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Wood Duck & Ducklings

This wood duck and her ducklings were photographed while kayaking the Ocklawaha River.

WOOD DUCK - Aix sponsa

Wood ducks are found in forested wetlands, along rivers, ponds, lakes, swamps and marshes throughout Florida, although rare in the keys. Wood ducks breed from southern Canada into much of the eastern United States to Cuba and in the west coast states. They winter in the southern portion of the breeding range and into the southwest states and Mexico.
This is one of the few ducks that nest in tree cavities, usually over or near the water. Declines in the number of natural cavities have prompted the placement of nest boxes which the ducks readily utilize. After hatching the chicks drop from the nest and make their way to the water.
The males are very colorful when in breeding plumage, their head has a long green crest with shades of purple and white markings. The breast is chestnut colored, the belly is white and they are reddish-violet under the tail. The back and tail are black with a metallic sheen. Non-breeding males are gray, without the crest but retaining white head markings. Females are similar to non-breeding males but with white around the eye tapering to the rear instead of the male's head stripes.

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This featured photo is an extreme close-up side view of the flowers of tall elephantsfoot. This plant is also called Florida elephantsfoot. This photograph was made at the Clearwater Lake Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest.

Elephantopus elatus - TALL ELEPHANTSFOOT

Elephantopus elatus is a common wildflower of pine flatwoods, sandhills, dry prairies and other uplands and ruderal sites throughout nearly all of Florida. The range includes the southeastern coastal states from Louisiana into South Carolina.
Elephantsfoot is a perennial growing to just over two feet tall from a rhizome. Basal rosettes of elliptic or lanceolate leaves with hairy undersides help identify this plant even when not in bloom. The stems are often branching with much smaller alternate, sessile and elliptic leaves. The white, pink or pale purple tubular florets appear above three leaf-like, deltoid, hairy bracts.

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The featured photo shows a zebra longwing butterfly feeding on beggarticks which are also called Spanish needles with another zebra longwing in flight in the background. Heliconius charithonius is the state butterfly of Florida.

Heliconius charithonius - ZEBRA LONGWING

The zebra longwing can be found throughout the Florida peninsula, mostly in hammocks and along the edges of forested rivers and streams. The range includes the West Indies, south Texas, Mexico and Central America.
Heliconius charitonius has a wingspan of from about three to four inches. The forewings are long and narrow, jet black above with three yellow bands. The hindwings have one yellow band and a row of yellow spots. The undersides of the wings are paler, with red spots at the base. The adult butterflies can be seen feeding on numerous wildflowers including firebush and beggarticks.
The larvae are a white caterpillar with rows of white dots and six rows of black spines and feed exclusively on passionflower vines.
Zebra longwing is one of the subjects of the January/February 2019 Paul Rebmann Nature Photography newsletter.

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This tiny wildflower was photographed in the Clark Bay Conservation Area.

Erigeron quercifolius -  OAKLEAF FLEABANE

A common wildflower of moist hammocks and disturbed sites in most of Florida. Not occurring in the western panhandle. The range of Erigeron quercifolius extends throughout the southeast, west into Louisiana and Arkansas and north into Tennessee and North Carolina. This species is considered an exotic in Virginia.
This small daisy-like flower is over 1 cm (4/10 in.) wide and has over a hundred ray petals. The flowers have yellow disks and the ray petals can be white, pinkish or nearly purple. Blooming season is typically late winter through summer. The elliptic to oblanceolate leaves are hairy, mostly basal and lobed or toothed. The cauline leaves are clasping and reduced above. The stem is villous-hirsute.
The only other fleabane species in Florida with over 100 ray petals is Erigeron philadelphicus - Philadelphia fleabane - which occurs mostly in counties where E. quercifolius is not found.


While hiking the Buncombe Hill nature trail in Tiger Bay State Forest I spotted this green anole on a saw palmetto frond.

Anolis carolinensis - Green Anole

Fifteen or twenty years ago I would only see these Florida native anoles in very remote wild places. But they appear to be making a comeback and are now once again seen more frequently both in the wild and in more human populated areas. I even saw one in our yard recently, where we normally only see the non-native brown anoles or the invasive Mediterranean geckos. Of the 7 or 8 species of Anoles found in Florida, the green anole is the only undisputed native.
Green anoles may vary their body color from green to brown depending upon their surroundings, mood, temperature or health, but they are not chameleons, as they are sometimes called.
Found in various habitats throughout Florida and the southeastern coastal plain from Oklahoma and Texas to North Carolina. Anolis carolinensis used to be the most common anole in Florida, however the brown anole is now more frequent in some areas, most noticeably in urban and suburban habitats of the central and southern peninsula.
Green anoles are slender, seven to eight inches long with a long wedge-shaped snout and long thin tail. Body is white below and the males have a pink dew lap that can be extended from below the throat to signal adversaries and potential mates.

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I call this image of the base of a fallen cypress tree "Cypress Knees Akilter". This photo was taken from a kayak in the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.

Cypress Knees Akilter - Taxodium distichum - BALD CYPRESS

This slow-growing tree can be found throughout most of Florida in lakes, swamps, floodplains and along streams. The range extends north to New York and west into Texas, mostly in the coastal plain, and up the Mississippi River drainage into southern Illinois.
The trunk of bald cypress is spreading at the base with a deep tap root and spreading roots that send up knees extending out of the soil and water. The purpose of these knees is not entirely clear, but they are believed to help both with support and gas exchange.
The vast cypress forests of the southeast United States have mostly been timbered, leaving few old-growth trees. The Suncoast chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society has produced a brochure called Why kill a tree to grow a flower? (pdf file) explaining the detriments of using cypress mulch and listing some alternatives that are available.
There are more photographs of bald cypress trees on the Lake Disston page and the Dwarf Cypress page.