Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
This great blue heron was standing along the edge of a pond at the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands in Brevard County, better known by most birders simply as the Viera Wetlands.
These birds are the largest herons in North America and a year-round resident of Florida, with migrating birds increasing the state's winter population. Great blue herons can be seen along the edges and in the shallows of both fresh and saltwater. The year-round range includes much of the United States, with summer breeding in the northern plains and the southern provinces of Canada. Winter populations extend throughout Mexico and Central America and along part of the northern coast of South America.
Standing about four feet tall with a wingspan of six feet, the body is mostly blue-gray. The head is white with a black stripe and short black plumes. The bill is long, thick and mostly yellow, juveniles having a dark upper bill. Legs are long, dull yellow to slaty-black, with rusty thighs. The front of the neck is striped black and white and the shoulder is black, with a bit of rusty coloring.
This rare endangered cactus is only found in tropical rockland hammocks in the Florida Keys. Historically also found on coastal berms and in Miami-Dade County.
This is an erect pricklypear with a cylindrical trunk up to eight feet tall and and overall cactus height of 3 to 15 feet. Older branches are green pads held perpendicular to the ground, two to four times as long as wide and curving upward. Young branches are cylindrical, forming at the ends of the older branches with the flowers and fruit appearing at their tips. The spines are up to four inches long in clusters of two to four typically with one spine much longer than the others. The flowers are orange to red, up to one inch across and have numerous stamens. The fruit is yellow, fleshy and flattened up to 3-1/4 inches long with spines.
This rare and endangered butterfly is now only found on a couple of the upper Florida keys and in a few small sites nearby on the mainland.
The Schaus' swallowtail is a butterfly of tropical hardwood hammocks, historically from the greater Miami area to Lower Matecumbe Key.
Similar to the giant swallowtail, but the 'tails' of the Schaus' swallowtail have a yellow margin instead of a yellow spot. Sexes are similar, with the males having yellow-tipped antennae and the females with dark-tipped antennae
The primary larval host plants are sea torchwood and wild lime.
This species' common name is in honor of US entomologist & botanist William Schaus (1858-1942)
Featured is a close-up image of the inflorescence of a sweet acacia tree showing the multitude of stamens.
Sweet acacia is an occasional shrub or small tree of shell middens, coastal hammocks, pinelands and disturbed sites mostly in south and southwest Florida with scattered occurrences in central Florida and the panhandle. Also native in the southern tier of states from Georgia to California, plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It is an introduced non-native in Hawaii.
Growing up to about twenty feet tall with many slightly zig-zag branches armed with pairs of whitish thorns which are actually spinescent stipules. The alternate leaves are bipinnately compound and 3/4 to 4 inches in overall length. There are two to six pairs of pinnae each with ten to 25 pairs of linear leaflets each 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. The flowers are a globular cluster 3/8 - 1/2 inch in diameter appearing at the end of stalks up to almost an inch long. The fruit is a dark purplish-red cylindrical pod two to just over three inches long with a blunt tip.
The genus Acacia was the largest genus in the pea (Fabaceae) family, encompassing around 1500 species occurring in Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. In 2011 the 17th International Botanical Congress accepted a reclassification of these species, reserving the name Acacia for the largest group, about 900 species native to Australia. The species that were recently considered Acacia that are native to Florida with capitate inflorescences (round, head-like flowers) and spinescent stipules are now in the genus Vachellia. Therefore, sweet acacia, which was Acacia farnesiana is now Vachellia farnesiana var. farnesiana.
Soras can be found in marshes throughout Florida in the winter. The non-breeding range also includes the southern coasts of the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. Breeding range (April-July) spans much of the lower half of Canada, the northern United States plus the western mountain states south into Arizona and New Mexico. Migration includes all those states in between breeding and non-breeding. Also called Carolina rails, they are the most abundant and widespread rails in North America.
These birds look somewhat like skinny tiny chickens. The feather pattern is mottled gray and brown with white edged feathers. Distinctive is the yellow bill and black face patch and throat. Females are drabber, with less black on the face and throat. Juveniles have no black face mask. The legs are a greenish yellow.