This is one of my favorite moments in nature. A gray fox quietly appeared out of the underbrush. It watched me for a few minutes before it trotted into a clearing and then into an opening in the scrub. It is a rarity to see one of these beautiful creatures in the wild and it is exciting every time.
When we see dense scrub areas with three and four foot plants, we can take a moment to imagine some of the wildlife that may live in this type of habitat. There could be foxes using hollow trees, hollow logs or large underground holes as dens for their families. Gopher tortoises and rabbits may be seen grazing on wild grasses and plants. Footprints of nocturnal animals like raccoons and opossum may be found in the soft white sand. There may even be a wavy print in the sand revealing that snakes are here. This is home to all of these creatures.
The scrub area is a unique environment that protects animals and allows them to move about freely and undetected along the many pathways that are beneath the lush greenery. These pathways are like tiny forest roads made especially for nature by nature. Simply amazing!
We are in the middle of sea turtle nesting season here in South Florida. The season runs from April through September of each year. These tracks were made by the most common sea turtle found in Florida – a Loggerhead. During the night, this Loggerhead made her way to higher ground and used her back flippers to dig the perfect hole where she may have laid more than 90 eggs before returning to the ocean. Her eggs will incubate for approximately two months. Then, usually under cover of darkness, the babies hatch, crawl frantically to the surface and scurry to the Atlantic Ocean for their first swim. Look closely at the strand of seaweed and you will see an empty sea turtle eggshell. Perhaps many years from now the turtle from this eggshell will return to this beach to nest.
Sunshine and cool breezes welcome us outdoors at this time of year. Within the next few weeks, we should see small birds, squirrels and other creatures trying out their new wings and feet. The young squirrels will remind us that this is a playful time of year as they chase each other and tumble through the grass. So, let’s get outside and have fun!
There is so much to see and discover. Bright, colorful flowers are plentiful and in full bloom. Some share their fragrance during the day, some in the evening, and some seem to be fragrance free. The butterflies, bees, dragonflies, beetles and other insects find the flowers irresistible. So, if you have flowering plants in your yard, it is likely that you will get to see some of these fascinating flyers in action.
If you are not seeing these creatures in your yard but want to attract wildlife to your yard; you can find a few tips from my children’s book “A Big Eyed Surprise” by clicking on the “Wildlife in Your Backyard” tab at the top of this page. Enjoy!
Have you visited any unusual forests lately? The Mangrove Forests of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon are impressive for many reasons and especially for their environmental significance. Mangroves thrive in the shallow waters of this waterway. These salt-tolerant plants with very unusual roots provide unique habitat for many creatures above and below the water line. Birds, butterflies and insects flourish in the canopy – while fish, snakes, crabs and other wildlife occupy the lower branches, ground and water.
Mangroves provide some of the most important nursery areas for young fish to safely develop into larger fish that can venture from this sanctuary. Just imagine being a fish and having this wonderland to swim in – it is the perfect place to be with other fish, hunt for food or take refuge if a bigger fish has lunch on its mind.
The high tides and low tides reveal a very different perspective of life in the mangrove forests – from roots submerged in liquid, to roots embedded in sand flats. Check the tides to plan your visit. Kayaking is a relaxing and enjoyable way to experience the mangrove forests but many areas are easily accessible by foot….so enjoy.
Have you seen this video of Indian River Lagoon mangroves? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmPEkSPHsXA
Note: The new 2014 Indian River Lagoon Calendar is out, free and available at many of the public libraries in Brevard and Martin County. This educational calendar is filled with vibrant photos of life with our lagoon.