Sunday, April 17, 2016

Moving Poop Mimic Swallowtails To The Giving Tree

What do you do if you're a tasty caterpillar who hatches in the Spring ... at the same time that thousands of bird parents are busy hunting tasty caterpillars to feed their young?

Answer: 
You become the one thing they avoid.
You become their poop...not really, ...cause that would mean they ate you ... epic fail for you.
You become their "Poop Mimic".


On the leaf above are 2 swallowtail butterfly larvae.
The one on the left is in bird poop stealth mode.
The righterpillar is showing off.

Swallowtail caterpillars ("Cats" for the rest of this post) love to forage on the citrus family. Here at PFHQ...(Pure Florida Head Quarters, nubes)... they like my 5 store-bought citrus trees and my native Hercules Club tree.
The problem with that is that I like them too.


There is a 6th Citrus tree here at PFHQ however, and THAT is where this trio of citrus leaf munching metamorphosissin' Cats are heading.
Citrus tree Number 6 is the tallest, healthiest, foliagastical, tree of them all.
Number 6 sprung from an orange seed spit over the porch rail and into the flower bed below years ago.
I remember spotting it when it was a wee thing and leaving it... just to see what it might do.
BOOM!
With no care, no frost protection, and no fertilizer (except for turtle tank water tossed over the rail at tank cleaning time), this tree has grown taller than the porch roof with a DBH of about 4 inches.
To describe its canopy as "lush" is to damn with faint praise.
Number 6 is also armored with 3 inch long, hard, pointy spikes on every branch and twig.

It has not blossomed yet, so what it will be is a mystery, but almost certainly it will be a sour orange,
...which will be just awesome for my Cuban cooking adventures.

So yes, for a Swallowtail Cat post, I have gone on and on about good ol' Number 6.
That's so you'd realize how megahealthy Number 6 is, since in the picture below I am adding Swallowtail Cats to that very tree.



Several times during the week, I scout the store-bought Satsuma, Kumquat, and Meyer Lemon trees for Cats, and then move them to Number 6.


They like it there.
So many leaves.
So little time.

Here's Spike working out on the SpineFlex.

And here's a nube just added to Number 6. He's about a half inch long.


This Catransporting from my young,expensive, and struggling store-bought citrus to Number 6 is a Win-Win situation for the trees and the Swallowtail Cats. 
My young trees get to keep their leaves and the Cats get more food than they know what to do with while Number 6 is no worse for wear.
In fact, Number 6 proudly wears evidence of last year's success like a trophy.
"Yeah, I did that."
Yes, you did Number 6 ... such a giving tree.


Friday, March 11, 2016

RODMAN RESERVOIR, PART 3 ... Crushing it.



The last time we talked, I was paddling through the stump forest in the historic Oklawaha River channel. 
A cyclic drawdown of the large and artificial Rodman Reservoir had exposed both the old river path and the stumps of a forest long gone.

The machine in the photo above (a photo from Google images) is "The Crusher"... or "The Monster" ... 300 tons of forest smashing steel. It was much bigger than it appears in that distant photo. On Google, there is a photo of a girl standing at the foot of it for scale ... go seek it out.

The machine was built for the express purpose of both knocking down the river floodplain forest and smashing the trees into the ground so securely that they would just stay there and rot when Rodman was flooded by the dam.

Plans look so sparkly on a drawing board, don't they?

Once the forest was flattened and the river backed up behind the new dam, the trees began popping up until Rodman Reservoir was a minefield of floating logs.

This made boating in the reservoir a risky proposition for a long time and even today, logs still create navigation challenges.


So, while on one side of the barge canal, the ghost forest exists as vertical, broken, but still rooted stumps like we've seen in the earlier posts, ...on the other side all the trees are angled or horizontal.

Even with 7 more feet of water above this area at "full pool", plenty of these logs could be an issue for motorized boats.

Rodman is also heavy with exotic, invasive aquatic plants like hydrilla, and water hyacinths among the Crusher smashed logs.
They contribute vast amounts of organic matter to the reservoir which creates much of the black muck on the bottom.

But what about this strange crushed side of the canal?

The flattened side of the barge canal was very shallow due to the drawdown so even in a kayak, I found myself constantly steering around submerged logs, hyacinth clogs, and dead ends.




There were beaucoup grackles perching, flitting, and hunting "things" down among the floating hyacinths.
I know they're just grackles, but I like their personality and sleekness.
They were good company.
I'm a fan of anhingas too and this one let me drift pretty close before lifting off.



The crushed forest.



Looking out over it, I pause and drain the water with my imagination, let ... or better yet ... help the forest come back with some good restoration plans, and imagine ahead a hundred years to a restored Oklawaha with a maturing forest where now there are only dead stumps.



I'm not sure the long view is very popular right now in an era of instant gratification and over development. 
I know this, we would have no Yellowstone or Everglades today if folks in the past had not taken the long term view long ago.
Folks in the late 1800's, fighting to establish National Parks ... they were thinking of me before my grandparents were born.
Question is ... do we still do that?

Thing is, I don't want my future great-grandchildren to see the lower Oklawaha like it is now with an artificial eutrophying Rodman Reservoir.

I want them to see the springs buried beneath this artificial lake and a mature cypress forest outlining the curving path of the Oklawaha River.

And yeah, they may have to work a little harder to catch a big bass than anglers in Rodman do today.
Fish in a river are not a captive audience.
I'm okay with that.

There will still be plenty of fish with a free river, as there is today in the flowing Oklawaha upstream from Rodman.

And there will still be awesome critters like the banded watersnake below.

He kept popping up to breathe while I was parked, imagining the dam gone and the river system restoring itself.


The first time he popped up, I thought, "Dang it, I missed him!"

I sat for a bit, and in a minute or two he popped up again ... and I missed him again.
So, I let the kayak drift a little closer to the sunken log that he seemed to be working for crayfish or other tasties.

And ... Bazinga!
There he was.
Gotcha!

I like this last photo of episode 3, because it's a nice little sandwich of the crushed forest bog clog side, the barge canal with a bass boat zooming through, the stump forest on the Oklawaha channel side, and, last but not least, the upland forest beyond.

In the final episode of Rodman Exposed, I chase the Eagle.