Thursday, August 16, 2018

Florida Nature: Loons

The red-throated loon is the smallest, slightest of the divers. It is distinctive among loons not only in size, but also in behavior, vocalizations, locomotion, and other aspects of life history. The Red-throated Loon, unlike other loons, does not need to patter on the water's surface on a long takeoff, but rather can take flight directly from land if necessary. Most loons must paddle furiously across the surface of the water before becoming airborne, but the small Red-throated can practically spring directly into the air from land, a useful ability on its tundra breeding grounds. Whereas only males of other loon species vocalize, both male and female


Common loons are heavy-bodied birds that sit low in the water just offshore. They are known as the great northern diver by British birders and for good reason. They dip their heads below the surface to visually locate prey and then power through the water with large webbed feet. Streamlined and efficient underwater swimmers, loons can quickly move in on small fish, crabs and invertebrates, usually swallowing them while still submerged. Most dives are shallow and last less than a minute, but deep dives may last up to five minutes. Loons are adapted to life on the water; their legs are located so far back on their bodies that they are one of the few birds that cannot walk on land. Instead they must crawl or push their bodies onto land or into their nests.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Florida Nature: Rhesus Macaque Monkey

The Florida population of  rhesus macaque gained a foothold niche in the Silver River State Park  Local legend has it that the monkeys descended from animals used to film several Tarzan movies nearly 50 years ago at Silver Springs. The first monkeys were brought here at that time, but by a former Jungle Cruise operator who figured that the animals would add an exotic and amusing touch to the lush natural setting. In addition, various colonies of rhesus and other monkey species are speculated to be the result of zoos and wildlife parks destroyed in hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Andrew.

 The rhesus macaque has a brown body with lighter brown under parts. The monkey's face and rump are red. The average height for females is 18.5 to 20.9 inches, and 19 to 25 inches for males. The average weight for females is approximately 9 to 24 pounds, while males weigh between 12 to 24 lbs. The head is round, the eyes oval, and the ears small. The front legs are longer than the hind legs.

 A diurnal animal, the Rhesus Macaque is both arboreal and terrestrial; it is mostly herbivorous and feeds on leaves and pine needles, roots, and the occasional insect or small animal. The monkey has specialized pouch-like cheeks, allowing it to temporarily hoard its food. The gathered morsels are eaten sometime later, in safe surroundings.

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Ribbit Ribbit: Florida Frogs


When a heavy evening rain is impending during the spring or summer, many frogs and toads begin to call. This is the first signal of intense breeding activity. Frogs and toads generally mate at night, since the darkness conceals them from sharp-eyed predators, especially wading birds. As rain starts to fall more and more frog voices are heard, until in certain places it becomes almost deafening.  Although it may seem like frogs are just singing for fun, it is actually the males who are calling to set up territories and to attract females. Most frogs in Florida breed and lay their eggs in shallow, temporarily flooded ponds, ditches, and depressions. Temporary water holes do not have large resident populations of predators, such as fish, salamanders, and water snakes, that would feed on the eggs or tadpoles because theses shallow pools usually dry up quickly.
The Pine barrens tree frog is only about 1–3 inches  long and is one of the smaller species of tree frogs. Members of the species are predominantly green, with wide dark stripes. They often have spotted orange-gold markings on the hidden surfaces of their legs, and also tend to have large toe pads. Pine Barrens tree frogs are most commonly found in brushy areas, often near peat bogs or shallow ponds. They usually inhabit areas carpeted with thick moss. Adults are terrestrial, but tend to reside near water sources. Unlike most frogs, Pine barrens tree frog are tolerant of low pH levels, and often lay eggs in shallow, acidic ponds. Members of the species are currently distributed in three distinct populations: New Jersey Pine Barrens, the Sandhills of North and South Carolina, and the Florida Panhandle area.



Gopher Frog (Rana capito)- These nocturnal frogs are noted for their short, stubby appearance. Their backs are marked heavily with dark spots, sometimes causing a clouded pattern. Their dorsolateral ridges are very distinctive. This frog will reach a length of 4.33 in.  The gopher frog usually spends daylight hours in burrows, holes, or tunnels that are created by other animals. The Gopher frog primarily inhabits the threatened sandhill communities, flat woods, and scrub in the Atlantic coastal plain, where it is usually found near ponds. The gopher frog breeds on spring nights in very wet conditions. They seem to be rare, but their secretive nature makes it difficult to determine their true population status.


Bog Frogs have rough dark green to brown backs, black mottled undersides, yellow throats, and may have light spots on the lower jaw. A light brown line runs along the lateral fold and does not reach the groin area. This frog is less than 2 inches long. This frog is uncommon in Florida and is found only in a few acidic streams in Walton, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties in the panhandle. The Florida bog frog will call from spring to summer with a call which sounds like a chuckle -- a series of low-pitched single clucking calls, noticeably slower at the end of the call.

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