Tag Archives: Florida Wildlife

Barn Owl

Barn Owl - Fish and Wildlife Comm

Barn Owl – Fish and Wildlife Comm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Barn Owl or sometimes referred to as the Common Barn Owl was spotted on Sanibel Island for the first time since 2005 according to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). Barn Owls are important to ecosystems because they feed upon unwanted rodent populations such as rats and keep their numbers in check.

Sanibel Island has a rat problem because I have seen their numbers increase and recently had to fix my car engine which was used by a Rice Rat as its nest. The rat apparently was looking for a warm and hidden place to make its nest and the inside of my car engine made a good place for it to hide out. It cost me over $300 to have the rat debris removed and cleaned out.

Barn Owls are whitefish or pale in color with rounded heads and medium in size. They are nocturnal birds that hunt mainly at night with very keen hearing skills and excellent low vision eyesight abilities.  They can swoop down and catch mice and eat them whole. They do not pass their food or prey through their digestive tracts but instead cough up the digested food through their mouths as pellets. The pellets are used by ecologists as useful information for what owls are eating in their habitat.

Barn owls make a hissing noise which you can hear on the All About Birds website. If you visit their website. Click on the sound tab and choose one of the sounds it makes. Barn owls are usually found in abandoned barns, marshes, prairies and agricultural areas. The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation advises residents on the islands not to use rat poison around their homes because it is then ingested by owls which causes harm to the owls.

Photograph was used, courtesy of the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife

The Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife is a teaching hospital which cares for wounded animals of all kinds that are found in and near S.W. Florida. The clinic is located on Sanibel Island. Animals and birds of all kinds are brought to CROW when they are found by people who travel through Florida including fishermen, tourists and Florida Fish and Wildlife Officials. The Clinic offers state of the art veterinary care, research, education and conservation medicine.

The Clinic gives tours and presentations about the hospital and has a series of lectures coming up this winter which feature experts on various topics. The Gulf Breeze Cottages website offers a partial list of some of the upcoming lectures including Conservation Medicine on March 20th and on Ospreys on March 28th in 2018.

Ospreys are called raptors or birds of prey and they are seen everywhere around Sanibel and S.W. Florida. They are often seen standing on a bridge railing near water, branch or other object peering over the water below them and waiting for a chance to swoop down and catch a fish swimming by. Ospreys are large hawks and have long wing spans, and sharp bills and feet called talons.

The American Bald Eagle is another kind of raptor or bird of prey that hunts like the Osprey. They are larger than the Osprey and can sometime steal food that is caught by smaller birds. The photographs above show pictures of an Osprey sitting on a branch and of the American Bald Eagle which I photographed while on a boat in the Estero Bay off Ft. Myers beach.

Visit the CROW Clinic website to learn more about their Veterinary care for animals. Their lecture series this year should be worth the effort to come and listen to experts on wildlife and conservation medicine.

 

 

Ding Darling Days

The Ding Darling Wildlife Society, Friends of the Refuge will be sponsoring a week of activities beginning Sunday Oct 16th, 2016 to help celebrate the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuges 140th birthday. There will be a week of events including free tram tours of the refuge, films, lectures on migratory birds and fun events such as face painting, and displays of the butterfly house and a  touch tank of fish. Visit the website for a list of events during the celebration.

    The Ding Darling Wildlife Society is a volunteer organization made up of many people who support the mission of the refuge and provide  educational and recreational activities at the  Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. The DDWS has raised over $3 million dollars to help build the visitor center. It has also helped to pay for the acquisition of more land on Sanibel Island to add to the refuges size. There are many events held in the visitor center including films and lectures by experts that speak about conservation efforts of land, migratory birds at Ding Darling and around the U.S.

     The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is one the most visited national refuges in the U.S. with tens of thousands of people visiting the park each year including professional photographers and birding enthusiasts. The Tarpon Bay Explorers is a private concession located within the refuge that rents kayaks, canoes and gives boat tours of the waters in Ding Darling.

    The National Wildlife Refuge System has been around since 1869 when Presidents Ulysses S. Grant created the Pribilof Islands Refuge in Alaska. Florida’s first refuge was established by President Teddy Roosevelt who created the Pelican Island Migratory Bird Reservation on the Atlantic coast of Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey in Florida include several different species  of raptors as they are called who feed upon various kinds of wildlife. They are usually large birds with impressive wingspans and can fly and swoop down quickly to grab their prey. They are often seen perched on branches in trees or other sturdy objects looking for their next meal. They feed upon fish, small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates such as crabs.

Other birds of prey include owls, falcons, red shouldered hawks and kites. The ones I have seen live near large bodies of water where fish are plentiful and where they can use their keen eyes, and strong and sharp talons or sharp feet to grab their prey and bring their catch back to its nest or feeding ground. Their sharp bills are well adapted for tearing apart the flesh of their catch.

Birds of Prey such as the American Bald Eagle were almost hunted to extinction because of their feathers but bans on hunting and the new laws against the  pesticide spray DDT helped them to rebound in numbers. There is a center in Maitland Florida run by Audubon Florida which helps people to learn more about Birds of Prey and their lifestyles. I also like the Cornell Univ. School of Ornithology All About Birds website which has an excellent website about birds.

The American Bald Eagle and Ospey shown in the pictures above were photographed in Estero Bay this past summer while I was with a  group of naturalists taking a boat ride out of the Fish Tale Marina located on Ft Myers Beach. Click on the pictures for a larger view of the birds.

 

 

 

 

 

American Alligator

Young Alligator

American  Alligator

 

 

 

 

 

I photographed this small alligator at the Otter Pond at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Ft. Myers. The American Alligator is the largest reptile in North America according to the defenders.org website. The alligator can be confused with the crocodile which is a much more aggressive and dangerous animal. They both can be found in Florida but the more friendly alligator is a much more common sight.

Alligators are generally slow moving creatures and hunt by laying in wait for its prey to move by them and then snapping its large jaws on its prey which consists of small mammals, other reptiles, birds and animals inhabiting swamps, marshes and wetlands areas where they live. Adult males are usually seen by themselves in the wild. They build their nests in ponds, swamps and other wetlands areas by moving their large tails back and forth creating a depression in the underwater mud. The holes they create sometimes becomes homes to other types of wildlife living in swamps and wetlands. They are considered a keystone species for this reason and are considered essential for the health of a wetland ecosystem.

The lifespan of these large reptiles can be 35-50 years in the wild and longer when kept in captivity. There are many wildlife refuges where you can see alligators in their natural habitat in South Florida. They also live in Southeastern states such as Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and the Carolinas. They were once hunted for their hides to use as clothing and accessories but that is no longer legal.  It is also illegal to feed alligators and by doing so they lose their fear of humans making them more dangerous. Adult alligators can grow as big as 18 feet long and weigh over 500 lbs.

 

 

 

 

 

Tricolored Heron

The Tricolored Heron –  (Egretta tricolor) –  in the pictures shown above were photographed on Sanibel Island while they were walking along the ground near a fresh water lake looking for small fish to eat. The Tricolored Heron is a medium sized bird, smaller than its counterpart Blue Heron and can be distinguished by its while belly. It was formerly known as the Louisiana Heron. It is commonly seen in the Southeastern portion of the United States in coastal areas along mangrove marshes, lakes and swamps. It is also seen in inland areas along swamps. freshwater lakes and estuaries. It’s diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, frogs, salamanders, lizards and spiders and it catches its food by stabbing it with its long sharp bill.

The Heron has an impressive wing span and is pretty to watch fly. The Tricolored Heron nests in colonies in trees and mangrove forests along with other herons and wading birds. The male constructs the nest and females are attracted to the males in this way. The female lays 2-7 eggs per year and they take about 27 days to hatch with both male and female providing help with incubating the eggs. The young birds can begin to fly within 5 weeks after hatching.

I found some good information about Tricolored Herons at the Audubon Guide to North American Birds website. I also like Cornell University’s Allabout Birds website which includes audio clips of the birds’ sounds and calls.

 

 

Dolphins in Estero Bay

I had the opportunity to see a large number of dolphins while on a pontoon boat in Estero Bay. Our group was actually on a boat excursion for Birders that were attending a seminar at FGCU. We did see a lot of birds including an American Bald eagle but the most memorable sights I had on that trip was seeing all of the lively and friendly dolphins that swam near and around our boat. We motored out of the Fish Tale Marina on Ft. Myers Beach which has nature boat excursions which I would recommend to anyone wanting to see wildlife and the beautiful Estero Bay.

After about an hour on the water we started to see a group of dolphins surfacing and then diving under the water, There were a few groups of the dolphins swimming together and I rushed to get my camera before I lost sight of them. Luckily they reappeared right next to our boat and seemed to like the attention they were getting from us.

The Defenders of Wildlife website gives some interesting and extensive information about the lifestyle and habits of dolphins. Dolphins are mammals and are part of the toothed whale family that includes Orca’s and Pilot Whales. Dolphins are mostly gray with a few dark spots and they are carnivores and eat fish, squid and crustacean’s. They hunt and navigate through the waters by using Echolocation which is a method of sending out sound waves through the water and waiting for them to bounce off objects and coming back to them.

Dolphins are found mostly in tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. Their mating season is year round and females give birth to calves after a gestation period of 9-17 months. The young are fed by their mothers for up to 2 years and then accompany their mothers for another 3 to 8 years before they head off on their own.

 

 

 

 

 

Burmese Python Snake Hunt

Burmese-Python-Snake - Picture Courtesy of SWFWMD

Burmese-Python-Snake – Picture Courtesy of SWFWMD

 

 

 

 

 

The annual Burmese Python Snake hunt in Florida began in January and has so far brought in 68 of the non-native reptiles. The largest caught so far measured 16 ft. 10 inches. and was caught by an official of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The first year that this event was held was in 2013 and had 800 people registered and brought in 68 snakes. The Burmese Python snake is very difficult to find because of it’s camouflage skin and it’s ability to hide in the thick brush and water of the Everglades.

The snakes are having a harmful effect on Florida Wildlife because they have no known predators except very large alligators and they kill and consume all kinds of wildlife including deer, raccoons, rabbits, birds, rats and other animals. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that there are tens of thousands of the snakes in South Florida and were brought here originally as pets. Officials think they were let loose in the Florida Everglades by the hurricane that hit Florida in 1992 (Andrew) and by pet owners who could no longer care for their snakes as they got too large. The Burmese Snakes are native to Southeast Asia in countries such as India, lower China and the Malay Peninsula. They thrive in South Florida because of our warm and humid climate. To learn more about this invasive species, visit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turtles at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

click on pictures for larger images

I was walking through the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve on their boardwalk and happened to see and photograph this group of 7 turtles sunning themselves on a log in Otter Pond. The other picture is of a Softshell Turtle on a raft in Gator Lake in the preserve. Turtles are cold blooded reptiles who cannot regulate their body temperatures by moving around like mammals so they are often seen lying along the banks of rivers, ponds and swamps trying to soak up the suns rays. The turtle on the wooden raft is a Softshell Turtle and the ones standing on the log look like Red Bellied Cooter’s. Turtles feed on vegetation in their habitat along with small fish, insects, and crustaceans. Their predators include alligators, raccoons, foxes and skunks. The juvenile turtles can also be fed upon by raptors such as eagles and hawks.

Turtles such as the Red Bellied Cooter’s can submerge into water and breathe through gill like structures near their mouths. They can also breathe through their mouths. The Six Mile Slough Preserve is a fun place to see wildlife that includes a variety of birds, river otters, alligators, turtles and other small animals. The slough is a slow moving swamp which moves rainwater and storm water through a labyrinth of Cypress Trees, plants and low lying land which helps to clean our water resources and provide a home for all kinds of wildlife. Lee County manages the preserve and gives tours of the slough which is well worth the time. They also have a nature center with exhibits. The Florida Museum of Natural History contains a list of pictures and descriptions of Florida turtles.

 

 

 

 

Fencing to Protect Florida Panther

Florida Panther

Florida Panther

The Florida Panther just got a thumbs up from the Florida Dept. of Transportation which will construct an 18 mile long 10 ft. high fence to prevent these endangered animals from crossing parts of I-75 otherwise known as Alligator Alley which stretches from the east to west coasts of Florida.  The purpose of the fence will be to lessen the chances that Panthers will get hit by automobiles. 23 of these animals have been killed already this year which is close to the record of 25 killed in any one year. The Florida Panther which once roamed for hundreds of miles throughout the state has been hemmed in by the rapid loss of its habitat by human developments of cities, farms, irrigation canals and other man made structures. The new fence will be built near the toll booth on the interstate in Naples. The fence will also have openings or cross ways under the interstate where the Panthers will be able to pass through and under the roadway without the danger of being hit by cars and trucks.

The push for the additional fence was made by the Florida Wildlife Federation to the DOT and the state finally agreed to spend the $5.4 million dollars to help protect this animal. It is estimated that there are only 180 Panthers left in Florida.

The Florida Panther is a  carnivore and its’ diet consists of white tailed deer, feral hogs, raccoons, small mammals and reptiles.  They generally need at least 200 sq. miles to roam and hunt for food. They will mate in the winter season and females will produce liters of between 1-3 kittens. The kittens are especially vulnerable to other predators because they are born blind. They have dark spots when born to provide camouflage in the wild. They will eventually gain their eyesight and stay with their mother for 1 ½ years until they venture out on their own.  The National Wildlife Federation has some additional information about Florida Panthers. Some information for this post came from an article that was published in the Ft. Myers News Press on Sunday Nov. 8th. 2015, called “Study to extend Collier Panther Fencing”.  The Photo shown above is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.