Friday, October 27, 2017

Allapattah Flats WMA

In the name of true adventure and exploration, we decided that it was time to load up the bikes for their first official ride on the back of Annie.  After a few attempts at securing them to our satisfaction, we headed out to take a ride at Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area.

Scene (2)
It was a lot of WIDE OPEN.  You can also see in the above photo just how 50/50 the weather was.  We went through about four cycles of Rain then Sun during our excursion.  Still, it was a great test of the bikes and of ourselves riding them on something other than pavement.  All four of us made it out freshly bathed and unscathed.

Cattle Egret Bird (3)
It was a pleasant albeit bumpy ride made a bit more interesting with the added necessity to avoid 'landmines' left by the resident cattle.

American Kestrel Bird (3)
                                                           We saw many familiar birds.

Green Heron Bird (2)
This Green Heron was at the waters edge until we rode up.  It then took refuge in a pine.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper Insect Bug (1)
We spotted this Eastern Lubber Grasshopper who by the way cannot fly and is not the best of leapers either.  Instead they walk or crawl in what has been described as a not too graceful way.  Hence the name Lubber.  What they lack in typical grasshopper abilities though they more than make up for in beauty, size and their ability to spread their wings, hiss, and secrete foul-smelling froth from their spiracles when alarmed.  Ah, nature - the great equalizer.

Queen Butterfly Insect Bug (1)
                           We spotted a Queen Butterfly sitting on her throne and also

Eastern Black Swallotail Butterfly Insect Bug (4)
                                             the beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail.

The road is only about 1.5 miles long but we made plenty of stops along the way to take in sights big and small.

                   Like this Showy Rattlebox Flower

Loggerhead Shrike Bird (1)
                                                          and this Loggerhead Shrike.

Scene (11)
                                               At the end of the road is a campground

Log Crossing (4)
                             where Nicole tried her hand at a log crossing with the bike.

We sat on a picnic table and ate lunch and had a visit from what we've decided to call a Cinnamon Raccoon.  (S)he took us by surprise so we did not get any photos which is a shame because Nicole swears it was actually a Coatimundi.

Scene (9)
                       View from the campground area overlooking the wetland area.

Cattle Egret Bird (1)
                                       Hundreds of Cattle Egrets tending to their namesakes.

Eastern Meadowlark Bird (6)
         On the way out we stopped to listen to an Eastern Meadowlark singing in the brush

Scene (14)
                            and took one last look at the scenery of Allapattah Flats WMA.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Escapades In and Around Stuart Florida

As photo and story sharing goes we are waaaaaaay behind.  We've been venturing out for short and long adventures in local parks and preserves.  In the hopes of getting caught up we'll probably do more photo sharing than story telling and hit just the highlights.  Still, this may occupy more than just one post because we've seen some neat things.

2017-09-09 Forida, Stuart - Sea Urchins
A while back we had a few days where there were hundreds of sea urchins washed up on-shore.

We like to spend time near the river or the intracoastal observing the smaller things and

                        watching the feeding frenzy that takes place each morning.

There is also a lot of feeding going on in the plant world...

                                   Oleander Caterpillar eating its namesake...

         and this still unidentified beauty chowing down...

Nicole enjoys putting on her up-close-spectacles and watching them do their thing.

Thought this was a Squirrel Tree Frog that had escaped being eaten by an invasive Cuban Tree Frog.
However, it is more likely that this is an immature Cuban Tree Frog.  Oh well, he does have pretty eyes.

The Florida Strangler Fig is a most interesting tree.  It begins life as a seedling in the top of the host tree where competition for ground level nutrients and light does not exist.  Do you see the still flourishing palm in the center of it?  The seedling fig sends down long roots to the ground from where it begins to surround the host tree.  It grows quickly and eventually suffocates the host: when the host tree dies it leaves an enormous upright strangler with a hollow core.

We have several of these on our property and have seen many others on our walks.  The patterns that the roots take on are quite beautiful.  Although they reportedly kill their host tree, we have seen many where both trees appear to be thriving.  Perhaps there is some adaptation going on.

Though this one was quiet, the noise from the Cicada in Florida can be quite deafening at times.

One of Nicole's favorite butterflies, the White Peacock, making more White Peacock Butterflies.

We motored our bikes up to Riverside Park one day where we not only saw many birds but we also (you may want to sit down for this) pedaled our bikes around.

On another day we decided to take a hike.  I know... the wonders never do cease!

We went up to Seabranch Preserve State Park.  A place we had motored through before on the East Coast Greenway.  This time, we drove Annie and decided to explore the trails on foot.

We saw some cool things...

Band Wing Dragonfly Insect Bug (3)
                                                            Band-wing Dragonlet

Earth Start Mushroom Fungi (2)
     We saw so many of these Astraeus hygrometricus - also know as False Earthstars.

Earth Start Mushroom Fungi (5)
They are probably one of the neatest fungi / mushrooms we've seen.  Reportedly they grow in association with certain trees (in this case, we always seemed to find them near pines) and they are hygroscopic (or water absorbing) and open up their rays to expose the spore sac in response to humidity and close when the air is drier.  This explains the high numbers that we saw open as the humidity has been near 100%!

Feay's palafox Flower Plant
Feay's Palafox is a pretty little native wildflower found only in the southern 2/3 of the peninsula.

Florida Scrub Lizard Reptile
Walking in a scrub habitat meant seeing plenty of the Florida Scrub Lizard.  The ongoing loss of the scrub habitat in Florida means that they are on the threatened species list.

It seems we forgot to tell you that on this walk we got lost good and proper.  We thought we were following the blazes that would take us in a loop but in the end it seemed that the loop we were walking was actually a loop on a loop on a loop.  Sometimes getting lost has its rewards.

Geocache (1)
We found two geo-caches located just off trail.  Not bad for not even looking!

Florida Orb Weaver Egg Casing Spider Insect Bug (2)
            Darlene spotted this most magnificent Orb Weaver Spider Egg Case.

Florida Orb Weaver Egg Casing Spider Insect Bug (2)
The artist was not present so we were able to inspect it up close.

Florida Orb Weaver Egg Casing Spider Insect Bug (4)
It was absolutely amazing.  Do you see the golden thread that suspends it from each corner?  Just beautiful.

Darlene can get quite tactile with her environment.  She went to run her hands along a branch when she noticed that it was moving.

Green Lynx Spider Insect Bug (8)
                                                           Do you see it?

Green Lynx Spider Insect Bug (12)
Here it is up close and in better light - a most beautiful Green Lynx Spider.

Scrub Prairie Clover Plant Flower (2)
                                         Delicate and native Scrub Prairie Clover

Unknown Grasshopper Insect Bug (3)
One of the more interesting parts of our walk was being constantly smacked by these large grasshoppers as they leapt haphazardly about.  As Darlene put it, "We eventually stopped screaming each time it happened."   Eventually.

Speaking of eventually... At some point we found the trail back to the parking lot and finished our extra long and very hot walk in a complete and much welcomed downpour.

Friday, October 13, 2017

the other .885%

Hitting the 25% mark on the ABA list was pretty neat and set us off on more excursions wondering just what we might see.  Nicole also started going back through old photos and looking more closely at the not so good shots to see if there were any as of yet unidentified lifers.   Through those excursions and photo reviews our tally has continued to grow.

This Black Bellied Whistling Duck family has taken up residence in the Home Depot retention ponds.

Magnolia Warbler Bird (3)
Spotted this Magnolia Warber and got a horrible photo of it at the Audubon Center.

Monk Parakeet Bird (3)
The Monk Parakeets at Sandsprit Park were a treat to watch.

The Tanagers keep to the tip top of the fig tree so spotting this Summer Tanager was tricky.

Nicole was very excited to discover her first Veery hiding in the underbrush.

In the old photo category we found...

2015-01-15 New Mexico, Sevilleta NWR - Visit to Bosque - Ferruginous Hawk Bird (2)
Back in 2015 we saw this Ferruginous Hawk in New Mexico.

2015-03-08a Louisiana, Cameron Prairie NWR - Long-billed Dowitcher Bird
In Louisiana we saw a Long-billed Dowitcher that same year.

In July of this year we were hanging down by the water when we spotted our first Sandwich Tern.

2016-04-24 Rhode Island, Ninigrit NWR - Black Capped Chickadee Bird
This Black-capped Chickadee from 2016 was mixed in with our Carolinas.

Recently, we have also sighted a few nighthawks and a snail kite but were unable to grab photos of them.

That should get us caught up on the birding side of things.  We'll be back with some of the shots from our recent hiking and biking experiences.

Friday, October 6, 2017


A few years into our full-time travels we got to talking about how many different birds we had been seeing.  So, Nicole downloaded the most current American Bird Association (ABA) bird checklist and turned it into a hand dandy tally based spread sheet.

Having settled in familiar Florida, the lifer (new to us) birds added the list in the last year have been limited.  This has left our percentage of birds seen out of the total of all on the list at a steady 24.696%.

Nicole pointed this out to Darlene one day as she was getting ready for work.   Darlene went onto the Possum Long Audubon blog and noticed that they were seeing some migrating winter birds showing up.  So, she suggested that Nicole take a ride up to the local Audubon site and see if she can't do something about that percentage.

Four hours later and a LOT of photos, Nicole was pretty sure all birds seen, although enjoyed, were familiar.   On her way home, she decided to take a ride through the surrounding neighborhoods.  Just around the backside of the park, a bird with rufous wing coloring flew overhead and landed in a tree.  Flicker, Nicole thought.  But something was different about it.  So, she snapped a few photos.

It wasn't a flicker.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Bird (1)
                                It was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a lifer to boot!

An amazing bird.  Nicole was feeling pretty satisfied despite not having enough new bird sightings to push us to the 1/4 mark.

Working with a point and shoot at a great distance, in strong sunlight and with loads of shadows can be a challenge.  Sometimes, it is worth it.  This was one of those times.  When she got home and started running through the photos on her computer...


Cape May Warbler Bird (1)
                                                  Cape May Warbler - Lifer!

Cape May Warbler Bird (4)
                       Peek-a-boo from the beautiful Yellow-throated Warbler - Lifer!

Red Eyed Vireo Bird (2)
                                                A Red-eyed Vireo - also a Lifer!

Black Throated Blue Warbler, Oven Bird
                           And, the adorable Oven Bird - Yes, it was a Lifer, as well!

      That made five Lifers for the day and pushed the percentage just above 25.  Sweet!

                                         A few other sightings for the day were...

Atala Butterfly Insect Bug (9)
                               The Atala Butterfly.  A first time sighting for Nicole.

This beautiful creature was thought "probably extinct" in the 1950's.  Through the help of some dedicated individuals, it has made a dramatic comeback.  This butterfly relies on the coontie plant as the monarch does on milkweed.  With such strong comeback numbers, it is now considered a pest by human lovers of the coontie.

Dragonfly (2)
                          Check out those tail feathers!

Dragonfly (6)

                                                            Do Not Disturb.

Passion Flower Plant (6)
          The Passiflora ligularis (Passion Flowers) were blooming and scenting the air.

Squirrel Mammal
                                                              Sneaky Booger

Zebra Longwing Butterfly Insect (1)
                        Zebra Longwing Butterflies (the Florida state butterfly) flitted about.

They are the only butterfly to eat pollen.  Their saliva enables them to dissolve the pollen and to take in its nutrients. Pollen is very nutritious and rich in proteins which may explain why these butterflies live longer than other butterflies. The Zebra Longwing is a colonial butterfly that is know to be very intelligent and possesses a social order.  The caterpillars feed on Passion Flower Vines and acquire some of their toxins; this makes them distasteful to predators.

Isn't nature great!?

             A seemingly rare four petal tiger eye Iris... (official name still unconfirmed).

Mimosa microphylla, Little leaf sensitive briar flower plant (1)
       This 'cousin it' on a stick had popped up in the grass.

Mimosa microphylla, Little leaf sensitive briar flower plant (2)
Sure Mimosa microphylla, a.k.a. Little leaf sensitive briar, is a weed
but you cannot deny just how awesome it is.

Last but not least we present to you... Nephila clavipes.

             Can you see the golden portions of the web?
These are the only species of spider to make this gold colored web.

Golden Silk Spider (13)
A beautiful specimen, The Golden Silk Spider is more commonly called the Banana Spider.

Given that their body size can be two inches or a bit more, once you include the leg span, these become the generally accepted "largest spider in Florida".  And, that is how day one of the 25% lifer search went down.  There is more as this lifer day somehow turned into a week long event. 

But that is all for now.  It is still daylight and the birds are calling.