Sunday, October 9, 2011

October arrives colorful and damp

More than 6 inches of rain has fallen in the past day or so. There was some wind, too, so I checked out things, especially the south tract, which I hadn't visited in a couple of months.

I had a couple of surprises in the south tract.

On the plus side, Polygonella basiramia was doing well in the northeast fire lane. I thought it would be overcome by Natal grass, but the grass has subsided and there were several basiramia, some in the later stages of blooming.

On the minus side, I found a small patch of Cogon grass in a wind row, pulled up what I could and bagged it. That's the first Cogon grass I can recall on that tract, but there's enough seed source in the area.

In the north tract, the Cogon grass that Bill Parken sprayed last month appears to be dead.

There's a lot of color still in the landscape. The Balduinia is putting on quite a show and so is the October flower. Blue curls have begun blooming. Garberia will come later.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fixing a fence becomes harder

I'm not sure what the thinking was behind the fencing here, but it plays havoc with repairs.

The hog wire or whatever it is they nailed in front of the barbed wire makes it hard to get the barbed wire, which was already hard to get at because it was nailed on the outside, which is in dense growth or private property.

It had been cut for awhile because grass had grown around some of the cut barbed wire. Some had thrown a fire and some beer bottles over the fence near the cut. I gave them back.

Searching for seeds

Today we had a work day featuring a Girl Scout Troop from Winter Haven. The job was to look for Scrub Lupines that may have sprouted since the prescribed fire last fall. We had d no luck.

We did collect some seeds from other endangered plants for Bok Tower.

Although I didn't find any Scrub Lupine, I did encounter three Sky Blue Lupine plants in the southeast corner near the Clitoria fragrans site. They are in a different part of that section than they have been in the past and may be crowded out by Natal grass, which has become rife along the edges and within parts of the fire lane, except where Guinea grass and other disturbed area plants thrive.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cogon grass advances

During my monthly butterfly survey today I found new infestations of cogon grass.
In addition to the expected advance on the west side near known sites near the railroad, I also found a new site in the southeast part of the north tract near the Clitoria fragrans area.

Also, sandspurs have returned to paths where I had knocked them back a couple of years ago.

On the plus side, blazing star is in full bloom and is really providing some color to the landscape.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Caesar weed round I done

This morning I got out and finished pulling up the last of the Caesar weed stands I could find near the fire lane. I am finding fewer sprouts in the fire lane, which is encouraging. This may take a couple of seasons, but source reduction seems to be the best management technique.

I've thought of bringing in some Painted Leaf from my yard or somewhere to see if an aggressive native can hold an aggressive exotic at bay.

Found more trash, too. Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.

During a rest period, noticed a Northern Flicker and a Red-bellied Woodpecker are making use of a pine snag nearby. Don't see Flickers often anymore.

Bobwhite still calling in the distance.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More Ceasar weed

I went out to do some followup work on the large Caesar weed patch I found near the fire lane and started checking around and found another large patch to the east.

I got most of the stalks with seeds, but have to go back and get the new plants before they spout seeds. I also found some more trash in the process, so I'll bring a bag when I come back.

I also cleared one the paths/haul routes of Guinea grass,which has invaded.

Friday, July 29, 2011


I have seen bobwhites here from time to time over the years, but now it's possible the post-burn landscape may be more attractive than the overgrown conditions in the past.,

In recent months I have occasionally flushed some bobwhites.

Last night I heard two of them calling.


Schlepping the stones

Yesterday afternoon I took care of a chore that it was time to deal with.
After the burn last year I uncovered some large chunks of concrete in the rear area of the preserve,
I took the wheelbarrow out and hauled five loads of them out and deposited them at the main driveway along with the other debris I'd collected and recycled.
Good exercise after a day in an office chair.

Friday, July 22, 2011

School of scrub

Yesterday I hosted some students who are studying Florida ecosystems.

Lake Blue Scrub turned out to be a convenient site for a quick tour for classes on tight schedules because it is less remote than other scrub sites and you can see quite a bit in a short time.

There was plenty to see.

I showed the students several of the rare plants, the experimental scrub lupine site, sand skink trails in the sand and what one kind of ecotone looks like.

A couple of them took me up on my offer to try a gopher apple. They agreed it's delicious.

It was fun to share .

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Transplanting, weeding

Hot, sweaty work this time of year. On Friday Marian Ryan and I dug up some Hercules Club that had grown up into the fence and took them to Circle B Bar Reserve for transplanting in the butterfly garden,

Saturday a Ridge Ranger group weeded the newer lupine patch. Plants seem to be doing well, but drought has been rough on older plants, which died after blooming.

Sunday I finished cleaning up area where we dug Hercules Club and removed Guinea grass around walk through entrance to keep the patch clear.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bugs and bug hunters

As I was surveying the butterfly population and checking on things this afternoon, I suddenly caught movement ahead of me.

A pair of American Kestrels were, well, hawking just above the regrowing low tree line, probably in search of large grasshoppers, of which there are some at the moment.

The Ceraunus Blue numbers are gradually recovering from freeze and drought. Today I saw 57. which is the most in three years and far more than I've seen anywhere else in Florida, particularly in so small an area.

Pulled a few Caesar Weed along the western fire lane before they formed seeds. I may control this weed yet.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Surprise in the palmettos

I was checking on the Ceasar weed patch I' ve been clearing and encountered a series of barely buried trash piles. Then I found more under a patch of palmettos nearby.
By the time I was done, I had uncovered enough to fill two trash bags.
This was a bit of surprise because I thought I had already checked this area for trash, but the palmettos have turned out to be a frequent dump site. I recall finding some transmissions in this general area in the palmettos.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ceasar weed roundup

Yesterday afternoon I finished uprooting/.bagging a dense patch of Ceasar Weed not far from the fire lane where it had been rife in the past.e

I will have to monitor the section, but it seemed easier to do it now while the new plants were emerging and most had not formed seedheads than to wait.

Wish me luck with this experiment.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trash, overgrown fire lane

I spent a couple hours today in may attempt to rid the fire lane of Ceasar weed only to find a big patch near the fire lane and a new trash pile. I will come back with bags in hopes of dealing with

I did haul out one garbage bag of small stuff and two wheelbarrowfuls of larger stuff.

Meanwhile, the fire lane itself is becoming overgrown again, primarly Guinea grass and the tallest ragweed I've ever seen.

Some maintenanace might be in order.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Going afield to cleanup

I've been doing some trash cleanup this weekend, but a little more afield than normal.

I hauled two bags opf trash fr0m various entry points at Hilochee-Osprey along I-4 and a couple of more bags and then some at Saddle Creek Park. I removed an old fish barrier put up by commercial fishermen, I guess, and some debris in the dry creek bed.

Droughts have some upsides.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ranging all over Florida

I'm afraid my Ridge Ranger impulses don't end when I'm on vacation.

This week I spent a couple of days helping with butterfly surveys in the Homestead/Key Largo area.

We found plenty of butterflies, including the rare and endangered Schaus Swallowtail, but also found some natural areas had been trashed.

When I left Sunday morning, I collected what I could, but on the way home I noticed one of the Sun Ray tracts had been burned and figured it was a good time to patrol for trash. As you can see from the photo, I found a lot of bottles etc. on top of the stuff I had collected in South Florida preserves, which had included a car door.

Actually, there's plenty of trash in preservation areas in Key Largo, some of it brought in by the tide and some dumped there before it was conservation land. That would make a heck of a cleanup; project and would require a vehicle larger than my truck, much larger.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blues vs. Buckeyes

I went out Saturday for one of the periodic butterfly counts in the north tract.

Numbers have been down everywhere as the result of the last year's freeze and the current drought, perhaps.

The predominant species in this habitat are Ceraunus Blue and Common Buckeye. The question at the moment is which one will be more numerous.
The Blues won 35 to 32.
Other species were Gulf Fritillary, Variegated Fritillary, Barred Yellow, Cloudless Sulfur, Zebra Swallowtail and Zarucco.

I also found some trash while I was wandering around.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The burn and the Bonamia

I took a walk through the scrub during the past two afternoons in search of stray piles of trash (broken glass, etc.) that might be visible after some post-burn weathering of the soil.

During the walk I saw Bonamia beginning to bloom practically everywhere . It responded well to an accidental fire several years ago before the Natal grass came in.

That is still the unanswered question is whether Natal grass will become rife in more sections of the preserve as it has at the sites of the burn piles on the east side. Also, it's unknown whether it will persist or eventually be crowded out by native plants, as some claim. I don't know. Otherwise, we'll have to live with it. Treating it or pulling it on a landscape scale is impractical.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beetles are really back

Went out Tuesday night with Paul Skelley to look for beetles. We found at least 30 as well as a handful of what he calls "rain beetles" because they're only active when it's raining.
Rain was threatening Tuesday night, but only a trace fell in the area, despite the thunder and lightning in the near distance.

It is spring. I saw my first Common Nighthawk of the season soaring and diving overhead and heard a Chuck-will's-widow calling from the south woods, which is a different location from recent years.

I'm planning to go out tonight and try again for beetles in the south woods.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The beetles are back

I had been fruitlessly mon itoring for beetles for a researcher since late March with no luck. Thursday night one finally showed. Now that they're out,we'll see what the population is like. They didn't emerge last year and I was beginning to get worried this year, but we'll see. The Common Nighthawk that kept me companylast year didn't show. So far, no Chuck will's Widow is calling from the pines, though I flushed one the other day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trash and sandspurs

Things are settling down for the warm post-winter season. I've been catching up on some low-key maintenance, consisting of removing a few small trash piles I've found and trying to rid the northern fire lane of sandspurs and Ceasar weed. I'll let you know how it turns out. Another sign of warm weather. I flushed a goatsucker, probably a Chuck will's widow by now. I'll listen for the call when I do my next night bug patrol, which is coming up this weekend.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Another wild lupine

I went out today to check on storm damage. The damage I saw was the utilities problems, not ours. While I was there, I decided to check on any change in the Lupine population. \ I found one near the younger Lupines I found last October. Perhaps more will emerge later.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monitoring the blooming lupines

A crew from Bok Tower was out today to begin the monitoring of the blooming Scrub Lupine to gather some data on what's happening in the patch.

They were counting flower stalks and branches, measuring plants and counting seedlings.

Most of the 30 or so seedlings are in the road at least 100 feet from where the plants bloomed and put out seeds last year, so their origin is undetermined.

Nevertheless, they're a welcome addition to the population.

The older patch is pretty impressive this year. There are many large plants and all of them are in full bloom.

I've never seen a display like this, though I've heard of some following ground disturbance.

There's more monitoring scheduled in a couple of weeks to measure the other patch, which was planted later and has younger plants.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A bloom in every lupine patch

On the cusp of spring, lupines in all three patches in the preserve are blooming.

This is progress.

Not only are lupines blooming in the two planted patches. They are also blooming on both mature plants in one of the volunteer patches in another section of the preserve that was activated from the earlier pre-fire disturbance.

It will be interesting to see what kind of activity, if any, results from the burn.

The other lupine in the sandhill took a year to respond, but that was an accidental winter burn.

Meanwhile, there are about 20 seedlings around the older patch, which is encouraging because the thought is that they may all be the result of seeding from the first bloom there last spring.

I know the seeds are ejected from the flower clusters, but I don't how far or whether they may be carried by the wind or insects.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blueberries high and low

The lupines aren't the only plants in bloom at the preserve.

A week or so ago I ventured into the flatwoods/bayhead area to check on things and found low-bush and high-bush blueberries in bloom.

That's the first time I had noticed the high-bush species. A new, but unsurprising addition to the plant list is always welcome.

By the way, the fruit ripen around June, though they're small.

I came, I saw, I hoed

This year I'm trying again to get ahead of the Ceasar weed along th section of the fire land near the First Avenue gate.

My strategy is to look for seedlings and hoe them up or pull them up so that they don't mature and produce more seeds. I'm not sure how long this will take or whether it's feasible, but it's worth a try.
We got a head start during last Saturday's work day when some were removed.

Lupines begin blooming

I saw the first lupine blooms today. Last year they started blooming a week or so later so it's about right for the location, I guess. This is only the second year the plants have been old enough to bloom.

I also found a few more seedlings near the older planting area today and flagged them. I checked the older plants and now see its going to be a lot pinker spring this year than last. Two of the plants I discovered have buds, too, and should be in full bloom by the end of the month or so.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Keeping the pepper at bay

We had a great Ridge Rangers work day Saturday. We removed a bunch of Brazilian pepper that had sprouted along the fence line.

I asked for the work day because what pepper was inside the preserve has been gone for some time and I wanted to do what I could to reduce the chance of its reinvading.

I also persuaded Bill Parken, our Ridge Ranger coordinator, who cut the oak tree that blocked one of the haul paths.

We also got some trash picked up. It was a good day.

More on lupine seedlings

Sometimes a mundane explanation doesn't immediately come to you.

It occurred to me that the source of the new seedlings could be partly my own doing.

It occurred to me that the source could have been me or others picking up seeds in the soles of our shoes, which scarified them enough to make them sprout after they rubbed off our shoes and went into the soil.

I asked whether that was possible and was told it was. I guess more investigation could tell us more.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some thoughts on new lupines

I went to the preserve today to look at the seedling
lupines and see if more had appeared. There appeared to several, including what looked
like seedlings in the planted area.

The assumption is that the lupines in the path

are from an old seed bank because of their distance from the planted patch. They're perhaps 100 feet away.

I've been told the lupines broadcast their seeds, but I don't recall reading how far.

What's interesting is that if these seedlings are the result of an old seed bank, that it is occurring so close to anintentional planting site.

It's going to be interesting to see if any more lupines pop up.
The goal, of course, is to have a self-sustaining population, which will I suppose take years.

I was thinking about that as I was driving along I-4 this morning east of U.S. 27 on the sandhills near County 54 and noticing the expanse of sky blue lupine, the scrub lupine's common relative.

The blue lupine appeared to be blooming already.Scrub lupine's still a few weeks off.

I'll continue to help to monitor. It could be an interesting year.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Volunteer lupines increase

This week I got a note from Juliet Rynear from Bok, who makes regular checks of the lupine plantings.
She found some volunteer seedlings in the east-west path west of the first plantings.
I went out today to take a look and found two more farther west and marked them.
I wonder if we need to get some volunteers together and do a broader search.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meeting a neighbor

Sometimes it takes awhile to make contact with the neighbors.
Today I met a man named Mike, who said he had been watching me out there for years and wondered what was happening.
I explained a little bit of what going on.
We also talked about the recent tire dumping. He said he knew who did it and was glad I threw the tires back over the fence.
He also said he knew which kids were responsible for vandalizing the lupine patch in the early days.
I picked up a bucketload of trash and a couple of larger items.
I also checked the lupines for recent sprouts, but didn't notice any. It may take awhile to build up the seed

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Waiting for new lupines

The unknown timing of the next step of the lupine recovery effort occupies my thoughts.
Last spring's bloom resulted in seeds.but the question is whether any will germinate and produce new plants this year.
I've been looking, but so far haven't seen anything that looks like sprouting lupines.
The unexpected January rains have improved the prospects, perhaps.
Other than that, the lupine appear healthy, but I'd love to see a patch of scrub lupine that looks like the sky blue lupine along I-4 near the Polk-Osceola line, which was growing very lushly as I drove by Sunday.

Meanwhile, the one section of fence continues to be vandalized. I'll get to it this weekend.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An old fence cut again

During a check this afternoon and a search for some trash, I found the fence had been cut in the back area near the TECO substation. This section hadn't been cut in a couple of years. I can't figure out the purpose other than simple vandalism.
I did find an electric meter wrapped in an old towlel near the fencel cut. I made a partial fix. I'll come back with extra wire to finish the job.
The biggest trash today was an old car engine head.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Finally, some rain

The December cold fronts were fairly dry. The first front in January dropped 0.8 of an inch, which was welcome because it may aid the germination of seeds put out last year from the first lupine bloom.

The planted areas appear to be in good shape. I checked one of the volunteer lupine sites where the larger plants are located. Both now appear to be in decline. I've seen that with the L. diffusus in the southeast corner, but the cycle seems to be that they come up and either bloom or don't and die, but eventually resprout. That may be the case here.

I checked the fences. They're mostly intact, though bent from being climbed over, it seems. I'm still not sure whether the new fencing solved a problem or created a problem.