January 26th, 2016
Now that winter has actually arrived, both here in Florida and in points north, I want to look back at just last month when much of the eastern United States was experiencing temperatures that could be used as a textbook example of 'unseasonable'.
Unless you have been living in a remote cave I am sure you have heard the reports that 2015 was the warmest year on record. In fact December was globally the warmest calendar month in 136 years of weather history. For anyone who wants to read more on this, Jeff Master's blog at Weather Underground is an excellent summary.
In Florida the weather was only marginally cool enough to camp a few days in November and December when it is usually ideal weather to sit around a campfire and sleep in a tent.
In mid-December I had heard that the water level was high enough to allow easy paddling up to Lake Norris. This had long been on my kayaking to-do list, so I enjoyed a beautiful Sunday on the water paddling upstream on Blackwater Creek, winding through the cypress swamp then all the way around Lake Norris and back. This scenic water body in Lake County is similar in appearance to Lake Disston in Flagler Co (see my October post) and Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County.
I was surprised to come across several scarlet hibiscus flowers along the edge of Lake Norris. It is not that this is an unusual place to see them because it is not. In fact, the best way to see this magnificent native wildflower is by boat, as it favors the wet edges of streams and ponds. But it is a summer or early fall bloomer, with flowers most often seen in July and August in this area.
During the Christmas bird count, our team noticed a few anomalies with the types and numbers of birds seen, including a low count of robins, which in a more typical year would have been driven here in large numbers by cold weather. While out canvasing birds we saw several out-of season flowers. The azaleas might not be that unusual, as they do tend to flower sporadically during even slightly mild winters earlier than their more typical late February blooms. But the big surprise were the southern magnolia flowers, which would normally be seen from late spring into early summer.
These untimely floral phenomena might be just a observational curiosity. It is unlikely - as can often happen farther north when plants bud and flower too early – that freezes will significantly harm the coming year's normal plant cycles. But as a fellow naturalist pointed out the other day, the last time there was a winter similar to this was 1997-1998. That was during an El Niño event, one that up until then was the strongest in history but surpassed by the current cycle. The warm and wet winter promoted a lot of unseasonable growth. Followed by a shift to a La Niña weather pattern that brought a dry spring and summer, making all that extra growth prime fuel for the most devastating wildfire season Florida had ever experienced. Each El Niño and La Niña period do not necessarily duplicate the resulting weather of previous events, but many of the factors that influence the weather in various areas can tend to be similar. Hopefully weather history will not repeat itself and that the increase in prescribed burns in the intervening years has helped lower the fuel load in many of Florida's natural areas and therefore make any wildfires that do occur more manageable.
January 26, 2016
December 14th, 2015
With the year coming to a close I looked back at the photographs that I made over the past twelve months and picked some of my favorites to share with you here.
Last December this “View from Blood Mountain” presented itself near the end of my first day of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. This shows the Blue Ridge Mountains in north Georgia form the highest peak of that week's hike. This trip was the subject of my February post and was followed up with another week of backpacking the next section of trail at the beginning of March. That hike was encapsulated in a video by Danial Reed which can be seen in the YouTube video "A. T. Neal's Gap to Dicks Creek Gap".
The swallow-tailed kite pictured here (and also at the top of this post) was captured (photographically) near Goethe State Forest. I had been there to hike one of the forest's Trailwalker trails and try and find some of the spring orchids to photograph. I did not have much luck with the orchids, but I did find other wildflowers and wildlife including a red-headed woodpecker and a Sherman's fox squirrel, the latter of which eluded the camera. This kite was plucking things to eat out of the tops of some trees, occasionally swooping low and close to the position I had taken near the trees of a fencerow. I did get some nice images of green addersmouth orchid on the way home that day at a location I knew about near Ocala.
This image from Lake Disston (see October post) is what I consider an iconic Florida scene, but one that is mostly only seen by kayakers, canoeists and fishermen out enjoying the state's lakes and rivers. The image shows two osprey, one on the nest and another perched nearby, in an old, gnarly, weatherbeaten cypress tree growing in the shallows of the lake surrounded by spatterdock leaves.
Closer to home on the Atlantic coast this summer I photographed seaoats backlit by the early morning sun.
Once the heat of summer broke, Virginia & I went camping at Hillsborough River State Park in October. The entrance road to the park was lined with spectacular fields of Liatris in bloom. This wildflower has several names, also known as gayfeather or blazing star. This is one of the images that I made while we were there.
I hope that you have enjoyed my photographs from the past year and that you are also inspired to go out and enjoy nature.
December 14, 2015
November 26th, 2015
Many of you have heard that outdoor retailer REI has announced that they will close their stores on Black Friday and pay their employees encouraging them to spend the day outdoors in a campaign called #OptOutside. At least one other outdoor sports retailer - NRS - has followed suit. Being out enjoying nature is such a better way to spend the day after Thanksgiving than the hustle and bustle of the annual shopping ritual, which I cannot remember ever participating in and if I did it was a very long time ago. Virginia & I have spent most of the past Black Fridays camped in a state park for the long weekend, often with friends and family.
We are not camping this Thanksgiving weekend, but we had a very special camping trip the previous weekend at Anastasia State Park. It was our first time camping with children, taking three boys on their first campout. These boys, aged 10, 6 & 4, were relatives whose family recently moved to Florida and were very enthusiastic about going camping and on a nature hike.
Boys on the Nature Trail
A torrential downpour cancelled our walk on the beach, but it did not dampen the adventure. Our endeavor to follow the advice of Richard Louv author of Last Child in the Woods and other books on children and nature seemed a success as our young camping guests seemed to have a fun time outdoors and unplugged.
Nature Scavenger Hunt in Campground
A great blog on enjoying the outdoors with youngsters is The Big Outside by Michael Lanza where there are stories about outdoor adventures, tips for backpacking with children and gear reviews.
November 26, 2015
October 19th, 2015
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of going on on a small motorboat to Lake Disston in nearby Flagler County. This state designated Outstanding Florida Water has been on my list of places to go kayaking, so when my day job boss's husband and fellow Florida Master Naturalist Dale Dittbenner suggested a late afternoon trip I quickly accepted. Also on our little excursion was Chapman Root and Victor Kowal, a visionary artist of St. Augustine.
You can see a sample of Victor's extraordinary work at victorkowal.com.
Lake Disston is a shallow lake averaging eight to ten feet in depth and covering 1844 acres. This lake is drained by Little Haw Creek, which flows into Crescent Lake. That lake then flows through Dunns Creek to the St. Johns River.
The lake is a popular fishing spot, but our attraction was the reason the National Audubon Society lists the lake as an Important Bird Area. Since we got out on the water earlier than expected, and the birding area will be best viewed closer to sunset, we toured the long way around the perimeter of the lake first passing the docks of the few houses along the shore. We did not see any of the swallow-tailed kites that are known to utilize the area of the lake while they are in Florida, we did see some of the osprey nests that, like at Blue Cypress Lake farther south, are mostly in the tops of cypress trees that grow in the shallow edges of the lake.
The first part of the rookery area where numerous birds were nesting is shown as we approached, framed by a cypress tree in the foreground in the following image.
There were a few roseate spoonbills, but most of the birds were wood storks, cattle egrets and white ibis. The wood storks had young on the nests of various ages.
Please check out the Wild Florida Photo events page for all upcoming programs, festivals and exhibits featuring the Nature Photography of Paul Rebmann.
October 19, 2015
July 31st, 2015
The photography of Paul Rebmann is being shown in two public venues.
The Halifax Historical Museum is featuring the exhibit "Our Natural World Around Us" and one of the entrance displays at the Ormond Beach Library will be filled with Wild Florida Photos during The month of August.
One of the themes of both exhibits features photographs of plants named after some of Florida's botanical explorers, such as Curtiss' milkweed named for Allen Hiram Curtiss (1845-1907).
Other explorers with images of their namesake plants include Mark Catesby (1683-1749), André Michaux (1746-1802), William Bartram (1739-1823), and Ferdinand Rugel (1806-1879).
Another theme is "Only in Florida" featuring state endemic species like the Forida Scrub Jay.
A couple of the other species found only in Florida include the peninsula cooter, Florida Indian Plantain and Celestial Lily.
Both exhibits are filled out with other images of Florida scenes, flora and fauna
"Our Natural World Around Us" opened on July 14th and will be on display at the Halifax Historical Museum, 252 S. Beach St, in downtown Daytona Beach through November 14.
An online version of the exhibit can be found at the Wild Florida Photo Halifax Historical Museum exhibit section.
During this exhibit run, I will be featuring one or two images from the exhibit at a time in limited time sales of 11 inch by 14 inch stretched gallery wrap canvas prints for only $50.
To see which image is on sale, visit the Wild Florida Photo home page or the "Our Natural World Around Us" page, and/or follow on twitter @WildFlPhoto.
An online version of the Ormond Beach Library display is also available. The photographs will be on display at the Ormond Beach Library at 30 S. Beach St, Ormond Beach, FL.
July 31, 2015
June 30th, 2015
There are many interesting spiders that can be seen in Florida. I will show you a few of them and their webs.
One of the largest and very common spider is the golden-silk spider. This member of the orb-weavers family is also often called banana spider. My photograph of a golden-silk spider hanging below her web won honorable mention in the Advanced category of Orange Audubon Society's 2015 Chertok Nature Photography contest.
The male golden-silk spiders are much smaller than the females, as can be seen in several of the photographs on the Nephila clavipes page at Wild Florida Photo.
The spiny orb-weaver is a much smaller but very distinctive spider. Also known as the crab spider or spinybacked orbweaver spider, this is also a fairly common spider, especially in Florida citrus groves. The range of Gasteracantha cancriformis extends across the southern United States, through Central and much of South America. This species may have different markings in other parts of it's range than that shown here, which is how they look in Florida.
Unlike most of the other orbweavers, the Orchard Orbweaver spins its web on a horizontal or only slightly tilted plane.
This small spider, also called the Venusta orchard spider, hangs below the center of the web which can often be seen off to the side of trails.
Last month's blog post included a crab spider on rayless sunflower. This is one of the Mecaphesa species in the crab spider family. These are also called flower spiders because instead of building webs to catch prey, they lie in wait, often well camouflaged, and catch insects that come to visit the flower. The flower spider on horsemint below is another example. This spider had caught a small bee soon after this photo was made.
The image at the top of this post is a black and yellow Argiope. Also called the writing spider for the distinctive zig-zag pattern on the web. These patterns are called stabilimentum and the immature spiders of this species make a circular one as shown below. The purpose of the stabilimentum is debated by experts. Although the name might indicate that it stabilizes the web this is not currently considered the primary function. A number of theories include: camouflage for the spider, attracting prey, attracting a mate, molting platform, sun protection, and silk production practice.
Most spiders are relatively harmless to humans, at most inflicting a painful bite. In Florida only widow and recluse spiders are venomous.
You can read more about them at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.
Spiders are part of nature's insect control, so not only are they pretty to look at, they can be beneficial to have around. These are only a few of the many kinds of spiders, some more that occur in Florida can be seen at Wild Florida Photo.
June 30, 2015
May 26th, 2015
In my years of photographing wildflowers I have found that Florida State Forests provide some of the best locations to locate interesting subjects.
The 37 state forests in Florida comprise over a million acres of land. The forest service manages these properties for resource management, to protect biological diversity and for various public uses such as hunting, hiking, bicycling and horseback riding, just to name a few.
Many of the hiking and horse trails are featured in the Trailwalker and Trailtrotter programs that encourage keeping track of the trails completed to earn small tokens of accomplishment. I have hiked over 20 of these trails, attaining the Trailwalker and Trailblazer levels. The Florida Trail also passes through some of the state forests, and many of the forests are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The natural habitats in forests throughout the state allow native, and sometimes rare, wildflowers to thrive. This is especially true when the appropriate fire management can be conducted, which the forest service strives for as resources and conditions allow.
One of my favorite locations is Tiger Bay State Forest, which is home to a substantial portion of the known populations of the rare Rugel's false pawpaw. Deeringothamnus rugelii is endemic to Volusia County, meaning this is the only place it naturally occurs. Also called yellow squirrel-banana, this little plant responds well to fire, not liking the competition from other plants after too many years without fire.
Other subjects I have photographed at Tiger Bay include Pine Lily and Pines and Milkweed Veins, a close up image of a pinewoods milkweed leaf.
Butterflies abound as well, including Zebra Longwings and a Phaon crescent butterfly in Phaon on Phyla. The tiny little flowers are turkey tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), a host plant for this and several other butterflies.
The Florida Indian Plantain,also called Florida Cacalia and subject of the photo titled Florida Cacalia Trio is another Florida endemic wildflower that I photographed both in Tiger Bay and Lake Wales Ridge state forests.
Clasping Warea, an endangered endemic wildflower was photographed in the Warea Tract of Seminole State Forest.
Goethe State Forest, where I captured this crab spider on a rayless sunflower, is also home to many native terrestrial orchids.
The horned bladderworts at Okaloachoochee Slough State Forest reminded me of little yellow conquistador helmets, which I photographed from various angles.
The fetterbush flowers at the beginning of this post were found at Point Washington State Forest in the panhandle.
There is much to experience in our state forests and I encourage anyone who enjoys nature and the outdoors to check one out.
Regular readers may remember my post earlier this year on hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail last December. Daniel and I returned for another section hike at the beginning of March and he posted a 13 minute video overview of this second wintery hike on youtube.
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May 25, 2015
May 1st, 2015
Florida is home to over a hundred orchid species, making up about half of the orchids found in North America.
Many may think of orchids as being a tropical plant, but orchids are one of the most diverse plant families and can be found almost anywhere on the planet.
I have been pleasantly surprised to come across orchids in both Michigan's upper peninsula and in Oregon's Mt. Hood National Forest.
People for centuries have had a particular fascination with orchids, with explorers traveling the world collecting new species for orchid fanciers to cultivate in their gardens and greenhouses.
This obsession, as characterized by the phrase “orchids put the cult in horticulture”, has been observed and described in various books and other writings over the years.
One of the more widely known of these is Susan Orleans' "The Orchid Thief".
"The Scent of Scandal", a more recent book by Craig Pittman is not only an entertaining true story of Florida orchid mania, it is also an informative bibliography on the subject of orchids.
My appreciation of orchids is focused on finding and photographing the many native species that are found in Florida and elsewhere.
This quest has taken me into various natural and often inhospitable habitats around the state, both on my own, and on field trips with knowledgeable orchid experts.
I have been on several field trips lead by Paul Martin Brown, author of "Wild Orchids of Florida" and other orchid guides and publications.
On one of these outings, Paul made a statement typical of orchid enthusiasts, “there are two kinds of plants in the world, orchids and not orchids”.
Thanks to Paul Martin Brown I have seen several orchids that I might not have found otherwise, including woodland ladiestresses, green addersmouth orchid and a new species that he just described about 8 years ago, Potts' plume orchid.
I have also had the pleasure of meeting Mike Owen, state biologist at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, on several occasions.
One of these was a Florida Native Plant Society field trip that he led, but the first time I met him was on my first of several visits to the Fakahatchee.
He stopped and talked to me as I was getting organized at my car in a parking area along Janes Scenic Drive.
Mike was very friendly and helpful in suggesting where I might want to go to look for interesting things to photograph.
In retrospect, he might have been also checking me out to ease his mind that I was not a poacher, as I could very easily appeared as such at first glance.
The Fakahatchee is a very different place depending upon what time of year it is.
In late spring, at the end of the dry season, it is a fairly easy place to explore.
A person can walk down any of the old logging tram paths and off into the low areas with only a few puddles here and there and if your timing is good, very few bugs.
By mid summer, the water is up and the mosquitoes are in full blood-sucking force.
In mid winter, the mosquitoes are often gone, but the water is deep.
Getting to the pretty plants involves carefully wading through waist deep water as I did with Daniel Reed one December during some of south Florida's coldest weather on record.
The orchid highlights of that adventure were the night-scented and the clamshell.
A misstep from catching my boot on a submerged log resulted in my film camera getting dipped into the swamp.
The camera continued to work the remainder of that outing, but it soon died and I was unable to revive it as I had after it's dunking in the Apalachicola Forest's Bradwell Bay several years earlier.
This development resulted in my migrating to digital photography.
Although I have seen and photographed many things in the Fakahatchee, the magnificent flower of the ghost orchid has eluded me there.
I have seen young not-yet-blooming plants in the strand, simply a few green threads of orchid roots on a tree.
The only flowers I have seen were on the plant in the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
This was only fairly recently discovered by a birder looking for owls after the devastating 2004 Florida hurricane season apparently cleared the view from the boardwalk to a ghost orchid plant high on a tree.
You can see my ghost orchid photos at Wild Florida Photo.
Not all of Florida's orchids are epiphytes, plants that grow on trees instead of the soil.
With the exception of the greenfly and Tampa butterfly orchids, most of those outside of tropical south Florida are terrestrial plants.
These include the leafless beaked lady orchid - Sacoila lanceolata - that can sometimes be found in highway right-of-ways.
The many species of ladiestresses are mostly terrestrial, with fragrant, or marsh, ladiestresses - Spiranthes odorata - being semi-aquatic, often growing in seasonally flooded areas.
The waterspider false reinorchid - Habenaria repens - is one of the few truly aquatic orchids, found along open shorelines, ditches and stagnant pools.
Orchid hunting, in my case with a camera, can be a challenging and rewarding experience, taking a person into places they might not otherwise go and also experiencing many other interesting and beautiful aspects of our wild natural world.
The orchid photographs above can be purchased online by clicking on the desired image, and you can see all 33 of the Florida orchids that I have photographed so far at the Wild Florida Photo Orchidaceae page.
April 30, 2015
March 24th, 2015
Florida's Ocklawaha River flows north 74 miles from Lake Harris in Lake County passing through Marion County and along the western border of the Ocala national Forest, ending in Putnam County, entering the St. Johns River just upstream of Welaka.
The Ocklawaha is the largest tributary of the St. Johns River, and Silver River is the largest tributary of the Ockalwaha.
The 5-1/2 mile Silver River is the outflow of Silver Springs, one of Florida's largest freshwater springs.
The name is derived from ak-lowahe, meaning muddy in the Creek language.
After the earlier Timucua people of this area were vanquished by disease and early colonists, Creeks moved in as they were pushed out of their traditional homelands to the north.
Those native peoples that remained in Florida came to be known as Seminoles.
The Ocklawaha River was one of Florida's earliest tourist attractions after the Civil War, with specially designed steamboats taking passengers along a wild jungle cruise up the Ocklawaha to Silver Springs.
This activity peaked in the 1870's and diminished after railroad service was established to Ocala in 1881.
The Ocklawaha was intended to be a major part of the cross Florida barge canal, a project started several times and canceled in the early 1970's but not before Rodman dam was built, creating a reservoir out of part of the river.
For a complete history of the canal, one should read Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida's Future by Steven Noll and David Tegeder.
The path of the canal is now the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, named for one of the people most active in the efforts to stop the canal from being built.
The July-August 2012 issue of Audubon Magazine featured an article by Ted Williams about the Ocklawaha River titled "Has One Florida Dam's Day Finally Come?".
Recommended reading for anyone who would like to know more about this beautiful river and the struggle to remove a remnant dam from the abandoned cross-Florida canal project.
Recently a new impetus to removing the dam has come from an agreement to promote Ocklawaha River restoration to improve the St. Johns River water quality to offset the effects of planned dredging for the port at Jacksonville,
The sections of the Ocklawaha that are still natural are some of the most scenic waterways in Florida and make for excellent canoeing and kayaking.
The river is enjoyed by many, including paddlers, birders, fishermen and others. It is a favorite of both myself & Virginia, and we like to be on this beautiful river as often as possible.
All of the photographs in this blog post were made along the Ocklawaha River.
March 24, 2015