Saturday, January 9, 2016

Fantastic Florida Flora and Flows

January 4 -7, 2016
Happy New Year dear readers.  Your blogger has returned to Florida after a 22 month absence.  Past blogs have been from the Atlantic coast of Florida. This year, I am exploring the Gulf coast portion of Florida appropriately termed the Nature Coast.
Based in Dunnellon steps from the Rainbow River, I will be providing a few views from some of Florida's best natural places.

Rainbow Springs, source of the Rainbow River
First and foremost, Two rivers wend their ways past the Rainbow Rivers Club (Dunnellon Florida) which I have chosen for residence for the next few months. The first is the Rainbow River or, as it is also known locally, Blue Run.
Looking downstream from Rainbow Springs
This clear spring-fed river is always 72 degrees F, all year round.  It supports a vibrant, diverse ecosystem through a very natural part of Florida.
Kayak and blogger foot view of the lower Rainbow River

The Rainbow is a popular kayak and canoe route all year round.  The home you see is in the town of Dunnellon.

Note the Wood Duck boxes. I have already seen three pairs of  Wood Ducks, Aix sponsa,  in the area. The males are in full Spring regalia, and when one decides to pose, a photo will be provided.  Aix is Greek for water bird and sponsa is Latin for betrothed, as it appears the males are so decked out, they could be going to a wedding. On the left, a Bald Cypress. Taxodium distichum emerges out of the river.  How many birds can you see on this tree?
On a lower branch sits a female Anhinga, Anhinga anhinga. Whereas you may see these birds in a few adjoining coastal states in summer, you will only see them in Florida in winter. 
At the top sits an a juvenile Double-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus .  They are both fishers, and share many common features which causes people to often mistake one for the other.
Red Maples festooned with Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usneoides,   (readers will recall from a previous blog that this plant is not Spanish and it is not moss!) hang over the river. Many Red Maples, Acer rubrum, in the area still have most of their leaves.
Their chicken-like cackles resonate across the marshes, yet few are seen, as they hide in the shoreline matts of aquatic vegetation-Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, peeking at me.
 Between dives, these little fellows look like small ducks floating down the river- Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps.

 A Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,  passes along the river.  Both Black and Turkey Vultures fly by here constantly all day. Locals call them Buzzards.
 Southern Red Maples have season confusion, as the leaf out, flower and set seeds (above and below)in January. Spanish Moss (Tillandsia) festoons the Red Maple branches.
 Above and below, a male Anhinga alights on a tree and proceeds to spread its wings to dry after a fishing foray.
This heron dozes during the day in an inconspicuous place and hunts at dusk and beyond. Its screech resonates through the marshes when it takes off, causing many a human to run in terror.  Not uncommon but rarely seen, the Black-crowned Night-Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax,  winters here and, in summer,  some do breed as far north as our home on the Ottawa River. This mature bird was with two immature herons. Listen to their calls here, especially the "Hoarse Scream":
 Above the dock at the small lake on the Rainbow Rivers Club property. Below, your blogger paddles along with fishing line, ever hopeful one of the Large-mouthed Bass, Micropterus salmoides, will be attracted to the bait.  Bass in the 8-15 pound range are caught in the rivers and in the ponds.