Monday, January 26, 2009

January II 2009

Last minute events and time with my east coast friends has made moving a whirlwind of activities. Photos from the party that Broward County Butterfly Club chapter of the North American Butterfly Association gave for me after my presentation, “Heavenly Hairstreaks and Beautiful Blues” are available to see. I will miss my wonderful friends from BCBC very much, but they have promised to make a field trip visit to me and the amazingly pristine Preserves where I will be working.

This is a photograph of an intriguing little moth called a Scarlet-Bodied Wasp Moth, (Cosmosoma myrodora). This beautiful moth, with coloration very similar to the atala butterfly, hangs out with the colonies of atalas in the Bahamas. This photo was taken on Andros Island, where atalas and the moths were nectaring on Hempvine (Mikania scandens). I have many photos of them both nectaring together on the masses of wildflowers surrounding the pine rocklands in the yet-undisturbed areas (at least the areas have been undisturbed for a hundred years, since the last clear-cutting of the pines during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s). Another close up can be found at Butterflies and Moths of North America. Art Constantino found the moth on his Beebalm in Fort Lauderdale.

Art's butterfly garden is a wondrous site, and he's been complaining to me that the Monarchs are bossing around the other butterflies; he is plant-sitting my milkweed plants for a few weeks, until I get situated into my new place. In return, though, he gets cuttings and an opportunity to propagate many more milkweed plants for members of Broward NABA and Master Gardeners.

I spent a delightful afternoon walking “The Ridge” with my friend Roberta Shaw, an incredible wildlife photographer and artist. Roberta has been doing “Critter Tales” programs for many years and her work is well known here in South Florida. The link has a lot of neat humane and wildlife education materials to download for free! The Ridge connects to Tree Tops Park, another beautiful oak hammock in west Broward County. We took the time to chat with a few young friends we knew who were doing a special school assignment about pine trees. There are quite a few old pines still to be found scattered along the Ridge, so we could help them out with some questions.

All of south Florida along the “Atlantic Coastal Ridge” used to have thick forests of pines and oaks. The Atlantic Coastal Ridge was a narrow strip of higher-drier land (6-10 miles wide) that extended from Jacksonville down to the Keys, but as far back as the very first explorers, these magnificent trees were simply seen as a resource to be exploited. Most of our glorious ‘resources’ were promptly cut down (here and in the Bahamas). The pines, especially, were hardy, tall, straight and strong, having grown up in the adverse environmental conditions of thin soils, limestone substrates, alternating droughts and floods, and seasonal hurricanes as well! This made our famous “Dade County Pines” (Pinus elliotii var. densa) extremely tough, termite resistant, and dense. The wood was so hard that it had to be drilled before it could be nailed, or it would break the nails!

Needless to say, it was valuable for building sturdy houses along the coast. The very old wooden houses you can still see occasionally are made from “Dade County Pine.” But the forests are almost gone now (see Miami-Dade County’s website for maps of the changes in the forest cover). The trees that are standing now are almost all evenly aged and have very small diameters because they are the first growth after the clear-cutting took place. In the old days, those trees were massive, as were the old cypress trees that lined Big Cypress Preserve. Here’s a picture of me with what was the oldest pine in Oslo River Conservation Area (ORCA) in Indian River County several years ago. The grand old tree was hit by Hurricane Wilma and downed. How sad to think of the acres and acres of huge pines cut down! (And oaks, and cypress…..the tree-hugger in me is showing….)

Anyway, it is always a delight when I spend the day with friends, especially when we are outside enjoying Florida’s amazing eco-systems! I also spent an afternoon with Dr Joshua Feingold and his equestrian wife, Laurie Flebotte, at a horse show this weekend. I know their horses well, but this is the first time I’ve seen a horse show, so it was a fun event. This is Laurie's gorgeous horse, Austin’s Wolf, affectionately called “Wolfie”. He has quite the personality! This is Laurie and Wolfie before their jump event.
They won some ribbons, too!

I want to let everyone know that Janice Malkoff will be teaching a great class about butterfly gardening this semester and I urge you to learn about it from one of our NABA experts! You can find information at Broward County Public Schools Adult Education.

Certify your garden at Broward NABA chapter is being offered a discounted fee to certify our gardens for this month. Check out the web site. (Art Constantino and I submitted lots of photos and info for the site!) It includes lists of plants for your specific area and the national office is seeking your input on what works well in your garden. It is a truly interactive site designed to help you get the most out of your butterfly garden.

Looking forward to Manatee County and hoping you can visit me on the west coast to participate in some of our exciting events! Kayaking, biking, hiking, butterfly and birding trips, photography workshops, exotic plant removals, and I even get to do dog walks. Life could not be better!

"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen." --Henry David Thoreau

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January 2009

I am excited to be starting in Manatee County by the end of January. This is a photo of one of the Preserves where I’ll be working, called Robinson Preserve. It even has a salt marsh, which is a quickly disappearing habitat in many locations in Florida. I'm looking forward to finding the Pygmy Blue butterfly, an imperiled species that uses salt marsh Glasswort as a host plant. I’ll be leading hiking, biking, canoeing, and kayaking tours, clearing out exotics, and planning and maintaining trails through the preserves. Hopefully, some of my east coast friends will be coming over to the left coast to enjoy this incredibly green environment!

A Monarch Butterfly story: The pots in which I chose to plant milkweed for the Monarchs and Queens were great aesthetically, but I discovered that they were dangerous for the butterflies! When the caterpillars climbed down to pupate, they chose the lower lip because they couldn’t go anywhere else….it seemed like a great thing (I could keep track of the pupae and count them as they emerged)….but when the butterflies emerged, they tried to climb up so their wings could dry, and then they slipped on the smooth curved lip and fell wings-down to the ground! I lost a few because they emerged when I was not here to rescue them and of course I felt terrible about that happening.

So to stop that from occurring again, as soon as I saw the cats wandering around the pots, I placed them inside my butterfly cage, where they crawled to the top and pupated safely. It seemed that the latest 'clutch' of Monarch caterpillars would be pupating while I was on the west coast, but perhaps because of the cold they all emerged safely after I came back home. This is a photo of 11 of the 28 pupae in the cage, and another of a newly emerged Monarch amid the yet-to-emerge brethern. I had a little Monarch production line going this month!

Art Constantino is plant-sitting my milkweed for a while; he’s also propagating via the defoliated stems and returning some to me once I get settled into my new place in Bradenton. Some of the new plants generated will be donated to NABA meetings or plant sales.

For those of you who don’t know, milkweed can be easily rooted in water and re-planted! This is what the defoliated stems look like after about a week in water…a whole new plant is created. I suspect that because the caterpillars cause complete destruction of the leaves, milkweed regenerates quickly!
The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) announces the release of its new butterfly gardening guide for south Florida. The south Florida garden guide promotes the use of regionally native plants when creating butterfly gardens. Information found in the south Florida garden guide encourages gardening practices that will increase the local population of butterflies while informing gardeners about the use of plants that promote healthy habitats. With the help of NABA members in south Florida, native butterfly garden plants are rated for their usefulness as nectar sources, caterpillar food sources, and overall garden worthiness. Future users of the south Florida garden guide can add to the knowledge base by submitting an online rating form for plants with which they have had experience. Check it out and give your feedback about the plants! It will help other gardeners choose plants for their gardens. Several of us in the Broward Chapter worked on this project, including myself and Art Constantino.

This is a photo of my great Broward County NABA butterfly friends at my "last" presentation on January 8. We had a super turn-out and everyone enjoyed the delicious cake after the meeting. Thanks to Art Constantino for remembering to bring a camera!

Friends Kimberly and Tim and I traveled to Big Cypress for a day last month, too. This is inside the Panther Refuge; we didn’t see the cat, but we did see his paw prints!

We also saw this little sign for a "Gopher Tortoise Crossing" at another site that may have been used for a field education game...the little grasshopper using the sign as a perch caught my eye.

Atalas are recovering slowly at some sites in Fort Lauderdale, but Miami-Dade is reporting very few eggs or larvae. But, at least one site in Miami-Dade has witnessed quite a few adults nectaring on Jack-in-the-Bush, sometimes called Frostweed (Chromolaena odorata). Caterpillars and eggs were not found, but this is evidence that the colonies will be recovering soon. Thanks to Rusty Pfost for the updates and photo.

The January 10, 2009 Exotic Plant Removal/Identification Workshop at John Williams Park/Sheridan Oak Forest was the last one that I will be leading, but volunteers Lisa Cook and her daughter Jessica will be leading monthly workshops until summer. This is a great opportunity to get community service hours and make a difference in this beautiful oak hammock. We saw this gorgeous Silver Argiope spider (Argiope argentata). She is another new species for the park! We had a very productive day with seven volunteers, including two friends (thanks, Marianna and Sheryl!) from the North American Butterfly Association. Keep a watch on the City of Hollywood’s website for news about future workshops. Once you come to a workshop, your email address will keep you informed about upcoming projects in the parks. And anyone who attends the exotic plant removal and identification workshops will receive a free Native/Non-Native identification booklet that I designed especially for John Williams Park.
"Today I have grown taller from walking with the the trees." --Karle Baker Wilson.

Labels: , , ,