Sunday, December 26, 2010

No holiday from fence repairs

I stopped by Christmas afternoon to check 0n things and discovered another fence cut had occurred.

It was in back of the vacant lot where the old woman had lived. This time instead of cutting the bottom strands of the barbed wire and the new fence, they cut the top half.

I went out this morning and did a quick fix. I'm beginning to wonder about the wisdom of the double fencing from a maintenance standpoint.It doesn't appear to have kept the dogs out, either.

The older lupine planting appeared to be OK.

I hauled out another bag or so of trash from inside the preserve and the right of way along Hobbs Road. It was starting to look trashy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crosstown lupine planting

Tomorrow the usual suspects will be at Mackay Gardens in Lake Alfred to plant some more Scrub Lupine seedlings.

There will be an educational sign, too, I've heard, which is good because that is a more public site and there are more possibilities there.

The city is assisting the effort, so it's a good deal all around.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Post-fire cleanup continues

I continued working my way along the south fire lane to level the remnant piles and removing trash. I took out four bags of trash and a couple of buckets of recyclables while the ground is still clear and the trash is visible.
A freeze is forecast for Tuesday morning.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Collecting the trash, filling the hole

I went out today to finish picking up the trash I had unearthed in the fire lane.

I filled five small garbage bags and a bucket full of recyclables.

I then filled the hole as well as I could. There's always a volume deficit when you haul out that much. It will equalize over time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Buried trash, lots of trash

This was somewhat llike the case of pulling on a loose string and unraveling a piece of clothing, only worse.
One the way back to the gate from the fence repair work, I noticed what appeared to be a piece of orange extension cord poking out of the sand. I pulled it. Nothing happened.
The only digging tools I had with me were my hands and hte posthole digger I'd used to make the fence repair, neither of which was suitable

I returned today with a shovel. Two hours later I was able to free the cord along with three bagfuls of garbage and a couple of wheelbarrows full of recyclables.

This reminds me of the incident a year or two ago when an attempt to unearth a stray piece of metal ended up with the exhumation of a long-buried lawnmower.

I also picked up some stuff thrown over the fence, including some pieces from a mobile home someone across the fence was demolishing.

There's more trash along the edge. It gives me something to do.

I also need to fill in the hole when my back muscles recover from digging it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New fence, new cut

I had been wondering how long it would be before someone would cut the new double fence around the north tract.

I discovered the cut today behind a lot where someone had been demolishing an old mobile home, which is the dominant housing type on the north boundary.
I'm not sure what the purpose was other than to let dogs in, judging by the partial cut of barbed wire and new fence, which somewhat resembles hogwire.
Anyway, fixed the cut with a couple of fence posts, some fence staples and some concrete debris.

I discovered the fence during a periodic check for litter popping up form the sand. On the way out from the fence repair, I stumbled onto a new subterranean pile. The only clue was a piece of extension cord. I don't know how much of a pile there is. It was getting dark and I left after excavating part of it, but it may be extensive.
I'll know more tomorrow.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One more pile

While I was fixing the one bench that was burned, I discovered one more pile that needs to be leveled. I had thought there was another, but couldn't recall where it was.

There was, of course, some more trash, there. Between that and another pile I found recently, I left with another truckload.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eek! It's a Shriek, er Shrike

The open, burned landscape has attracted a new bird species.

Today, I saw the first Loggerhead Shrike I'd ever seen on the property. They aren't a forest bird.

I recently saw an American Kestrel, too,. Actually, I saw two, but the first one appeared to chase away the second one. I have not seen any kestrels since, so it may have been a bird of passage or an opportunist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Leveling the piles

Now that a few weeks have passed and it has rained, I've decided to level the burn piles.

I've also found some trash and carried it offsite.

I've also found a few other pieces of trash as I' ve been walking through the burned areas, but not a lot, which I feel good about.

Another thing. Even after this time and some rain, one pile still had a small hot spot.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rain and regrowth

After a rainless October, ww had .0.80 inch this week.

Following the burn, a few sprigs of grass are emerging. So are saw palmettos.
Garberia is blooming now, which is especially noticeable in the othewise charred landscape.

I'm still finding some trash.

The ash heaps at the burn piles should be leveled. I'll deal with in soon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A more pleasant journey north

I just learned today that CSX Corp. is finally planning to repair that horrid railroad crossing just north of the preserve on Hobbs Road.

Happy days. I travel that way sometimes, but I don't like it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Smoke in the ashes

I went out to finish collecting some trash I'd found the other day.
A burn pile was nearby and so I began to level it with my rake.
That was mistake. The embers were stil live beneath and it started smoking.
I reburied it.
We may get some rain next week, which will extinguish it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The lupine are OK after fire

Just a followup from Friday's controlled burn. All of the lupine patches, two planted and two wild, came out OK.

The intriguing question is whether more will sprout this winter.

Just when you think you have things down at this place, a surprise appears. I still can't get over it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Prescribed fire followup

Prescribed fire turns out not to be a one-day affair.

Today Mike Perry was back on the site checking on hot spots to make sure there were no unexpected restarts of the fire. There were a few smokers, mostly stumps and an odd log, though he found one spot where buried carpet had ignited.

I meanwhile, was cruising the boundary with buckets and wheelbarrow in search of exposed debris that had previously been missed, I found about two truckloads worth.

Some other observations. The burn was pretty spotty in places. The western section, which frankly needed fire the least because some of it had burned a few years ago, was burned well. The eastern section, which had been heavily forested before the gyrochopping, was spottier.

Mike said one problem was that FWC may have waited too long after gyrochopping and the canopy, such as it is, was too far from the ground to carry the fire very well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It was a good day to burn

Today was the first day Lake Blue had been burned in a planned way--ever.

I was an observer, watching the professionals at work..

I learned that the first thing you need to do is to burn a "black line," a line of burned area next to the fire lane that will help to contain the overall burn so that it doesn't jump the fire lane as easily.

Today's burn was sligthly complicated by my discovery last weekend of two spots where Scrub Lupine had sprouted for the first time ever documented by anyone to our knowledge. As a result of the fire more lupine may sprout. We just don't know.

The idea was to protect the plants we know about from fire until they've had a chance to bloom and produce seeds.

The other thing I learned a little more about is why wind matters. I knew wind direction mattered because you plan who the wind will affect. In this case, the plan was to make sure most of the smoke avoided the nearby residences as much as possible. The results were mixed. In the afternoon the wind shifted and was coming from the north, which meant it was pretty smoky for awhile in one of the adjacent neighborhoods.

The other factor is wind speed. You like it to have a little speed, 10 mph or so, I was told, to move the fire quickly through the landscape.

In addition, you want the fire mostly out by dark so smoke doesn't settle and become a major nuisance or safety hazard.

There was another interestsing effect. At various times of the day all of his had insects land on us. They varied. There were treehoppers, mantises, grasshoppers, beetles and true bugs.

Finally, I will obviously and not unexpectedly have more tash to cleanup now that I can see it more clearly on the bare, burned ground.

I've been waiting and hoping for this for years. It was a good day. Thanks, everyone.

Veni, Vidi, Ignis

The fire crew led by Mike Perry and Shane Belson arrived as advertised today. The burn was still going on as of late afternoon. I'll post photos and provide more details tonight.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Preparing for the fire

I learned this morning that the planned fire will happen tomorrow.
I helped Juliet tape off the area where I discovered the Scrub Lupine last weekend.
It will not be burned because the plants have not bloomed yet and put out seeds.
No one knows what kind of seed bank is out there.
By spring we'll have a better idea.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sandspurs, trash, birds

Interesting day.
It began with a routine work errand to remove sandspurs from the main path.
Along the way I watched a pair of American Kestrels seeming to have a dispute over the open territory that's probably a grasshopper bonanza for one of them.
When I reached the pines, I heard the Great Horned Owl calling. Breeding season is approaching for owls.
I looked down and saw a mound under the pine needles, I discovered a long-ago abandoned tire still on its rusty rim.
Nearby, I found more discarded stuff in a patch of saw palmetto .
It was quite a morning.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

See you on the lopside of the moon

Lopsided Indian Grass, one of our showier local native grasses, is flowering at the moment in scrub and flatwoods habitats.

It's the host plant of one of Florida's rarest butterflies, the Arogos Skipper, by the way, though you'll see a lot more grass than skippers in these parts.

Today I photographed some of the grass with the rising late afternoon moon far in the background.

New bird, new plant

While I was looking for butterflies today, I flushed a Wilson's Snipe, which is usually a bird you see near water, though not always. I'll add it to the vert list.

More interesting was the discovery of what appears to be a couple of small groups of scrub lupine, far from the introduced populations that are the result of seedlings propagated at Bok Tower.

If this proves out, it will be another previously undocumented population, one that has happily sprouted on protected land.

I guess the question is how the discovery will affect the boundaries of the planned burn since none of the plants has bloomed and the extent of the seed bank is unknown. I'll leave that discussion to the experts.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Making the walk-through gate more walkable

Ever since the walk-through entrance has been moved to one corner of the site, access has been mostly uninviting.
That's because tall grass has been growing in that area of the right way.
This weekend I launched an experiment.
I dug up the grass along a path to the entrance and laid down large pieces of concrete that had been dumped nearby to form a path.
Now the test is to see how it holds up and remains open .

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good and bad in the pines

I was checking one of the longleaf pine areas and discovered we still have a small area where cogon grass persists. I've been pulling it, but proably not getting the entire root. I also haven't visited recently. There were 15 or 20 plants. I bagged them and carried it home.

However, the check also led me to the discovery of an owl pellet at the base of one of the pines. It's probably from the Great Horned Owl I see hunting occasionally at dusk.

I recently saw a spot in the sand where some raptor had come down on something.

The place still has fun things to see. I'm happy.


I received news this week that a landscape and pile burn will be permitted by our friends at the Florida Division of Forestry. I guess the prep work paid off.

I was rereading parts of the paper Eric Menges and Doria Gordon wrote on fire management and its various artificial substitutes today. I think the evidence is clear fire has no real substitute in the long run.

The gyrotracking probably had to happen because of the thickness of the forest and the proximity of the residences, though I might have suggested a little more restraint to leave habitat islands and snags for local wildlife.

Anyway, the burn is tentatively scheduled sometime in October, depending on weather. The wind has to be right to keep the smoke away from the neighbors as much as possible.

The residents will receive letters, but I'm trying to make personal contact to make sure everyone knows about it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cleaning and clearing habitat

We had a good work day Saturday. A handful of Ridge Rangers were reinforced by a group of Girl Scouts. the area around the lupine patches were cleared of trees, shrubs and weeds.

We also continued with the removal of sandspurs and Natal grass.

Later in the day I came back to attack the buried trash that's becoming visible along the north fire lane. I hauled out two bags of trash and a couple of buckets of recyclables.

I went out again Sunday. I'll have more on that visit later.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dulling the sandspurs

I don't like sandspurs, even though they're a beach sedge that you'd expect here. Today I went ona my annual eradication campaign along the main path between the gate and the first lupine patch.

We've got a work day Saturday and it seemed an opportune time to do something about them so noone else had to deal with them, either. I filled three bags.

Yesterday I did some spot trash pickup in some old piles I found around the lupine patch and in the fire lane.

There are a number of small piles of garbage, much of it composed of broken glass and various household debris that I know about but never dealt with because they were a minor problem compared to the larger piles. Now I can work on them as I get to them.

It's nice to walk through a natural area without having to see the glint of pieces of broken beer bottles, I think.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The fire some time

I received a call today about a meeting this week between FWC and DOF folks about a possible landscape burn in parts of the north tract.

The wet late summer is a plus. We have a La Nina system building, I've heard, which could mean a dryer-than-normal winter and spring. Snoooze and you lose. It would be instructive to see the result and get rid of the piles, too.

It may requre some PR with the neighbors to keep them informed and to make sure no one has any respiratory problems.

Nevertheless, it will be exciting to see if any dormant seed banks are revived. It might help the beetle survey next year or in some future year.

Finally, I wonder if there's really much undiscovered trash out there.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lake Blue nature tour in 2011

During a preliminary brainstorming session today about a planned multi-day nature festival in Polk County next year, one of the possible field trips that was discussed was bringing people to Lake Blue.

It is one of the few Winter Haven Ridge preserves there are.

It was on the vanguard of the Scrub Lupine recovery effort and by next year it will be clearer how that's going.

It demonstrates the challenge of managing scrub in an urban environment. The mechanical treatment is still controversial it seems, since I was told last weekend that there are no plans to repeat that in the south tract. There are still rumors of fire for the cleared sections of the north tract.

It also will present a chance to see some scrub plants and familiarize people wioth scrub in general in a quick and convenient way.

Nothing's committed yet, but it's an interesting idea.

Gleaning among the glass

Now that the fire lane has been disked again and it has rained for a few days, I took advantage of the two to attend to a chore I have ignored mostly up until now on any scale.

That involves going down a section of fire lane and picking up all of pieces of glass and any other debris I can spot. Late afternoon is good because the light shows up on the glass that's sticking out and makes it easier to see.

In addition, in one spot it was obvoious there was a lot of debris just below the ground's surface, so I gently dug around and unearthed quite a bit.

After I was done, I filled a five-gallon bucket twice with debris from along the site of Hobbs Road in front of the preserve, but didn't get everything.

I'll be back.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fire lane open again

I stopped by this afternoon for the first time in a week or so to find the fire lanes had been disked again.

I spent about an hour picking up exposed trash along the first 100 yards or so. I filled three trash bags and two 5-gallon buckets.

i was thinking of coming through with a strong rake and seeing what other trash near the surface I could churn up to clean up the area while it is still open.

The fact that the work was done so quickly after I mentioned it to Bill Parken at FWC was also encouraging. This site really needsa good fire lane because the homes are so close and most of them are mobile homes that would go up pretty quick if the flames reached them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lupine program Saturday will include Lake Blue

I'm looking forward to a program Saturday at Bok Tower that will provide an update on the Scrub Lupine project.

The plantings at Lake Blue, which were the pioneer effort, will be included in the discussion. I'm told more plantings are planned elsewhere in Polk and in Orange County and perhaps in Lake County.

This is an important element of the recovery plan, which envisions establishing several populations.

We're still early in this. For instance, one thing to watch will be whether any recruitment occurs. We'll be looking next spring.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Checking the south fence

I visited the neglected south tract this afternoon and found an ear tree had fallen on the fence. There was no other damage. I fixed it by removing the tree and renailing one piece of fence that was down.

In the open areas on the northeast corner, Paronychea was common. This area remains open for some reason, which is good, because it's the only place in the fire lane where I've seen Polygonella basiramia.

There were a few beer b0ttles and cans near the employment office.

The dominant plant in the fire lane appears to be ragweed, though there is Natal grass on the edges and sand spurs, partridge pea and various grasses.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Still raining, weeding easier

It has been wet recently, for a change. The rain gauge read 2 inches, so all of the plants, including the naughty ones, are getting plenty to drink.

The upside to all of this is that the moist soil makes weeding easier, so I've been taking advantage of this to remove Natal grass in some key areas to keep it from taking over.

In other places I'll leave it alone because there's simply too much to deal with manually unless I want to nake Natal grass removal a full-time job.

One thing I've noticed is the proliferation on Polanisia tennufolia in numbers I've never noticed before.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A captured feather

I was trekking across the scrub recently and encountered a feather snagged on a Bumelia.

I'm not totally sure what bird species shed it. It appears to be a larger species, though. A Great Horned Owl hunts here. So do hawks. I'll have to run it by someone who knows more about feather identification.

Usually I find wing or tail feathers, which are a little easier to sort out. This is more of a challenge, but worth sharing.

Tarflowers, not tarballs

One of the few showy blossoms at the moment in the scrub is the Tarflower, which is pretty widespread in scrub and scrubby flatwoods.

The plant gets its name from the sticky tarlike chemical on the flowers. The adhesive chemical traps some small insects, though I'm not exactly sure how that benefits the plant, which also attracts other pollinators.

They're relatively prominent shrubs in the aftermath of the mechanical clearing.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I'm up to six species of roaches at Lake Blue Scrub.

I found the lastest addition when I was doing some night insect surveys earlier this spring.

The species list is:

Sand cockroach (Arenivaga floridensis)

American cockroach (Periplaneta americana)

Florida woods cockroach (Eurycotis floridana)

Wood roach (Parcoblatta sp.)

Pennsylvania wood roach (Parcoblatta fulvesence)

Green banana cockroach (Panchlora nivea)

Butterflies are returning

I crisscrossed the north tract today to see what the butterfly situation was now that summer is nearly herel.

Ceraunus Blue was the most numerous. There were 24. Nevertheless, that's far less than the 103 I had around the same date last year.

Tentatively, I'm attribtuing the decline to the severe winter.

I will monitor this summer and fall and see what the changes are.

Note: Common Buckeyes were more numerous this year. It's a mixed year.

Another lupine again

I was checking out the area where the Clitoria fragrans is found and discovered two lupine plants, one of which had died. This is the same area where Lupinus diffusus popped up after a fire about five years ago. I didn't find any stipules, so I assume these plants are L. diffusus, too. The habitat is right.

Meanwhile, the Natal grass and Guineas grass is becoming rife in and along the fire lane. This calls for more than a Ridge Ranger workday, I'm afraid.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summertime, and the weeding ain't easy

Unsurprisingly, grasses, sedges etc have invaded the cleared second planting area and are competing with the lupines for whatever it is they need. Weeding has begun, but it's not a job for mad dogs and Englishmen. It's better to wait until the cooler portion of the day.

This will be an ongoing task. There's a sea of Natal grass along the nearby fire lane so it could be a long summer.

However, I've found that aggressive weeding in small tracts can control the problem pretty well for a time so the work doesn't have to be repeated too often. Obviously, on a landscape scale a different approach is necessary.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Signs of summer's approach

I walked through the landscape this afternoon.

Ceraunus blue butterflies are finally emerging. A Gulf fritillary was nectaring on the remains of the Nolina blossoms. Yucca is in full bloom, but the recent weather knocked over some of the plants with the tallest flower stalks. I also saw Common buckeye, Barred yellow and possible a Cassius blue.

Asclepias tuberosa and feayi are blooming. Very little Natal grass is blooming except in the fire lanes so far. All of the freeze killed grass is still brown.

The burn piles on the west side are still unburned.

The new hog wire fence has been installed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rain arrives in plenty

It has rained over the past two days. I checked the gauge this evening and it read 2 inches.

The Bonamia is beginning to bloom. The vines are plentiful across the landscape.

Polanisia tennufolia is in bloom, too.

This evening a Great Horned Owl flew across the landscape as I was setting up for night insect work. The sky tonight was lovely. It was that bright early evening blue, perhaps clarified by the rain, which gets rid of haze.

The bug survey was uneventful. Ant lions, a few beetles, moths, leafhoppers and flies, but nothing I was hoping for.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bugs and benches

I'm still doing some regular evening bug monitoring to see what the light will attract.

I prepared the bench that was one of the insect observation platforms and installed a second on the north side to replace the one that was vandalized a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, a Common Nighthawk makes its regular sortie over the open preserve sky, but this week I didn't hear the Chuck-will's-widow. Maybe it moved on.

I'm still slowly mining trash from the windrows along the north fire lane. I want to get some of the work done before the area becomes overgrown again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Enough rain for now; fire lane getting weedy

The weekend storm dropped 3 inches of rain on the lupine patch. The plants look good.

Meanwhile, in the fire lane the rain and warmer weather has caused grasses to sprout again, the main concerns being Natal grass and Guinea grass. I've seen no evidence of cogon grass so far this year, though there was a patch nearby.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Late bloomers

I stopped by the lupine patch today and noticed that the plants that were blooming earlier were wrappping up, but that some other plants were putting out blooms for the first time.

I wasn't surprised because no species does everything at the same time, but it was interesting that the blooming was somewhat asynchrous. It rained pretty hard this evening, so that could provide additional moisture to spur blooming. It has been dry and windy for the past few days, which is less encouraging.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cleaning up the masonry mess

Instead of digging up more trash today, I decided to spend a couple of hours hauling out some of the debris I've already unearthed.

The top priority was the pieces of concete that appear to be everywhere from who knows how many construction projects that had leftover materials that needed to be dumped. It was a chore, but the boundary of the driveway is better defined.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bullbats 2, Beetles O

I went out this evening to try to attract some beetles. I saw two Common Nighthawks, one of which buzzed my position a couple of times. However, the beetle quest was cut short by raindrops and wind. I got out before it worsened. Maybe later this week.

More rain arrives

I checked the gauge this morning. It registered 0.90 inch. The new plants looked good.

I walked over to check the older plants and the blooms were impressive.

Nice scarecrow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Trash mining resumes

I resumed work mining trash along the fire lane. I filled two trash bags and a wheelbarrow full of miscellaneous debris.

While I was working a wildlife officer stopped by to check on things, which was encouraging. I explained some of the work going on here and thanked him for his efforts. These folks are spread pretty thin, so I always appreciate what they do.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Visitors day at Lake Blue

Today was another important day to host visitors. I finally had a chance to meet John Beckner, the author of the description of Lupinus aridorum. He personally knew Jim McFarlin in McFarlin's later days living in Bradenton. He was accompanied by Fran Palmeri,, who is recording photographs of scrub plants for something she's working on.

The primary purpose of their visit was to get photos of the lupine, but I was able to show them several other plants, including Nolina britonnia, Persea humilis, Bonamia grandifloria (just sprouting), Lechea cernua, Ceanothus microphylla and several others.

It was great to be there with people who appreciated the wonderful diversity of this small natural area and I was happy to share what I know of it.

John said that Cnidoscolous stimulosus was being split, since there is one variety that is larger and has different leaves and is found here that may warrant description as a separate species. Same goes with one of the Asminias, he said. Frankly, I've never take the trouble to key them out completely. I guess I'll have to pay more attention.

Anyway, it was a pleasant couple of hours. They said they enjoyed it, too.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lupines in bloom

The lupines are in full bloom now. There are still a few racemes that haven't flowered, but it looks as though all of the participants are accounted for.

The Linaria is everywhere too and the pawpaws are in bloom, Nolina is budding/blooming and it's becoming prettier in the scrub by the day.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Insects of the night

I went out this evening to see what was moving in the preserve at night.

I was walking around to see what was flying near dusk.I saw a Sand Roach on a Nolina brittonia bud. Two came to the light, along with what appeared to be an Alabama Underwing as well as common beetles, other unknown moths and some ants and flies.

Maybe things will pick up in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lupines so far

Slowly, the Scrub Lupines are coming into bloom. As I wrote earlier, I don't have a clear idea how long it will take for those with buds to bloom. that will be part of monitoring.

I've been out for a few days, but when I returned today, I could see slow progress. I guess I'll have to be patient.

Friday, March 26, 2010

More rain overnight

This morning the rain gauge registered 0.85 inch.

Lupine count, more trash mining

One lupine flower is now in full bloom, but the rest are still nestled in their buds. I don't have a good idea how long the full flowering will take, but I'm willing to wait and find out.

Juliet from Bok is organizing a work day to tabulate the results in a couple of weeks. She said not only are some of the December 2008 plants blooming, but so is one of the 2009 plants. I guess plants can be eager, too.

Meanwhile, I've been combining plant checks with a renewed effort to dig out garbage along the northern fire lane. It looks as though I'll be busy for a while.

I probably should wait around until dusk to see what's calling. Last night I heard two Whip-poor-wills calling near my yard about a mile away.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rain, first pink petal

The rain gauge read 1.45 inches today from Sunday's rain.

When I checked the older plants, I found one pink petal poking from one of the buds observed
Saturday. Photos to come.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lupines are budding. Hooray!

I checked the older lupine planting today and noticed that buds were developing on some of the plants. I can't wait to see them in bloom.

This will be a milestone in the experiment. Buds+flowers+seeds=recruitment. At least that's the hope.

There was also light rain today, which helps with all of the plants' survival as spring and warmer temperatures arrive.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Outside the fence is ugly

I've been trying to do sometehing about the accumulation of trash in the right of way around the preserve through the annual Great American Cleanup.

You'd think I could clean up a roadside along a city block in a day. Wrong!
I spent about 10 hours along Avenue Q, which is on the south side of the southern tract. I got about a third of the way down the street and didn't get it all.

As it was, I filled 48 trash bags, collected 20 tires (some were from the roadside down the street, and a large pile of carpet before I ran out of steam.

Interestingly, I didn't get all of the steel cans and when I returned from a recycling run (20 of those bags were recyclables), there was a guy grabbing up the cans I'd missed, but drug out from the bushes.

I felt like the Little Red Hen, though I knew I'd made sure to get most of the iron by weight earlier. He didn't know it, but he just got the scraps.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The rest of the rain total

This afternoon I took a break from my Great American Cleanup labors nearby and checked the rain gauge. It read 1.3 inches since yesterday morning.

It was quite windy today, so the extra rain probably helped to protect the plants from the dessication windy days cause. Plants in both areas appeared generally healthy, though there was a dead solider in the northern area.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Some well-watered lupines

I checked the rain gauge at the planting this morning. It read 2.35 inches, which means no more hand-watering this week.

Plantings looked good and undisturbed. So far, so good.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Planting went well and quickly

(FWC Photo)

The lupine planting went well today. About 35 volunteers showed up. The work occurred smoothly.

The lupines were planted in rows and GPSed to match the tags with the locations.

Paul from The Natives brought in a portable tank to water the plantings. Rain is forecast for this evening and tomorrow.

Watch this space for rainfall reports either from the Lake Blue gauge or my home gauge about 1 mile to the east.

People on hand today included Jack Stout and Sharon Kane, both of whom have done lupine field research. Scrub lupine is, I believe, one of Stout's specialities.

Lupine planting today

I'm heading out to the preserve shortly to help with the planting of 700 new lupine plants from Bok Tower.

This is in a new location, but close enough for the two populations to crosspollinate, I've been told.

The other strategy is to move the plantings farther from the residential areas to reduce the likelihood of vandalism, which plagued the first planting.

The big issue is managing the watering. This is going to be a shared task and will be coordinated with rainfall, so we don't overwater or leave the plants susceptible to stress by underwatering.

Spring is a cruel season sometimes for plants because the temperatures (and evapostranspiration) increases, but the rainfall can be sparse. This was supposed to be a wet El Nino winter, but it hasn't turned out that way so far and we can't count on long-term weather predictions.

The big hope is perhaps we'll see some blooms this spring from the first planting.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

McFarlin ex Beckner call

I got a call the other day from John Beckner, author of the Lupinus aridorum description. He was looking for information on blooming lupine. He said it's possible some of the Lake Blue lupine might bloom this year, which would be wonderful.

He's working with a woman who is assembling a photo collection of scrub plants and others.

I hope to be able to meet him. I gather he's rather old, so there may not be a lot of time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The windrows again

It looks like it's archeology time again.

The windrows that were pushed up last year when the fire lane was widened, which was badly needed, have weathered enough to expose more trash. As I have time, I'll be going down the line and moving the debris to get at the trash and leveling the mounds.

In a perfect world, I suppose, that debris could be assembled in a burn pile somewhere, but fire-safe locations are tricky on that side, so the bugs will feast instead.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Clearing land for the lupines

A group of volunteers cleared the ground for the next lupine planting, but ran into some big-rooted trees that will require more than strong backs to remove.

The problem is that we could have gone into a little more open area, but would have run into one of Archbold's study plots and beyond that is a burn pile site that may have altered soil.

The highlights today was the discovery of a Blue-tailed Mole Skink, only the second one I've seen on this site since I started working here in 2002. We also found a Worm Lizard, which many people had not seen. I've run into a few out here, but they're hardly common.

In addition, the large Narceus gordanus millipedes were everywhere.

We got a lot done and the rain held off, which helped.

Lupine patch clearing today; hope rain holds off

We have a work day scheduled this morning to clear a patch of scrub to prepare for next month's planting of Scrub Lupine.

Shortly after I got up this morning, the rain began. It has been on and off, but not too bad for a determined work crew. I'm taking rain gear just in case it gets heavy.

The upside is that the rain makes it easier to dig in sandy soil. Always look on the bright side, even if the sun isn't shining.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fence fixed, entrance altered

When I stopped by this afternoon after the Ridge Ranger gathering, I found that the fence contractors had been working today.

The fence cuts had been fixed.

The old walk-through entrances had been closed and a new ones created diagonally across from each other at the southeast and northwest corners of the tracts, though the northwest gate on the south tract is still dummy locked. Not really a problem, there's nowhere to go there except the fire lane anyway.

I did notice the walk-through entrance was rather inviting to dirt bikes, though, being in an area where they regularly ride. I brought the no vehicle sign down from the main gate and sunk another post in the middle to discourage them. We'll see what happens.

Fence problems chronic

I stopped by Friday afternoon and noticed the neighbors had torn through the fence behind the vacant house again.

This is the third time since the holidays this has occurred. I'd define that as chronic.

I also found a somewhat concealed fence cut, which was new, a couple of houses to the east by a cherry laurel tree.

FWC is talking about improving the fence line and possibly even posting the property for public access because of the problems. It may come to that.

Pin the lupine on the sand skink

Thre's another lupine planting planned soon, but first comes the decision of where the planting should go.

The first time around it was a matter of picking a site that was already relatively open and wasn't infested with Natal grass. The gyrchopping, which wasn't discussed during the first site selection, changed that somewhat.

The open area had t be reopened, but it has worked out pretty well.

Now that the landscape is no longer forested, there's thought of opening up a formerly forested area mechanically, but the question is where to do that.

One site was selected, but it would interfere with some study plots that Archbold scientists are studying. I think one of the purposes is to track the response of listed plants to the non-fire management.

Another issue that occurred to me is that the cleared site shouldn't be in an area with a lot of listed plants that would have to be plowed under to make way for the lupine planting.

From my earlier GPS work, it looks as though any area within about 100 feet of the eastern fire lane would work best because I never found much when I was surveying that area, though it was heavily foreested and I could have missed a few plants here and there.

I'm sure it will all work out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lupine meeting yielded news

The lupine meeting at Wekiwa Springs State Park was worth attending.

I found out more plantings were planned for Lake Blue, scheduled within the next few weeks, so there's plenty of prep work to be done at the planting site Cheryl and Juliette select.
The big issue is making sure the next patch is relaitvely close to the first to make cross pollination, if that happens (no one was totally sure; there's a lot that remains to be discovered) between the existing plants and the next group.

I learned today that a Scrub Lupine's lifespan is typically five years, which makes getting plants in, blooming and seeding and producing seedlings very important. Without successful recruitment, we're toast.

I also learned that winter planting is preferable to allow the plants to become established before they have to deal with the stresses of late spring with hot weather and rain, drought stress and fungus.

The survival rate for the spring planting at Lake Blue was roughly half that of the winter planting.

I also had a chance to meet some of the other folks involved in some way in the project. Great bunch of folks, all very knowledgeable and dedicated. I was able to share some of my experience from Lake Blue. We're all intent on helping each other in any way we can to make this experiment works.

One other topic came up today, which was the need to try to find additional sites for plantings and to find the money to purchase and manage the sites. Polk County is tapped out for now. I'm not sure the state is in much better shape. The feds might have resources and there was talk of contacting NGOs, such as TNC to find out what they might be able to do.

The recovery plan anticipates additional sites with viable populations before downlisting is even possible and quite a few sites to delist. That could take some time, it would seem. But extinction is forever, which is even longer.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lupine meeting tomorrow

I'm going to sit in on a meeting to get an update on the lupine experiment. The Lake Blue site has been a problem because of the vandalism, which has gone away for now.

I check the planting area yesterday and everything looked good. The flags have been returned.

I like to think my contacts with the neighbors and law enforcement visit helped to cool things down.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fixing the gates

I'm proposing to redesign the walk-through gates if I can get the OK.
It would reduce the chance that people can come in with dirt bikes.

The idea is a V-shaped wooden entrance similar to the EL walk-throughs. It should be simple to install with a couple of volunteers, once we have the design and the materials. It's too easy to get in now.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The death of a neighbor

Sad news today. One of the neighbors along First Avenue was found dead this morning in the industrial park just north of here.

His name was Larry Whitest. He was 56.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Work day went great

There was a great group of volunteers today for our work day.

We got a lot of trash picked up. It took me two truckloads to carry it home for sorting and storing for future garbage collection. I got a wheelbarrow full of metal recycables and several gallons of plastic and glss bottles.

That took me a couple of hours extra. I'll sleep well tonight.

The reason I took the trash is because Jim had a truckload of roofing shingles from a dump we began digging through today. It will take more work days to get rid of that pile. Jim suggested using a front-end loader if we can get one. That sounds about right.

One group did some trail work on the south tract, but I didn'tget a chance to check it out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Work day Saturday--yahoo!

There's a work day Saturday for Ridge Rangers. I expect a big crowd because there is a group of volunteers that have been enticed with Disney tickets.

I've marked some trails to improve, add or maintain. There's trash to clean up along the expanded fire lane and a pile of roofing materials in the back along one of the trails.

The rain chance has declined. It may be windy. We'll manage.

I haven't had much further vandalism, though a couple of tires have appeared across the fence from Levy's houses and a trash container was tossed into the lupine patch.

The turnout Saturday may send a message.

I learned today that Mike has left and Nicole's in charge for now. Lots of turnover at FWC. Nothing new there.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tire swing, more vandalism

I stopped by this morning and noticed a tire swing had been put up across from the lupine patch.

The fence to the north had been knocked down again.

The area around the tire swing had been "decorated" with all kinds of debris someone had found or brought in. The swing I had brought in to serve as a bench had been badly damaged. Later in the day I discovered another old bench had been damaged. I removed both.

I also removed a lot of the "decorations"

I fixed the fence where it had been knocked over and added another post there and at another spot where someone had come in.

I talked to some of the children who were using the tire swing and they said the vandalism had been done by someone named Joey.

This afternoon I noticed some of the fence posts had been loosened since this morning. I attribute that perhaps to one of the kids, who appears to be hyperactive and likes to grab things or beat on things.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

A lone moth

Saturday was the only the second day since early January when the temperatures were moderate enough to be enjoyable to be outside.

Yesterday I marked some areas for trail development. Today I picked up a wheelbarrow load of trash from the north fire lane. I also picked up some intelligence. It seems Levi did cut the fence behind his house t get some woods, according to one of the neighbors.

I saw a moth today. That's remarkable because I haven't seen any moths or butterflies anywhere around here since Jan. 2 and I suspect it may be a while before anything emerges. Any adults that were flying a couple of weeks ago are likely dead.

I've got a work day coming in two weeks. Should be able to get a lot of work done.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More vandalism, vandals' hangout

I found a place where the vandals appear to have been hanging out nearby in the edge, which was conveniently across the way from where some the fence had been cut.

There was a cache of pilfered flags, one dead uprooted lupine and other stuff from who knows where.

I don't get it.

I spent part of New Year's Day fixing the fence. The fence cuts were through a yard at a house that had been vacant for five years, according to a neighbor and at the house where the kids with the four-wheelers and a pickup live.

There was also some vandalism of the old swing I brought in, complete with teen graffiti (someone loves someone).