Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas & 2017 hit and misses

The scrub holly berries are finally red enough for  Christmas, so I feel in the holiday spirt
This has been a mixed year.
Despite a pretty good crop of seedlings last winter, none survived the spring drought.
The good news is that it appears some seedlings are emerging already, about a month ahead of when I expect to find them.
More good news is that FWC is burning some areas that have never been burned since the state purchased the property and even reburned a previously burned area.
Judging by the proliferation of cuts across the landscape, more burning will occur as soon as staff and authorizations are available.
I'm still finding a new pieces of debris exposed by the burn, but believe I have removed the bulk of them.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Still cleaning up following prescribed fire

I went out today and brought back 4 five-gallon buckets of garbage exposed by the recent prescribed burns on the north side of the preserve.

The bulk of the trash was household garbage and the largest number of items were baby food jars.
I also disturbed a Southern  Toad that was hiding inside the containers.
Habeneria floribunda (nee odentopetala) is beginning to emerge in the bayhead on the southwest corner of the north tract.
Some vegetation is beginning to resprout, but it will take time to appreciate the full impact of the fire.
I'm also beginning to see more mushrooms.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fire continues on north side

FWC's fire crew, with assistance of Auburndale Fire Department, continued burning the northern sandhill habitat areas today.
I spent part of the morning collecting debris the fire on Thursday had uncovered.
Most of it consisted of bottles and cans, but I found an abandoned TV, the bottom drawer of a stove and an  old tire.
I found a Black Racer and a Ringneck Snake taking refuge under some debris and saw a Glass Snake Lizard in the open and one that wasn't quick enough for the fire.
I'll check back over the weekend or more debris.
Also, some FWC folks reported seeing a coyote, which is a first for the property.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fire returns to the preserve

FWC fire crew was at the preserve this morning for a first-ever burn in the northwestern section.
This is a series of small, relatively cool burn to clear underbrush.
I was told a crew will come in later with chainsaws to clear some of the oaks to open the area to longleaf pine, which should be the dominant large tree in this part of the property.
On my way to take a look at the fire, I flushed three Wilson's snipes, which sometimes stop here during migration.
I got pictures of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Northern Mockingbird, but couldn't get a shot of Blue Jays to expand the iNaturalist list for this site.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Post-Irma Report From Preserve

I'm still finding some effects from Hurricane Irma, though there was no serious damage.
I found a couple of downed pine trees in the north tract.
The disturbance of the vegetation also exposed a tire lodged in some palmettos that I had never found before. I removed it.
I have made a few checks of the south tract and have found no damage so far.
I also saw some flagged areas that may indicate the boundaries of the next burn units.
Another observation is that for some reason fall wildflowers are only slowly appearing.
One plant that is notable by its absence is Scrub Blazing Star, which is usually common along the north-south path in the middle of the preserve. This year I have seen only two.
The only thing that has changed is that there was some bush-hogging that may have been preparation for a future burn by preparing a wider gap in the vegetation. The effect, as usual with this kind of mechanical work, has been to encourage the proliferation of Natal grass.
It is possible the Natal grass has outcompeted the Liatris.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Herbiciding The Fenceline

I had reported a patch of Cogon Grass in the northwest corner of the site and a Chinese
Tallow Tree along the west fenceline

The reaction appears to have been to spray herbicide along the entire fenceline, browning a bunch of native species ranging from dog fennel and winged sumac to scrub bay and sand pine.

I guess there was a special at Nozzles R Us last week.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

New Exotic Wildflower Has Benefits

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

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Clearing the entrances took some time

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Drought Stress Affects More Species

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Drought takes toll on lupines

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another unsurprising resident species

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

History In the Windrows

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lupines blooming early this year; Good seedling tally

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

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Lupine tally grows

I revisited  the planting sites today.
The total so far is 121 seedlings in first area and 21 in the second.
Why there is such a discrepancy is a mystery, but that's the way it is.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lupine seedling numbers grow

I checked today at the lupine patches to see if any additional seedlings had emerged.
They had, particularly in the first planting area, where the tally is up to about 80.
I also found four seedlings in the native volunteer lupine sites farther west in the scrub.
Now the question is how many of any of these plants will survive until the summer rainy season.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Initial lupine monitoring mixed

When I noticed Scrub Lupine seedlings emerging earlier this week I began flagging them to assist the volunteers from Bok Tower who will be arriving presently to conduct the official survey.
Most of the seedlings were in the older first planting area.
I may have found one seedling in one of the volunteer patches farther west, but it was so small I couldn't rule out Helianthium.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Another lupine season begins

I went out today to check on damage from yesterday's
The leaning trees are still leaning, but haven't come down yet.
While I was in the area I checked to see if any Scrub Lupine seedlings had emerged.
I found 57 in the first planting area and 12 in the second planting area. This is not a bad start for the year after last year's poor seedling total.
I also saw stakes and clearing that I understand is part of some lupine management research being conducted  in cooperation with Bok Tower.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How does my rosemary measure up?

One of the things I've noticed over the year is the height of the Rosemary plants in
some spots, which I attribute to lack of fire perhaps.
I have seen plants noticeably taller than me, which isn't that tall in real terms, but seems tall for Rosemary.
All of the Rosemary is in the south tract in discrete sections.
Today I wandered around for a couple of hours looking for plants and measuring their heights.
The tallest plant I found was 76 inches ( 30 cm) tall. Several others were  between 65 and 71 inches tall.
Inevitably my meanderings involved the discovery of small trash caches, some of which I was able to toss into the fire lane for later pickup. The rest I left in small piles to make them more noticeable during future forays.
I encountered a small flock of Pine Warblers, which I find here sometimes in winter, and one Barred Sulfur butterfly. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Getting rid of the concrete pile

I have finished removing the pile of carpet and concrete that was uncovered in the fire lane during the recent bush hog operations that was a prelude to fire lane mowing, which will happen sometime in the future.

I'm still busting up the larger, harder-to-move pieces so I can use them elsewhere, which is either to line an entrance or make an entrance road elsewhere more accessible to two-wheel drive vehicles.

I also rounded up the Corona bottles and returned them to their rightful owner.