Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Atala News and Field Trip February 2008

Atala news: Some colonies are in a downswing currently, but as the colonies have done this many times before, don’t panic if yours is one of them! But other colonies are stable right now. Jim Crawley reports that they have been sighted in Plantation (YEAH!) and the Deerfield colonies are well. Davie colonies are fluctuating with some down and some stable. NSU’s colony has new pupae and larvae, so I hope to see adults soon. Miami-Dade colonies are stable from the reports I have gotten from the field. And many areas of Fort Lauderdale also are stable at the moment, with reports coming in often from my wonderful friends. This is Jim’s photo of an atala in Plantation.

In the meantime, our ENVS 3170 class visited Big Cypress this weekend, and we had a wonderful time. Again, Fred Rehage from Broward County Audubon Society brought his scope along. Some of our classmates had cameras capable of photographing the Bald Eagle nest located off the boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand (mine, however, doesn’t do that!) If classmates share their photos with me, I’ll be happy to share them with you! (Hint.)

The important thing is that we got to see the nest and an adult, something many people will never have the opportunity to witness. I did get this photo of a red-shouldered hawk at Sweetwater Slough though. He and his mate were watching us intently as we netted or caught fish for identification (You Got Fish?)

One of the pair was close enough to capture with my camera (which is better at small things close-up, such as these very pretty Lubber grasshopper juveniles!)

We walked along part of the Florida Trail on Loop Road and observed a Red-Tailed Hawk being harassed by American Crows in the pine lands. Many small inconspicuous wildflowers were scattered along the trail, such as this beautiful Everglades Daisy. Or this Water Dropwort flower....

This is the thing about the Everglades: it is SUBTLE. You have to take in the environment with a slower pace, a more conscious approach to your surroundings in order to appreciate and see the delicate beauty there. We saw panther and deer tracks in the mud. We know that they are there, maybe just around the corner! We did see a deer, but no panther (alas!)

And butterflies were all around! The duck potato flowers were especially popular nectar sources at one of the sites…Zebra Heliconius was quite aggressive about chasing off the Ocola Skipper and the Mangrove Buckeye, all jostling for the same flower!

Suddenly a big alligator began bellowing loudly in the swamp, just after a local jet broke the sound barrier. Everyone stopped immediately and looked around a little nervously… where IS he? Just off the trail, to our right…there he sat! What an incredible and beautiful sound.

We watched egrets and herons fishing for the myriad of fish in the slough; this gorgeous American Egret was breath-taking. And the Slough…I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. The skies were bluer than blue, the temperature perfect, and the company very congenial!

Being there was great, and this class is seriously rivaling a Marine Biology course I took years ago, in which we spent long, hot summer days in Florida Bay studying terrapins and water snakes. Our instructor had told us that the more bug-bit, scratched-up and sun-burnt we were, the better our grade would be. Of course, our field journal was half the grade, too. I got an A+ in that class and I loved every moment of it! Here's hoping for a similar grade.....


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