Archives for the month of: March, 2014

 

 

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Family:  Tetragnathidae

Spiders have 8 legs, 2 body parts and no antennae.

Longjawed spiders are called because their fangs (chelicerae) are as long or longer than their cephalathorax.  All Tetragnathidae have 8 eyes.  They are called orb weavers because they build a web which has a circular grid, although the spokes (radii) are not as many and the webs look a bit disorganized compared to regular orb weavers.

The spiders hatch from eggs in the spring and look like small adults, molting as they grow.  They live for about 1 year, mating and laying eggs at the end of summer.

The genus Tetragnatha are often found near or over water, as the spider above was.

They do bite, but are not considered dangerous.

 

 

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Ardea Alba

Family: Ardeidae

We saw a colony of 8 great egrets on March 13, 2014.   This is the first time we have seen a colony of these birds on the creek.  They can be found singly or in colonies as this group we saw.

Size:  38-40 inches long, wingspan 52-57 inchesweight 35.3 oz avg.  (Smaller than a great blue heron, larger than a snowy egret)

Color:  white feathers, black legs and claws, pointed yellow bill.

Habitat: freshwater, brackish and marine  wetlands; year round residents of Florida.

Food:   Carnivorous — small fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals and invertebrates such as crayfish, prawns, shrimp, polychaete worms, isopods, dragonflies and damsel flies, whirligig beetles, giant water bugs and grasshoppers.

Reproduction: Monogomous pair during breeding season, but not known whether this continues after breeding season.  Early in breeding season they grown long plumes on their backs which are raised in courtship displays, males being the more ostentatious.

Nesting:  Male builds a nest platform with long sticks and twigs before pairing up with a female, then both complete building the nest, though often, the male completes the nestbuilding himself.  It is usually 3 feet across and  1 foot deep and lined with plant material, about 100 feet off the ground or near the top of a tree.  Sometimes they nest on the ground.

Eggs:   1-6, smooth, pale greenish blue, 2.2-2.4 inches x 1.6-1.7 inches, 23-27 days of incubation, 1-2 broods, hatchlings have long white down.

Additional information:

More than 95% of these birds were killed to supply the millinery trade in the late 19th and early 20th century.   Plume hunting was banned around 1910 and the population has recovered, except that contamination from runoff from fields or sewage fields continue to be threats.  The population seems to be currently stable.

The near extinction of the birds led to a conservation movement.  Audubon was founded to protect birds from being killed for their feathers and the Great White Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

These birds are frequently found with other wading birds such as herons and ibises.

(Source:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

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Ardea herodias

Family:  Ardeidae

Great blue herons can be seen throughout Tate’s Hell, in the rivers, creeks and ditches along the roads that crisscross the forest.   These are large, elegant birds with blue-gray backs, black sides and gray and white striped bellies.  The heron’s has a white face, cap and black crest on its head.  The juvenile is duller color and without a crest.  White and intermediate phases occur in Florida.  Great Blues are easily recognized in flight by 6-foot wind span and neck folded into an “S”.

Great blues can be found anywhere in the continental US and southern portions of Canada.   Though they are migratory birds, they can be seen in Florida throughout the year.  Their preferred habitats include lakes, ponds, rivers and marshes.  They lay two to seven pale blue or blue green eggs on a shallow platform of sticks lined with finer material, usually in a tree, but sometimes on the ground or concealed in a reed bed.  They often nest in colonies.  The eggs incubate from 25 to 30 days and both adults share in the sitting.  The average life span is 15 years.

They are carnivorous and eat fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers and other aquatic insects.  They forage while wading, of belly deep, impaling prey with their sharp bills.  They are active day and night.

The great blue heron in Womack Creek is particularly skittish and therefore we have not been able to get closer to the bird, unlike other places where it is fairly easy to get close enough to great blues while paddling.  All photographs on this blog are all taken on Womack Creek so until we are able to get closer to the bird(s), this photo will have to suffice.

Most of the information is from iBird PRO, a great I-touch application for bird ID.