Saturday, September 13, 2008

September 2008 II--Take a Walk on the Wild Side

We had a great day in John Williams Park, Sheridan Oak Forest Natural Area on September 13, 2008. Thirteen dedicated volunteers removed bags and bags of exotic invasive plants, and put in nearly four hours of hard manual labor. Our volunteers were primarily Hollywood Hills Key Club members (and a few Girl Scouts joined in, too.) I cannot tell you how awesome these 9th and 10th graders are! This is a photo I took of some of the group during a water-break at the entrance to the Natural Area.
The important thing right now is the timing…Caesar’s Weed, Air Potatoes and Balsam Pear are flowering and producing millions of seeds…this is NOT a good thing. If the seeds ripen and fall to the ground, we’ll have millions more to pull this fall and winter. We pulled hundreds of seedlings and mature plants, but there is plenty more to do. You could think of it as "job security" I suppose; there is always something to do at the park....which brings up this thought:

If your school has students that enjoy being out in the woods with friends and that need community service hours, this is a great opportunity to do something to help the environment, be with your friends, and get your needed community hours in a fun way (ok, yes, it’s a little hard work, but it is fun, too). Email me to make arrangements or to find out more about when we'll be there next:

We always do some environmental education while there, too. Volunteers learn about the native plants “hands-on” (which is the best way to teach anything!) and learn to tell the difference between our native plants and some of the invasives that may look very similar to an untrained eye. They learn to identify just about anything else that crosses our path while we are there, too. Insects (including bugs, butterflies and beetles), snakes (little ring-necks, nothing to be afraid of), spiders (up in the canopy, not a problem), birds, lizards mushrooms…it is a very cool place to be if you love Nature!

Listen, if you are an active type with lots of muscle power, pulling the big weeds and digging up invasive trees (such as Brazilian Pepper and Umbrella Trees) is a job made for you; if you like just sitting in one quiet spot in the forest, you can plunk down in the middle of an invasive seedling patch and clear them out without traveling more than three feet at a time. If you are really meticulous, you can hunt and gather the tiny rosary peas (that will sprout to make a million more plants!)

We joked today that we need some obsessive-compulsives (for the millions of seedlings and seeds), and people who need anger management therapy (for the big plants and trees). Not really, but there is something to suit a lot of different personality types! And I for one, find weeding to be a very relaxing thing…sort of meditative, especially in this beautiful surrounding.

The really great thing about being in the forest is seeing the wonderful wildlife. We saw butterflies galore, some really cool spiders, and many birds today, but the hawk wasn’t around today. I haven’t been able to get a positive ID on him because he flies away too fast (and I never have my binoculars with me because I am working!), but chances are that we have either a Cooper’s or a Sharp-shinned Hawk (both are forest birds who hunt other birds and small mammals.) We did hear the Blue Jays screaming loudly, so he was somewhere out of sight. The only photo I have of him is a mysterious shadow in the canopy…..

Twelve Monarchs emerged safely this week in my butterfly cage and were released; they have to wait for my milkweed to recover before I can host any more though!

A White Peacock visited my home this week, too and was very cooperative about having her picture taken. White Peacocks are a very common South Florida butterfly, whose host plant is Smooth Water Hyssop (Bacopa monnieri) and the pictured Fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), which is a very common small grass flower.

And our atala colony is still there, too; the two pupae emerged and they must have been a male and a female because we now have 15 new larvae and 27 new eggs. It is always exciting to share the atalas with students, too.

Our NABA meeting this month was very interesting, too! Member Alex Schore did an awesome presentation and we learned that we actually saw more species and more numbers during the Spring than we did in the Summer…that surprised me and a lot of other people, too. Results will be posted soon on the Broward County Butterfly Club website. I am really looking forward to our fall count and hope you can join us on one of the dates at one of the sites where we’ll be counting. You are welcome to attend our free meetings, meet our wonderful members, pick up some awesome butterfly plants at our raffles, and learn more about our butterflies! See last post for times and place for the next meeting and our Fall butterfly counts.

Love Nature…remember that it’s providing you with food, water, shelter and OXYGEN. We need to be so much kinder to the Earth if we want to survive!


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