Monday, October 10, 2022

Nature Journal - April 2022

 April was FULL of nature, and I have a feeling it will be my favorite month of 2022<3

Florida Panhandle Roadtrip<3

        This trip was the first time I'd been back to the panhandle in 8 years, and I explored Torreya State Park, Ochlockonee River State Park, Bald Point State Park, St. Mark's River Preserve State Park, and the Apalachicola National Forest with some of my favorite people - Kate, Steff, Emily, Betsy and Lilly.

        I don’t even know where to begin with this wonderful vacay I had in the panhandle, so I’ll just start with what I know best - birdies!  Spring had definitely sprung and the tree tops were filled with songs, with barred owls hooting through the fog, migrating warblers chirping away, and several birds getting frisky right in front of us.  I got many lifer birds on this trip (most were probably ones I’ve seen before but I’m terrible at tiny bird IDs lol), but the sweetest sight was this Blue-gray gnatcatcher couple building its nest from lichen mere feet away from our campsite.

        Up next is bugs, and there were lots of ‘em. The swallowtail butterflies were out in full force pollinating, caterpillars were munching, and there were honestly too many bugs doing it, there was a peep show on every flower!  But by far our coolest finds were the Exyra moths. These moths spend almost their entire lives in pitcherplants, and have adapted special feet that let them cling to the slippery walls so they don’t fall prey to the plant. Their caterpillars also live in/eat the pitcherplants, and create a silk barrier at the opening so other insects can’t come in and eat them.

        Among the pine forests and sandy white shores were so many furry, scaly and ancient creatures. Ohlockonee River SP even had some unique residents with a small population of leucitic squirrels, and a piebald deer!  But the coolest thing we saw were actively nesting horseshoe crabs.  Like sea turtles, horseshoe crabs come on land to lay their eggs in the sand, and one can lay over 100,000 eggs in a single mating season!  This makes them a vital keystone species as they provide food for shorebirds and other beach dwellers, and why continual loss of nesting shore habitats is threatening not only this living dinosaur, but the overall health of our coastal ecosystems.

        Finally the best part - the wildflowers.  We spent the whole week climbing through thick brambles, hiking up and down steep ravines, and sloshing knee high through watery bogs to find some of the rarest and endangered plants in northern Florida.  This trip was a little nostalgic for me too, since I went to FSU and lived in Tallahassee for six years.  I hadn’t been back in almost a decade, and it was a little surreal to see how different my time was there now.  My early twenties weren’t the best, I struggled a lot with anxiety, depression, and in general not knowing who I wanted to be.  But coming back here surrounded by new like-minded friends, immersing myself into the wildlife that I distanced myself from for so long, was very healing.  I felt like one of the many flowers we found, and realized I just needed time to find the right surroundings to bloom in.

Ancestral land of the Apalachees and Muscogee people.

North Sebastian Conservation Area

        I did a quick little hike with my mom one evening, where we saw the scrub jays chirping, the sun glowing on the oaks, and the first blooms of the prickly pears<3

Ancestral land of the Seminole and Ais people.

Micco Scrub Sanctuary

        I did my usual hike through Micco Scrub this month, and spring really popped off in this place.  Every season I say “this is my favorite season,” but spring might actually be the real favorite.  Maybe it’s because I’m an Aries, and in the words of my beloved Aries sister Jenny Slate:

“I was born just when you think that birth won’t happen, because it has been cold for so long… I was born at exactly the time when anything alive is saying ‘LET. ME. BURST!’”

Aries season takes that first brave plunge, but Taurus season really revels in all the beauty that comes from that burst.

Ancestral land of the Seminole and Ais people.

Beach Surveys

           The leatherbacks kept going crazy this month, and the shorebirds enjoyed the beaches before the summer heat rolled in.  And we had our first loggerhead nest of the season on April 15th!  Let the craziness begin 😬

All research conducted under FWC permit MTP-22-261 on ancestral land of the Seminole and Ais people.

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