Friday, November 23, 2007

Nature Walk at Sheridan Oak Forest November 18, 2007

Students from Hollywood Hills High School Key Club joined me on Sunday, November 18, 2007 for a delightful walk in the natural hammock called Sheridan Oak Hammock. We traced the path that the City of Hollywood’s Assistant Director, Jack Mathison, the engineer, park manager and I mapped out a few weeks ago, and then meandered through the back acreage into truly wild lands. It was a great adventure and we saw how much MORE work there is to do in the hammock!

This picture is a beautiful pink wildflower aptly named “Meadow Beauty” (Rhexia virginica).

And we found an intriguing pile of opossum bones….mysteries: What ate him? Or did he get hit by a car and come here to die? Or did he die of old age? We’ll never know the answer, but Nature is decomposing the bones into the substrate, adding the nutrients to the soil of the hammock for the growth of new life.

We will be working for the next program, removing more exotic invasives from the park. It is a free event, of course, and help is highly appreciated! You’ll learn about the native and non-native plants in the park, and get to spend a morning with like-minded “Nature Nerds” (as my friends often refer to ourselves)!
Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1, at 9 AM to noon. Bring gloves, any gardening tools you have and water to drink. Sunscreen is recommended, and please wear LONG SLEEVES and pants, and tennis shoes for your own safety (covered with poison ivy and mosquito bites are not how we want to send you home!) :-(

Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 17, 2007 Shark Valley, ENP

We had an awesome day in Everglades National Park in Shark Valley, today with the Biology II class that assist in teaching at Nova Southeastern University today and I wanted to share some of the great experiences with everyone. We saw lots of butterflies, like this mating pair of White Peacocks, which are very prevalent at the park.

What could be more adorable than this photo of a baby gator sunning on a Spatterdock lily pad? Mama gator was very visible keeping a close watch on everyone, but she did allow Dr. Joshua Feingold, who teaches the Biology class, to snap a photo. (Don't try this at home, as they say!)

Many beautiful flowers, and of course the insect pollinators, such as this bumblebee on a bright pink thistle flower…and this gorgeous Queen butterfly nectaring on Purple Mist flowers.

A few alligators lolling about in the sunshine kept us company as we walked the trails, as well as this beautiful Florida water snake (Nerodia fasciata). Take a trip to ENP soon and experience the REAL Florida! We're not all about beaches and's LIFE in all it's incredible beauty. Get off the couch, quit watching others do things, and do things the wild life of Florida!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NABA Butterfly Fall North Circle Count

This is the first time Broward County Butterfly Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) has attempted a Fall Seasonal Count, but we had a very successful day! Fifteen participants helped out, including five children who found some butterflies we adults would have missed…sharp eyes! We saw twenty-four species, with a count of 73 individuals. The high count of the day was the Julia heliconius, followed by the Zebra Longwing and the White Peacock. We haven’t gotten ALL of the data yet. THANKS to all the participants, especially Art Constantino (Master Gardener) and Sandy Granson (Broward County IFAS Extension).

Seasonal counts help us monitor the butterfly populations, which of course tell us something about the state of our environment. This past summer’s count had lower than usual numbers, but we discovered later that the area had been sprayed for mosquito control the week before. Less pesticide=more butterflies. Simple equation.

We have the advantage here in South Florida to be able to do seasonal counts four times a year. Our next count will be sometime in April, so we hope you and your family and friends will consider joining one of these events. Our “South Circle” counts take place at
Tree Tops Park, Pine Island Ridge Natural Area and Long Key Natural Area. The “North Circle” counts take place at Hillsboro Pineland Natural Area, Crystal Lake Natural Area, Tamarind Village, and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. To learn more about the counts, and our very informative, fun chapter meetings, visit our webpage at

Counts start at 8:30 AM until noon; often we continue counting after a short lunch break. The $3.00/person (adults, over 12) supports the North American Butterfly Association. It is always a learning experience, even for seasoned counters, as we find all kinds of new things, whether butterflies, birds, plants or other cool insects. This is Rivinia humilis, flowers and berries.

I didn’t shoot photos of butterflies on this count, but did get this great shot of “Red Bugs” (yeah, that’s what they are called). They are BRIGHT red and were hanging out on one of the most obnoxious invasive plants, Caesar’s Weed. Too bad it’s such a nasty plant because the small pink hibiscus-like flowers are very pretty. The Red Bugs (Pyrrhocoridae family) were (ahem) sure enjoying the plant.

A friend gave me a very large sphinx butterfly the other day at the Biology Lab; it took a little digging to find the species, but it was a “Ficus Sphinx” (Pachylia ficus)….unfortunately, it was near the end of it’s short adult life, so it didn’t last long after arriving. But it did give the biology students a great opportunity to get a look at this magnificent large butterfly. Most of the large sphinx moths live out the majority of their lives as larvae (growing to quite an impressive size as well!) Upon emergence from the chrysalis, they live just long enough to find a mate, lay their eggs and then die shortly after. Some don’t feed at all as adults, their mature lifespan is so short.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Latest Field Trips

November 6, 2007

Wildspots Foundation, Inc., through Nova Southeastern University, made an unusual foray into the ‘wilds’ of America last month…Robinson, Illinois! Dr. Barry Barker’s comment, “If we can promote eco-tourism, conservation and biodiversity in small towns in foreign countries, why not in our own country?!”

No butterflies were around as the temperatures were too low, but the fall foliage was gorgeous and there are trees in Illinois bigger than most people ever get a chance to see.
This is Joe Boyer, our field leader, standing under a huge sycamore tree, one of many we encountered. There were lots of white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and I especially enjoyed seeing some of the birds that I haven’t seen for a long time…black-capped chickadees, house finches, black-throated and chipping sparrows.

This little bee was too cold to move, but still trying to gather pollen for the winter.

A field of millet planted for wildlife in a conservation area.

This is the Wabash River, in shades of gray rainy pastels, reminiscent of the Renaissance artists.

And could Illinois be better represented than with a photo of a cow?

We were welcomed by the inhabitants warmly and stayed at the beautiful Quail Creek Country Club Resort, where I took this photo of the colorful trees shimmering in the lake.

There was a full moon, too, and I shot this picture in the morning as it was reflected in the water among the aquatic plants.
And Paper Birch:

And Juniper Berries!

The history of the area was fascinating; with intriguing stories of more Al Capone hide-outs, old preserved log cabins, and haunted houses! We had a great trip, stopping at covered bridges in Indiana and the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.

An exhibit of Wildspot’s excursions will open on Thursday, November 8, 2007, at 5:30 PM, at the Alvin Sherman Library Gallery on the second floor. It will feature Illinois, Uruguay, Ecuador…all taken by student photographers and professionals who attend the photography workshops. If you have a chance, come see the exhibit!

In the meantime, I also got to lead a couple of school trips into the Everglades! Dr. Joshua Feingold’s Marine Biology class visited Anhinga Trail, Long Pine Key and Flamingo. Eco Pond was devastated by Hurricane Wilma two years ago from the salt-water intrusion flooding. It has become a pool of toxic red cyanobacteria, devoid of fish, frogs, turtles, butterflies, birds…and even the trees were downed. It is a sad reminder of how devastating hurricanes can be.

Dr. Robin Sherman’s Biology II class went to Shark Valley the next day and I got this great shot of milkweed bugs. I’ll be going back in two weeks with Dr. Feingold’s Biology II class and am looking forward to it!

The Fall butterfly count will be taking place at Crystal Lake and Hillsboro Pineland Natural Area on November 10, 2007. If you’d like to attend, send me an email!

Labels: , ,