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NORTHERN HARRIER

An adult male hawk flying low over the marsh grasses along the edge of Lake Kissimmee.

Also known as the marsh hawk, this long-winged and long-tailed hawk of open grasslands and marshes winters in Florida. The cold season range extends throughout most of the United States, south through Central America and the Caribbean into northern South America. Found year-round from Ohio through much of the central great plains into the northwest states plus southern and coastal British Columbia. The summer range adds most of Canada and Alaska.
This is one of the few raptor species that is dimorphic, where the sexes look very different. The male has a gray back and white underside. The female has a brown back and wings, with the underside brown and white striped. Unlike other hawks, northern harriers use sound as well as sight when hunting prey, having stiff facial feathers that form an owl-like disk to improve hearing.
To see more photos, including shots of a female northern harrier, click the featured photo or title above.



EARLY BLUE VIOLET

As the name implies, this perennial wildflower of sandhills and flatwoods throughout much of Florida can be a harbinger of spring.

Absent from the central east coast and south peninsula of Florida, the range includes much of the eastern United States.
The leaves of this violet are all basal, on long stalks and palmately divided into three or more lobes. The flowers are blue to violet, often with white centers, with dark blue veins, and occasionally mostly white. The five petals are up to 2.5 cm (1 in.) across and are on long stalks. Early blue violets, also known as wood violets, can also have self-pollinating flowers that do not open and are on reclining stalks. Flowering is in April and May through much of the range, but as early as March in Florida. The fruit is an ovoid, purple-brown mottled capsule containing brown seeds.



AIR-POTATO

Invasive Species Awareness Week was Feb 26 through Mar 4, 2011. Pythons in the Everglades are widely publicized, but less well known as an invasive is the air potato, shown here covering trees and even growing up the trunk of a palm into the crown.

This invasive vine is frequent in disturbed hammocks and thickets throughout much of peninsular Florida, the central panhandle, plus Nassau, Duval and Escambia Counties. Dioscorea bulbifera can also be found in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
The large, strongly veined, cordate leaves are distinctive year-round, as are the large hanging namesake fruit when present. In Florida, the plant rarely flowers.
Read more about invasive species at the FNPS blog or visit the Florida Invasive Species Partnership. Better yet, remove invasive plants from your property and volunteer for an air-potato roundup at a local park.
To see other invasive plants on the Wild Florida Photo website, go to the Search Plants page, select FLEPPC I, II, or the Both I & II choice, then click the Search button.



BELTED KINGFISHER

and

SPANISH MOSS

A scene along the Ocklawaha River of a belted kingfisher perched in a tree draped with Spanish moss.

Found along sheltered waters year round in most of the continental United States except north-central, southwest and the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. In summer the range extends north through much of Canada and Alaska except for the most northern regions. In the winter belted kingfishers can also be found in the southern areas of the US and into Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean coast of South America.
Ceryle alcyon is the only kingfisher that occurs in Florida. The territorial call is a harsh, unsteady clattering. The belted kingfisher also makes a higher, shorter and more musical rapid trill.
This is the most reliably seen bird when canoeing or kayaking on Florida waterways. They perch in the trees over water and when approached will fly, arcing out over the river, to a perch farther away. This flight pattern is repeated until the bird reaches the end of its territory, at which point it will fly in a bigger and often higher arc back to the area it came from. Typically another kingfisher will soon be seen and followed along the river repeating the same behavior.
Spanish moss is a distinctive characteristic of the southeastern United States and can be found throughout Florida, most often in live oak and bald cypress trees. Tillandsia usneoides is the same family as the many other native Florida airplants, all of which are related to the pineapple.
Purchase Kingfisher and Spanish Moss by Paul Rebmann



CRESTED CARACARA

The habitats of the crested caracara are the prairies and palm groves in the south central peninsula of Florida, mostly north and west of Lake Okeechobee.

Caracara cheriway is also a permanent resident of Texas and southern Arizona, ranging into central and south America as far as the Amazon River area of Brazil.
Appearing like a long-legged hawk, the behavior is much like vultures, which caracara often associate with. Perching on posts and in trees, caracara will also walk and run on the ground feeding on carrion and small animals. They sometimes hunt in pairs.
Caracara have a black cap with a crest at the back. The bare skin on the face that is frequently yellow can change quickly to red, orange, or a gray that matches the bill color. The long legs are pale in juveniles and yellow as adults. The white tail is tipped with a wide dark band. The neck is pale with faint barring on the upper back and breast.
An interesting blog entry describing caracara nesting behavior can be found at Florida Nature Adventures.
Caracara, which translates from Spanish as 'face-face', is the national bird of Mexico.



COLUMNED STINKHORN

A putrid aroma is usually noticed before this mushroom is seen.

Most commonly ranging through the southeastern Gulf coastal states, Columned stinkhorn has been found as far north as Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York. They grow in sandy soil as well as in the leaf litter and rotting debris of woods, and like many of the stinkhorns, often appear in areas mulched with wood chips.
Clathrus columnatus has two to five reddish sponge-like columns growing from a white egg in the ground, the remnants of which can often be seen still attached around the base of the columns. These columns are fused at the top, forming a roof over the dark glebra, or spore mass. The fetid odor attracts insects, such as flies, that help distribute the reproductive spores. Columned stinkhorn is a member of the Phallaceae family of fungi.