Saturday, August 5, 2017

New Exotic Wildflower Has Benefits

(From top to bottom: Great Purple Hairstreak, Zebra Longwing, Black-dotted Spragueia, Gulf Fritillary)

There has been a lot of heavy breathing in the native plant community during the last few years about the appearance of another tropical exotic.
This one is Praxelis clematidea. It vaguely resembles some native wildflowers, but has a telltale scent of cat urine that clinches the identification.
It thrives in disturbed areas and is likely spread by mowing equipment because fire lanes are where I'm finding it here.
What I'm also finding is a lot of butterflies and other pollinators on it.
Today I found 13 species of butterflies, two species of moths and two species of wasps nectaring on this plant in the fire lane during a brief visit.
Interestingly, this was only my second sighting of Great Purple Hairstreak.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Clearing the entrances took some time

Thursday afternoon, with thunderstorms threatening but never delivering, I conducted my periodic work to clear the grass and other vegetation around the walk-through entrance and the gates.
There's a lot of Guinea grass  around the walk-through. I shortened it and some overhanging tree limbs with a sickle I picked up a few years ago.
I used a sling blade in other areas to deal with shorter grass and Ragweed at the northern gate.
One of the neighboring property owners had piled a lot tree debris nearby, partially blocking the road. I moved that material against the fence to keep the access more open.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Drought Stress Affects More Species

During a visit today I noticed the effects of the current drought.
Months of high temperatures, lack of rainfall and moisture-sucking winds have taken  their toll.
None of this year's crop of Scrub Lupine seedlings appear to have survived. Only a handful were still alive when I checked earlier this month.
However, the effect is visible in established adult plants of other species.
Today I observed brown foliage on Bonamia grandiflora,  Persea humilis and Polygonella myriophylla.
In addition I saw only a handful of butterflies, which is unusual for this time of year.
The plants will certainly survive, just as they did in previous droughts, I suppose.
The last serious dry spell to hit the area was in the 1998-2000 period, which is before this was state property. so I don't know what happened.
When I first visited the site in 2002, everything appeared healthy, thanks to the resumption of normal rainfall.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Drought takes toll on lupines

The hot, windy and mostly rainless spring this year has taken a toll on what looked like a promising batch of Scrub Lupine seedlings that emerged earlier this year.
Everyone expects mortality because of a combination of the hostile spring weather and the fragility of this plant, but this year was particularly harsh.
Out of more than 100 seedlings, if I remember the count correctly, only a handful have survived so far and I don't expect much rain for another month or two.
Another setback. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another unsurprising resident species

I was removing cogon grass
 in the southeast corner
of the north tract today.
I spotted a large patch
beneath a sand pine
 that had grown since the last
As I was digging, a mourning
dove erupted from the tree.
The fact that it allowed me to get that close without flying off meant it was sitting on a nest with eggs.
My experience with the Breeding Bird Atlas showed me birds will rarely budge from a well-concealed nest unless you are almost on top of them.
A quick check of the tree revealed a nest with two eggs.
This is notable.
Mourning doves are fairly common birds, but I have found few nests here, perhaps because of the amount of disturbance from fire to mechanical clearing that disrupted the natural landscape for a few years.
The last nest I found belonged to an Eastern towhee.
The bird list for this place sits at 60 species, the most recent being an Eastern screech owl that was calling while I was doing some night invertebrate work.
This is not a bad total for scrub site in the middle of a developed area and with no open water.
By comparison, my butterfly list is at 55 species.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

History In the Windrows

In recent weeks I've made some interesting discoveries as I've excavated the windrows next to the fire lane, that have all kinds of accumulated detritus from past dumping episodes.
The latest was a 1965 Polk County license plate.
Earlier I had found an old vehicle inspection station sign that was discarded from the nearby county barn where the inspection station was housed. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lupines blooming early this year; Good seedling tally

I went to the preserve today to meet with
 Whitney Costner from Bok to locate
additional Scrub Lupine seedlings outside the planting areas.
She said the seedling total this year was about 400, which was impressive.
She said the management plan will involve a variety of strategies for different plots that in some cases will involve fire.
The one adult plant in the small plots that arose a few years ago from an old seed bank is on the verge of blooming. There are three seedlings nearby. Another site farther west has two seedlings.
At least one mature plant is beginning to bloom in the planted area. This is about a month earlier than last year.