Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trouble at the lupine patch

When I stopped by this morning I saw that some more vandalism had occurred around the Scrub Lupine planting. Signs had been uprooted. One of the cages for seedlings had been overturned. At least one surviving lupine had been uprooted and thrown on the ground. Some of the containers had been uprooted, though all contained either dead plants or no plants.

I checked around and saw one set of shoeprints. Judging by the size, it was a young person. Some of the flags had been moved again to mark the path from the woods into the northern fire lane and to wherever they came from along First Avenue.

I'm increasingly convinced that some kind of electronic surveillance is the only solution. I think it's justified because 0f the importance of the project and the amount of time and money that has been involved. This kind of activity cannotbe allowed to continue.

Enough is enough.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A morning of fence repairs

I spent all of Saturday morning and into early afternoon repairing the fence cuts in the south tract and trimming the vegetation that was lying on the fence, so now the fence line is clear.

I put some brush and other debris in the way of access to some of the fence cut locations, though it's hard to say how successful that will be. There are other spots.

Of course I found more trash. I also found a yellow jacket nest underground in one of the windrows and marked it with a yellow flag on a stick. It just occurred that it could be better marked.

I'm heading to the north tract today to check on things.

The folks from Bok have been discouraged by the petty vandalism that has occurred around the lupine plot. I talked to Ryan Kordek, my counterpart at Lake McLeod. He said what worked for him was a visit by a law enforcement officer, who went around the neighborhood knocking on doors and educating people.

Persuasion has to enter into this somehow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mischief among the lupines

I stopped by the lupine plot today and discovered that the flags had been used to decorate the trail and a couple of side trails through the woods to the north fire lane.

I also discovered the rain gauge had been stolen.

I suspect it's the inbred neighbor kids, but who knows.

Maybe we need to get some cops involved and get someone's attention.

Fence on south side seems to be intact, per a drive-by this morning.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fence cut and cut again

I went around the south tract late this afternoon to check to see what additional trash had been turned up by the reclearing of the fire lane and to make sure the hog tracks were no longer in evidence.

I found some trash, no hog tracks (just dogs and opposums), but it wasn't all good.

The fence had been cut in two places by the employment business office on the north side of the tract.

I found some spare barbed wire and halfway fixed one of the breaks, but the other one will require returning with more wire when I have more daylight to deal with it. (It was near dusk when I discovered the breaks).

I'll probably bring some more fence posts in to shore up the fence line. If no further problems develop, I'll let it go. If not, I or someone needs to have a talk with the neighbors.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moving the rocks

I finally moved the pile of concrete pieces that I had piled up by the First Avenue gate from the nearby pile and ferried them to the main entrance to line the driveway.

I hauled out some other assorted trash.

Hauling will be hard work for a while. Contractors cleared the fire lanes again. I'm kind of in shock at the amount of work, but at least there's a functioning fire lane.

That's good for the neighbors and it's good for any planned burns in the future. I've been told that staff is still completing certification, which is reassuring. This is not a place where we'd want a fire to go rogue.

I noticed another gate is missing its heavy chain, but the lock is still there.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An open gate

I checked the First Avenue gate for the first time in a while and noticed it was open and the chain and lock were gone. It appeared to be vandalism because no one had come in to ride an ATV or the dump trash, as far as I can tell.

I explored part of the perimeter to make sure.

There was a bonus. I found some more old trash and hauled some of it out. There were to iron posts and some sheet roofing.

I 've started to ferry to broken concrete to the main entrance to line the driveway some more. I may as well make some of the trash earn its keep.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm gonna move the tires, honest

I almost piled myself into a corner when I decided to clean up a portion of the edge of the preserve.

The problem was the tires. The tire recycling events say you can bring in only 10, but I estimate there are 20 or so. I checked with KPCB. They said under the circumstances I can bring in 25. I'll see how many I can fit in the bed of my pickup.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Still working the perimeter

Today I spent more time removing recyclables and piling up other stuff along the south side of the north tract. There is a large amount of concrete, etc. that might make a driveway boundary. May as well put the trash to some use.

Today I collected 15 buckets of glass and four buckets of plastic, plus a lot of metal. and some tires.

The problem is what to do with the stuff i don't carry off. It will not remain in place along the side of the road indefinitely. I can guarantee that. I need to figure out a way to get it picked up as illegally dumped trash, which is what it is.

It occurs to me that I have improved the neighborhood, but the neighborhood probably is uninterested. That's not easy to understand.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trash patrol continues

Today I collected a few bags of paleotrash from area I discovered during a walk through and then worked on area outside the fence. Another 50 feet, another 10 buckets of bottles and two bags and some iron.

I thought I cleaned this place up a few years ago. I guess not. (some of it is newer).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A closer look at decay

Take a close look at a Gordonia leaf and see how the natural processes move slowly and seemingly randomly to create an interesting pattern of decay, color change and phytophagy.

The details of nature can be endlessly fascinating. All we have to is to take a little time, bend down and look for it.

What lurks on the Liatris?

I stopped by today to finish a roll of film. Liatris tennufolia is about the only thing blooming. Shot Ceraunus Blue on it as well as Bee Fly, which I had never seen alight that I can recall. I'll post photos later.

The Balduinia flowerheads (minus petals) are interesting up close.

I also caught a shot of a pair of walking sticks. I've been seeing a lot of them lately.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Last gasp of summer

I was out over the weekend and noticed a few blooms left on a couple of the Scrub Blazing Star, but they've pretty much gone to seed. So have the other Liatris in the scrub. However, the Liatris tennufolia in the sandhill sections are just beginning to bloom. The same goes for the Carphephorus and a few other wildflowers.

I was pleased to see Dalea pinnata in the western side of the preserve. I've never seen it there before, only on the eastern corner near the Clitoria fragrans sandhill area. Very interesting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Farther down the trail

Today I nearly reached the point where the new trail begins. Amid the Natal grass and other indignities, I noticed one Scrub Blazing Star was blooming in mid-October. What a sight. The rest have gone to seed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weeding down the line

As long as daylight savings time holds out, I've been spending evenings after work gradually removing Natal grass and other weeds from the main north-south path.

I notice the contractors have been in, but the only evidence of work I've seen has been the herbiciding of plants OUTSIDE the fence. It's helpful, but I don't get it.

I've also launched a search for trash along that section of fence to clean things up a bit, since the neighbors (some of them anyway) continue to dump there. A lot of it's paleotrash, such as the steel soft drink cans.

There are several tires, too. I'm not sure what to do about them except pile them in the right of way.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reclearing the paths

It has been pretty quiet lately. I have started to clear the paths that have been neglected over the past year or so. Quite a few weeds, mostly Natal grass and sansspurs and some dog fennel have grown into them. I need to keep them clear for future projects.

Instead of bagging everything, which is impractical given the volume, I have decided to simply start a few weed dumps in areas where the weeds have already taken over anyway so there will be no further harm done.

I have heard nothing further on plans to burn the remaining piles or to run fire through the preserve afterward. I suspect that may have something to do with budgetary constraints, but I don't know.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Spreading the milkweed message

Milkweed is blooming in scrub and sandhill in
late summer. As fall follows summer, so does
the inevitable process to prepare for the next

One milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa (aka butterfly weed) is moving to the next step. Its seed pod has opened, revealing the gossamer mass of future milkweeds to be enjoyed by butterfly caterpillars and wildflower enthusiasts next year.

Milkweeds are varied in scrub. We also have Asclepias curtissi, a listed species that is not as common or as showy, but impressive nonetheless.

It is still blooming.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Living color in the scrub

As I wrote recently, the Blazing Star is at or
near its peak in the north tract and continues to attract all kinds of pollinators.

Occasionally there's a moth, such as this one, which is more colorful than many I see here.

I'm planning a night survey just to see what's around. I will do it this week, weather permitting.

I also had a Queen caterpillar on Asclepias tuberosa, which I read is not common. I'm sure the butterflies know what they're doing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Blue-eyed Grass never disappoints

Ocasionally I run across clumps of one species of Blue-eyed Grass that's common in scrubby habitats.

The blooms typically don't emerge until later in the day many times, though I've seen some earlier lately. Maybe it's the weather.

They're just a lovely, colorful addition to my walks.

Opening encourages Blazing Star explosion

One of the advantages of the opening of Lake Blue has been the explosion of Blazing Star (L. tennufolia, I think) in several areas. They've always been there, but this year there are more dense stands, which may have been surpressed in the past by the overstory.

It makes for locally glorious views. Butterflies have been taking advantage. I've seen Monarchs, Silver-spotted Skippers (two on one plant), Gulf Fritillaries and others.

This is as colorful a harbinger of all in this part of Florida as anything.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Grass ID harder than I thought

I went out this afternoon, armed with the new field guide of Florida grasses. I didn't get very far. I found this giant grass near the lupine plantings, but I'm still not sure what it is.

It seems as though it should have been obvious, but it wasn't. The seed heads/flowers stumped me.

Not the first at the summit

I climbed one of the tree piles left over from last year's land-clearing work to take some photos of the expanding waves of Natal grass.

It seems I wasn't the first one to make the ascent. I found two beer cans up there and they appeared to be fresh. Glad to offer recreation for the neighborhood.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just a general update

I was out over the weekend to check on things, to mow and to look at butterflies. All three were successful.

I've always tried to keep the main entrances looking somewhat presentable. It's partly esthetic, partly practical.

You don't want the place to look neglected. It's a pain to walk in through tall grass and sandspurs.

Ceraunus blue butterflies are still plentiful I had 146 on Saturday in the north tract, down from 318 in early July, but still pretty impressive. I sent my friends at Archbold some info on what's happening. I don't know how significant it is, but it's always good to share information, especially information that they would never capture because they have other work to do.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Restoring old paths

My next project will involve restoring some of the pre-gyrotracking paths in the preserve and creating a couple of others. One will go by the stand of Giant Orchids, perhaps. Another will go by stands of Blazing Star. I've got to remove some debris, uproot some Natal grass and maybe do a little mowing to get there. It will be fun.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weeding the lupines continues

I carried out a bag of weeds from around the lupine near dusk.

I'll try to get back over the weekend

and do a more extensive job. It seems

some of my earlier work is holding,

but it's the summer growing season

for weeds, so some regrowth is inevitable.

I appear to be making progress.

It looks better now.
The purpose of the weeding was to reduce the danger of fungus and to reduce competition for water and soil nutrients. It will be an ongoing job.

Hoggone it!

I checked the south tract this afternoon and found no recent evidence of the two wild hogs that had been there earlier. A couple of the neighbors said they hadn't seen them lately.

Maybe they moved to better feeding grounds or maybe someone is making barbecue. I won't ask any questions.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fire lane going too green

The effects of herbiciding of the fire lane were short-lived. The same vegetation emerged as before as well as some unwanted pioneers.

I'm trying to keep the Guinea grass under control because it makes the lane impassable.

I'm trying to control the Natal grass on the west side because that's the only section where there are some neat native flatwoods herbaceous plants.

My success is a matter of personal speculation at the moment.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Still weeding the lupine

As it turns out, the weeds are pretty rife around the McFarlin's lupine, but I'm making progress in clearing the immediate areas around the plant and opening a couple of isolated plants to better sunlight.

The main offender was Pokeweed, but I did have to remove some resprouting trees as well. Some large sedges and grasses went for good measure.

I think the regular lupine crew will notice a difference this week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weeding the Lupine

I received a plea this week to take a look at the Scrub Lupine planting. It seemed some of it was becoming overrun with other plants.

I went out this afternoon and did what I could, including digging up some trees that would shade the plants out. I pullled a lot of this sedge, the name of which I can't remember, as well as some Natal grass and a few other plants to clear the ground a bit. I dumped all of it except the Natal grass into one of the fire lanes, hoping it will outcompete something less desirable.

The sedges wouldn't be problem if it weren't for the lupine planting, I think.

Meanwhile, looking across the landscape, I see the Natal grass increasing. This could be serious. I don't think Mike's idea that the other plants will outcompete it will hold.

I'll know by fall, I suppose.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ceraunnus Blues cubed

I was recently surprised to find more than 100 Ceraunus Blue butterflies in the north tract. Today I found more than 300.

They were nectaring on whatever was available, though Polygonella myriophylla was where the large concentrations lay. They were also on two species of Asclepias, Solidago sp. and Polanisia tennufolia and other assorted plants.

I did this survey in the afternoon heat. Next time I'll bring more water. It was brutal out there.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hogs still present

The two hogs that took up residence in the south tract a couple of months ago are still there. I saw one in the fire lane the other day.

They seem to like to rest in the wooded area along the right of way of Avenue Q, but will run into the woods if startled, which doesn't take much.

I haven't been inside to check lately on the amount of damage they've done. At least for now there aren't any more.

Trash pickup progressing

I think I'm actually making some headway cleaning up the trash along the widened fire land along the residential neighborhood in the north parcel.

I've picked up about 10 bags of trash and recyclables as well as a few wheelbarrow loads of scrap over the past couple of weeks.

Eventually, it will be under control, just as the other piles became. It just takes time and patience.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is it time to expand?

I've been thinking about connections and corridors. I mean more places for lupines, more places for newly discovered potential endangered species. That kind of thing.

What I envision is a corridor of sorts from the two tracts, a kind of L-shaped affair. There are two tracts of land involved. One is privately owned. The other is owned by Winter Haven, but has a CSX easement on it, though that may not matter if there's no railroad line to expand (they ought to spend their money on fixing the Hobbs Road crossing,; it's the one of worst in Polk County).

This will not be cheap, but there isn't much intact scrub left on the Winter Haven Ridge. Maybe they should take anolher look at the Lake Fannie property and maybe they should look at the property on both sides of the tracks in south Winter Haven east of Pollard Road.

Maybe they should look on the south end of Gerber Dairy Road.

Time is running out. The recession will be over some day and the property will be bulldozed forever.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blue for another reason

I had been seeing quite a few Ceraunus Blue butterflies and wondered what I might encounter if I put some effort into it.
Late this afternoon I tallied 103 Ceraunus Blue (and 1 Cassisus Blue). Amazing. It is Lake Blue.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Looking for white sand

I began clearing the gyrochopping debris from the open areas when I could find them.
The fact is that without digging up some trees, the open areas will remain small because of normal plant succession/regeneration. A more radical approach may eventually be necessary. Perhaps the best time to do it is while the trees are small and the western burn piles are still unburned.
Work stopped while I paused to collect a rather large (55 mm) beetle that came walking into one of the cleared areas. It's a Cerambycid of some sort, I was told. It's in the freezer.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Checking out rain's effects

The one fear I've had about the unseasonable rain was the growth spurt of exotics. I wasn't paranoid. I found quite a bit of Natal grass scattered around the preserve. However, I also encountered a spray crew that was dosing the fire lane to suppress emergent vegetation (Read Cogon grass, Natal grass, Guinea grass, Ceasar weed) exactly as promised by FWC.

Hope it works.

While I was there I also checked out the landscape for the clear patches project. which will involve raking up the gyrochopping debris to provide clear spaces for desirable plants to take root.

It seems I need two things. Enough open spaces where oaks haven't already moved back in and a place to pile the stuff I rake up. It has occured to me the idea dump site might be a punch of oaks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rain, Rain, Rain, Rain, Rain, Rain

The relentless rain that arrived shortly after the McFarlin's lupine planting was just what the plants needed, I guess. The Bok folks seemed to think the moisture was good. I guess once the sun comes out again, perhaps this weekend, there be a respite.

I guess I'm wondering if the rain will give the exotics a head start, too. I need to check soon to find out.

A control program is planned. The only question is whether it will occur in time to provide any effective control.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A cut lock, a stuck vehicle

I noticed today that someone had stolen the lock and chain from the southwest gate in the south tract and had opened the gate and tried to drive in.

Judging from the evidence, it doesn't look as though they got very far. There were too deep ruts in the sane just inside the gate and a concrete block and a metal pipe that may have been used to get the vehicle unstuck.

I'll dig around for the chain.

The Lupine Thief

This isn't exactly material for Susan Orlean, but today when we went out to plant the next batch of McFarlin's lupine, we noticed to our horror that someone had dug up some of the plants and taken the identification tags as well.

I don't know whether we'll figure this one out, but it will certainly cause a little more surveillance of this place. Maybe we'll install a webcam.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Moonlight and broken glass

It was a full moon last night. I finished the beetle survey and as I was heading back the moonlight caught the glass shards that dot the landscape. It was not the kind of diamonds in the rough you look forward to seeing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Beetles about done, it seems

I continued beetle monitoring last night, but had only one at the light and it was lethargic. After flying around a little, it just sat there clinging to the sheet.

I heard both a Chuck-will's-widown and a Common Nighthawk.

While I was walking around looking for flying beetles and checking things out, I found more trash.

Digging, digging, digging

It started out innocently. There was a piece of metal sticking out of the fire lane. I thought I could pull it out. I couldn't. I thought I could quickly dig it out. I couldn't.

Three visits and about six hours of digging later, I unearthed several pieces of metal that would have been easier to pull out if a lawnmower hadn't been buried on top of them. The hole was big enough for my coffin. What a job.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lupine X 2

An additional 200 McFarlin's lupine will be planted on May 14, according to Cheryl Peterson. I began clearing some more space for the plantings and have sent out e-mails to potential volunteers to help with planting.

The next planting is so there can be some cross-pollination between the two populations to prevent inbreeding. Cheryl told me they have permission to collect some more seeds from the CSX property this spring. I told her I didn't think anything would be happening there very quickly.

Finding more bugs in more places

I spent some time last night with the bug light in the northeast corner near the lupine planting. I had 10 beetles! That was the most I've had in a week or so. I may have hit another hot spot.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eeeek! I'm a bug pimp!

I was out again tonight checking on the beetles, but this time I was supposed to capture a couple to see if they can live long enough to join a female in Gainesville to mate and lay eggs for the video camera.

Who says entomology is no fun?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An update

Stopped by this evening to bust up concrete around recently uncovered pole, but it seems there's a lot more large aggregate, so I may have to take a different approach.

Beetles were flying. I saw one dig up a female and copulate. Frontiers of insect behavior education.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A different kind of roach

The scrub house has roaches, too. The usual species of roaches, American cockroach, Oriental cockroach and wood roach are there, but there's another that is unique to this place.

It is the Sand Cockroach, a thin insect that can wedge itself easily among the sand grains. I saw one recently flying at dusk, perhaps in search of a female. Females are flightless, so must wait for gentlemen callers to reproduce.

The immatures look odd, spotted and wingless. Another adaptation for scrub life, perhaps.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chasing bugs in the dark

This has been a real change from my normal daytime activities of hauling trash, checking fences and monitoring endangered plants and animals.

I've been out with entomologists from Tallahassee and Gainesville to get a better idea of insect life here, especially beetles. The prime area appears to be the area that has historically been more open, which seems to make an additional argument for better habitat management.

There could be some exciting news on the insect front soon, but at the moment I'm sworn to secrecy on the details.

More later.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nolina abounds

One of the effects of the gyrochopping has been to make Nolina brittonia more visible in the landscape. It is one of the tallest plants that is blooming at the moment and is growing in relatively dense stands.

Several recent visitors have remarked on this panorama, which is unusual on most scrub sites because the plants are visible only at short range.

This also shows how locally common a rare plant can be in the right habitat.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An evening by the bug lamp

I went out for my first night light quest for interesting insects. The remarkable beetle I'd been hoping to see did show up. There are probably more somewhere. It will be interesting to see what the pitfall traps collect. besides loose sand.

I printed out my scanty invert list today. Now that I know what's happening, I'm convinced there's a lot to do. In addition to beetles, the lamp attracted moths and an ant lion.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Slowly cleaning up

The fire lane work is done. Now the cleanup begins. Over the weekend I hauled out a washing machine that was about 100 yards from the gate, which was quite a job in newly churned up soil.

Another advantage to the summer rain will be some soil compaction.

Let's see whether the cogon grass spreads.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wider fire lane means more work

A contractor began work last week to widen the fire lane. It's 30 feet wide (I think the old one was about 10 feet), but it will certainly increase my volunteer hours.
As it turns out, the clearing exposed large amounts of debris that I had not seen before. I knew some stuff was there, but this really multiplies it.
The work also involved pulling up a large oak tree and laying it across one of my haul paths. I've got some chopping to do to clear that, but the fresh air and exercise will do me good.
The work has exposed other things. During a walk around the perimeter I saw a worm lizard lying on top of the ground. It was alive, but may have been injured because it wasn't very active and wasn't burrowing. The work also uprooted some ancient saw palmettos that appeared to be about 150 years old.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I've got hogs!

One of the folks in the area stopped by while I was working this afternoon and told me saw two hogs outside the fence this morning rooting. When I checked around I found hog traqcks and a couple of places where the ground had been disturbed in the south tract.

I'll have to keep an eye on the situation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lupine will be conference topic

I learned today that the Scrub Lupine reintroduction project at Lake Blue will be the subject of a presentation at the Rare Plant Task Force meeting at Tall Timbers in Tallahassee in mid-April.

I will also be making a short presentation about the project at the Ridge Rangers Appreciation Day on Saturday at Circle B Bar Reserve.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unburied batteries

Today I removed a couple of auto batteries that I discovered beneath some recently gyrochopped saw palmettos.

Yesterday I flushed a Whip-poor-will near the rear of the property. It appeared to be a female, perhaps the same one that was here a few years ago.

Friday, January 23, 2009

No century oaks, just century palmettos

I was out today calculating the age of a few of the Saw Palmettos on the preserve, based on a formula I learned recently.

Several of the palmettos I checked were more than 100 years old. That raises other questions. How long to do these plants live? How big can they become?

By the way, the ageing calculation was a revelation to me. I knew I had long=trunked palmettos, but I always ascribed that to the lack of fire. As it turns out, unless the fire is hot enough to kill the palmetto, it regenerates and continues to grow. The fire doesn't affect the measurement at all.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

More lupine coming!

I received word this week that more lupine plants may be brought to the preserve this spring from various sites from which seed has been harvested.

That's encouraging. So far the plants that were brought in last month seem to be surviving for the most part. A few have died, which is normal in any mass planting.

The test will be this spring, when the temperatures are consistently high and there's little rain, which increases the stress. Ryan Kordek at Lake McLeod tells me that's when his plants die the most.

I've beem promised some site prep help next time. I don't mind doing it, but it might be better if there were more planning next time. This is really important, I think, probably more important than I can totally grasp.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Time to do some mining

After I watered the lupine today, I took a walk around part of the perimeter to look for small pieces of trash exposed by the recent work.

I found a couple of places where there were larger accumulations. One of roofing materials and ther other appeared to have been an appliance. They were in the windrows I never bothered to mine before because lI wasn't sure it was worth the effort. Now I know.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A routine develops

I'm watering the lupine and expect to be for some time. Ryan Kordek told me that the critical time, even for established plants, is April and May when the temperature is consistenly warm and there's little precipitation.
The stress takes its toll, he told me.

I have used most of the first 400-gallon tank of water. I'm down to about 160 gallons and the low-government bid hose, which crimps a lot, is aggravating the flow situation.

It appears a couple of plants have already died, but that was expected, I guess. The rest appear healthy, but these
plants always appear healthy until they suddenly decline.

I've been doing more work removing Natal grass from a wider area around the planting site in hopes of controlling its spread. I'll have a better idea of how successful that is this spring.