Hopping around Fern Forest

You never know what you might see when you go for a walk. Today was a pretty slow day birdwise at Fern Forest; the only migratory warbler I saw was an Ovenbird, and s/he was in the favorite habitat of this species: the undergrowth. The light was too low to get a picture. But out in the middle of the prairie, where the light was absolutely beautiful, was, according to my Capinera guide to Grasshoppers of Florida, Shistocerca americana, an American Grasshopper: Read more

September is still a hot month in South Florida

While I'm not sure that yesterday was the hottest day on record (in fact, the mercury showed it to be in the high 80s, not really "all that bad"), it sure felt like it. Sweat rolled down the small of my back as I went through my daily rounds at Fern Forest. I suspect, as challenged conversationalists throughout the country can attest, that it's not the heat. It's the humidity. But we naturalists are a hardy breed. We laugh at danger, endure discomfort, and generally just don't do what sensible people should. As they said in colonial India, only mad dogs and Englishmen are out in the noonday sun. Read more

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Backyard nature

Remember the Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough? Australian novel that got turned into a miniseries here in the States? I don't. I wasn't allowed to stay up late enough to watch it when it came out, and now I don't really care too much to track it down and find out whether I've missed something or not. And why bother? I have all the drama I need right here in my backyard in Boca. Of course, you have to look a bit more closely; this is not the wide-open sweep of the Outback (even though it is, technically, out back). Read more

Coastal ecosystems, day two

What I learned in school today. Today's field trips: Ocean Ridge Hammock Park in Boynton Beach and Lantana Nature Preserve in Lantana.


No, not the kind that you string between two trees. Although actually, that's pretty close to perhaps the most compelling derivation of the word I've heard yet. According to Thomas E. Lodge (The Everglades Handbook: Understanding the Ecosystem), in Florida, a hammock is a "localized, mature hardwood forest." That's correct as far as it goes, but his derivation of the name is a bit too fanciful for our fearless leader. He prefers a simpler origin for the term, one that involves the first explorers of this coastline: sailors! According to this version, these coastal hardwood forests are called hammocks because they are the locations on the coast where there are enough trees available to sling a hammock conveniently between them. They're also close to shore, with a nice sea breeze to keep the bugs down, and they're shady--perfect for sleepin'! Read more

Coastal ecosystems, day one

Day one of the Coastal ecosystems module (click here if you don't know what that means) was a good one, although I was very tired at the start of it. For some reason 6-month-olds just don't care that you have to get up early in the morning. They're on their own schedule, and everyone else can simply lump it, as far as they're concerned.

What I learned in school today

Today Steve Bass, the best instructor in the world, told us a few things about the coastal environment that I hadn't known before. For instance, there are three types of rocks on the Atlantic coast of Florida: Read more

Lizards; little dinosaurs?

During my frequent rambles through Fern Forest, I've run across a number of saurians, both native and non-native. Often they flee at my approach, not trusting the enormous disparity in our sizes to keep them safe. Apparently evolution has favored the flee-from-all-comers approach over the size-em-up approach. Today's walk, though, was pretty special. It got me to thinking about the dino, in addition to the saur... Read more

Backyard fungi

Sorry for the delay in posting; I am still unable to access the site through Bells**th's dns server, despite 3 hours on the phone with their delightful offshored tech support this morning. So this post will have to be sent sans photos for now; if I'm ever able to connect from home again, I will upload the appropriate photos. While out weeding this morning after a delightful bout of Gustav- or Hanna-driven rain (I can't really tell which, although I suspect this morning's showers were courtesy of Gus), I was finally able to investigate the various species of fungus in our backyard. We have at least four species that are very easy to tell apart from each other, although I can't identify a single one of them to known species; my field guides to Florida's birds, reptiles, seashores, swamps, trees, shrubs, ferns, etc. do not cover fungi very extensively. Even some very nice websites of Florida fungi don't show any of my critters. If and when I upload the photos, I hope someone can help me figure out what they might be. For now, the descriptions will have to do. Read more
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