Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned (& Mystery Yucca “Bug” Identified.)

Remember the tiny, mysterious creatures from Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes?  While I was busy tracking down an identification, they were busily weaving away:

Neoscona Arabesca, Vero Beach, Fl. 3/2/14,

…and then there were 4

…but what exactly ARE they?
Google research didn’t get me far, so I reached out to George Rogers, Ph.D., co-author of Treasure Coast Natives and Chairman of Horticulture at Palm Beach State.  He relayed my photos to Bill Schall in the Palm Beach County Horticulture Extension Office, and to John Bradford, his TCN co-author and avid naturalist. On the evening of 2/26, Bill sent the following via email:
 It is a small, non poisonous spider probably of the species Neoscona arabesca, also known as the Arabesque Orbweaver. Not sure if the common name is any easier than the scientific name! Maybe just remember Orbweaver. The symmetrical suspended white structures are the insect prey enveloped by the spider webbing. These spiders are very common in southern Florida. Thanks to Dr. Bill Kern for the identification. – Bill

The next photo, taken in bright sunlight an hour ago, better illuminates the captured prey:

Neocsona arabesca, Vero Beach, FL. 3/2/14

RIP unfortunate victims!

Big “ups” to George, John, and the Bills, for solving my little mystery. At this point I’d be remiss for not mentioning the GREAT photography at The Trail to the River, John Bradford’s blog about the nature trails in Savannas Preserve State Park. Do check it out when you get a chance!

Switching gears to this week’s photo challenge

As so often happens, I have the PERFECT subject for this week’s topic, but it requires a bit of backstory.

Last fall, Maggie wanted to plant sweet potatoes in big sacks, so I bid on a seed potato during our November Plant Auction.  When I got home, I set it at the edge of the patio garden, assuming she’d grab it over Thanksgiving…but she forgot. No biggie, I figured, she’ll take it on my birthday in 2 weeks.  Nope! Forgotten again! Soon it was Christmas, and we BOTH forgot….then the New Year came and went….but the potato stayed…You see where this is going!!!!???!!!

Abandoned!

So I’m outside in the yard a few days ago, and notice some gorgeous leaves:

ipomoea batatas foliage close-up 2/28/14

Assuming they were morning glories I planted wayyyyyyy back when, I followed the length of the vine to determine if the origin point was where i thought it should be….

ipomoea batatas foliage 2/28/14

What just caught YOUR eye (opposite the red-edged canna leaf) caught mine at the time, so I spread the leaves to investigate:

ipomoea batatas, 2/28/14

Oh NO!!!!  Our abandoned sweet potato!  It sure seems healthy, despite the cold and neglect!

I’m not a vegetable gardener because I REALLY dislike eating vegetables! Just the smell of sweet potatoes, or cabbage or carrots–any of them–boiling on a stove makes me gag (seriously!)   But seeing it got this far….what happens next?  Will it somehow grow potatoes, or did I miss the opportunity?  I tried lifting it up but it’s rooted (very strongly) to the ground beneath: is this where the potatoes grow, off that taproot?  Yes, I’m aware I’m embarrassing myself!  Of course, I posed the same slew of questions to Maggie. Her reply?  “I have NO clue..I never even bought the sacks!”

Potato AND project completely abandoned!

Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato vine,2/28/14

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

This week’s challenge asks that we share a photograph of a sign. Unless you’ve visited shallow inlets around the Treasure/Space Coast or Florida Gulf, you probably haven’t seen this one!

manatee

The manatees found in Florida are a geographical sub-unit of the West Indian manatee, Trichechus Manatus.  Their ideal habitat is 3-7′ deep, warm water (above 70degrees) where the sun can penetrate and maintain underwater plant life.  Manatees are the only aquatic mammals that are herbivores; they feed indiscriminately on submerged or floating vegetation, with seagrasses being a major staple in their diet.

The pictures that follow were taken in June, 2011 at Round Island Riverside Park, and are an accurate representation of the manatees’ natural habitat.  If you look behind the girls and toward the left, you’ll see the back of the sign from pic 1.

RoundIslandRiverPark

This next angle gives a better perspective of the type of shallow, calm waters these creatures call home.

RoundIslandRiverPark2

Per a 2009 survey, there are at least 3800 Florida manatees, a good sign their population has stabilized since they were last counted in 2001.  To learn more, check out the species profile page at the Smithsonian Marine Station Website.

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

I’ve got company! :)

I had SUCH a memorable Memorial Day!  A family of unexpected guests arrived just in time for breakfast!

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Hmmmmm…..beach sunflower buffet? Mighty enticing! 😉

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Of the 20 known Armadillo species, only one resides in the US: Dasypus novemcinctus aka the nine-banded or longnose variety. The next two photos show how well they live up to these common names!

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D. novemcinctus are somewhat opportunistic eaters.   Their pig-like snouts function as foraging tools, seeking out insects, earthworms, small reptiles and amphibians.  Plant roots, carrion, small birds and mammals may also be consumed.  If they head to your garden, beware!  Even the briefest foraging session leaves behind holes and misplaced garden soil…especially around new plantings like the banana and small cactus in my ranchero!

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The Florida armadillo population was the result of a few animals released from a small zoo in 1924, combined with several more that escaped from a traveling circus in 1936. They’ve multiplied and spread thoughout the state due to a fast reproductive cycle. Female armadillos reach sexual maturity between 1-2yrs of age, bearing 4 pups from a single egg that divides into quarters before implanting!  Interesting fact should you ever appear on Jeopardy➡ armadillos are the ONLY mammal to give birth to identical quadruplets all the time!

If you look closely at this next picture, you’ll notice a few “dings” in the rear armored plates of the animal nearest the street:

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When they came back on Tuesday, I got a closer look and noticed another mark towards the head:20130528_105639-1

In person, these looked more like claw marks (or scrapings) than indentations.  In terms of local wildlife predators, bobcats and hawks have been known to hunt armadillos, although most fall victim to car accidents when crossing urban streets.  An armadillo’s natural escape reflex is jumping instead of running…jumping is what typically puts them at odds with grilles of oncoming vehicles! Eek!

If you think it odd to see armadillos during daytime, it isn’t!  Juveniles are more apt to seek food during daylight, largely to avoid adult armadillos who forage during dawn and dusk, and behave aggressively toward youngsters at “adult feeding time.”

I had hoped to see these fascinating prehistoric holdovers again Wednesday, but it rained (HARD!) intermittently all day.  I think they’re living among the plumbago hedge along my house’s concrete slab, an ideal, safe spot of well concealed brush!

Here’s one final glimpse:

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Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

Wordless Wednesday: March 20, 2013

With Easter only 11 days away, I think it’s the perfect time for a bunny photo!

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These little, round marsh rabbits are a common sight at Jaycee Beach; not surprising since females begin breeding at nine months and reproduce several times a year!

Litters consist of 4-5 young born in fur-lined nests on the ground. The babies are weaned in less than 3 weeks when they start eating tender green plants and clover. 🙂

Adult marsh rabbits are approximately 15″ long, with small hindlegs and feet that facilitate swimming among the local coastal islands. When on land, they prefer walking over hopping.

If you arrived here via my blog’s home page you may have noticed the badge for National Wildlife Week.   I highly recommend visiting their site and  getting involved with their tree planting initiative, Branch Out For Wildlife.

Until next time……

🙂 🙂 🙂