Archives for category: Critters

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Romalea microptera (Romalea guttata)

Size: adult female 50-70mm (2-2.8″), males 43-55mm (1.7-2.2″)

Location: Southeastern US, broad range in low, wet areas in pastures and woods and along ditches.  In north Florida from about March to November.

Food:  broad variety, but prefers broad-leafed plants.  Polyphagous — eats small amounts of a large variety of plants.  In Florida can create problems in citrus groves, vegetable plots and landscape ornamentals.

Life cycle:  One generation per year, with eggs over wintering (this stage can be as long as 8 months), egg laying begins about one month after reaching adult hood, usually the summer months.  Eggs are deposited in soil located in drier areas although adults prefer damp or wet habitats.

Predators:  tachinid fly (Anisia serotina).   Most birds and lizards avoid these insects, except loggerheard shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) will capture them, impale and cache the grasshoppers on barbed wire and return when the toxins have degraded.

Generally the adult is dull yellow color, but in North Florida adults remain black.

The common name describes the walking and crawling behaviour of the grasshopper.  “Lubber” is from an old English word meaning lazy or clumsy.  Novice seamen were called “landlubbers”.

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Lyssomanes viridis

Size:  females 7-8-mm (2.8-3.1 inch), males 6-8mm (2,4-3.1 inch)

Range:  throughout Florida, from spring to early autumn

Habitat:  woodlands, on broad leaf evergreens (e.g. magnolias, bays) and live oak.

Food:  aphids, mites, ants, other plant insects and other jumping spiders

The photo above seems to be that of a female.

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Egretta Caerulea

Habitat:    Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico.                    Fresh water swamps, marshes; forages by wading in shallow water.

Diet:  Fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles and crustaceans; when water is scarce, grasshoppers and other insects.

Nests:  Nests in colonies, stick nests in shrubs and small trees, 3-5 pale blue-green eggs.

During first year of its life, a young heron will be white and are likely to be seen feeding with snowy egrets.  In this company they are more likely to catch more fish and may be subject to less predatory interest.   Approaching adulthood, the white changes to patchy white-blue until the bird becomes the adult color of blue with tones of purple.

According to the 2016 State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List, the population declined 55% between 1966 and 2015.  Little blue heron is listed 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern List.

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Unfortunately the only specimen we were able to find of this turtle was of this one found dead, 1/2 mile from mouth of Womack Creek.  It’s carapace (shell)  was over 15 inches long.

Family:  Chelydridae

Genus/Species: Macrochelys temminckii

Habitat:  panhandle and in the Big Bend area from the Escambia River east to the Suwanee River.  Persistently aquatic.

On state endangered and threatened list.    Rule 68A-27.005, Florida Administrative code makes it illegal to take, possess, sell this species.  Currently under review for federal listing by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Physical description:  largest of the freshwater turtles in North America.  Males can lengths to 29 inches and 249 pounds; females 22 inches and 62 pounds.  The species above had a carapace about 15 inches long and was at least 25 inches long — it was missing parts of its tail and head.  Three spines which run the length of its carapace.  Generally gray/brown with black splotches on shell.   Has a long tail.

Diet omnivorous:  plants, fish, frogs,  musk turtles and acorns.

Life history:  courting February-April; nesting late April-middle May in western Florida.  Nests in sandy soils with 65.6 feet from water. (There are scant areas along Womack Creek which have sand and hardly any banks which do are not covered with water during a 24 hour period.) 17-52 eggs in a clutch, one clutch a year. Incubation 100-110 days, hatching about mid-August.  Sex of turtles determined by ambient temperature of the egg (77-80.6F will produce males; 84.2-86F, females.) Maturity at 11-13 years of age.

Predators:  humans and raccoons, wild hogs and red imported fire ants on eggs.

History:  Was caught for food and in the 60’s and 70’s;  over harvesting caused decline in population. Hatchlings were also caught for the pet trade.  Restrictions on catch in the 70’s; currently illegal to catch, possess, sell alligator turtles. Turtles still get caught on bush lines (lines suspended from trees on creek — of which they are few on the lower part of the creek, particularly those set for catfish) and nets.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, R.D. & Patricia P Barlett, Florida’s Turtles, Lizards and Crocodilians, UF Press, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dromogomphus spinosus

Size: 2.1-2.7inches

Seen: May through September

Common along streams and rivers, ponds and lakes.

Male: green thorax, wide black shoulder stripes.  Females have yellow markings. Juveniles are yellow.  Wings are transparent.

This dragonfly was the predominant species on the creek on May 30, 2015.   Two of these alighted on the kayak and hitched a ride downriver.

Source:  Beaton, Giff, Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast.

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Nerodia fasciata

Non-venomous

Adults average 24-41 inches; the record is 60 inches.  May have black, brown or red crossbands across back, usually bordered with black.  In the older snakes these crossbands may not be a pronounced as the snake darkens with age. Background color may be gray, yellow, tan or reddish.    “Belly is light colored with squarish spots.  Scales are keeled and there are 21-25 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round.  A dark stripe extends from the eye to the angle of the jaw.  Juveniles have very clear crossbands (usually black) on pale background.” (Source:  Florida Museum of Natural History, UFL.)

Range:  In Florida, the Panhandle, extending up the coastal plain to North Carolina and west to southwestern Alabama.

Habitat:  Nearly all freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and marshes.

Though not venomous, “when threatened, the Banded Water Snake will readily bite and exude a foul smelling musk.”

“Active mainly a night, but may be found during the day sunning on banks or vegetation hanging over the water.”

Food: fishes, frogs, salamanders, crayfish and tadpoles.

Mating:  Spring.

Birthing:  bears live young, around 7.5-9.5 inches long in summer.

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Eumorpha fasciatus

Family:  Sphingidae

Adult size:  Wingspan 3 7/16-3 13/16 inches

Habitat:  tropical, subtropical, astral lowlands

Range:  Northern Argentina through Central American; Mexico to southern California and southern Arizona east to Florida; north to Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Nova Scotia

Habits: Adults feed after dark; Caterpillars pupate in shallow chambers in soil

Food:  Adults: nectar; Caterpillars: primrose willow or evening primrose family & other plants

Source:  Butterflies and Moths of North America

This moth alighted on Ed’s arm as we were searching through the rushes for a stem to identify whether that plant was a sedge (it has edges), rush (it is round), or a grass (it has joints).  It would have stayed there longer than the time we had, so we waved it in the air to flight.

 

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Nerodia fasciata fasciata

Adult size:  24-42 inches, record 60 inches

Range:  Florida up coastal plains to North Carolina; southwestern Alabama.

Habitat:  Freshwater ponds, streams, rivers and marshes

Habit: Non-venomous.  When threatened excudes musky smell and can bite.  Active mostly at night.

Food:  Fishes, frogs, salamanders, crayfish and tadpoles.

Reproduction:  Mate in spring, 7 1/2-9 1/2 inches young in summer.

Source:  Florida Museum of Natural History, UFL

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Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster

Adult size:  28-48 inches, record is 62 inches

Range:  Northern peninsula of  Florida,  Florida panhandle.  In western panhandle interbreed with yellobelly water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster).  Also found in southern Alabama, along the northern coastal plain to Virginia.

Habitat:  rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps and cypress strands.

Habit:  Non-venomous.  In the heat of summer active in early morning, later afternoon and night.

Food:  Fishes and frogs

Reproduction:  Live bearing, 11-30 young 9-11 1/2 inches.

Source: Florida Museum of Natural History, UFL.

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Libellula vibrans

Either female or immature male

Habitats:  ponds, slow streams and especially swamps

Frequency:  common April, May, June, July, August, September

Behaviour:  unwary

Information from Giff Beaton, Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast.