Monthly Archives: January 2017

Silver River Post 4 – January 28, 2017

Over the past 3 days I have shared pics from our January 25 trip on the Silver River.  Those posts covered the general paddle, turtles, gators, manatee, monkeys, and flowers.  Today’s post includes pics of birds.

The Silver River is our go-to river for bird photography because you can usually get quite close (which is a requirement for our point-and-shoot cameras) and because there is such a wide variety of birds along its short 5-mile length.  It’s also a courtship, breeding, nesting and nursery ground for several species.  Here are some of my favorites from the day.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodrias)

Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodrias) are territorial and stake their claim to a specific piece of shoreline. They are solitary except during breeding season.

Female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) drying her wings. Anhingas and Cormorants do not have oil glands like other water birds so they must dry out their wings several times each day.  Females have a buff-colored neck while males are black.

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata) usually scurry into the vegetation ahead of us, but these three were busy feeding and paid us little attention. They are easy to identify by their red-orange face plates and their loud cackling. Although they look like ducks they do not have webbed feet.

Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

A Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) upset many of the smaller river birds as it swooped back and forth over the river looking for a meal

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

This Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is upset by the hawk swooping over the river. When excited they first extend their necks then they will lift the feathers on the top of their heads.

White birds against a dark background are very difficult to photograph, especially with point-and-shoot cameras which tend to over-expose anyway.  The detail in the white feathers easily gets washed out.  I’ve been experimenting with different settings to overcome this problem.  I’m not satisfied yet, but I think things are improving.

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea). They are white for their first year and frequently mix with White Ibis flocks. During their second year they gradually morph into their slate blue adult plumage.

Mature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Mature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) showing off it’s iridescent purple neck. Whether young or mature they can always be identified by their pale greenish legs and beak.

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) roosting in a tree. NEVER paddle UNDER an Ibis tree unless you want a white speckled kayak!

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) hunting crusteans in matted vegetation. Ibis are social birds and can be seen in huge flocks year round.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egret (Ardea alba) starting into breeding plumage. You can see the aigrettes (whispy featherings) coming off the back and if you look closely a hint of green around the eyes.

.

Silver River Post 3 – January 27, 2017

Yesterday and the day before I shared pics from our January 25 trip on the Silver River.  Those posts covered the general paddle, turtles, gators, manatee, and monkeys.  Today’s post includes pics of flowers.

Even in the winter in Florida you will find many flowers in bloom, especially along the rivers and streams.  Here are some pics of some of the most common fall and winter native blooms that you are likely to see.

Pickeral Weed (Pontederia cordata) in spite of it’s name is a beautiful flower.  This emergent aquatic plant is often 3 feet tall with a spike about 6 inches long full of small flowers.  The flowers bloom in succession from the bottom up, so that the plant displays flowers over several days.

Closeup of Pickeral Weed (Pontederia cordata)

Closeup of Pickeral Weed (Pontederia cordata)

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is native to the northern half of Florida.  It is found in areas of shallow water that stay wet year-round.  Flower stalks may stand 4-5 feet tall.  Large numbers of buds are produced along the stem and flowering begins at the bottom and works its way to the top.  Because of this, individual plants may be in flower for nearly a month.

Close up of the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Close up of the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Spatterdock (Nuphar advena) has large heart-shaped leaves that can be up to 16 inches long. The floating leaves are attached to long, fat stems which grow to over 6 feet in length. Spatterdock flowers are yellow and “half-opened” at or above the water surface.  They are frequently confused with its relative the Water Lily, but Water Lily flowers open and Spatterdock remains a ball.  The seeds are eaten by ducks and other birds, muskrat, beaver, and nutria will eat the roots.  Deer also browse on the flowers and leaves.  Spatterdock is also a valuable plant for fish and wildlife habitat.  Its large leaves provide shade, hiding places from predators, and a home for many tiny invertebrates which fish and birds use for food.

Spatterdock (Nuphar advena) flower with grasshopper

Spatterdock (Nuphar advena) flower with grasshopper

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) blooms in the late fall as a deep bluish-purple “daisy” that fades in the sun.  By winter time it is usually more white with just a tinge of pink or lavender.  It is found all along the streams of Florida except in the western Panhandle and can create huge bushes of blooms.

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens)

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens)

Strap-leaf Sagittaria (Sagittaria kurziana) is a rooted submersed plant.  This native plant is found throughout central and northern Florida.  Strap-leaf sagittaria has dark green, ribbon-like leaves that are about three-quarters of an inch wide and are typically 2 to 3 feet long. Strap-leaf sagittaria flowers emerge just above the water, or lie on the surface.

Sagittaria kurziana, sometimes called Strap-leaf Sagittaria

Sagittaria kurziana, sometimes called Strap-leaf Sagittaria

Burr Marigold (Bidens laevis) is an emersed plant that produces flowers especially valuable to pollinating insects.  Burr Marigolds bloom in late fall through early winter and occurs statewide in Florida in wet soil habitats.  Individuals reach about 3 feet tall at flowering time and can spread into great masses of gold in wetlands and along stream banks.

Burr Marigold (Bidens laevis)

Burr Marigold (Bidens laevis)

 

 

Silver River Post 2 – January 26, 2017

Yesterday I shared pics from our January 25 trip on the Silver River.  That post covered the general paddle, turtles and gators.  Today’s post includes pics of manatee and monkeys.

When we stopped for lunch at the old state park dock we met paddlers coming downstream who told us they had spotted manatee up near the head spring.  Instead of heading back as planned we decided to paddle on up to see if we could find them.  Just as we passed the island we were greeted by a blast of air from the water as a young manatee surfaced right in front of our boats.

Manatee surfacing with a blast of air

Manatee surfacing with a blast of air

Often times all you can see are nostrils and a bit of gray above the surface

Often times all you can see are nostrils and a bit of gray above the surface

Manatee sleep underwater but need to surface to breathe every 15 minutes or so.  When active and feeding they will surface to breathe every 2-3 minutes.  Be sure to give them their space, especially when they are feeding and sleeping.  Manatee can be curious and if they come to you, that’s okay.  But you should not harass them by crowding them.  They need their all their energy to eat and sleep.

Young manatee sleeping on the river bottom

Young manatee sleeping on the river bottom

On the way up we ran across two separate troops of monkeys.  Actually they are Rhesus macaques, so technically they are not monkeys, but that’s what they are called locally.  There are several troops along the Silver River and several more have been established upstream and downstream on the Silver’s confluence with the Ocklawaha River.

The troops generally come down to the river in the afternoons or earlier on hot days.  There are usually several adult “guard monkeys” consisting of the males and “aunties” or females without little ones, that control the perimeters and stand guard for the youngsters and babies.  Be very wary of the “guard monkeys” as they can be very protective and will attack if they feel the troop is threatened.

Guard monkey on the river as the troop approaches

Guard monkey on the river as the troop approaches

Guard monkey watching from the trees

Guard monkey watching from the trees

 

 

 

By six weeks of age babies can move independent of their mothers, but generally they stay within a short distance of her for about a year.  We can spend hours watching the antics of the babies as they explore their world – climbing vines, jumping from tree to tree, climbing out to the ends of branches to reach the tender young buds, chasing and tumbling with each other on the river banks.

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

A youngster checking us out.

A youngster checking us out.

Babies playing in the trees

Baby playing in the tree vines

We have watched the monkeys eating the new buds on trees, nuts, leaves, flowers, seeds and grasses.   When not playing and eating you will frequently see them grooming each other.

Adult eating tree buds

Adult eating tree leaves

Adults grooming each other.

Adults grooming each other.