Hoping that everyone has had a wonderful holiday season, and is looking forward to a promising and fulfilling New Year for 2011.
The atala populations have been affected strongly by the cold fronts that have moved through South Florida in the past few weeks, but the good news is that there remains a few hardy individuals here and there in colonies that have been fairly stable over the years. Unfortunately, this hasn't been true for many of the private gardens.
The adults I have seen in November and December appeared to be fresh and newly emerged; the pupae were all about a week away from emergence after each cold front. I found no eggs or larvae, but because I saw adults and pupae later, those life stages were hiding somewhere!
I am back in Miami-Dade for the month of January, so there will be opportunities to monitor the new sites we've discovered doing surveys for FNAI (see below!) Miami-Dade county has been extremely supportive in my atala surveys, as well as issuing permits for Miami Blue NABA so that we can gain access to natural areas, to look for the atalas as well as other imperiled species.
The cold weather~and the holidays~have made getting out to do surveys more difficult, especially as you have most likely noticed, most butterflies are hunkered down for warmth deep in the understories and canopies of un-trampled places! If you are interested in participating in surveys for Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), there are plenty of opportunities coming this year to get involved. If you live in Miami-Dade County, contact Elane Nuehring (MiamiBlue (at) Bellsouth dot net); if you live in Broward, contact me (sa
ndykoi2009 (at) gmail dot com) or Barbara DeWitt (badewitt (at) gmail dot com). We would love to have you join us for a field trip or two!
I photographed the atala above nectaring on ubiquous Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) in south Miami-Dade last November. The Lyside was photographed by Barbara DeWitt; these are two of the imperiled species we have found in our survey areas...and there have been many others, as well.
It is exciting to find any of the 28 or so species we are searching for, but just as fun to find things we are not looking for...such as the Gopher Tortoise, taken by me at one of the sites. FNAI is also tracking the tortoises, as well as other animals, so we are delighted when we find them.
Here are some photos of other things you've been missing! This big soft green moth is a Pluto Sphinx (Xylophanes pluto). The host plants include Firebush (Hamelia patens), many of the Chiococca species and Pentas. The delicate little white moth is called a Small Frosted Wave
(Scopula lautaria). It is a species of Geometrid moths, named for their dizzying array of bands, stripes, patterns and camouflaging colors. The caterpillars are called loopers or "inch worms" because of they walk by spanning a length with their forelegs and then pulling up their hind quarters to meet their front legs....as though they were measuring inches.
We have also seen a cluster of Io Moth caterpillars (Automeris io), which have spines that sting if they are touched. The adult moth is beautiful,with huge "eye markings" on the hind wings. We see many other non-target species of butterflies, as well.
Speaking of which, come to the our Broward County Butterfly Club NABA meetings, held at 6:30 PM on the second Thursday of the months (except summer). The meetings are held at the Broward County extension office (3245 College Avenue, Davie). On January 13, come learn about the beautiful native Coreopsis species in Florida from Rosie Sidelko. On February 10, Tim Breaseale will be teaching a hands-on workshop to teach you how to get the most out of your digital camera (Tim makes a living as a photographer and I met him in Ecuador, where he taught us the same!) On May 12, Hank Poor from Miami Blue NABA will be sharing his amazing macro-photos of the Secret Life of butterfly biology. Every meeting is a chance to schmooze with other butterfly enthusiasts, learn new things and pick up some native plant bargains for your garden at the raffle. If this cold continues, we may all need to replenish the garden this spring and meetings are a perfect opportunity to do so.
I will be leading a native plant installation at Stan Goldman Park (800 Knight's Road) in Hollywood on January 9th, from 1 to 3 PM for the City of Hollywood Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. I will be there earlier in the morning to monitor for imperiled butterfly species, as well. Stan Goldman Park is accessed off Johnson Street, just southwest of the I-95 highway, behind the small convenience store. It spans the area between Johnson and Hollywood Boulevard; we'll be planting in the restoration area and removing invasive plants.
There will be another native plant identification and non-native plant removal program at Sheridan Oak Forest (the natural area in John Williams Park, 6101 Sheridan Street) on February 13, from 1 to 3 PM. Again, I will be there earlier, if you would like to join me to look for imperiled butterfly species for FNAI. We have had some very successful programs in the past few months, with Girl Scout troops and high school students. These photos are of ecology-minded volunteer students doing invasive plant removals Holland Park.
We have monthly programs scheduled until June and it is not all hard work! As we walk the trails in the parks, you can learn about our native plants, the parks, the butterflies, birds, animals and the ecosystems. This pleasant little lake was photographed at one of our survey sites last year....we see many such scenes every time we are out!
And speaking of beauty....
....the Lunar Eclipse/Solstice was a sight!
Although I took many photos, my little camera works best with small creatures such as butterflies. The Moon required the skills and camera of my friend Josh Feingold, whose photo graces this paragraph! We were among those who awoke in the middle of the night to watch the Solstice festivities in the sky. The next time this special event takes place at the same time as the Winter Solstice will be in 2094....if you missed it in this lifetime, you'll have to make a spiritual note to witness it in another incarnation!
One more quick note...you gotta check out his video of a Hawk Moth pollinating a Ghost Orchid in Big Cypress!!!
Make a resolution in 2011 to participate in Citizen Science projects, and help scientists fill in the gaps about the vast array of Life this blue-haloed unique little planet we call Earth!
Wishing you blue skies, warm sunshine and brightly colored butterflies and birds in the Year of the Rabbit!