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With The Wild Things

With The Wild Things

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  • Ospreys -- sometimes known as “fish hawks” -- are in a family separate from other hawks and eagles, thus only distantly related to them. As a result of their preferred diet of fishes, they are intimately associated with rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters of the world’s oceans. Their food and habitat preferences, have made them intimately associated with humans and Ospreys are found on every continent except Antarctica. Osprey nests are large and sturdy as a result of use of large sticks that build a sturdy frame.
  • Gray Squirrels are our most common squirrels and are with us year round. They can beabundant in cities where there are oaks and bird feeders. They love sunflower seeds and areoften considered a scourge by humans who put out food for birds. Although stores regularly sellbird feeders that are marketed as being “squirrel-proof”, the advertiser has usuallyunderestimated squirrel abilities.
  • Habitats include the physical and biological characteristics of the place where a plant, animal, fungus, or any living creature lives – including the nature of the soil, climate, the amount of the habitat and its configuration. The presence and numbers of such things as competitors, disease-causing organisms, predators, sources of food, water, and nest sites, and safe shelter are important to all life. The extent of their importance varies greatly from species to species and often between sexes and age groups of a species. A habitat can support – or prevent the presence of many species of living creatures.
  • The Northern Flicker is a commonly seen bird across North America – and it is a woodpecker – although one more often seen on bare or mowed ground where it feeds extensively on insects and other ground- or rotted-wood-dwelling insects. Flickers in the East have yellow-tinged wing and tail feathers – those in the west have red-tinged feathers. The two color-morphs meet at the edge of the Great Plains and often interbreed – hence they are considered a single species. This is a woodpecker that is often seen in mowed and bare areas of our towns and cities as well as in the countryside. It is a poor cavity excavator, requiring nest sites with well-rotted wood – or such modern materials as Styrofoam used in trim on our homes. Occasionally it will even nest in a hole in the ground – where it may find “bed and breakfast”. Males are easily identified by their black “moustache”; females lack it.
  • Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is an invasive exotic aquatic plant that has been in Florida for hundreds of years – perhaps merely as a result of being snagged on or carried in bilge water of early sailing ships traveling between the Amazon River in South America and Florida. Once here – and in other countries around the world, it quickly reproduced and was spread down rivers and streams and even into isolated lakes by boats and individuals who admired its beauty. To this day it has negative impacts on native wildlife, shading swamp waters, thus cooling them and reducing sunlight needed by native plant species, often making it difficult for herons, egrets, Anhingas, and other aquatic animals to find food. If you boat in waters with water lettuce, always check your boat and trailer for plants caught on them. Don’t introduce this plant to waters where it isn’t currently found. In spite of its name.
  • The Double-crested Cormorant is a resident bird in Florida – especially in south Florida. Its numbers swell each winter with migrants from farther north. Cormorants are well-known as fish-eaters, although they also readily consume other small animals. These cormorants are social birds and can often be seen on open water in flotillas of a dozen or more. They typically swim on the surface with head held up and body showing above the surface – whereas their relatives, the Anhingas, typically show only their head and long neck above the water. Double-crested Cormorants have bare bright orange skin around their face, brilliantly blue eyes, and a stout hooked bill that they use to capture fish.
  • Movements of plants and animals differ tremendously and involve adaptations that vary from species to species depending on needs ranging from food sources, climate, mate availability, predator presence, basic physical characteristics, and multiple combinations of such factors. Survival of species, however, involves the ability to move and occupy new habitats and changing climatic conditions. In this week’s Wild Things I discuss a wide range of creatures and the way in which they are adapted to move as needed through their world – and ours.
  • The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird whose vocalizations are often not musical. It is also a predator that feeds on creatures ranging from small caterpillars to mice, lizards, small snakes, and birds. This is a bird of more open areas, but its nests are typically in a dense tangle of small branches of a tree or shrub. It hunts in open areas, often from a fence or utility wire. Its flight is typically low, direct, and fast. Shrikes often take advantage of insects, birds, and other small animals injured by traffic on our roads and – as a result of their typical low flight, are often highway victims themselves. Pruning of trees and shrubs to “open them up” is a major threat to shrikes (and other songbirds) because it opens their nests to predators. As a result of such pruning, highway traffic, and pesticides, Loggerhead Shrike populations have declined greatly.