or debris and deposit an average of 32 to 46 eggs in late June or early July.  Incubation requires approximately 60-65 days, and hatching occurs in late August or early September. …Alligators are ectothermic — they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature.  Alligators control their body temperatures by basking in the sun, or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures.   Alligators are most active when temperatures are between 82 (degrees)  to 92 (degrees) F…They stop feeding when the ambient temperature drops below approximate 70 (degrees) .. and they become dormant below 55 (degrees).   Alligators are dormant during much of the winter season….they occasionally emerge to bask in the sun during spells of warm weather.”

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Photographed November 10, 2016.

Less than 2.5 feet alligators.

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This photo was taken by Chuck Carleton, former host, Womack Creek Camp Site, on March 6, 2012.   The building houses the rest rooms and showers and to the right is a large covered pavilion with picnic tables.  There are 12 primitive camp tent sites, 3 available for RV s and trailers at this campground, $10 per site per night.  Day use fee, $2 per day per person.   Not reservable, first come, first serve, but hardly ever used.   Let water sit overnight to remove sulphur smell; otherwise bring your own drinking and cooking water.

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Taken May 18, 2014

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Nerodia taxispilota

Adult size:  30-55 inches, record 69.5 inches

Range: Throughout Florida, except the Keys; So Alabama, north to SE Virginia

Habitat: rivers, cypress strands, sawgrass prairies, swamps, ponds, lakes, canals, in flooded strands of melaleuca

Habit:  Good climbers, can climb trees up to 20 feet high.  “When frightened by rapidly approaching boats will escape by jumping off limb into water.  Occasionally its attempts tto flee comes too late and they fall, not into the water, but into the boat.

Food:  fishes, frogs, carrion

Reproduction: live bearing, up to 60 recorded.  Newly born 7-11 inches. June-October.

How to distinguish brown water snake from venomous cottonmouth:  

1. Pupil of eye:  Cottonmouth — cannot see eyes from above, vertical pupils; brown water snake — can see pupils from above, round pupils.

2. Facial pit:  Cottonmouth — between nostril and eyes is a facial pit; brown water snake — no facial pit

3. While occasionally cottonmouths have been seen on shrubs and tress, they are less likely to be found there than the brown water snake.

Source:  Florida Museum of Natural History, UFl

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation fact page:  “The head of water snakes is narrow and pointed… Water snakes are harmless, nonvenomous native snakes that typically inhabit wet areas. … Brown water snakes are good climbers and often bask on tree limbs. ”  So, if a snake falls into your canoe from an over hanging  limb, don’t panic, it’s probably not venomous and probably as startled as you are.   The photographer, concentrating on getting a good shot of the primrose, was unaware of the snake,  until her companion calmly pointed out that there was a snake at the base of the plant as she inched her kayak closer to the plant, April 12, 2012.

In April and May 2013 while photographing flowers up close we sometimes found a snake on a nearby limb.   They do not move or try to escape rapidly and are well camouflaged.  But when we are investigating species along Womack Creek our kayak is being paddled quite slowly so as not to create too much disturbance and to be better able to see objects in and along the creek.

Critters

IMG_6626Polistes

There are 28 species of this genus of wasps in Florida.   This particular nest was not noticed until the paddler passed right against the muscadine vines on April 12, 2012.

To make these nests, to quote Professor Henry R. Hermann’s  blog, “…adult wasps position themselves with their head down (body oriented vertically to the ground) on a source of wood.  They use their mandibles to scrape the wood.  As it is scraped, saliva is added, and eventually the collected material takes the form of a round, moist ball of wood pulp which the wasp takes back to its nest.  It applies this material gradually to form the walls of paper cells, using their antennae as guides, in placing the pulp.”

Critters

IMG_6590Dolichovespula maculata (Linnaeus)

This was above the reach of a kayak paddle on a branch over the water on April 12, 2012.

Critters

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Helianthus angustifolius L.

Forb/herb, perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  September, October, November, yellow

This plant attracts bees, butterflies and songbirds.   You will find it blooming with climbing aster.

Location:  N30 118 W084 32.556′ (.16RR), N 30 00 090′ W 84 33 125′ (.7 RL), N 30 00 370′ W 84 33 613′ (2 RL)

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Ampelopsis arborea

Vine, perennial

Native: L48, Puerto Rico

Blooming:  May, June, green, green

Flowers favored by pollinating insects such as Tiphiid and thread-waisted wasps, assassin bugs and delta scarab beetles.  Deer will forage on leaves.

Location:  (GPS coordinates still to be verified)

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Smilax auriculata Walter

Shrub/vine, perennial

Native: L48

Blooming: April, May, white

Fruit eaten by bluebirds, catbirds, cedar waxwings, crows, mockingbirds, robins, thrashers, thrushes, wild turkeys, woodpeckers.   Fruit eaten by small mammals.  Foliage browsed by white-tailed deer.  Provides good cover and nesting sites for wildlife.

The Seminoles used a complex infusion of buds and leaves for chronic conditions.

Location: N30 00.126′ WO84 32.381′ (near landing, camp sites)

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Alnus serrulata

Shrub, perennial

Native: L 48, CAN

Blooming:  January, white, yellow

Catkins of the alder look similar that to that of the American hornbeam (Carpinus carolianana Walter).   In early January 2013, these alder catkins were blooming and the American hornbeam branches were still barren.   The seeds of the alder also resembles miniature pine-cones.  The alder is a nitrogen fixing shrub.  It is used for stream bank stabilization.

The hazel alder bark has  anti-inflammatory salicin which was used by native Americans as an antiseptic to disinfect cuts.  Its medicinal uses were extensive:  as an analgesic, blood purifier, cathartic, cough medicine,  emtic and purgative, for eyes, for biliousness and jaundice,  for heart trouble, piles, kidneys, thrash, toothaches, to clear milky urine. The inner bark of the alder was also mixed with chokeberry and red osier dogwood into a tobacco mix(kinnikinnick) and added to bearberry leaf for improved flavor.

The plant is host to the woolly alder aphid (Prociphilus tesselatus) on which the adult uncommon harvester butterfly larvae (Feniseca tarquinius)  feed.  The uncommon harvester is the only carnivorous butterfly caterpillar in the US.

Location:  N30 387   W084 3.572′ (2.0 RL) , N 30 055 W o84 33.215′ (1.2RL) , N30 327 W084 33.608′ (1.93RR)

 

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Chionanthus virginicus L

Shrub, perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  late March, April, May, white

Will be seen blooming near azaleas at its peak and about the same time as false indigo, making for a lovely color combination:  pink, white, purple. Larval host and nectar for rustic sphinx (Manduca rustica).  The female plants have a purple-blue fruit which are attractive to birds.  The flowers also attract insects which have not yet been identified.   Native Americans and early settlers used parts of the plant to treat inflammation of the eye,  mouth, ulcers and spongy gums.  It still has pharmacological use.

In 2013 it began blooming in late March and its blooming being extended for less than a month.

Location:  N 30 00.245’W084 33.569′(2.5RR), N30 00.361W084 33.604′(2.5RR), N30 00.514′ W084 33.956′ (2.7RR)