March 10, 2015

Wildflowers and Wildlife
At Cedar Point Environmental Park

trail

Cedar Point Environmental Park is a 115-acre property along Florida's central Gulf Coast, boasting a broad range of habitat diversity and wildlife sightings. Last week, while the fishman and the kids were visiting for a spring break vacation, we spent a lovely afternoon exploring several trails at the park.

Cedar Point covers a protected peninsula along Lemon Bay, and includes pine flatwoods, salt marsh, mangrove fringe, and Oak scrub plant communities. Each is described in detail with educational signage along the trail.

cookie house
cookie house 2

The "Cookie House" is a preserved pioneer building with a tie to my home state of Wisconsin.

The park is thick with butterflies.

fritillary

zebra

white peacock

In addition to the Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) highlighted in my last post, we also saw numerous Zebra Longwings (Heliconius charithonia) and White Peacocks (Anartia jatrophae), among others.

standing tree

The park allows some dead trees to remain standing for wildlife.

eagles 1

The standing trees provide excellent viewing and nesting habitat for Bald Eagles and other birds of prey.

eagles 2

This family's nest was close to the trail--within easy viewing for hikers.

lizard

We saw many lizards.

crab

And little crabs that crawled across the path and into the brush. It's amazing how these little critters use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings.

Many of the plants were familiar--plants that are native in both Florida and Wisconsin, although they bloom much later in the north, including:

spiderwort

Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis);

fleabane

Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus); and

pencil flower

Pencil Flower (Stylosanthes biflora).

Others were plants not seen in my part of the country:

rosary pea

Rosary Pea (Abrus precatorius);

mangroves

Mangrove trees (various species);

marsh fleabane

Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata);

Nickernut

Nickernut (Caesalpinia bonduc);

coco-plum

Coco-plum (Chrysobalanus icaco);

jasmine

Yellow Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens); and

beggarstick

Common Beggar's-tick (Bidens alba) (although we have a similar species in the north).

pine cone

I was surprised by the prevalance of pine and the huge pine cones throughout the park.

morning glory

Also, Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor), while not native, can be found growing throughout the area, not just in the park. They're considered invasive, but not as much of a problem as some other species of the genus.

MG Pollinator Collage

They seemed to be a favored pollen source for the park's bees.

beach

At several points along the trail were beautiful views of Lemon Bay.

hike

All in all, a rewarding, educational "spring" hike enjoyed by the entire family.

(I'm linking this post to Wildlife Wednesday at My Gardener Says, Nature Notes at Rambling Woods, and Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View.)

44 comments:

  1. I think the park is a wonderful place, the butterflies are so different, ones I only see at the Butterfly Conservancy. I am surprised they would let you near nesting eagles though. One they are very protective and will attack if a threat approaches, and two, they do not like disturbance. Places where I see them have those nesting areas so the public does not come into contact. I guess eagles there are less bothered by people.

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    1. Hi Donna: One of the first things I noticed after getting down here was the abundance of butterflies. It's not surprising, given the climate, but definitely good therapy after my shorter, but cold, winter. Regarding the eagles, they were off a bit from the trail, but within viewing range. The park staff believe they are a returning family, since they nest in the same tree every year. I do have a decent optical zoom on my digital camera, which helped a bit. Thankfully, I had it along this time.

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  2. What a great trip you're having and wonderful memories with your family. Well, you've just about topped it all with the photos of the bald eagles--beautiful birds and wonderful photos! And I'm sure you would see lots of butterflies in Florida this time of year. I love that you listed plants growing there that you can grow in Wisconsin, but yeah, I bet you don't have Mangroves where you're from.

    Thanks for posting and sharing Cedar Point Environmental Park with us.

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    1. Hi Tina: Thanks for hosting the meme! True: No Mangroves (that I know of) in Wisconsin. ;-) Yes, it's wonderful being down here this time of year. The only month I'd really rather not live in Wisconsin is February (and early March), so it has been a blessing to get away. I'm ready to go back now, though. The Bald Eagles were fun to see and observe.

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  3. The flowers are very nice but those butterflies! Especially the Gulf Fritillaries and Zebra Longwings. Plus you got some amazing shots of those eagles!

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    1. I agree, Jason. The butterflies have really helped improve my mood. I've seen some Monarchs, too, but no photos yet. Many other species, as well. Love the Zebra Longwings! Their flight pattern makes them look almost like a psychedelic image: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXrlRtGPBts.

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  4. we once had a little crab crossing our patio in search of the next mountain stream in Camps Bay.

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    1. They move so fast, don't they?! And then you can barely see them in the brush. The ones we saw were very near the shore. Seemed like the perfect habitat for them.

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  5. It's so nice that you captured a view of the water, it's a gorgeous bay. Love the poetic names, Cookie house, Lemon bay.

    Many of the plants you featured are not familiar to me at all...I love that. Up here where it is very dry all year round the pines flourish, that might be why they love it there also.

    Jen

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    1. It is pretty, isn't it? One of those spots where a person could gaze and dream for hours. But there was so much to see at the park. I had to do much sleuthing to find out the common and Latin names for several of the plants. They were totally unfamiliar to me, as well. A fun, although time-consuming, scavenger hunt! :)

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  6. What a place so different to anything we have, flowers and insects looking larger and brighter, it's lovely to see.
    Amanda xx

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    1. It seems different to me, as well, Amanda. Though I've been to Florida many times in the past, I haven't had the pleasure before of thoroughly exploring the flora and fauna. It has been a great adventure. :)

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  7. It did my heart such good to see the dead trees and snags left for the bald eagles! What magnificent photos you took and what pleasure to take a walk with you in that park. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Susie. It was a bright, sunny day, so a little challenging--especially for the eagle shots. But it was wonderful to see them. The park is beautiful, and a real treasure for the surrounding communities.

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  8. What a lovely place to explore! It reminded me of my visits to Arizona in the middle of winter when my daughter lived there. I always went to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, and a few times I was lucky enough to get to visit the Butterfly House--such a treat to see so many different butterflies at once. It's fun, isn't it, to get to know some different plant species than what we have here in the Midwest. But as much as I enjoyed seeing these blooms, I was completely taken by the bald eagles--what a thrill it must have been to see these!

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    1. Yes, it's a wonderful park, Rose. Definitely worth visiting if you're ever in the area. And it's always a joy to learn about new plants! ;-) That butterfly house in Phoenix sounds wonderful! I'll have to put it on my "must visit" list for the next time I'm in Phoenix. Yes, it's always wonderful to see Bald Eagles in the wild.

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  9. That's a lot of wonderful biodiversity you saw on that trip. I love those longwings, which we don't have here. The lovely thing i realized hiking on trails in cold countries is that you cover long distances without being tired much. We did that in New Zealand and i enjoyed it immensely. Here in the tropics it is very tiring because of the humidity and high temperatures.

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    1. Yes, very true about the biodiversity, Andrea! The Zebra Longwings have me mesmerized. It's the first time I've seen them (or noticed them, anyway). I've been to Florida many times before, but they seem so plentiful here. Their flight pattern is fascinating. Good point about hiking in cold climates--as long as it isn't too cold. I so enjoy spring and autumn hiking back in my northern home!

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  10. What a fabulous park! I love that you can view the bald eagles so closely. Isn't it lovely to see so many butterflies! I was wondering if you've seen any hummingbirds yet?

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    1. Hi Karin: This is going to sound funny, but I think I saw some hummingbirds flitting around the neighbors' flowers the other day. I wasn't close enough and I didn't have my distance glasses on, but they seemed to be darting in like hummingbirds. I know they have them here year-round. My parents don't have feeders because they don't want the hummingbirds to get used to them. They only live here for half the year. And, yes, the butterflies are wonderful! I can't imagine the joy of seeing butterflies and hummingbirds year-round. But maybe then I'd become complacent? It's truly a thrill to see them return each spring to my garden in Wisconsin! I miss them over the winter.

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  11. I love the idea of standing dead trees! They look like sculptures!

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    1. I agree, Tatyana. I know it's human nature (or learned behavior) to chop down and haul away debris, and make things "neat and tidy." But that doesn't benefit the wildlife as much. So it's encouraging (to some of us, anyway, right?) to see when nature parks allow some snags and dead trees to remain. If we want to see and support wildlife, it's essential!

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  12. Beautiful! I like how you shared the Wisconsin plants too. :-))
    I think it is so wise to leave the dead trees. We have so many birds and animals that need them for nesting.
    Fun post. Thank You.
    Carla

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    1. Hi Carla: Isn't it fascinating how some of the same plants can grow in both the north and the south? I totally agree about the snags and dead trees. I think sometimes people simply don't realize how helpful and important they are for supporting wildlife.

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  13. This walk is a paradise for the eyes. Beautiful butterflies, flowers, frogs, lizards, insects, and of the tree. Even dry trees are used by birds and beautifully it looks. Regards.

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    1. Thank you, Giga. It's a beautiful place. It's always enouraging to find these types of natural areas. They're great for recreational, educational, and environmental purposes.

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  14. Great escape for you...and for us.

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    1. Thanks, Ricki. Yes, I'm feeling blessed to have this time in a warm place with my family.

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  15. That's a great walk around a park, I love wild landscapes where nature is at its best. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome, Lula. I've been surprised with how many of these nature centers and wildlife areas exist here along the Gulf Coast. It's very encouraging.

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  16. It is heart warming to see all this green and these flowers and animals.
    You will be pleased to know that we are having a warm week here - it must be the same in Wisconsin. You will see a big difference when you are back.

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    1. Hi Alain: I'm glad the warmth is finally moving north! I hope I don't miss any of the early blooms. I'm glad you enjoyed the nature center hike. :)

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  17. I am glad there are parts of Florida that are natural and not overly managed.

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    1. Hi Les: I've been surprised at how many of these places are here along the Gulf Coast side of Florida. Many more than I've had time to fully explore. I guess I'll have to come back again. ;-)

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  18. thank you for bringing us some much longed for beauty and warmth Beth - is home calling though? it does me after a while away.

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    1. Hi Laura: You're most welcome. Yes, home is calling me now. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family ... and my cats. :) Plus, spring is starting to happen at home. Yay!

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  19. How I would have loved to be there with you... All the wonderful aspects of warmer weather Mother Nature... Perfect.... Michelle

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    1. Yes, it has been a wonderful late-winter getaway. I wish I could do it every year. This park is a great educational and recreational resource.

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  20. Oh Beth what a magnificent place to visit. I really adored that "cookie house" and all the wildlife. FL does have so many unique native plants not seen in any other spots....and water everywhere. You are having a marvelous adventure...a perfect way to celebrate the coming of spring...thanks for linking in Beth!

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    1. Hey Donna: Nothing better than hiking in spring, summer, and fall (and winter in Florida)! Fascinating to study the plants here. Yes, it has been a great adventure.

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  21. Beautiful photos, Beth! Love the eagles and butterflies, but especially loved the spiderwort -- it's one of my favorite summer bloomers here. And how cool that there was a tie to Wisconsin. ☺

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    1. Yes, we were surprised about the Cookie House connection to Wisconsin. Fun to read about that little piece of history, too. It was fun to see both unfamiliar plants and ones we have back home, as well.

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  22. This post feels so warm! It must have smelled so piney out there. :o) Love the cookie house and all that unmanicured park space.

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    1. Yes, there's a definite scent of pine in the air around here. Love it! The park was wonderful. I'd definitely recommend it to folks who come visit the area.

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