Tuesday, July 27, 2010
As I entered the swamp, looking closely on the bark of the cypress, I can spot the usual suspects; green anoles and five lined skinks. I even glimpse a rat snake reluctantly crossing over a narrow strip of water to get to the next tree.
But something else catches my attention. At first, I think I see the spent holdfast of a bromeliad but as I get closer I recognize the fishing spider, Dolomedes okefinokensis almost the size of my hand clasping what appears to be a shrimp. Although their main diet consists mostly of insects they have been spotted feeding on small fish and frogs. Their velvety hairs are hydrophobic which allows them to use surface tension to sit on the water with their forearms extended and with their vibration detecting organs, grab their meal. Because of their specialized covering they are also able to submerge themselves, a possible adaption to capture prey or evade predators. A thin film forms around them from the air that gets trapped between the hairs. This underwater air supply allows them to stay buoyant and even breathe under water. Once they have grasped their meal they move out of the wet onto dry land or in this case the trunk of a pond cypress, to eat.
I continued my walk and noticed another possible wonder. Nestled into the hollow of a branch was another invasive Cuban frog. Mm… if only he was in the water!
Monday, July 19, 2010
I have a dream to make a nest for myself in the pond cypress. The needles are soft enough and the young branches are pliable. It would be just big enough for me to sit and feel the wind rock me from side to side and get a bird’s eye view of the swamp. I’m always down looking up and out. I think the view point would be dramatically different if I were looking down and into the treetops.
This was one of my views looking up one morning. Walking by, I witnessed a blue heron fly up into a pond cypress where I took this picture. I am amazed at how his feet are adapted for wading and perching! I have watched this one grow up over the past year. First, with his all white plumage I would spot him amongst the white egrets foraging at the forest’s edge. Then his feathers would start to turn from white to blue in patches.
These birds can walk for hours it seems stirring up prey from the water and grabbing a snack. Their success rate is greater when they stir up prey together with a flock of other wading birds but even alone at this time of year he seems very successful. But when they are in the trees like this, what are they thinking? Studying me no doubt or taking a moment? After awhile he got tired of eyeing me and began to preen and eventually returned to foraging. Watching the eating habits of this bird is like witnessing a meditation of sorts, punctuated occasionally by a squawk like call when feathered neighbors drop in for a bite to eat.
Since building in these protected trees is out of the question, I will let my imagination be guided by the actions of this beautiful bird that is at peace in his surroundings, and always ready to stir up a good meal with friends.