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Posts tagged ‘habitat’

A Heavenly Hardwood Swamp

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. —
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In honor of the Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, who met after a long correspondence on May 20, 1845…and began one of the most celebrated love affairs in history. After much wooing, Browning finally convinced a shy and skeptical Barrett that he loved her “for naught except for love’s sake only.”

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I readily admit that my sense of direction is horrible. Which makes wanting to explore the more off-beaten trails a bit…difficult, to my family’s tremendous concern. There’s a lot of backtracking! But in visiting these places, a vision of natural Florida is allowed — and it’s divine.

Outside of the *ridiculous* number of gargantuan mosquitoes that swarmed as I carefully crept into this lovely swamp, it was a treat. I only hope that any human male who shows an interest in me in the future, will also understand my occasional mosquito attacks (not pretty). And the spider bites. And occasional wasp stings. I should seriously consider paramedics or forest rangers as potential dating material.

Cypress Swamp, Cypress Creek Natural Area, Florida

A still-dry cypress swamp in the Cypress Creek Natural Area

I recently hiked through one of my favorite habitats, a hardwood swamp. Various hardwood trees and a mixture of hardwoods and Cypress can be found here, including Water hickory, Holly, Maples, Oaks, Cabbage palms and Bay trees, accompanied by a dense understory of vines, ferns and herbaceous plants. Hardwood swamps occur on floodplains or upland areas that are lower than the surrounding area. And it’s home to so much life — the sounds coming from the trees were just lovely.

Hardwood Swamp, Cypress Creek Natural Area, Florida

Looking up into the canopy of the hardwood swamp

Yet another breathtakingly beautiful Florida habitat to witness and love — and above all else, protect and preserve.

Tricolored Herons: The Young Ones

This guy actually brings to mind Rick from the oh-so-excellent The Young Ones….

The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) was formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, as it was one of the most abundant herons found in the Deep South. It’s a medium-sized and slender heron that lives in the southeastern United States (but as far north as coastal New Jersey), Central America, and the Caribbean. Standing approximately 22 inches tall on long yellow legs, this heron’s wingspan reaches 3 feet. Beautiful slate blue feathers cover most of its body, save a white-striped chest and belly, and a rust-colored neck. The eyes of the juveniles are a yellowish-white, turning brown with pink inner margins as they age. Males and females of the species look alike. During courtship, these already beautifully colored herons become even more vibrant: the eyes turn a lovely and striking scarlet, and their otherwise long, pointed yellow bill turns blue. Breeding plumage involves filamentous plumes on the head and neck, and buff plumes on the back.

This seemingly peeved Tricolored (such a face, sweetheart!) — despite my distance with a telephoto — is a juvenile, as is the second heron.

Their natural habitats are swamps, marshes, bayous, lagoons, and coastal ponds. It’s a common sight in our wetlands to see them nesting in colonies, in the trees and shrubs, with other herons. The male selects the nesting location, and builds the nest with the female. As with other herons, both parents care for the chicks, feeding them regurgitated food. Tricoloreds stalk their prey in the shallow waters, looking for fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects. They’ve been known to delve into the deeper waters however, with only their bodies visible.

These herons are the favorites of many in our area, and are a great joy to watch…. But like so many other species, despite their non-threatened status, they’re losing their natural habitats. It’s truly our duty to protect and preserve these complex ecosystems not just for the flora and fauna they are home to, but for ourselves.

Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius. —Edward O. Wilson (Biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist, and author)

Tricolored, or Louisiana Heron (Juvenile) in the Florida Wetlands

Tricolored, or Louisiana Heron (Juvenile) in the Florida Wetlands

Creating Our Backyard Wildlife Habitat: Step One, Provide Food

There have been many wonderful comments from people explaining how they’re creating natural habitats for their wildlife critters in their personal spaces (usually birds, but not always) — some of whose populations have suffered a decline in recent years. It’s crucial in our modern culture/society to do so; It doesn’t take much to provide a wee bit of food, water, and shelter for these guys…. Besides, it calms the soul to view nature. ♥

Here, Nature Mom teaches her son how to create a backyard wildlife habitat, something anyone can do, in any environment — I had a great little set-up in a former apartment. Following guidelines provided by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), she details the creation and necessary resources for her local wildlife….

Chronicles of a Suburban Nature Mom

Today my son and I began working towards making our backyard into a Certified Wildlife Habitat, per the guidelines provided by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). I figured it would be best for my four-year-old if we only focus on one aspect of certification at at a time. Our focus today? Step one: Provide Food for Wildlife.

Certification requires that the backyard provide three food sources, selected from the following list:

  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Fruits
  • Nectar
  • Sap
  • Foliage / Twigs
  • Pollen
  • Supplemental Feeders
    • Seed
    • Suet
    • Hummingbird
    • Squirrel
    • Butterfly

This was a fun, educational activity to work through with my son. What in our yard is food for wildlife? What could we add that wildlife could eat? What animals might eat each of the items on this list?

We decided our yard provides nuts (acorns from the oak tree), nectar (the rosemary flowers), and seed (supplemental bird feeders). We…

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Creating Our Backyard Wildlife Habitat: Step Two, Supply Water

Step 2 in the guidelines set forth by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), in the creation of a backyard wildlife habitat: Supply Water!

Chronicles of a Suburban Nature Mom

For those of you who are following us, you know that yesterday my son and I started to create a wildlife habitat in our backyard, following the guidelines set by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Yesterday our focus was on providing food sources for wildlife. Today, we worked on step two… supply water for wildlife.

Certification requires that the backyard provide one water source, selected from the following list:

  • Lakefront
  • Seasonal Pond
  • Coastal
  • Birdbath
  • Water Garden / Pond
  • Rain Garden
  • Lake
  • River / Stream
  • Spring
  • Shallow Dish
  • Puddling Area

In the past, providing water in our yard for wildlife wasn’t something I thought about. Actually, my focus was on emptying out any little bit of pooled water I could find, as I don’t want any mosquitoes breeding in the yard. Also, there is a natural spring just on the other side of our fence, which is primarily what attracts…

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Creating our Backyard Wildlife Habitat: Step Three, Create Cover

Step 3 in the National Wildlife Federation (NWF)’s guidelines in the creation of a backyard wildlife habitat: Create Cover!

Chronicles of a Suburban Nature Mom

Today was day three of working towards making our backyard into a Certified Wildlife Habitat, per the guidelines provided by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). So far, we’ve completed step 1 (provide food) and step two (supply water).  Our focus today? Create cover for wildlife.

This step in the certification process requires that a backyard has two types of cover for wildlife, selected from the following list:

  • Brush Pile
  • Log Pile
  • Wooded Area
  • Dense Shrubs / Thicket
  • Meadow / Prairie
  • Evergreens
  • Ground Cover
  • Roosting Box
  • Water Garden / Pond
  • Bramble Patch
  • Burrow
  • Cave
  • Rock Pile / Wall

This one was a bit tough for us, though my son had fun trying to build cover with the many sticks he’s collected over the years (photo below). We definitely already have one major cover for wildlife… our deck. But “deck” isn’t one of the items on…

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Happy Earth Day — Love Your Mother

This April 22nd, help celebrate and remember that Earth has always been, and will always be our Mother — and we’re all here together, sharing her valuable and limited resources. Visit the Earth Day Network to learn more of their goal “to broaden, diversify, and activate the environmental community and make Earth Day a powerful moment for all citizens of the world to drive the movement.” Love and protect your Mother, every day.

Photo by Cherrylynx, courtesy of the “Digital Earth” series via Art-Profiles.com

Earth Photo Manipulation by Cherrylynx

Reaching for the Azure

A stricken tree, a living thing, so beautiful, so dignified, so admirable in its potential longevity, is, next to man, perhaps the most touching of wounded objects. —Edna Ferber

Scorched — but not necessarily dead — slash pines are profiled against their more lively brethren at the Bluefield Ranch Natural Area. Their tenacity is inspiring and a not-so-gentle reminder as I observe them throughout our hikes, standing tall with new growth peeping through burned limbs. Controlled, or prescribed burns are an integral part to sustaining Florida’s natural habitats.  Such burns mimic natural fire cycles to restore healthy natural communities, thus reducing the undergrowth that accumulates over time — a contributing factor in severe wildfires. An increase in native plants, birds, and wildlife is witnessed at these burned lands.

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