Saturday, March 31, 2018

Day Three Of Walking

On the third day of Alex's visit we choose Spruce Bluff.  It is a very urban set-up but still we saw new things.  This property is right down the middle of a subdivision so it sees a bit more traffic than some of the others we've been to.  It is however a location of Historical Interest being the site of an early pioneer settlement and cemetery along the banks of the St. Lucie River.  So, thankfully, it was saved from development.  Spruce Bluff was first settled in 1891 and became a community of several families with a school, post office and sawmill. 

2018-03-11 Florida, Stuart - Spruce Bluff - Gravesite (2)
Unfortunately, although they saved the land and (we hope) the bodies in the cemetery, everything else from this historical settlement is gone.  Still, it was nice to think about how things used to be on our great Peninsula of FLA.  

The walk through Spruce Bluff's Pioneer Settlement Trail is pretty much a walk of imagination.  Although we did not see any settlement remains we did spot a few other nature based items of interest.

Pioneer Trail -  Scenes
A purple lady bug... courtesy of Martin County Rocks!

Pioneer Trail - Abrus precatorius Rosary Pea Plant
Abrus precatorius - The Rosary Pea sounds like a sweet little plant but it is actually highly toxic.

Pioneer Trail - Barred Yellow Eurema daira Sulphur Butterfly
New Butterfly Alert!!!   Eurema daira - the Barred Yellow Sulphur Butterfly

Pioneer Trail - Scenes (2)
The Tree Of Love by Martin County Rocks.

Pioneer Trail - Scenes (3)
The Pioneer Trail leads down to the St. Lucie River where the temperatures were considerably cooler.

Pioneer Trail - Spiny Backed Orb Weaver Spider
Finally, a decent shot of the topside of Gasteracantha cancriformis - the Spiny-backed Orb Weaver.

The second trail at this location is about the long forgotten Ais Indian Tribe.  Many visitors or residents of Florida are very familiar with the Seminole Indian Tribe.  The Ais Indians though were Aboriginal and not related to the more commonly known Seminole Indians.

This tribe (which was named by Spanish explorers who encountered them in the 1500's) settled in FLA long before Ponce arrived.   The Ais were a nomadic tribe who liked to make their camps along the Indian River (formerly known as Rio de Ais) and were hunters,  gathers and fishermen not farmers.  Unfortunately, the Ais did not survive long.  After 1700 settlers began to raid their villages and capture them as slaves.  They were gone by 1760.

As you walk the Ais trail at Spruce Bluff the brochure directs you to look for various plants that the Ais utilized in their everyday life.  It then leads you to...

Ais Trail - Indian Mound (1)

It doesn't look like much to the casual observer but this mound of dirt is suspected to left behind by the Ais.
It is 20-feet-tall and 180-feet in diameter.  Though some research claims the Ais were not the creators of this mound, it was indeed created by early tribes (reported between 100 and 300 B.C.).

Indian mounds or middens can be found all over Florida.  Unfortunately, probably more than half have been plowed down to make roads, buildings, etc.  Thankfully, some have been preserved and researched.  Indian mounds were typically either burial or everyday waste based.  All contain untold information regarding Florida's earliest residents.

Ais Trail - Great Blue Heron Bird (2)
The Ais trail provided some scenic views.

Ais Trail - Netted Pawpaw (Asimina reticulata) (1)
Netted Pawpaws were blooming all over the place.

Ais Trail - Netted Pawpaw (Asimina reticulata) (2)
Asimina reticulata

Ais Trail - Scenes (3)
We walked the trail

Ais Trail - Scenes (6)
out to the wetland area where we saw very high numbers of Pileated Woodpeckers.

Ais Trail - exobasidium vaccinii fungal based gall on Plant (2)
We saw these crazy looking fungal based galls.

Ais Trail - exobasidium vaccinii fungal based gall on Plant (4)
Exobasidium vaccinii

Ais Trail - exobasidium vaccinii fungal based gall on Plant (5)
was not like anything we'd seen before.

A couple of other things we viewed on this trail were

Ais Trail - Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) Dragonfly
the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) Dragonfly

Ais Trail - Pterocaulon pycnostachyum (Blackroot)
and Pterocaulon pycnostachyum which is more commonly known as Blackroot.

We started driving home and then apparently realized that we had not walked enough. 

Hawks Bluff Trail - Mourning Dove
So, we made a stop at the Hawks Bluff Trail which is a separate section of the Savannahs Preserve that we had visited previously.

Hawks Bluff Trail - Scenes
Midway on the trail you are brought to the unique freshwater savannas that occur just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Hawks Bluff Trail - Carya floridana scrub hickory plant, gall, midge
We spotted these galls on Carya floridana (Scrub Hickory)

Hawks Bluff Trail - Carya floridana scrub hickory plant, gall, midge (1)
Popped one open and

Hawks Bluff Trail - Carya floridana scrub hickory plant, gall, midge (2)
hundreds of these microscopic midges came out.

Hawks Bluff Trail - Grackle

Hawks Bluff - Chrysobalanus icaco Cocoplum Plant
Chrysobalanus icaco - Cocoplum Plant

Hawks Bluff Trail - Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker - somewhat expected

Hawks Bluff Trail - Native Lupine Sky-blue Lupinus diffusus (1)
Lupine in Florida - not expected

Hawks Bluff Trail - Native Lupine Sky-blue Lupinus diffusus (2)
We did not realize there was a Lupine that is Native to Florida.
We introduce you to... Sky-blue Lupine -  Lupinus diffusus

That completes our share of our three days of walks and is all that we have for now. 

We are quite busy right now preparing for our upcoming adventures.  More on that when we can...

Ais Trail - Scenes (2)
                                                                Have a sun-shiny day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Walking Visit - Day Two

The second day of Alex's visit we decided to explore Teague Hammock Preserve.  This place is out there in terms of driving distances but it was well worth it.  There are two sections to the site, Teague and Paleo.  With rain threatening, we started off at Teague and were not disappointed.  Teague Hammock is a 300-acre site that is an excellent example of historical small prairie hammocks that appeared in this part of the county (before farming entered the area).  It kept us so occupied that we never made it to the Paleo section.

Red Shouldered Hawk
Upon entering, we saw this Red-shouldered Hawk and it saw us.  Seemed to be an omen of a good day out.

We hadn't even made it thirty yards when Darlene spotted a Monarch Caterpillar!  Hard to believe we had never before seen one of these in the wild.

Monarch Caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) (1)
They are beautiful.

Monarch Caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) (3)
Danus plexippus

Monarch Caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) (4)
The long fleshy tentacles (or filaments) on each end are not antennae.  They are sense organs.

About five seconds after spotting our first Monarch Caterpillar we started spotting these...

Gulf Fritillary [Agraulis vanillae] Caterpillar (1)
Agraulis vanillae - The Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Gulf Fritillary [Agraulis vanillae] Caterpillar (2)
Two new caterpillars in the first fifteen minutes. 

Gulf Fritillary [Agraulis vanillae] Caterpillar (3)
This was definitely shaping up to be a good walk!

Creeping Cucumber Melothria Pendula (1)
Caterpillars were not all the new we were seeing, either.  For example, we saw Creeping Cucumber

Creeping Cucumber Melothria Pendula (2)
which is more formally known as Melothria Pendula.

Nuttall's thistle (Cirsium nuttallii)
We are used to seeing thistle out west not in Florida.

Nuttall's thistle (Cirsium nuttallii) (2)
This is Cirsium nuttallii (common name: Nuttall's thistle).

Long-tailed Skipper Urbanus proteus Butterfly (1)
This beautiful skipper butterfly was new for us.

Long-tailed Skipper Urbanus proteus Butterfly (2)
The Long-tailed Skipper, as it is commonly known, posed for us to get both a top

Long-tailed Skipper Urbanus proteus Butterfly (3)
and underside shot of the wings which made identification much easier.  Thank you Urbanus proteus.

Blue Flag Iris
Blues and purples were the running theme in the flower department starting with this Blue Flag Iris,

Brazilian Nightshade Solanum seaforthianum
moving on to the Brazilian Nightshade or Solanum seaforthianum

Passion Flower
and finally onto this Passion Flower.

Also in the new-to-us plant department was

Tropical soda apple Solanum viarum (1)
this thorny booger called Solanum viarum

Tropical soda apple Solanum viarum (2)
or Tropical Soda Apple.

Tropical soda apple Solanum viarum (3)
It has these small, white flowers on it.

pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos) butterfly
We spotted a Pearl Crescent Butterfly ((Phyciodes tharos) which is often confused with the Phaon Crescent.

White or Common Checkered Skipper Pyrgus albescens or communis Butterfly
Also easily confused are the White and  Common Checkered Skipper Butterfly.  Pyrgus albescens or Pyrgus communis. 
We're not sure which one this is.

Florida leaf-footed (Acanthocephala femorata)
This cool character is the new-to-us Florida leaf-footed bug (Acanthocephala femorata).

Back to the caterpillars...

With this next group, we thought we had seen three new and completely different caterpillars.  As it turns out the Saltmarsh Caterpillar has many forms. 

Salt Marsh Caterpillar (1)
This is what seemed to be the most common form that we saw.  Some call this the black form.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar (2)
Estigmene acrea is the scientific name for the Saltmarsh Caterpillar.  Their nickname should be speedy.
These cats move faster than any we've seen yet.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar - Yellow (1)
The next one we saw was the yellow (or blonde) variety.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar - Yellow (2)
It was so different from the black variation that we surely did not realize it was also a Saltmarsh Caterpillar.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar - Cinnamon (2)
The cinnamon (or brown) variant is the third Saltmarsh Caterpillar that we saw on this walk.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar - Cinnamon (1)
So, if you saw those three caterpillars would you think they were all the same caterpillar?

Scorpion-tail Heliotropium angiospermum
After reading about it in the brochure, we spotted some Scorpion-tail (Heliotropium angiospermum) on our walk. 

Southern flatcoil, Polygyra cereolus Snail
Polygyra cereolus - the Southern flatcoil snail was seen along the way.

Spider Egg Casing
This spider egg case was spotted strung up between some tree branches.

Swallowtail Kite
Nicole finally got a full-bodied shot of Elanoides forficatus - the Swallow-tailed Kite.  Check out the smaller bird below him.

Caterpillar Leafroller
We unrolled a leaf-roller roll-up to spy on this spotted beauty.  No idea on the ID yet.

spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) (2)
While we're on the spotted theme here is a Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) that we spotted.

Three Spotted Skipper Cymaenes tripunctus Butterfly (2)
We also spotted a very excited Cymaenes tripunctus -

Three Spotted Skipper Cymaenes tripunctus Butterfly
the Three Spotted Skipper.  Thankfully he calmed down long enough for us to get a shot of his tell-tale three spots.

Queen Caterpillar (Danaus  gilippus)
Darlene found what she thought was a first or second instar Monarch Caterpillar.
It was the size of or smaller than a grain of rice but the yellow and black coloring sure seemed to fit with the Monarch.

Queen Caterpillar (Danaus  gilippus)
Upon closer examination, however, we discovered that it was not a Monarch but a second instar Queen Butterfly Caterpillar.
Danaus  gilippus - a new caterpillar for us!  A few ID characteristics are the third set of filaments (spikes at this stage).  Monarchs only have two sets.
Also, it's yellow is in the form of spots not the stripes that the Monarch has.

Well, we thought we'd be able to finish up both day two and day three here but it appears that we saw way more than we realized on Day 2. 

So, we'll finish this for now with probably the most crazy and cool thing we saw on our way out.

Giant Ichneumon (Ichneumonidae Megarhyssa macrurus)
We have seen Ichneumon Wasps before but of the ones we've seen Ichneumonidae Megarhyssa macrurus definitely takes the cake.

Giant Ichneumon (Ichneumonidae Megarhyssa macrurus)
This beautiful insect is more commonly called the Giant Ichneumon Wasp (at two inches in size). 

It also has a nickname - the stump stabber - because it uses its extremely long (nearly twice the length of its body long - at four inches in length) ovipositor to lay an egg inside dead wood.  The one in our shot above was laying an egg when we spotted it.

And with that very cool find we will leave you for now.  Thanks for going along on our hike!