Tuesday, March 31, 2009

St. Lucie County

Bluefield Ranch Natural Area
Photo by Mike M.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Leadership Jacksonville: Growth and Preservation Day

This is what the Leadership Jacksonville class of 2009 saw on Growth and Preservation Day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bird quiz

OK folks. Open your Sibley or Audubon and identify this bird. I see it every year when the goldfinches pass through.

Click on the image for best viewing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Messing with Paradise: Right whales

Right whale
Photo by Andrea G.
Guest contributor


From the National Marine Fisheries:

Population Trends

It is believed the western North Atlantic population numbers only about 300 individual right whales. It is unclear whether its abundance is remaining stable, undergoing a slight growth, or currently in decline. However, a recent model predicts that under current conditions, the population will be extinct in less than 200 years.

Although precise estimates of abundance are not available, it appears that the eastern North Atlantic population is nearly extinct, probably only numbering in the low tens of animals. It is unclear whether animals found in the eastern North Atlantic represent a "relict" population or whether all or some animals are individuals from the known western North Atlantic population.


Ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear are the most common human causes of serious injury and mortality of western North Atlantic right whales. Additional threats may include habitat degradation, contaminants, climate and ecosystem change, and predators such as large sharks and killer whales. Disturbance from such activities as whale-watching and noise from industrial activities may affect the population. To reduce disturbance from boats, NMFS published regulations [pdf] in 1997 that prohibit vessels from approaching within 500 yards of right whales.

More information is available here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Messing with Paradise: Iguanas

Photo by Mark M.

Please click on image, particularly the second one, for best viewing.


From the University of Florida:


Due to Florida's prominence in the exotic pet trade, iguanas imported as pets have escaped or been released, and are now established in South Florida. This has created unique problems for Florida's homeowners and businesses. South and Central Florida's subtropical climate allows these large herbivorous (plant-eating) lizards to survive, reproduce, and become part of the Florida environment. Three large members of the iguana family (Iguanidae) have become established in south Florida. These are the common green iguana (Iguana iguana), the Mexican spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura pectinata) and black spiny-tailed iguana (C. similis). Large male spiny-tailed iguanas are often misidentified as alligators by startled homeowners because of reduced dorsal spines and dark color. There are many other large lizards established in Florida that some people misidentify as iguanas. The brown basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus) is a large (up to 2 feet) lizard that is often mistaken for an iguana and occurs in the same areas as introduced iguanas. Knight anoles (Anolis equestris) commonly reach between 12-18 inches. Jamaican giant anole (Anolis garmani) males can reach 12 inches. People in South Florida often call these large green anoles "iguanas" or "iguanitos." Occasionally escaped pets that have not established breeding populations are seen by surprised neighbors. These include large lizards like many of the monitor lizards (Varanus sp.).


Adult iguanas are herbivores' feeding on foliage, flowers, and fruit. They will occasionally eat animal material such as insects, lizards and other small animals, nestling birds and eggs. Juveniles eat more animal material, especially insects, and hatchling green iguanas eat the droppings of adult iguanas to acquire the gut bacteria that help them digest plant material. Males are territorial against other males, but are not territorial against females and juveniles. These large lizards like to bask in open areas; sidewalks, docks, seawalls, landscape timbers, or open mowed areas. If frightened, they dive into water (green iguanas and basilisks) or retreat into their burrows (spiny tailed iguanas). This habit of diving into the water to escape makes green iguanas very difficult to capture. Basilisks and anoles generally eat insects and small vertebrate prey, but Knight anoles occasionally eat small fruits and flowers as well.


Damage caused by iguanas includes eating valuable landscape plants, shrubs, and trees, eating orchids and many other flowers, eating dooryard fruit like berries, figs, mangos, tomatoes, bananas, lychees, etc. Iguanas do not eat citrus. Burrows that they dig undermine sidewalks, seawalls, and foundations. Burrows of iguanas next to seawalls allow erosion and eventual collapse of those seawalls. Droppings of iguanas litter areas where they bask. This is unsightly, causes odor complaints, and is a possible source of salmonella bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning. Adult iguanas are large powerful animals that can bite, cause severe scratch wounds with their extremely sharp claws, and deliver a painful slap with their powerful tail. Iguanas normally avoid people but will defend themselves against pets and people that try to catch them or corner them.

For more information, click here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Messing with Paradise: Burrowing owls

Burrowing owl
Photo by Mark M.

Please click on image for best viewing.

(Mike has a better photograph but I can't seem to find it this morning)


From Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

The burrowing owl is a pint-sized bird that lives in open, treeless areas. The burrowing owl spends most of its time on the ground, where its sandy brown plumage provides camouflage from potential predators. One of Florida's smallest owls, it averages nine inches in height with a wingspan of 21 inches. The burrowing owl lacks the ear tufts of the more familiar woodland owls. Bright yellow eyes and a white chin accent the face. Unusually long legs provide additional height for a better view from its typical ground-level perch.

Habitat and Range
The Florida burrowing owl occurs throughout the state although its distribution is considered local and spotty. The presence of burrowing owls is primarily dependent upon habitat. Humans have created new habitat for burrowing owls by clearing forests and draining wetlands. Burrowing owls inhabit open native prairies and cleared areas that offer short groundcover including pastures, agricultural fields, golf courses, airports, and vacant lots in residential areas. Historically, the burrowing owl occupied the prairies of central Florida. Recently, these populations have decreased because of disappearing habitat while populations in south Florida coastal areas have increased due to modification of habitat by humans.

Burrowing owls live as single breeding pairs or in loose colonies consisting of two or more families. Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are active during both day and night. During the day, they are usually seen standing erect at the mouth of the burrow or on a nearby post. When disturbed, the owl bobs in agitation and utters a chattering or clucking call. In flight, burrowing owls typically undulate as if they are flying an invisible obstacle course. They also can hover in midair, a technique effective for capturing food.

Burrowing owls mainly eat insects, especially grasshoppers and beetles. They can be of special benefit in urban settings since they also consume roaches and mole crickets. Other important foods are small lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, and rodents.

Burrowing owls use burrows year-round; for roosting during the winter and for raising young during the breeding season (Feb – July). Florida's owls typically dig their own burrows but will use gopher tortoise or armadillo burrows. Burrows extend 4 to 8 feet underground and are lined with materials such as grass clippings, feathers, paper, and manure.

Eggs are primarily laid in March but nesting can occur from October through May. The female lays six to eight eggs over a one-week period. She will incubate the eggs for 21 to 28 days.

At hatching, the young owls are covered with white downy feathers and have their eyes closed. They emerge from the burrow when they are 2 weeks old. At 4 weeks, they are learning to fly but cannot fly well until 6 weeks old. They remain with their parents until they are 12 weeks old.


The Florida burrowing owl is classified as a "species of special concern" by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This means burrows, owls, and their eggs are protected from harassment and/or disturbance by state law. Burrowing owls are also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Messing with Paradise: Monk parakeets

Today, we are beginning a series of photographs documenting Florida's endangered species as well as it's exotic, non-native and invasive species.

Monk parakeet

Deerfield Beach
Photo by Mark M.


From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

First year: 1969

Established status:
Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years

Estimated Florida range:
52 counties At least 10 years

Statewide trend:

Threats to natives:
Effects on native species is unknown. It is the most abundant naturalized parrot species and the only member of the parrot family that is not a cavity nester. Tested birds seem to be remarkably free of Newcastle and other avian diseases.

Species Account:
The Monk Parakeet is native to South America east of the Andes from Bolivia to central Argentina (Forshaw 1973). Its initial introduction date into Florida is unknown, but it has been established in the Miami area since at least 1969 (Owre 1973). By 1975, this species was reported from 30 states, but large colonies existed only in Florida, California, Illinois, and New York (Neidermyer and Hickey 1977). It is often found in city parks. Large communal stick nests built on electrical transmission structures can be a problem. These large balls of twigs are used year-round for roosting by adults and are often situated high in royal palms, cabbage palms, melaleucas, or native oaks (Florida BBA 1986-91). The species is highly gregarious, and many colonies in Dade and Pinellas counties number in the hundreds and have persisted for many years, whereas small colonies tend to be ephemeral (Florida BBA 1986-91). No eradication program has been implemented in Florida. In its native range, Monk Parakeets inhabit open woods, cultivated lands, and palm groves (de Schauensee 1970), but in Florida, they inhabits surburban areas, often feeding in large flocks at feeders or on lawns (Florida BBA 1986-91), probably on grass seeds and insects (Forshaw 1973). It is a major agricultural pest in South America (Long 1981) and may become one in Florida if it spreads to agricultural areas.

Central or core urban area, Low density suburban development, areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns.

Local note: We have a local colony in St. Augustine but I have never been able to find them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

St. Johns River and downtown Jacksonville

Looking through some old photographs today and found this one from Super Bowl XXXIX. We didn't go to the game but had a great time with all of the festivities.

Photo by Mark M.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Augustine

Black-crowned night-heron
Photo by Mark M.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Augustine

Black-crowned Night-heron
Photo by Mark M.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cedar Point along the Intracoastal Waterway

Horseshoe Creek
Photo by Mark M.

This is a panorama so please click on the image for full effect.

Also there is a short video of archaeologist Keith Ashley talking about North Florida history on the blog of the Preservation Project North Florida website.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ponte Vedra Beach

Bumble bee
Photo by Mark M.

Please click on image for best viewing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Photos by Mark M.

From the Florida Park Service: Although the formal gardens are the centerpiece of this park, Washington Oaks is also famous for the unique shoreline of coquina rock formations that line its Atlantic beach. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River, this property was once owned by a distant relative of President George Washington. The gardens were established by Louise and Owen Young who purchased the land in 1936 and built a winter retirement home. They named it Washington Oaks and, in 1965, donated most of the property to the State. The gardens make remarkable use of native and exotic species, from azaleas and camellias to the exquisite bird of paradise, sheltered within a picturesque oak hammock. Visitors can picnic and fish from either the beach or the seawall along the Matanzas River. A number of short trails provide opportunities for hiking and bicycling. Visitors can learn about the park's natural and cultural resources in the visitor center.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

St. Augustine

Don't mess with these folks. It's mating season.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

St. Augustine

Yellow crowned night heron
Photo by Mark M.

Monday, March 2, 2009

St. Augustine

Juvenile white ibis
Photo by Mark M.

Please click on the image for best viewing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009