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, 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