Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 2008 News

This is a poignant newsletter, my friends! I have accepted a position with Manatee County Natural Resources and will be moving to the “left” coast of Florida next month. It is both exciting to have the opportunity to work with such a fantastic organization and the wonderful staff there, but also very sad to be moving away from immediate contact with all my incredible friends here on the east coast. It will also be a challenge as I learn hands-on about the west coast ecosystems! I have spent many hours birding and exploring the west coast as a ‘tourist!’ This is a whole new agenda that I am enthusiastically embracing.

Atala populations are down almost everywhere, but Fort Lauderdale colonies are reporting a few adults here and there. Miami populations are virtually at a stand-still. I’m expecting another irruption in a few weeks.

If you have an atala colony please continue to send your field notes to me, because I am still collecting information. It is because of the commitment that so many of you have that we are able to better understand how to help imperiled butterflies such as the atala. This is ‘citizen science’ as it’s best, and scientists have learned how important the input from the community is while monitoring frogs, butterflies, birds, snakes…almost any life form these days needs help from all of us. And bookmark the Imperiled Butterfly Working Group for the latest news from Florida Wildlife Commission on the status of the butterflies that really need your help.

The last Exotic Plant Removal Program that I will lead at John Williams Park will take place on January 10th, 9 AM to noon. We hope that some of our other volunteers, such as Lisa and Jessica Cook at Hollywood Hills High School, will continue with the workshops. They have been working with me for nearly four years and have learned what needs to be done and know how to teach others. The good news is that the City of Hollywood has published a small book that I designed for the park that depicts the native and non-native plants that are often confusing to first-time participants. It will be available for anyone who participates in any of the future workshops.

Beacon Hill School kids joined me at John Williams Park this month, too, for a Nature Scavenger Hunt. This is a photo of some of the youngsters showing off their completed lists. They had an opportunity to see Monarch caterpillars and chrysalides as well as two newly emerged butterflies. The kids drew the event in their Nature Journals; we covered life cycles in our next class and the new conservation scientists drew habitats for Zebra Heliconians in their journals for the butterfly they made.

Always the nature-nerd, we saw these Gopher Tortoises while working for RS&H in St Lucie County this month, too. The juvenile was on the road, but I moved him to safety after taking his picture. I liked this photo of a Cattle Egret perched atop a Thunderbird car, too!

I had the good fortune to participate in this year’s Christmas Bird Count on December 22 with Bryant Roberts for Broward County Audubon. What a hoot--literally! We arrived at long Key at 5:30 AM to go owling, and heard Screech Owls, Whippoorwills, and Great Horned Owls. It is so magical to go walking through the forest at night. These are some photos of Long Key at dawn and the birders, and the beautiful oak hammocks, one of my favorite places in Florida.

We also covered Flamingo Gardens and Robbins Park in the afternoon. We saw Tanagers, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Flickers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Wood Ducks, Blue-headed and White-eyed Vireos, Cooper’s Hawk and a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Snipe, Common Yellow-throats, American Redstarts, Indigo Buntings, Black and White Warblers, Rough-winged and Tree Swallows, Oven-Birds, Wood Thrush and many

others! What a treat for the eyes.

There were lots of butterflies, too, although I didn’t keep an official count: Cloudless Sulfurs, Large-Orange Sulfurs, Zebra Heliconians, Giant Swallowtails, Julia Heliconians, Monarchs, White Peacocks, Long-tailed Skippers, Ceraunus Blues and Little Yellows were flitting around everywhere we went.

This gorgeous bird is a Wood Duck.

I'll be presenting a program on January 8, 2008 for NABA at the Broward County Extension Office, located at 3245 College Avenue in Davie, called "Heavenly Hairstreaks and Beautiful Blues." It is an in-depth look at the identifying field marks to help differentiate between those maddeningly similar species. I hope you'll join us for this event! The program starts at 7 PM but come early to look at the raffle plants and greet friends!