Christmas Bird Counts weren’t the end of my 12 days in Florida. Of course there was some cooking to be done for Christmas – I made two pies, both from Cook’s Illustrated: Lemon Mousse Pie and Pecan Pie.
And there was time spent with family, which included several card games. These are my niece Nicole, her son Aiden, me, my sister-in-law Michelle, and my brother Randy, 8 1/2 years older than me.
There was yard work to do on their five acres, which suffered several downed trees from Hurricane Irma in late September. Randy is nearly done burning all the wood.
I didn’t do any yard work thanks to Randy for not asking! I did dabble a bit in natural history exploration in the yard. They had several Cuban Treefrogs, Osteopilus septentrionalis (introduced) roosting in their eaves (I counted nine, quite variable in appearance).
Male and female Northern Cardinals were in the brushy area across the street.
A Red-tailed Hawk pair has a territory in the neighborhood – this species is well outnumbered by Red-shouldered Hawks in Florida.
I heard distant Sandhill Cranes a couple of times, but once a pair flew right over the yard.
The day after Christmas, my brother joined me for a walk around Pop Ash Creek Preserve, a bit of protected county land just down the street from their yard.
It’s a little over 300 acres of some native wet prairie and some highly disturbed areas, including scrapes that fill up and form lakes.
One of the best aspects of the property is the huge amount of invasive exotic removal the county has undertaken. Nearly all plants were native and it was full of birds – we saw 44 species on our short walk, including many warblers, gnatcatchers, vireos, wrens, and water birds. We pished in several Pine Warblers, but this particular female came in unusually close.
We flushed three Black-crowned Night-Herons among many other species of herons and egrets.
This was the only White Ibis today.
American Alligators, Alligator mississippiensis are here as well.
This is the Florida endemic Peninsular Cooter, Pseudemys peninsularis.
There were lots of plants I didn’t recognize. This bromeliad I remembered from Myakka River State Park, though – Tillandsia utriculata, unusual among the genus in being semelparous (like agaves, it blooms once after several years of vegetative growth, then dies).
This is a yellow-eyed grass, Xyris sp., one of 3 or 4 very similar species in Xyridaceae, a new family for me – in the same order as grasses, sedges, rushes, and cattails, among others.
This is Savannah False Pimpernel, Lindernia grandiflora, in Linderniaceae, one of the several families shaken out of the old Scrophulariaceae, the only one I hadn’t encountered before.
This mallow is Melochia spicata, given the ridiculous English name Bretonica Peluda, which isn’t English in form, origin, or any other way, and in using an old genus as a noun is blatantly inappropriate in any event. Calling it Spiked Melochia would be just fine if coining an actual English name for the genus were too much work, but I’m getting on a soapbox here.
I recognized this in the dayflower family (Commelinaceae), and it turns out to be the one invasive exotic that probably isn’t eradicatable given its size, the tiny Asiatic Dewflower, Murdannia spirata.
We then drove down the road a short ways to Nall Grade Park, also owned by Lee County, but mostly usurped by invasive exotics (and an archery club). As a result we saw shockingly few birds.
One that stood out was this Carolina Wren, which preferred some of the native plants along the stream.
In the stream were several fish, and the one I photographed turned out to be an invasive exotic from Africa, Jewel Cichlid, Hemichromis guttatus.
This ground cover Mimosa sp. is most certainly exotic.
Even this dragonfly Scarlet Skimmer, Crocothemis servilia is introduced, from Asia.
But the worst invasive, and surely the cause of so few birds, is this abundant Brazilian Pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius. A few birds eat the berries, but it chokes out all the native understory plants which would provide much more in the way of complex structure and arthropod diversity, which is the food that so many birds depend on.
I’m now headed to Cristalino Jungle Lodge for four weeks (where there is surprisingly good internet), followed by my northern Peru tour, so these next weeks will be a good time to catch up and summarize my trips in the latter half of 2017.