Saturday, June 07, 2008

June II 2008

The atala irruptions are happening at many sites in Broward and Palm Beach Counties now, right on schedule (OK, a week earlier than expected. Perhaps the rains coming sooner have something to do with that…more rain=more new growth on the coontie=more atala larvae surviving=more atalas=irruption!) One site produced several hundred ‘excess’ atala larvae, as did NSU site. Many people requested the excess to start their own colonies, but unfortunately it was first come, first served and some people missed out on this irruption. This is the prime time for establishing new sites for the atala, which is now almost entirely dependent on "domestic gardens" for its' survival. Of course, successful colonies leave the coontie looking like shredded wheat, but that herbivory seems to induce a new flush of growth when it is trimmed back.

But, we have established three new sites and that is exciting. One of the home owners referred to the coontie in her yard as “pet food” and said that she’ll buy as much as necessary to keep her new ‘pets’ in stock. Now that’s an attitude I like!

Our last exotic plant removal at John Williams Park in Sheridan Oak Forest Natural Area had two dedicated volunteers, Emily Daycock from Hollywood Hills High School, and her father Kevin. It was very hot and uncomfortable, but we got a lot of work done along the west side of the trail, where Caesar’s Weed was rampantly growing again.

The City of Hollywood had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 10, 2008 at 4 PM to officially recognize the new additions to the park: a children’s play ground, a doggie park, new benches and tables, and of course, the new nature trail. The community was there in support of the new Trail and other wonderful additions to the park, and the Mayor of Hollywood cut the ribbon to officially declare the opening. I lead a nature walk for a big crowd after the ceremony, too. Come on out and see what we’ve done!

I sent Jack Mathison a photo of ants moving a berry from the Rouge Plant (Rivinia humilis) and he prompty posted it on his door with the words "Teamwork works!" Jack has also suggested using the air potato tubers as an art project labeled "Mr. Air Potato Head"....I kind of like that idea. Maybe we could hook them up to electrodes and generate enough electric for the entire City of Hollywood!
In the meantime, I have spent some time at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne having a great time with school kids in the water and on the trails. A pair of Sandhill Cranes was visiting early one morning! That was a pleasant surprise. The atalas are flying around the park, and the caterpillars are munching away on the coontie plants.

A Large Orange Sulfur was not yet active one morning so it was easy to get this photo.
Art Constantino, who hates it when I name him as the culprit, sent me this photograph of a beautiful rarely seen flower called “Skyflower” (Hydrolea corymbosa). His photograph is better than the photo in the wildflower book I use a lot. (apologies to Walter Kingsley Taylor, whose books really are great!)

And I had a rare chance to visit a site in Davie and photograph a beautiful Scarlet Skimmer dragonfly. It's not the greatest photo but it was exciting to see!

Here at home, my milkweed has been plagued by aphids, but the beetles finally found the mother lode and are doing a nice eradication job for me (and the Monarchs!) These are non-native Mexican Bean Beetles, but they are keeping the milkweed aphid-free. Lacewings, a very beneficial native insect, are laying their eggs as well, so my milkweed ought to be recovering nicely in no time. Let Nature do what it's designed to do, and pesticides are supplied in the form of insect-eating insects. Nice.

Campers at Driftwood in Hollywood show off their newly created Zebra Heliconius butterflies, complete with all the requirements: Nectar sources, trees to roost at night, plants for the larvae and sunshine. Happy campers! They will get a chance to visit John Williams Park this summer because they are near the park.

This beautiful Green Anole was found at Hillsboro Pineland Natural Area last Saturday.

The next NABA North Circle count is July 12, 2008 at 8:30 AM to noon, and 1 PM to 3 PM, at Hillsboro Pinelands Natural Area, Crystal Lake Scrub, and Long Key Natural Area. Hope to see some of you there!