FWF News Articles
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Many of our Florida trees lose their leaves at different times through the year. Deciduous trees like maple, sweet gum and cypress drop their leaves in cooler weather. Others like oaks and magnolias shed leaves throughout the year. Even “evergreen” pine trees drop some of their needles seasonally. These fallen leaves are called “leaf litter” and offer plenty of benefits to the soil and native wildlife!
Bird bills come in many shapes and sizes and are beautifully adapted for eating, building nests, feeding young, cleaning feathers and defending themselves. Backyard feeders can provide a good viewing spot for observing birds’ features and behavior. Looking closely at birds’ bills can provide us with clues about the types of food birds eat in their natural habitat.
Summer is in full swing and so are the butterflies. With more time at home this spring and summer and more time to appreciate gardens, I’ve been learning more about the butterflies I see. I recognize the big ones – black swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, monarchs, zebra longwings. I learned to distinguish the giant swallowtail from the tiger swallowtail. I love to watch the small ones, but don’t know them from each other.
Longleaf pine was once the dominate tree in the Southeast. It is estimated that it occupied 90 million acres. Now due to harvesting, conversion of much of this land to other uses, and the restriction of wildfires, it only occupies 3 percent of its original range.
Land owned by St. Joe Paper Company (St. Joe Company, until 1966) was planted in slash pine.
We can thank pollinators for much of the food we eat. In fact, about 80% of our plants and crops are pollinated by insects. We know and love our butterflies and moths as pollinators and often help them by creating welcoming habitats in garden spaces large and small. Did you know that bees and wasps are much more efficient pollinators? They do much of the heavy lifting of pollinating plants, especially food crops.
Bluebirds, seven inches in length fully grown, have a blue back and head and yellow-brown and white chest and belly. They live in meadows, open woods, parklands, and even in neighborhoods with tall trees and some lawns with borders of large shrubs. They build nests in cavities such as holes in trees, fence posts or well-designed nest boxes where the female lays four to six pale blue eggs. When nesting, they become very territorial and are known to dive bomb cats to drive them away from the nest. Bluebirds thrive on a diet of caterpillars and insects and will also eat berries if available.
Wetlands provide many important functions. They store and filter our water, provide wildlife habitat and, in more urban places, provide needed greenspace.
Whether you explore our wetlands from their edges or a boardwalk, during the humid summer or on dry, cool winter days, you will find that they host their own special community of plants and animals.
Stan Rosenthal, Forest Advocate for the Florida Wildlife Federation, takes you on a tour to see some interesting plants that you might see in a forested wetland.
Growing in containers or very small garden plots is a good way to try out gardening with just a little commitment, or to nourish an existing love of growing things if you only have a small space available. Place containers with your favorite veggies and herbs right outside the door or on the patio and you are gardening!
Wonderful pictures of a newly emerged giant silk moth called Polyphemus, Antheraea polyphemus, were recently shared with me. Hanging with its wings folded, the moth’s size and antennae are noticeable features. Its wingspan is 4-6 inches and the comb-like antennae are sensitive to smell, useful for finding food or mates, and possibly navigation. Polyphemus has eye spots on all 4 wings, with two distinctive spots said to mimic the eyes of a larger animal – maybe even a Great Horned Owl. That should be enough to scare off a host of predators!