31 de octubre de 2023

What Can I Learn from Range Maps?

If I'm unsure about a suggested identification, I check the range map for the species. Several things about the reporting of species makes me wonder, though.

I suspect a lot of us look for a limited variety of species. For example, we're looking for birds. Or bees. Or dragonflies. As a result, a lot of species are overlooked.

Even if we're open to a variety of species, it is the showier species that catch our eye. I know that as a rule, I'll photograph flowers but overlook other plants. I'll make an effort to photograph any colorful insect, but don't attempt to photograph small, bland-colored ones

Then there are those of us whose interest in nature is casual, so maybe we only attend to larger, "charismatic" species. What other explanation is there for manatee sightings being more than double opossum sightings in Collier County, Florida? (Personally, I'd love to photograph a live 'possum!)

Ultimately, I guess, the maps do provide a context for evaluating a species' status. And the absence of a record is just as informative as the presence of one.

Publicado el 31 de octubre de 2023 a las 07:10 PM por johncebula johncebula | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de octubre de 2023

Some Disturbing Nonsightings

My wife and I are at our Naples (Florida) condo for a few weeks. One of the features that appealed to us when we bought it is the 40+ acre freshwater lake literally outside our door. The first few years, no matter when we came down, the lawn between our door and the lake would be visited by a flock of a dozen or more White Ibises. Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, and Little Blue Herons would stalk the margin of the lake most of the day, and flocks of Glossy Ibises and other long-legged waders would fly overhead at dawn and dusk.

Then two years ago a large complex was begun on the land adjoining our community. There was a gradual decrease in the number of birds I would see, but the birds still showed up. The new complex drained a number of ponds (which is ironic because "Lakes" is part of its name!). This past summer construction began on the final phase, and the final lake was drained.

Since we came down a few weeks ago, I am seeing far, far fewer birds. Instead of flocks of ibises, I may spot two or three elsewhere in our community. I still see two or three Snowy Egrets each morning, and sometimes an equal number of Tricolored Herons, but I have yet to spot a Little Blue Heron or a Glossy Ibis. Even the cormorants are scarce!

Ironically, Naples boasts that the entire city is a bird sanctuary! Unchecked development aside, so many aspects of the community are hostile to birds. Start with ornamental plants: Almost every community I've been in , as well ones I've visited and the public parks I've gone to (including and especially the botanic garden), is planted almost entirely with nonnative ornamental plants. As a result, there are few host plants for insects, so there are few insects for birds to feed on. These ornamentals require a great deal of care, so the use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides is rampant.

It's not that I don't spot things; I do. But my sightings are meaningful because they are so infrequent.

Publicado el 17 de octubre de 2023 a las 11:03 PM por johncebula johncebula | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de marzo de 2022

The Birds Back Home

I've been a Florida resident, off-and-on, for several years now. My birding friends in Illinois sometimes seem envious of this. It is true that I see a number of species up-close-and-personal in Florida. But Florida isn't that different from Chicago and the surrounding region when it comes to birding.

Northeastern Illinois gives Florida a run for its money when it comes to birding. I'm in Glen Ellyn up North, and I have at least a dozen good spots I can get to to bird that are within 15 minutes of my house, including the Morton Arboretum, McKee Marsh, and Elsen's Hill. Except for the Arb, all of the sites are free. Here in Florida, there is often an entrance fee and usually a parking fee. Even then, the parks exist mainly to support a crowded beach or recreational facilities: soccer fields, tennis courts, etc.

I crunched some numbers recently to compare birding in Florida with birding in DuPage County. I used my Ebird records. I counted the number of species seen on "traveling" counts lasting at least an hour. For each area I had 25 counts (all DuPage counts were in 2021; most of the Collier counts were in 2021).
In Collier, I saw an average of 14 species; in DuPage, 15. Collier median was 14; DuPage, 13. Collier mode was 7; DuPage, 11.

In both counties I counted more than 20 species on six trips. The most seen in Collier on a trip was 30; the most in DuPage, 32.

The "best" area I've birded in Illinois has been Glacial Park in McHenry. On at least two occasions, I've seen 57 species. My best day at the fabled Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island in Lee County, just north of Naples, was 38 species.

What bolsters (inflates?) the Florida counts is my inclusion of the almost-weekly walks I take from my condo to the drainage canal a half-mile away. I include the birds I see around the lake; almost always I end up with at least 20 species, although seldom many more. Countering this are the numbers from "nature trails" in many of the local parks and "preserves" in the Naples area: it is not unusual to see and hear nothing!

I appreciate the opportunity to indulge my birding passion in both areas. My Florida experiences, though, affirm what Dorothy realizes at the end of "The Wizard of Oz": True happiness isn't somewhere over the rainbow; rather, "There's no place like home."

Publicado el 05 de marzo de 2022 a las 02:12 PM por johncebula johncebula | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

08 de septiembre de 2021

What iNaturalist Has Taught Me

I continue to be astonished by the accuracy this site's algorithms. I would guess that at least 95% of the identifications of species I am sure of are correct; when they are incorrect, it is due to the quality of the photo.

I tend to trust the identifications of species I am unfamiliar with, and occasionally I am corrected. This doesn't bother me. I hope over time I will learn to focus (literally) on the keys to identifying the species within a group.

That said, I wish my photos of plants elicited more comment. I know in one case I was corrected about the identification of an oak, but I had relied on the label that was affixed to the actual tree!

Publicado el 08 de septiembre de 2021 a las 11:59 PM por johncebula johncebula | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

24 de julio de 2021

Armchair Naturalizing

The weather the past few days hasn't been to my comfort, so I've been going through some old photos and posting on iNaturalist. I've added a lot of new sightings and a few new species.

Being able to so has been a great way to interact with nature, even if indirectly. As I've gotten older, my inclination to bush-whack has ebbed, so exploring my backyard and my back pages has been a treat.

Publicado el 24 de julio de 2021 a las 01:56 PM por johncebula johncebula | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de enero de 2021

Florida Wildlife

I am not quite a fish-out-of-water, but I am discovering that Florida wildlife is "the same, only different" compared to the species I observe in Illinois.

Bird calls, for example: Southern birds really do seem to have a drawl. On the other hand, the jays and Red-bellied Woodpeckers aren;t that different from the ones in my backyard in Illinois.

What is different is the presence of reptiles outside (and often inside) my door. Growing up in the urban Upper Midwest, any kind of reptile or amphibian required an effort to encounter; here in Florida, it is remarkable when I don't see a Brown Anole, let alone some of the other lizards that inhabit my subdivision.

Just yesterday I photographed a peninsular Cooter less than fifty meters from my condo digging a nest. I have seen Painted and Snapping Turtles in Illinois doing that, but usually in June--certainly not January!

In fact, except for Black Racers, I have already seen "all the usual suspects" in terms of what I see in Florida so far in 2021. And I saw a racer on December 31, 2020!

Same, only different.

Publicado el 05 de enero de 2021 a las 03:21 AM por johncebula johncebula | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de septiembre de 2020

Farm Birds

Yesterday we drove out to DeKalb to visit an apple orchard. Along the way through Kane and DeKalb counties, I kept track of the birds we were seeing.

It was a beautiful, autumn-like day: cool temperatures and broken clouds. The fields are turning brown, but the roadside was punctuated with stands of goldenrod and other yellow composites.

The most abundant birds by far were starlings, and I observed several flocks that easily had several hundred birds in them. The flocks seemed to consist entirely of starlings: no blackbirds of any kind mixed in with them.

Mourning Doves were probably the next most common species, but I saw far fewer. Occasinally a pair or trio would fly across the road, and two or three times I would spot a small flock perched on utility lines.

Red-tailed Hawks were perched along the highway, and I saw a soaring Turkey Vulture in each county.

Canada Geese are assembling in flocks. I saw one of only a bout six birds in Kane County. Leaving DeKalb, there were another six feeding on the sides of Kishwaukee River.

The activity in my own yard has definitely declined. Goldfinches visit the feeder, and I can hear Blue Jays and Red-bellied Woodpeckers calling at at intervals. The most interesting sighting to me was a flock of six robins at the top of the spruce trees in the yard. I hadn't seen robins at the birdbath or in the yard for several days. The birds made their presence known by soft calls before flying off in unison.

Publicado el 19 de septiembre de 2020 a las 01:42 PM por johncebula johncebula | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de septiembre de 2020

Getting Started

I've just discovered iNaturalist, and I can tell it will be an important part of my naturalizing experience going forward. Besides recording my observations, it will give me a chance to try out and test some of the ideas I am developing in my book about the natural history of DuPage County.

Publicado el 17 de septiembre de 2020 a las 10:29 PM por johncebula johncebula | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario