Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Earth Events December 2008

Many delightful events to share! Six months ago, a very special child was born to my good friends Chris and Paola Hernandez. At that time, Chris asked me to officiate at a blessing ceremony for Julianna Alexandra at some time in the future. That time was November 23, 2008. It was a small gathering of immediate family members and I was honored to be a part of this loving event. Chris and I used to work together for Audubon, and we took many field trips with kids to Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge;
we all agreed that the cypress forest was the perfect place for the ceremony.

This is not my usual role in the field, but one with which I am equally at home, as I see the Earth as a sacred vessel that contains Love and Light for all Life, and feel that it is my responsibility to disseminate that knowledge to all who wish to learn. And that is what I hope I give my readers, whether I am speaking of humanity, butterflies,or the Earth.

Following in that thought, I want to tell you about Earth Learning, an enlightening organization that is helping us heal this ravaged planet. It is a magnificent opportunity to re-connect with the people, plants, animals, and ecosystems, and regain spiritual balance through that awareness. Chris sent me the link and we both feel it is important to pass it on to you. There will be an intensive two-day weekend gathering, “Deepening Our Connection to the Earth," and camp out on Key Biscayne, Dec. 13-15, 2008. The $150 fee includes vegetarian meals, camping, and workshops, in Crandon Park. For more information or questions, For any questions, contact: Val Silidker (954 562-4981) Or Mario Yanez (305 323-8858). Check out the website; it's awesome!

Makes me think I ought to do some awakening camping programs at my favorite oak hammock in John Williams Park, where we had another very successful day on November 15, with twenty participants!

Seventeen kids from Hollywood Hills High School (HHHS) attended the event and we all worked exceedingly hard for the morning. Illona Morin from Broward NABA volunteered her morning with us, too (Thank you, Illona!) We even got television coverage by the news team at HHHS (www.HHH-STV.com).

A week later, Lisa and Jessica Cook and I spent the morning at the park putting stakes and caution tape around our plant investments to protect them from the lawn mowers and weed-whacking maintenance crew (OK, we know they are only doing what they think they were told to do). The City of Hollywood provided the materials, and we provided the labor. Lisa teaches math at HHHS, and her daughter Jessica is an awesome coordinator who gathers the student volunteers from HHHS for community service in the park. (Way to go, Jessica!)

The next exotic plant removal program at John Williams Park will be on December 13, 2008, 9 AM until noon. We could really use your help with this on-going project! Air Potatoes, Caesar’s Weed and Rosary Pea are winning the battle right now. Donate a few hours of your time and help us maintain this beautiful park. (And remember that community service hours are available for school kids, any age! Air Potato collection contests are fun for the younger kids and help us out a great deal….the current record is 598 potatoes.)

Broward County Butterfly Chapter of NABA will not have a meeting this month, but mark your calendars for the next meeting on January 15, 2009, at the Broward County Extension Office at 3245 College Avenue. I’ll be presenting “Heavenly Hairstreaks and Beautiful Blues,” an opportunity for you to learn about these very small, difficult-to-identify flying acrobats. Anyone who has tried to chase down a blue knows how challenging it can be! Meetings begin at 7 PM, but come early for socializing and looking at the plants for sale on the raffle table. It is a great opportunity to find just what you need for your garden!

Atala colonies have crashed at the moment and seem to have reached the lowest point in the cycle. This month we should see a slow increase in the populations, cresting some time in January (and they will crash again before spring, if past cycles hold to the pattern.)

Mona Johnston sent this perfect Monarch butterfly’s unsolicited endorsement for establishing a National Wildlife Federation Certified yard. Keep sending the great photographs, Mona!

Plant NATIVE plants. Love the Earth. Love your community. Love. Just do it :-)

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

November 2008

October had a lot of activity, which I will share after telling you about November’s upcoming events. The NABA meeting this month is something you want to make time to attend! We meet at the Broward County Extension Office on College Avenue in Davie.

Dennis Olle, President of the Miami Blue NABA Chapter, will speak on Thursday, November 13th, 2008. Dennis will enlighten us with his knowledge: "In depth identification and behavior of the tricky Sulphurs and Yellows". Those creatures are a real challenge to identify, so join us for the evening to learn about their differences.

Our social time with refreshments begins at 6:30 and you can purchase plant raffle tickets then too; the meeting will begin promptly at 7:00. This is a great opportunity to pick up some rare native plants for your garden!

On November 15, 2008, please join me and friends for another Exotic Plant Workshop at John Williams Park/Sheridan Oak Forest, 1 block west of 441 on Sheridan Street. The program will start at 9 AM at the small pavilion beside the natural area, and end at noon. We have a lot of work to do as the Caesar’s Weed is growing rampant. Wear long sleeves and hats (Caesar’s Weed is not fun to remove from your hair!) Bring water and snacks if you like, and a camera to take pictures of the wildlife…there are always beautiful flowers and butterflies, cool spiders, squirrels and birds to see. You'll learn about native plants, too!

Atalas are crashing at most sites, but they ought to be showing some recovery in another month to six weeks, if they follow past patterns. Keep a lookout for the larvae hiding in the substrate, where they sometimes go to escape cold weather.

I had an opportunity to go to the West Coast of Florida with my friend Art Constantino last month, to visit a restoration area that will shortly be turned over to Audubon’s Corkscrew Sanctuary. What a gorgeous environment! I told Art that any day that starts out with sighting Roseate Spoonbills just gets better and better—and it did!

The total area of this mitigation land consists of 2,778 acres! The Wetlandsbank Group is responsible for this incredible restoration work and parts of it are open to the public now. Art had an inside connection, however, and we got to view the results of years of labor in areas that are still in process. This is Art, Robert and me in the field.

We saw hundreds of butterflies, found a little green tree frog, saw bobcat and deer tracks, and a Pygmy Rattlesnake, as well as hundreds of plant rarities, such as Pawpaw (Asimina species) and Corky-Stemmed Passion Fruit (Passiflora suberosa) with fruit.

The native sunflower (Helianthus floridanus) was blooming in big swathes of bright yellow and Liastris (Liastris pauciflora) formed gorgeous paths of bright pink.

Kestrels and Red-Tailed Hawks were everywhere; we saw Glossy Ibis and Shrikes, and we even saw Snipe and deer! It was a gorgeous perfect clear blue-skied day and I was privileged to have an expert guide in Art’s brother-in-law, Robert, who literally escorted us around for nearly six hours showing off the years of work he and his co-workers have completed.

And I had another delightful day with Miami Country Day School! We took a trip down the Miami River to learn about the old days. The younger kids did water tests with the help of the senior high students; the Miami River is not as pristine as it used to be, but we did get to see some interesting things, such as the big dredges lifting sludge from the bottom of the river. After the boat trip, we stopped at the Old Miami Inn for lunch and sketching of the neat old Florida houses. The kids were more interested in the ghost that is rumored to live in one of the old houses than anything else on the premises, which was quite amusing. Who knows?

I also had another field trip to Everglades National Park with Dr Joshua Feingold’s Biology students. It was great fun; the first bird of the day was a Pileated Woodpecker (who did not want his picture taken). The kids had lots of things to note for their field journals, such as this beautiful bright yellow tree snail, who was carefully placed back home after we took photos.

And finally, Barbara DeWitt and I took a mini-field trip to Florida Atlantic U’s Jupiter campus to hear a lecture by award-winning writer and lepidopterist, Bob Pyle, the founder of the Xerces Society. Bob is documenting a “Big Butterfly Year”, traveling around the country to raise money for Xerces.

His latest books are “Sky Time in Gray’s River”, and “Chasing Monarchs” and he has written more than fifteen books about nature and the environment. His lecture, “Frogs, Forts and Fritillaries: The Real World as Antidote to the Extinction of Experience,” addressed what many of us recognize as a serious disconnect from the Earth and the environment, what he calls the “extinction of experience”. Other writers, such as Richard Louv, coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

Many of us remember spending hours and hours outside playing, getting familiar with wetlands, forests, streams or beaches, by ourselves or with our friends…children today so often do not have the opportunity to just be kids and explore the natural world. This is causing a measurable psychological dysfunction that is being recognized in everything from medical journals to psychology reports. Some of the problem is simply a lack of natural areas to explore (but one of the things we try to do is awaken kids to nature in urban areas, too…it’s still there, but not as easy to find.) Some of the issues are societal (pressure to monitor children or fill their time with planned activities at every moment).

Bob’s suggestion is to compromise…take your kids to the parks or natural areas and let them play and discover on their own (keeping your eye on them from a little distance for their safety and your peace of mind). Introduce them to field guides (Golden Guides are a great resource for budding naturalists).

He also noted that our children (and some of you!) will watch television programs and documentaries about the natural world with fascination, but don’t go out to see the wildlife in their own “backyard.” They probably don’t even know that there is anything out there to see!

Teach the future caretakers of the Earth about the world that surrounds them. Plant a wildlife habitat, and a butterfly garden, and they will literally see life on the wing from their own back porch. Friends send me great photos of the life in their backyard, such as this awesome photo of five Ruddy Daggerwings nectaring on native Thoroughwort (Koanophyllon villosum) from friend Mona Johnston. And she shared this photo, too (Thanks, Mona!):

Love Nature! Be Green! This is the only planet we have.

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