Posts Tagged With: babcock-webb wma

Would You Prefer Your Woods Hydric Or Mesic? – Part Two

Hydric:  Of an environment or habitat containing plenty of moisture; very wet.

Mesic:  Of an environment or habitat containing a moderate amount of moisture.

So, as we explored the vast Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area, which in the brochure describes the ecology as a mix of hydric and mesic pine flatwoods, it was challenging to find any area to hike too far without being at least ankle deep in water. To be fair, the area has received a lot of rain recently. The strict definitions above became blurred, to say the least.

A lunch of cold chicken beside a lake surrounded by pine trees, dragonflies hovering above the shoreline, Osprey and Bald Eagles crash-diving into the water for lunch of their own, flowers blooming  in every direction – all that and the immeasurable bonus of sharing it with someone I love more than the air I breathe. Life is good.

It was tempting to head home after lunch in order to get ahead of the traffic we would invariably face as folks left work. Tough decision.

We were seeing some flowers we couldn’t identify and I was trying to figure out a way to get images of dragonflies without having to wade into waist-deep water inhabited by Florida’s representatives of the Chamber of Commerce. The ‘gators here are very healthy looking. Ahead of us, a Northern Bobwhite family rushed across the road. Typically, these skittish quail would keep going until they felt safe in the underbrush. However, as we pulled even with the spot they crossed, they were all still there! We spent the next half-hour being thoroughly entertained by this large (14!) family of birds as they clucked and cooed, chased bugs, jostled each other for a shady log, took dust baths and generally behaved like wild birds.

With all the slash pines here, the habitat is perfect for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. They used to number in the tens of thousands in the southeastern United States. Then, lumbering. A staggering and rapid loss of habitat nearly decimated their population. Finally, more intelligent management practices of timberland combined with some innovative wildlife biologists helped the species recover somewhat. We were quite fortunate to see a half-dozen adults flying to nest cavities with food for hungry youngsters. It bodes well for the future.

Late afternoon. Staggering heat and humidity. Insects galore – the type which want you to donate blood. All of it is part of the experience which is made worthwhile by glimpsing a rare woodpecker or nodding flower we’ve never seen before or the glistening golden wings of the smallest dragonfly on the continent.

The drive home was relaxing, since we had remained so long that by now all the people with jobs were already home having dinner. Oh, and that 85% chance of thunderstorms mentioned in the last post? Never materialized.

If you would care to review them, we included a few images of our afternoon adventure.

 

The Northern Bobwhite family was amazing! The first image is a male which dug a depression in the sand, nestled down and used his feet to throw up sand all over his feathers. The second shot shows a few youngsters trying to find the shadiest spot and the last pic is a young male who claimed that log as his.

Babcock/Webb WMA

Babcock/Webb WMA

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Tall with bright purple flowers, Florida Ironweed (Vernonia blodgettii) is related to sunflowers.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

White-winged Dove are common throughout the area and are larger than their cousins, the Mourning Dove.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Winged Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum) is abundant in central Florida and the combination of purple and yellow blooms attracts all sorts of pollinators.

Winged Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum)

 

Two small “hairs” on the hindwing give the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) part of its name. This small butterfly is the most common of the hairstreaks in North America.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

The smallest dove in our area is the Common Ground-Dove. They have a very monotonous call, a single “coo-coo-coo” which prompts some of us to wish they had an on/off switch.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

One of our more colorful dragons is Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami). An immature male will initially look similar to a female, mostly brown/light orange. This young male is turning bright orange and will eventually be almost all red.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Baldwin’s Milkwort (Polygala balduinii) is one of only a few white milkworts found in Florida and was a new species for us. It’s scientific name comes from the Greek polys, meaning “many”, and gala, meaning “milk”. It was once thought the presence of milkworts in pastures would increase milk production in cows.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

One of our most plentiful dragonflies is the Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida). They are fast fliers and like to perch on taller weed tips or bare twigs.

Babcock/Webb WMA

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Over 160 oils within the species likely contribute to the aroma of the Rosy Camphorweed (Pluchea baccharis).  Anecdotally, a tea made from the plant has some health benefits. (Do NOT try this at home!)

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

The Halloween Pennant  (Celithemis eponina) is always a joy to spot in the field! It’s orange color and black wing marks make it readily identifiable. This mating pair didn’t really care that I was documenting their union.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Endemic to Florida, the Pine-Hyacinth (Clematis baldwinii) bloom begins as pale pink/white, turns deeper lavender and ends, as the one we found, white at the end of the season.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

The smallest dragonfly in North America, the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) is often mistaken for a wasp. That’s not a mistake, it’s by natural design to help ward off potential predators. Golden wings shining in the late afternoon sun got my attention and this male posed for about a millisecond before flitting across the lake.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Although I couldn’t manage a good photograph, I so seldom capture a damselfly I thought I’d share it anyway. The Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis) is one of the most widespread damsels in the country and can be quite, well, “variable” in appearance depending on location.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

We had a long day. We’re tired. We’re happy. It just doesn’t matter if your woods are hydric, mesic or something altogether different. Visit them. Often.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Would You Prefer Your Woods Hydric Or Mesic?

“The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually.”
(Eeyore), A.A. Milne

 

Florida! The Sunshine State! Except when it’s raining.

Summer. The wet season. Wait, yesterday it didn’t start raining until after 3:00. Maybe tomorrow will be like that and we’ll have several hours to explore! Hmmm, the weather forecast is for 85% chance of scattered thunderstorms. That means we have a 15% chance of NOT getting rained on! AND – the storms are supposed to be scattered! Maybe it will actually rain somewhere other than where we are!

See what a problem my poor Gini faces? I’m an eternal optimist with no common sense at all. (She thinks “common” means EVERYONE has some sense about practical matters. Please don’t tell her.)

We had been wanting to return to Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area for some time. It’s about two hours from the house and near the gulf coast. It’s easy to find as it’s just off the interstate highway. With over 80,000 acres (+32,000 Ha.) it’s also easy to quickly forget how close to that highway you are. That’s a good thing, in our opinion.

A large portion of this land was purchased by Mr. Fred Babcock in the 1930’s for raising cattle, timbering and hunting. For awhile, the area was famous for a thriving pineapple industry. The state bought the land in 1941 and somewhere along the way they added the name of one of the fish and game commissioners with Mr. Babcock’s to produce the unwieldy official name: Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area.

This vast area represents the largest tract of undeveloped hydric pine flatwoods in southwest Florida. Combined with some drier areas (“mesic” flatwoods), open wet prairies, a few lakes and ponds – it is a wonderfully diverse habitat supporting a good mix of flora and fauna. Old logging roads provide easy access to much of the management lands, but take care if it has been raining or if your vehicle has low clearance. Also, this is a hunting area, so check the on-line calendar for current open hunting times. If you decide to visit during hunting season, wear a blaze orange vest and BE CAREFUL! It’s amazing how much we humans can resemble White-tailed Deer.

We arrived shortly after sunrise and our morning was filled with breathing the scent of fresh pine, admiring an incredible variety of blooming flowers, listening to woodpeckers hammering, chasing dragonflies along the edge of the wetlands, watching in awe as a group of Common Nighthawks put on a spectacular aerial display – just for us.

Egg sandwiches along with fruit was the perfect breakfast for the outdoors. It seemed we were stopping every few yards to gawk at something new. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. How had we lost track of time? We seem to do that a lot.

A few images may give you an idea of why we could care less about looking at a watch.

(Pssst. No sign of thunderstorms yet, scattered or otherwise.)

What’s for lunch?

 

An immature Bald Eagle soared over the open wet prairie searching for her own breakfast.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

There are around 40 species of Spider Lily in the New World and 13 of them are in Florida. This is the Alligatorlily (Hymenolcallis palmeri), fairly common but beautiful. Up close it has a wonderful fragrance.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Dragons and damsels were in abundance. Convincing them to pose for a photograph was a challenge. The colorful Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) would be hard to mistake for anything else. During the day we saw dozens floating above the reeds.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Pink seemed to be the color of the day for flowers in the flatwoods and prairie. A lovely Large Flower Rose Gentian (Sabatia grandiflora) languished right by the side of the road.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

One of the more common birds in this habitat is the Red-bellied Woodpecker. This one was busy finding bugs and hustling back to a nest cavity where junior was likely squawking “Hurry up!”.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Frequently found at commercial nurseries, American White Waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) somehow seems more elegant in the wild.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

A common dragonfly throughout our area is Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami). This female was very patient while I knelt down to her level for a portrait.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Resembling snapdragons, the Eastern False Dragonhead (Physostegia purpurea) is sometimes called Obedient Plant for the tendency of blossoms to remain in place if pushed or twisted.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Peeking through a curtain of pine needles, a diminutive Downy Woodpecker wastes no time in checking up, down and around limbs for signs of insects.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Much smaller than the American White Waterlily above, Big Floatingheart (Nymphoides aquatica) more than holds its own in the beauty department.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Part of maintaining a healthy habitat, prescribed burns take place regularly to help reduce accumulation of hazardous fuel (dead wood, etc.), to restore some ecological communities and to improve overall wildlife habitat. In an area of a recent burn, we found this pine tree with dripping resin “frozen” on the trunk.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

A section of wet prairie resembles a “green sky” dotted with pink “stars”.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Rounding a bend on a back road, we were blessed to watch a group of four Common Nighthawks put on an impressive aerial display as they twisted and turned at high speed chasing clouds of insects. Fast birds!

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Whew! Busy morning! We’re now at the shore of Webb Lake enjoying cold chicken and discussing whether to begin the trip home or …

Next up, Part Two.

 

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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