Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dodging Raindrops: Some Botany, Ornithology and Climatology

Saturday January 4th Cloudy, Light Rain, 75F 24C

Savannas Preserve State Park

At 3 in the afternoon, I headed out on the Yellow and then the White Trails in this state park.  The cloudy and relatively cool conditions permitted a quick 4 miles walk.  These trails go through the Pine-Oak Savanna bounded by large-scale marshes and swamp.  So, a great diversity of plants are found, including ferns.  Florida is home to over 120 species of ferns, though, sadly, half of these are threatened.

One native wetland fern is the Toothed Midsorus Fern or Swamp Fern, Blechnum serrulatum.

It is very common in the park and quite noticeable. In the USA, it is found only in Florida, and is rare in the panhandle.

The fronds are pinnate, alternate, very slightly toothed.    As suggested by one common name, the sori crowd the middle of the pinnae:

New fronds have an attractive form and colour:

Sunday January 5th Partly Cloudy, Scattered showers, 80F 26C

Breaking with habit, I rose at 5:45 AM to assist with the annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for Martin County, Florida.

I drove out to the appointed  location, meeting Bill, John and Pat at 7:00 AM. The CBC divides a county into zones which are covered by a combination of driving, and walking by a team. Having four good birders on a team increases the chances of spotting and identifying as many birds as possible in the given zone.  Bill, as the experienced leader, took us to a number of places he has previously identified as being "bird rich".  We had great fun, and the day went very fast.

Also I am pleased to report that we did find 60 species of birds, and 2 of these species were "lifers", that is these birds were the first I have identified with certainty ever! This is always thrilling for we bird folk.

Both of my new species were southern warblers: 1.  the Prairie Warbler, Dendroica discolor  This was the second Prairie Warbler of the day.  Bill found both.  The first eluded me. The second, thanks to Bill's quick and sure identification, and John's excellent directions, I was able to see in its full glory with all the male field marks easily seen at eye level.  It was a beautiful sight.

2,  the Yellow-throated Warbler,  Dendroica dominica  I found this one...and what a visual treat. This small beautifully marked warbler is visually stunning. 

We also found Pine Warblers and several White-eyed Vireos. One of the latter, another lovely and striking bird, appeared just in front of us at eye level, giving me the best views of this bird I have ever had.

Thanks to Bill, we were able to go to the home of his friend Bob, who has had Painted Buntings at his feeder,  Bob welcomed us into his well-situated home, and we lucked out.  Two females first appeared, followed by a single male in full regalia.  Look up or Google the Painted Bunting- one of the most colorful birds anywhere.

Thanks Bill, John and Pat for including me in this shared experience.

My New Birder Friends from left John, Pat, Bill Hoping for Species number 60
A Rose between 2 Thorns from left Blogger Art, Pat, Bill
Enjoy the night.  I will be dreaming of the birds we saw, and the promise of more to come.