Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Critter of the Week Jan. 24: White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)


The white-eyed vireo (Vireo griseus) is a small songbird, and a key characteristic is guessed it...white eyed! You can find these pretty birds in overgrown pastures, shrub areas, thickets, woodland margins, and mangroves. They forage some fruits but primarily on insects. They hunt the insects by taking short hops or flights and punctuated by short pauses where they tilt their heads and look around for prey. They bathe by rubbing against wet foliage. 

The white-eyed vireo is often solitary or in pairs, and both sexes will sing their primary song in the winter time.  They are monogamous and have solitary nests. The nests are open cups suspended from a fork of a small branch in a shrub or tree, typically lower down closer to the ground. Bark, leaves, roots, etc. are used to make the nest which is held together by insect silk and spider webbing. They even decorate the outside of the nests with things like lichen, moss, and leaves. Inside the nest, there is a lining of fine grass or hair. Both sexes incubate the brood which is usually 3-5 eggs. After 12-16 days the little tykes hatch and are fed by both parents. After 10-12 days they leave the nest. cowbirds will often parasitize their nests.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Critter of the Week Jan. 17, 2011: Big Cypress Fox Squirrel

The Big Cypress fox squirrel (Sciurus niger avicennia)  is a subspecies of the Eastern fox squirrel. I am not sure what the population is on Panther Island, but I know of t least four individuals! Instead of reinventing the wheel, here is a link to information on this cool critter! Big Cypress Fox Squirrel

Monday, January 10, 2011

Critter of the Week January 10: Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

         A beautiful and deadly medium-sized songbird, the loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is another favorite resident of mine at Panther Island. If you look closely at the tip of its bill you can see a hook. After searching for prey from a perch, these guys use this hook to kill insects, lizards, mice, and even other birds. And they actually have a notch or "tooth" near the tip of the bill that helps sever the spinal cord of its prey! They then impale their prey on a sharp stick, thorn or say barbed wire fence to hold while they  tear apart their food. I actually saw a series of four grasshoppers impaled on barbed wire fencing along the perimeter of Panther Island once. This confused me at first until I saw a loggerhead shrike come in and start eating. When there is a store of food like this it is a cache which is unusual. I think it is pretty cool. 
        During the breeding season, they form seasonally monogamous pairs that will defend a territory. during the winter though they are solitary and defend separate territories. Females incubate the eggs (clutch size ranges from 1-9 eggs) for about 16 days The young are altricial and both parents feed them. They leave the nests after about 3 weeks. They often have 2 broods in a year  (sometimes even 3 in the south!). In Panther Island, they seem to prefer nesting in young oak trees.
         They are found in habitats where there is a mix of open fields or prairies and scattered trees.In certain areas of their range their population is declining due to habitat loss and insecticide/pesticide use. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Critter of the Week Jan. 3: Yellow Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata)

One of the coolest and most misunderstood critters is the snake. The yellow rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata) is a subspecies of the rat snake. The yellow rat snake is found throughout Florida. They are found in a variety of habitats such as forested areas, swamps, and yes...suburbia. They are arboreal and often can be found by looking UP into trees and shrubs. These guys are actually constrictors by nature and primarily eat rodents, frogs, birds, and eggs. If you don't like snakes, keep in mind they help keep the rodent population in check! They are a slower moving snake that typically reacts to a threat first by freezing. Unfortunately this leads to lots of them being killed along our roadways. they are nonvenomous and typically not aggressive; however with any threatened animal they can and will bite so if you come across a snake just stand back and enjoy their beauty from a safe distance!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things that make you go hmmmm...

Sorry guys, I am currently working on getting some more photographs for new and fun topics on here! To be continuted!