Monthly Archives: December 2014

Morning Glory – Floridas’ Wildflowers

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

 

 

 

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

 

 

The Morning glory wildflower is a name for a flowering plant which has over 1,000 species within the family Convolvulaceae. The Morning glory blooms each day in the morning in full sunlight. I came across a bunch of these flowering plants in the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel.  Everybody was busy taking pictures of birds and I thought the prettiest thing I saw that day was this wildflower. The flower also known as the Railroad Vine can spread by growing on stems that grow along the ground. The Japanese have cultivated many varieties of this flower. More information is available on Dave’s Garden.com website.

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Glossy Ibis – Florida Birds

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossy Ibis   (Plegadis falcinellus)

The Glossy Ibis wading bird as you can see from the picture has dark plumage, chestnut-bronze, and green and purple iridescent feathers which are more easily seen on a sunny day.  It has a long curved bill which is also dark in color which sets it apart from it’s white cousin which displays white feathers and an orange bill. They can often bee seen feeding for crayfish in freshwater marshes, swamps, and streams. According to the Audubon Society, the Glossy Ibis crossed the Atlantic from Africa to South American the 19th century and moved northward by way of the Caribbean. It is now distributed along the coastal regions from Maine to Texas. The Glossy Ibis also feeds on fiddler crabs, insects and the poisonous water moccasins in it’s fresh and salt water feeding habitats.I saw this Ibis along a slow moving drainage canal in Ft. Myers.

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Florida Red Bellied Turtle

Florida Red Bellied Turtle

Florida Red Bellied Turtle

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Red Bellied Turtle  – (Chrysemys nelsoni)

I spotted this turtle along Daniels Pkwy while I was taking a bicycle ride on a cool day. The  female Red Bellied turtle  which can grow up to 12 inches in length and weigh 8.8 lbs.  is larger than their male counterparts. They often lay their eggs in alligator nests or mud holes in the water which provides a more stable temperature range and protects the eggs from raccoons. The danger to this practice is that alligators sometimes attack adult turtles and it is thought by biologists that their high and thick shell coverings are evolutionary developments to protect them from alligator attacks. There are occasionally signs of tooth marks and scratches on the outer shell of Red Bellies showing signs of alligator attacks.  Red Bellied turtles are popular for their export trade because they are eaten by some people and also used as pets. The Florida Museum of Natural History has a good collection of pictures of Florida’s turtles and other reptiles. The turtle is cold blooded since and since it is a reptile and cannot regulate it’s body temperature like other animals, it has to seek warm places in it’s environment to raise it’s body temperature on cold days in order to survive. You can often see one or more turtles sunning themselves along the banks of a river, ponds, or on logs.

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Environmental Conservation – Cheaper Oil Does Not Mean Cleaner Air or Water

Environmental Conservation has been associated with oil use and energy independence  for the United States.  The demand for oil is not decreasing but the supply of it has been boosted by new technology that allows oil companies to extract it in new ways such as “fracking” that lets drilling rigs drill horizontally underground and pump up previously unavailable oil.  This is great for our wallets and economy since we will have more money to pay our bills and spend less at the pump. The 40% drop in the price of a barrel of oil this past year makes me concerned about our commitment or lack of commitment to minimizing our use of fossil fuels and trying to make our earth cleaner and less susceptible to dirty air, polluted drinking water and climate change.

The U.S. emits about 5 Billion Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide annually, into our atmosphere, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, mainly from electricity production from utilities and auto emissions.  The problem with the demand for oil and carbon dioxide emissions lies in large developing countries like China, India and Brazil putting a large number a new cars on the road each year. The U.S. has 1.3 people per car in this country while China has 6.75 people for each car in their country. The rise in China’s, India’s and Brazil’s middle class as well as in other developing country’s middle classes will put millions of new oil consuming cars on the road. It is estimated that we will see over 2 Billion cars on the road worldwide before the year 2050, up from just over 1 Billion cars on the road today. That increase would require oil companies to produce 120 million barrels of oil per day to meet demand, over the 87 million barrels produced today.

The danger to our water supplies also comes from producing more oil. Fracking requires oil wells to be pumped full of water and chemicals to force more oil up to the surface. These chemicals can contaminate drinking water supplies which lie near oil deposits. Some towns in the U.S. and countries outside of the U.S. have banned the use of fracking in order to safeguard their drinking water supplies.

I believe the answer to our energy needs for both electrical generation and automotive use should come much more from renewable sources. Today’s hybrid and electrical cars only amount to 3% of the total cars sold in the U.S. today. The memory of $4 per gallon gas makes me question why everyone isn’t driving a hybrid vehicle. The number of solar and wind farms only produce a very small amount of the electricity used in the U.S. today. The argument against renewable energy is that it is still not price competitive with using oil and coal supplies

I am in favor of producing energy as cheaply as possible but I am more in favor of taking a long term view of the sustainability of our energy resource consumption and the health of the planet. We need to get away from oil, natural gas and coal and produce clean renewable energy. The sun, wind, and hydroelectric energy resources we have are in much bigger supply than fossil fuels and they do not cause global warming or pollute the atmosphere. We shouldn’t take our eye off the ball after all the discussions and warnings we have had about climate change and we should keep moving towards a more healthy mix of energy supplies even while oil is getting cheaper.

Environmental Education – Sanibel Sea School

Shells on Sanibel Island near Blind Pass

click on image for larger picture  Shells on Sanibel Island near Blind Pass

 

 

 

 

 

Sanibel Sea School

If you would like to learn more about the type of shells and organisms that wash up on and live on our local seashores, you might want to take advantage of the free Saturday walks offered by the Sanibel Sea School. The two hour walks take place on 12/13, 1/10 and 3/14 this season. There are many other programs available at the sea school if you would like to learn more about the ecosystem of coastal areas. Many of the programs are offered to children but some are designed for adults who want to get out and become familiar with life on our seashores. Sanibel Island is famous for it’s shelling and beautiful beaches. Sanibel is a barrier island connected by a scenic causeway on the Gulf of Mexico. You can visit the Sea School by clicking on the link, emailing them at info@sanibelseaschool.org or calling them at 239-472-8585

 

 

 

 

Florida Birds – Anhinga

 

Anhinga (female)
Anhinga (female)

 

Anhinga (male)

Anhinga (male)

Anhinga swallowing fish

Anhinga swallowing fish

I had the opportunity to see some Anhinga’s  the past few weeks not far from where I live and get pictures of them with their distinctive webbed feet, colorful white and black feathers and method of eating fish.  The first picture shows the Anhinga standing on some pipes of a storm water drain waiting for a meal to drift by. You can see their impressive webbed feet which makes them such good swimmers. They can also fly long distances without flapping their wings. The female bird has a brownish neck whereas the male bird in the 2nd and 3rd pictures has a black neck. The Anhinga spears their prey with their bill and swallows them whole. The 2nd and 3rd pictures shows the bird maneuvering a fish it just caught, about 6-7 inches long, into it’s mouth. Anhinga’s are often seen standing with their wings outstretched in the sun because their wings become saturated with water and do not have the oil glands like other birds to keep their feathers dry. I have a another post in this blog showing an Anhinga in this kind of spread wing display. Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds to learn more about Anhinga’s. There is an audio clip where you can listen to their sounds.

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Trees of Florida – Strangler Fig Tree

Strangler Fig

Strangler Fig

Fig roots growing on an Old Growth Cypress tree

Fig roots growing on an Old Growth Cypress tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Strangler Fig   (Ficus aurea)

Strangler fig trees start out as seeds that are dropped by birds or dispersed by wind into the canopy or tops of trees where they start to grow and benefit from the moisture in the air and water running over the host tree. They are epiphytes or air plants in the beginning of their development until they grow roots that extend down into the ground. They can envelop their host tree like the palm tree shown in first picture and kill it by starving it of water and sunlight. Other types of strangler figs of which there are over 150 species like the “Weeping fig”,  grow vines or roots downward from the tops of trees through the air until they reach the ground. The second picture shows one of these Weeping figs growing on an Old Growth Bald Cypress at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. The Strangler fig tree is native to Florida meaning they existed here by the time the Spanish explorers came to Florida. Strangler figs grow mostly in moist tropical ecosystems. Florida’s sub- tropical environment is well suited for their growth. They are important plant species in some tropical forests and are actually thought to be “Keystone Species” or essential to the survival to some ecosystems because of the fruit of their hidden flowers that provides food and it’s ability to provide shelter for many species of animals, birds and insects. I didn’t know until I started reading about Fig trees that a Banyan tree is a type of Fig Tree. One of the largest Banyan trees I have seen is at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers. You can learn more about Strangler fig trees by visiting the Encyclopedia Britannica website or going to the Blue Planet Biomes website.

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