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.
The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winter Solstice

Muggy warm days in southern Florida belie the notion of winter, even in the Sunshine state. However, just around the "bend" is the winter solstice. What exactly is that? The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year and often marks the beginning of winter. Immediately after the days begin to lengthen and nights shorten. While this might hold as much significance now, it historically was.

In ancient times, this was a day of huge celebration. In recent times its significance has dwindled. However at Corkscrew there will be an After Hours program so come out and enjoy the boardwalk under the stars!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wet prairie/pine flatwoods burn

Winter prescribed fire season is upon us. This week a burn was executed on Corkscrew. Fire is a great management tool and necessary for the flora and fauna which are fire adapted. Remember, Florida is the lightning capital of the United States and an added benefit to people of prescribed fire is the reduction of dangerous fuels that are easily combustible in a lightning storm!

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Critter: Marsh Wren

Well I have fallen in love...again. This time the tiny object of my affection is the marsh wren. With a musically engaging song, these little guys live in different types of marsh habitat, but they prefer areas dominated by reeds and/or cattails. For their size, they draw attention to their general vicinity with their vociferousness, singing during the day and night. But be fast! Once you isolate the area the song is coming from you'll have to be ready with those binoculars to spot them. They actively move around on or close to the marsh floor where they glean insects and spiders, their primary food sources.

Winter residents of Florida, I'll have to journey northward to their summer breeding grounds to actually see a marsh wren nest. Their nests are domes constructed of sedges, grasses, and reeds that are lashed to the sides of other vegetation, especially common on bulrushes and cattails. An entrance is constructed that typically faces to the south or west. Look for the nests in clumps of these vegetation types about 1-3 feet above the water. The males build the nests and will often have a series of partially built "homes" (grouped in an area called his "courting center") in his territory before his mates arrive. When a female enters his territory, he will woo her with his song. Hopefully she stays! If she does, then she has options of nests to choose from or she can always build her own.

These beautiful and charismatic little songbirds are in a decline in the eastern US, primarily due to habitat loss and degradation. There is, however, a slight increase in the western population. These two subspecies show just small variations in appearance. However the songs differ greatly and some people believe them to be two distinct species.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New critter: Prairie Warbler

Male prairie warbler

A recent first for me, the prairie warbler (Setophaga discolor) is a beautiful tail-bobbing songbird. Found in the southeastern United States, this bird haunts various shrubby habitats from forests to open fields but generally not in prairies. Go figure! There is a resident population and migratory population in Florida; however, the resident populations tend to be in the mangroves and are considered a different subspecies. They are slightly larger and have larger white spots on their tails.

The males of this species actually sings two songs. The first song is directed at females and is for courtship and display while the second is a territorial song. These two songs differ subtly in speed and volume. Prairie warblers consume insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates that they glean from leaves and branches. On occasion though they can be seen hawking prey midair.

Their nests are open cups of plant fibers and other materials placed less than 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground. The interior is lined with moss, feathers, and fine grasses. Clutch size is from 2-5 eggs and the hatchlings are altricial at birth. And interestingly, the female prairie warbler will eat the eggshells after the young hatch, often within 15-90 seconds!

While this species is currently of "least concern" their numbers are declining, primarily due to breeding habitat loss from development as well as the natural cycle of shrubby habitats into forests.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hummingbird sighting!

So for all the time and hours I spend working in the field I had never seen a hummingbird here...until just now! Just north of the PI work truck is a beautiful alligator flag marsh. While refilling my backpack sprayer I noticed a hovering critter at some flag blooms. Upon further inspection I realized it was a hummingbird! Now imagine my excitement and then chagrin at the realization my camera is at home. So I kept the enjoyment of that marvel of evolution to myself. Below is a photo of the alligator flag marsh it was crushing around foraging in.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Audubon Assembly- Celery Fields trip

Florida Audubon Assembly has a program called the Conservation Leadership Initiative. Sponsored by Disney, this cool program brings students interested in conservation together with Audubon employees, members, and volunteers to learn from each other on multiple levels. As a mentor, it is a great opportunity to learn about the issues important to the next generation of environmental stewards as well as share my passion for land management, a sadly unheralded profession, even within the conservation field.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beautiful day...

Fall is my favorite time of year at Panther Island. Temperatures are dropping; there is still water in the marshes and cypress domes, and I start to shift focus from invasive grasses to Brazilian pepper. This puts me on the ground much more, and leads to fun discoveries like hog skulls, eggs, and beautiful vistas!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Landmark Trees Project brings recognition to cypress at Corkscew!

Great new project/program started at Corkscrew. To learn more follow the link below.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Atlantic Flyway

Migratory birds follow routes between their breeding and wintering grounds. While these routes initially appeared very simple (and following a general north-south movement), as more data is collected people are realizing that migration and the routes used are often more complex than first thought. Birds do, however, generally follow major landmarks such as major river and their valleys, mountain ranges, and coasts. In North America, these topographical features happen to guessed it...north-south!

So what exactly is a flyway? During the 1930s, bird banding data started to be collected and plotted. This data, when looked, at revealed what appeared to be 4 major, general and broad pathways used by migrating birds. These lent themselves readily to use in a more administrative sense. I guess you could think of a migration route as pathways of individual movement from one breeding area or ground to areas that birds go for winter; flyways are broader areas and related migration routes can and often do become overlapping and blend together in a defined geographic area. Flyways are giant multi-laned highways that the routes feed into. Make sense???

Alright...hopefully I didn't just confuse you! The Atlantic Flyway covers the eastern United States from offshore in the Atlantic (where pelagic species travel with few to witness them) to the Allegheny Mountains and actually curves northwesterly to include prairie provinces of Canada, the Northwest Territories, and over to the Arctic coast! These routes in the flyway are essential for some birds such as Lesser Scaups, Canvasbacks, and Redheads that winter on marshes found just south of the Delaware Bay.The coastal portion of the Atlantic Flyway generally follows the shoreline and originates in the eastern Arctic islands and Greenland's coast.

Many birds will go from the panhandle and northwestern Florida region across the Gulf of Mexico to eastern Mexico. There they have a land route for the rest of their migration. However, many take a different route. Migrants taking this way will leave the coast of Florida and fly south to Cuba. Over 60 species of migrants go this way! Around 30 of these will stay in Cuba for the winter while some fly 90 miles south to Jamaica. Some stay in Jamaica and a few brave the perilous 500 miles of unending water to the northern coast of South America. Others may veer to follow and spread out amongst other Caribbean islands.

Birds (and other animals)do not recognize arbitrary man-made boundaries so cooperation amongst many agencies and countries is essential for a migratory bird species continued survival. These flyways allow for this cooperation to be more concise and quantified.

Yellow-throated Warbler in Spanish moss

Friday, October 5, 2012

Corkscrew "After Hours" program

Ever wonder what it would be like to explore Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's world renown boardwalk? Well now on special nights visitor's can! Check out the website for a press release about this new and exciting program.

Tune in this weekend for more on the Atlantic Flyway and bird migration!

Beautiful sunset over Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Monday, September 24, 2012

Birds are on the move!

Mornings at Panther Island are often confusing at this time of year. isn't because I don't know what I am doing, it is because of all the birds passing through! Fall migration is upon us, and the woods and swamps come even more alive as winter residents settle in and others pass through.

What exactly is migration? Migration, as it pertains to birds here, is used to describe the movements of populations of birds. There are in fact multiple types of migration that I'll refrain from going into. In the Eastern United States and Canada, migrating birds use the Atlantic Flyway. There are four major flyways of north America: Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic.


Over the next few entries, I will go into more detail about flyways and the birds that use them as well as conservation needs and what you can do to help our feathered friends along their journeys!

An American white pelican flying over Panther Island. An example of a migrant bird species.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Point Counts...what are they???

At Corkscrew and throughout Audubon, we strive to make choices about land management, policy, education and more based on sound science. Panther Island affords us a unique opportunity to look at unrestored (old agricultural fields) and restored habitat. On the unrestored sites, we are hoping to track how the population densities and species diversity of birds changes during the restoration process. How do we do accomplish that?

Former intern and avid birder and scientist Kate Halstead worked in conjunction with Dr. Shawn Liston, Audubon Florida's research manager for the southwestern region, to set up a scientifically rigorous monitoring program that would allow us to monitor species diversity, population densities, assess habitat preferences, and track trends and changes in these areas for birds at Corkscrew. At their most basic, point counts involve a series of points (or stations) where birds are observed and recorded for a fixed amount of time.

At PI, I have 7 routes (a series of points is a route) with 6 points in each. I visit these routes on a quarterly basis. At first, I admit I was intimidated by the process. It is alot of information to gather through sight and sound. But it is well worth it!

Tomorrow morning I will be doing the 2nd of my 7 routes, and despite the mosquitoes and trekking through marshes with gators and snakes, I look forward to and value these opportunities. Knowing what species of birds, insects, mammals, plants, etc. we have makes me a better land manager and scientist.

A trained volunteer verifying a bird using binoculars

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Post-Isaac Update

TS Isaac dumped a mere 2.25" on Panther Island and the rest of Corkscrew. Given the late start of rainy season, we are keeping an anxious eye on our water levels. Post-Isaac signaled a need for the next round of point-counts. For those who don't know, conservation at Corkscrew and Audubon is driven by sound science. Part of that science program at PI is a bird survey using the point count method. Over the next few weeks as I do my routes. I will go into detail about this research method and why it is used. I'll also talk about citizen science and local and national programs that people can get involved in, whether you are just starting to learn and appreciate birds or you've been an avid birder for years! There's something for everyone.

Meanwhile, enjoy some photos taken the other morning when I was out to greet the birds.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary closing for hurricane Isaac

Hello all!

Well hurricane preparations have been in full swing, and the decision has been made to close the sanctuary boardwalk and visitor center on Sunday August 26th and Monday August 27th for the safety of our visitors and staff. It will also be closing at 5:30 tonight.

Are you prepared? Hmmm...I wonder what all the critters do when hurricanes come through. Food for thought. Be safe!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blog changes...and Popcorn Sedge!

Hello all! As you can probably tell, I am in the midst of making some changes to my blog. Please bare with me as I try and update it. Hopefully I'll find some cool new features to add!

From late March into November, treatment of invasives kicks into high gear on Panther Island. Timing for treatment of an invasive plant can mean its eradication from an area or if I miss the window, I’ll have to make adjustments the following year. An example of an annual that can be eradicated with persistence and good timing is popcorn sedge (Scleria lacustris), a.k.a. Wright’s nutrush.

Above left: Broad view of popcorn sedge Above right: close up of nutlets

In its native range of tropical Africa and the Neotropics, it is relatively rare. How it came to Florida is unknown, but in 1988, it was first recorded in the Upper St. John’s River Basin and has spread since then. Birds and airboats (along with drainage ditches) are likely vectors that are helping in its spread. Freshwater marshes that exhibit seasonal fluctuations in their water levels seem to be most susceptible to infestation by this invader. I typically begin to see popcorn sedge plants start to establish in late spring, early summer when the marshes are dry.

Above: stem of popcorn sedge

It seems to have spread more readily during the drought years as well. As water levels start to come up the young plants are fine and continue to grow and reach
maturity in late summer. From late August into December, nutlets (with seeds inside) can be seen. And true to its name, the nutlets look like popcorn! Ideally,
plants will be treated before reaching maturity and beginning to produce nutlets.
Towards the end of May, I start scanning marshes specifically for this invasive. This year I have tackled this plant in a variety of ways: via ATV, swamp buggy, and on foot using a backpack sprayer. The second round of treatment is completed,
and a third is underway. Today a volunteer and I actually went and removed seed stalks from the plants. I want to see if this rather labor intensive action is beneficial.

It is hot, physically taxing work, but the benefits of keeping the ecosystem healthy far outweigh any discomfort. Plus during treatment I get to interact and see so many neat native plants, insects, and animals!

Above: Photo of marsh where popcorn sedge is being treated

Monday, August 13, 2012

Second smaller Ghost Orchid discovered off of the boardwalk!!!

Wow! So I had intended to start a series highlighting different species of invasive wildlife already established or in the process of becoming established in Florida, but this is really cool!

Just yesterday, another smaller single ghost orchid was found off the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk. Over the last few years, the super ghost orchid has gotten tons of well deserved press for its rarity, succession of blooms, and amount blooms per blooming cycle. For those who aren't familiar with the ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii), it is a rare, perennial, epiphytic orchid that is listed as endangered. It was formerly classified in the genus Polyrrhiza but recently moved to Dendrophylax. One of the neatest things about this plant is its co-evolution with the Giant Sphinx moth. I love these guys...and the fact that they are the only (known) pollinators of the rare Ghost orchid bump them up on the "Coolest" insect list I have in my mind. To see the pollination occur check out and skip to about the 1:10 mark. While I am tempted to write more about the biology of the Ghost orchid, I would be reinventing the wheel. The website below does a great job of covering information about the ghost orchid's biology.

However, if you want to see one (or two at the moment!), then you should definitely go check Corkscrew out. The super Ghost is in bloom right now, and the boardwalk naturalists have a scope up on it so it can be seen. To see photos and learn more visit our website below.

Sorry guys but I don't have any pictures of the ghost orchid!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raising your voice!

So now that I have inundated you with information about HR 5864 the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, you might be wondering "what can I do...I am just one person...?" This is true, but every person has a voice. You just have to raise it!

When in DC waiting in offices to meet with Congressional and Senate aides, I was amazed at how many phone calls from constituents came in encouraging them to vote for or against a particular piece of legislation. They DO pay attention to people taking time to make a phone call. So one thing you can do is pick up the phone and call your Representative or Senator, at their local office or in Washington, D.C. And a key here is to give it a week or two and make a FOLLOW-UP call. This helps to emphasize that you feel an issue is important!

Another action you can take is to send an email. I am sure we ALL get those "Action Alerts" from different organizations making a push to get legislation pushed or blocked. It is great when you go through these, but even better is to add a PERSONAL touch to the pre-written response. There IS someone in the office reading these, making notes, and reporting on it. Do it at the very beginning to add impact and get them to realize you took time out of your busy schedule because you care about the issue. Your time is just as valuable as theirs, and this personal touch does make them take notice. Again, it is key to take the time to send a short, to-the-point follow-up email a couple of weeks later.

A third thing is to get your friends talking! I know there is an age old phrase..."Never talk about religion or politics." But how can we learn from one another and come to a compromise if we don't have discussions about topics that make us uncomfortable? An issue doesn't have to be force fed down another's throat but can be tactfully broached. Entering into conversations about an issue opens the door to point out important legislation and help educate others are things they might not be well versed in. Education is a key. Talk about what you are passionate about!

Keep in mind, these views about raising your voice above are from my own personal experience and NOT a view necessarily of my organization. However, National Audubon Society and Florida Audubon DO endorse the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act HR help us out and raise your voice! Pick up the phone, write an proactive!!!

Give mothers like the bobcat pictured below and her kittens (off the side of the road unseen in the photos) a fighting chance!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bald Eagle Success in Florida!!!

How cool is this! Florida has surpassed Minnesota as the state in the lower 48 with the most active bald eagle nests.

Cut and paste the link below to read more!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HR 5864 Wrap-up!

And finally...the last 2 sections!

In Sec. 17 Relationship to Other Federal Laws, the writing makes clear that this new law would NOT change any federal laws already in existence that relate to live animal imports that impact human health, farm animal health, food safety or animals that are used in biological control projects.

And Sec. 18 Requirements to Promulgate Regulations directs the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate (to make known by open declaration; publish; proclaim formally or put into operation (a law, decree of a court, etc.) regulations as necessary to carry out the Act.

Now you might ask is there proof that a preventive and proactive system such as this is worth it...does it work? Well there are other countries that have successful pre-screening programs in place. These include Israel, New Zealand, and Australia.

Now if you start researching the topic of live import animals and legislation, you will likely come across a bill that was introduced in 2009 known as HR 669 (The Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act). This did not have the support it needed to pass for numerous reasons I won't go into. One of the great things about the current proposed bill is that it took the feedback given on HR 669 into consideration but it still has teeth to accomplish effective change!

Tune in next time when I tackle the issue of raising your voice in support of this or any bill you choose!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Almost there....HR 5864

Alright so the next section covers the Relationship to State Law (Sec. 14). Under the injurious species section of the Lacey Act, regulation of intra-state activities is left with states. Stricter state laws are not preempted. And this section honors that while establishing a federal-state system that will facilitate better coordination.

Sec. 15 covers Penalties and Sanctions. The civil and criminal penalties for violations of this new Act follow those already established for the violations of the injurious species section of the Lacey Act.

In Sec. 16 (Injurious Wildlife Prevention Fund), a special injurious Wildlife Prevention Fund is created. This will hold revenues from user fees and fines collected via enforcement (under this Act) Three-fourths of this fund will be paid to USFWS in order to cover the costs of this Act. One-fourth will be awarded in the form of grants to state agencies to help in efforts to improve risk assessment and regulation for the live animal trade in their state.

Economics Fact: the total US cost resulting from invasive animals and diseases brought in by them is estimated to be up to $35 BILLION PER YEAR!!!

Let's protect our heritage! Tomorrow I will wrap up the break down of HR 5864.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

HR 5864...I think I can, I think I can...

Alright...Time for another 2 sections!

Sec. 12. Permits and Exemptions for Qualified Institutions and Live Animal Transporters. Some of you might have already been wondering about places like zoos and aquariums and even universities which do house non-native critters. This section establishes a permitting process for importation and interstate commerce in Injurious I species. It also incorporates an exemption from that permit for the importation and interstate commerce in Injurious II species IF carried out by certain qualified institutions. These include places like universities, research facilities, wildlife rescue facilities, and accredited zoos and aquaria.

And how is this all going to be paid for? In the current economy, the government doesn't want to burden the taxpayer even more (although by NOT preventing importation of potential invaders we end up spending billions of dollars annually trying to fix the problem after-the-fact). Sec. 13. User Fees sets up a limited user fee to recover a portion of the costs of the federal activities needed in order to collect wildlife trade information as well as assess and regulate its risks. The purpose of the user fee is to recover approximately 75% of the Service's costs of the services it provides under this Act.

Monday, July 23, 2012

HR 5864...and the info keeps a'comin'!

Bear with me folks, this is really an important piece of legislation I hope y'all will support by contacting your local Congressman/woman!

Last time I left off at Sec. 9. Sec. 10 is the Prevention of Wildlife Pathogens and Parasites. Imagine what would happen if a disease came into this country that decimated our wildlife? Oh wait, this is already happening from the accidental introduction of a fungus from Europe, and now biologists are racing to figure out how to protect our bats who are our number one natural night-time pest controllers (just google white-nose syndrome). Sec. 10 provides the USFWS clear legal authority in the prevention of importing pathogens or parasites that could impact our wildlife.

Next up is Sec. 11. Prohibitions. The importation and interstate commerce of live non-native animal species has to be done in compliance with this Act. However, it doesn't regulate intra-state movement (private possession, breeding, etc.) and leaves this power with the states. It also allows for exemptions, including for the interstate transportation of lawfully-owned private pets that are later regulated under this Act (assuming the interstate trnasportation is for non-commercial purposes). Phew, that one is a mouthful!

Still with me? I hope so!

Mexican long-tongued bat in Arizona

Monday, July 16, 2012

HR 5864 Break down continued...

Alright...gotta keep the bus moving on this!

This bill has more "teeth" than the Lacey Act did. Sec. 6 is devoted to Emergency Temporary Designation. This section provides the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) with emergency authority in the event an unregulated non-native wildlife species poses an imminent threat of harm. It also allows for state governors to request action.

How are all these species going to be monitored you ask? Well Section 7 (Information on Imported Animals) sets up an online system for animal imports and will require accurate species identification in order to monitor the trade.

Section 8 is the Injurious Wildlife Determinations Section. In the Lacey Act, the average listing time of a new import species is 4 years! This is WAY TOO SLOW. In that time, animals can already establish reproductively viable populations. This section directs USFWS to make the injurious species determinations more rapidly (180 days vs. 1460 days!). Additionally it provides for mechanisms to reduce the costly bureaucratic processes.

Now some of you might be wondering about conflicts with the Lacey Act. Section 9 is the Effects on Injurious Wildlife Provision. This provides regulations under this updated Act that would supersede conflicting regulations under the Lacey Act injurious species section. however, the new Act does NOT repeal or amend any portion of the Lacey Act.

Section 9 marks the halfway point in the breakdown of HR 5864.

Again, we need to be PROACTIVE and PREVENTIVE!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

HR 5864 Break down...

Hello all! I am back...and ready to inform you more on this important House bill. Here is a synopsis of the bill.

Purpose: to establish an improved Federal regulatory process (one that is preemptive and proactive instead of knee-jerk and after-the-fact!) for the importation of living non-native animals in order to prevent economic and environmental harm as well as harm to human or animal health

Definitions: The bill contains 15 definitions. As an example, I pulled the below directly from the bill online.
"(4) IMPORT- The term ‘import’ means to bring into, or introduce into, or attempt to bring into, or introduce into, any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, regardless of whether the bringing into or introduction constitutes an importation within the meaning of the customs laws of the United States."

A major component of this section of the bill is defining the exempt domesticated species...basically it exempts the most common pet species. The government isn't going to come and knock on a person's door and require that they give up their dog, cat, goat, gerbil, etc. (See bill for a complete list!). The emphasis of this bill is on wild animals, not domesticated or farm species!

A section is devoted to the "Proposals for regulation of Nonnative Wildlife Taxa...basically it does in depth on how all species are to be regulated. this regulation process will be a rigorous and well-defined proposal process.

A HUGELY important facet of this bill is devoted to the listing process (See Sec 5. Scientific Risk Assessment and Risk Determination Regulations in HR 5864): This establishes a flexible two-tiered injurious species listing process. Building on the pre-existing Lacey Act (sets "injuriousness standards in 18 USC sec. 42.), Injurious I and Injurious II is based on a clear and risk assessment and risk determination process. For more details Sec. 5 of HR 5864

Ok so I don't want to overwhelm people on this! I'll continue to breakdown the bill a little more over the next week.

BOTTOM LINE: We need to be proactive and preventive so we can save ourselves money and our natural heritage!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012 (H.R. 5864)

My recent trip for work to Washington, D.C. was an exercise in policy advocacy. While I am on the front lines of the battle against invasive species, I don't always know the best steps to maximize raising my voice for a cause. Any opinion in this blog is strictly my own and NOT that of Corkscrew or Audubon Florida! The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction in our battle against invasive species. Florida, with its very unique subtropical weather and range of habitats, has had more than 500 nonnative species of fish and wildlife observed here. Most of these were introduced through the pet trade, whether it be accidental or intentional release by pet owners. Some invasive species wreaking havoc include: 1) Burmese pythons, 2) Nile monitor lizards, 3) Gambian pouched rats, and 4) monk parakeets to name just a few. In addition to environmental degradation, these invasives are costing us, the taxpayers, millions of dollars a year! This money could be going into other programs or staying in our pocketbooks. The beauty of this bill is that it takes a pro-active approach to stopping invasives species from coming into the country. It's preventive! I could bend your ear on this topic, but instead I think I will break it up over a serious of blog topics to tackle different aspects of this bills benefits (and yes, its drawbacks). But the bottom line is this...if you feel passionate about an issue such as this, pick up your phone, turn on your computer...raise your voice and let your congressman/woman know that you want them to vote for or against a bill! IT does have an impact on them to have their constituents reach out with their opinions to them. If you want to read H.R. 5864 in its entirety, just cut and paste this link (link isn't working on here for some reason). And stay tuned...I'll bend your ear, so to speak, frequently on this topic over the coming weeks!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Recently, my wonderful job afforded me the chance to go to Washington, D.C. for an advocacy training workshop focused on a recently introduced bill. The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012 (H.R. 5864) was extremely interesting to me as one of the things we contend with in our management plans is invasive animal species. Just a disclaimer folks, any positive or negative comments about this particular House bill are my OWN, PERSONAL views and do NOT reflect Audubon Florida or Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's opinions. I'll get into more detail about the actual trip later...for now enjoy some D.C. photos! Great quote at the FDR Memorial Jefferson Memorial at night

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 BatBlitz

Rafinesque's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) When agitated the will curl their inch long ears back! One of the great things about my job is the opportunities to network and work with other organizations. I am a member of the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network (SBDN)as well as the Florida Bat Working Group (FBWG). Recently the FWBG hosted the 2012 BatBlitz in Apalachicola region of the panhandle. What you might ask is a BatBlitz? Basically it is "a coordinated, intensive survey designed to sample the bat community in an extensive area. In just 2-3 days, volunteers at a Bat Blitz can accomplish what a small field crew could do in an entire season. These events generally involve a substantial, voluntary contribution of time and materials from bat experts. Amount of effort exerted and data collected during a Bat Blitz can be greater than what a single biologist could accomplish in an entire season." (taken from the SBDN website). There were 246 bats of 8 different species captured. These wonderful creatures are a passion of mine, and I love that my work as a resource manager affords me the opportunity to work with and learn more about them! Rafinesque's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) When not agitated their ears really stand out, especially since their ears are about half the length of their body!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Apologies for hiatus!

Well it has been a busy few weeks of traveling and adventure! I will be sure to write about that this week. To tide you over here are some pictures from this year's dry down.
Easy otter readily snagged this invasive sailfin catfish from an isolated pond formed from the dry down in the flowway area.
The alligators are starting to congregate in the areas where the water is left as it dries up. They are actually quite curious!
Wood storks have also been taking advantage of the dry down to forage.
I know many people have a dislike of these misunderstood waste managers but I adore black vultures! This guy is a juvenile and still has a little tuft of down on his soon to be bald head.
Spoonbills have been foraging alongside wood storks during the dry down, especially in the flow way.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dry Season Video

I have a love/hate relationship with Panther Island this time of year. The wildlife viewing continues to astonish. But the waters are receding. Part of the natural dry down of the dry season, it makes spraying at times easy but difficult as the afternoon winds whip sugar sand up off the ground and into my mouth and eyes. But then when I wipe the sand away, I am blessed to watch a 10 foot alligator scraping the mud to get fish agitated and then watch as he hauls his body up and slaps down onto the water. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's volunteer and amazing nature photograph Rod Wiley put together amazing video and photos discussing the dry down along the boardwalk. Please take time to check it out! Nature video is at this link...
Gator coming up out of the water...
And coming back down with prey in his mouth!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Busy wading time!

One of the greatest joys for me as a resource manager on restored property is seeing the wildlife foraging and using it, especially in areas where different species co-mingle. One of the best times to witness this is during my point count bird surveys which are done quarterly. In the spring as the water is drying up, different reconstructed marshes "come online" for foraging wading birds. And there are peak foraging water levels. When these are reached, the great mix you see in the photo occurs. Species included (but not necessarily seen in this photo) include: wood storks, great egrets, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, roseate spoonbill, American coots, common moorehens, white ibis, glossy ibis, mottled ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks, black-necked stilts, and alligators. Below are black-bellied whistling ducks flying in to join the mix.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Critter of the Week: Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

Black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) do look like they are walking around on stilts! Their long thin red legs are distinct. There are 5 species of stilts in this genus, and all Himantopus species have these long legs, legs that are the second longest in proportion to their bodies behind only flamingos!

Our black-necked stilts are found in shallow wetland areas (salt ponds, shorelines, mudflats, flooded lowlands, etc.) from the western United States down into central America and into parts of South America. They forage by wading in shallow waters in search of aquatic invertebrates and fish. They will actually plunge their heads into water in pursuit of their food! They are typically seen in pairs or small groups.

These birds share the parental duties. Both adults help in choosing a nest location, and then both will work to construct the nest. Nests are built on the ground in soft substrate that can be scraped since the nests themselves are shallow depressions (about 2 inches deep made with the feet and breast) and often lined with grasses, shells, etc. that can be found nearby. The nests are typically built on surfaces above water such as small islands or clumps of vegetation. Clutch sizes are from 1-5 eggs that are incubated for 21-26 days. The young are covered in down and able to leave the nest within 2 hours of hatching. They are extremely territorial in the winter and during breeding season. But they are semi-colonial when nesting and will actually participate together in anti-predator displays! But when not breeding they will often form in closely packed groups to forage. To me, their behavior is fascinating!

While the overall population of black-necked stilts appears healthy, there are always threats to them from things like habitat loss, water pollution, and more. In Hawaii, the subspecies, the Ae'o, is a federally endangered species, in part, because of invasive aquatic plants that have diminished open water foraging grounds.