Spring is a dynamic time for wildlife. If you enjoy watching nature, now is a fantastic time to get outdoors to see some interesting activity. March is also one of the best times of year to do some active management on your property to enhance the habitat you provide for wildlife.
Purple martins select nest sites during February-March in the Panhandle, so now is your last chance to make martin housing available. Photo by Sarah Friedl.
Because of its position just north of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is the first landmass where many exhausted birds can rest after migrating northward to the U.S. from South and Central America. The strenuous northward migration is now underway for many species of birds. That means this is one of the most interesting times of year to visit your local natural area with a pair of binoculars. A trip to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge or your nearby State Park or Wildlife Management Area could result in a glimpse of several migratory species that are rarely seen in the area.
Purple martin scouts began their migration from South America to the Panhandle nearly four weeks ago. If you have purple martin housing and have not yet cleaned out last year’s nesting material, now is your last chance to do this. Wash out your housing with soap and water. If you take your martin housing indoors during the fall and winter to protect it from harsh weather or if you plug the entrances to prevent use by other species, don’t wait any longer to make your housing available to martins or you’ll miss out on attracting them this year. Older martins remain extremely faithful to the exact same nesting site, so will want to return to the housing you provided them last year. In contrast, yearling martins that hatched last summer tend to return to the same area they were born in Florida about 4-6 weeks later than the older scouts. These yearling birds are generally the ones who adopt new housing and start new colonies. Therefore, this week is the ideal time to put up new purple martin housing in the Panhandle.
Eastern bluebirds are resident all year round, but March is when they begin nesting in the Panhandle. Because bluebirds have a habit of nesting several times each year, it is possible that birds will adopt new houses erected later in the spring. However, the sooner you make new bluebird houses available, the greater the chances you’ll attract nesting birds. When deciding where to locate new bluebird houses, remember that bluebirds are territorial and will not let another bluebird nest within ~100 yards of a nest site they’ve already chosen.
Bluebirds nest several times each year, so you can install a new bluebird house anytime during the spring, although February-March is ideal. Photo by Holly Ober.
For more information on attracting birds, check out this article on Purple Martins or this one on Cavity Nesting Birds. Or contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension Office.
Author: Holly Ober – email@example.com
I am an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. My research covers wildlife ecology, habitat management, and identifying creative ways to cope with nuisance wildlife.
Pesticide Training and Exams being offered at the University of Florida IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office.
March 31, 2014
8am-11am Aquatic Pesticide Training
11am Aquatic Exam
1pm-4pm Natural Areas Training
4pm Natural Areas Exam
Cost is $10 for Aquatic Training and $10 for Natural Areas Training
To receive a new Aquatic or Natural Areas pesticide license, you must have previously passed the CORE exam.
For more information or to RSVP, Call 850-689-5850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
CEUs applied for.
Aquatic and Natural Areas Training and Exam Flyer
Register and Pay online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/aquatic-and-natural-areas-pesticide-training-and-exam-tickets-10997613157
Deer grazing test plots at the NFREC in Quincy. Food plots can benefit deer year round, not just during hunting season.
To the chagrin of hunters across the panhandle deer season has drawn to a close. As the days lengthen and temperatures begin to climb, many of the area’s outdoorsmen (and women) shift their focus to a more aquatic nature. However, those sportsmen, who will place a premium on antler size in the fall, should not neglect the nutritional needs of the deer herd during the spring and summer months.
There is a well-documented correlation between deer nutrition and antler growth. Antler growth is suppressed when adequate nutrition is not available. Antler growth requires a large amount of energy and protein. The energy requirements for antler growth can generally be met by the deer’s natural environment. However, some natural environments may not supply enough protein to maximize antler growth. Nutrition is only one of several factors effecting antler growth but it is perhaps the easiest of those factors to alter.
Source: Mississippi State University, Forest & Wildlife Research Center
As with all animals, a deer’s nutritional demands change over time. The suppressing effect of insufficient protein in the diet is most evident in younger bucks. This is because the bodies of immature deer are still growing. The processes of growth and development demand protein. When antler growth is added to the equation the protein demand of a young buck can easily exceed what is provided by it natural environment. Research indicates that young, growing deer during antler development need a diet that is approximately 16% crude protein in order to maximize antler growth. Mature bucks can maximize antler growth with as little as 10% crude protein.
Planting and maintaining warm season food plots is a good way for a deer herd manager to help prevent any nutritional limitations to antler growth. Food plots are often thought of in terms of their ability to attract deer to a specific location during hunting season. However, if properly utilized food plots can have a lasting positive effect on an area’s deer herd and other wildlife. Follow the links for the basics on food plot establishment and soil fertility management.
If your goal is to increase the amount of protein available to the deer herd then legumes are your best bet. Some warm season legumes that do well in the panhandle include Aeschynomene, Alyceclover, Cowpeas, Soybeans, Lablab, and Perennial Peanut. It is important that you select species and varieties that are suited to the conditions (especially soil properties) of the area you intend to use them. It is also recommended that you plant a variety of species in any food plot.
The species listed vary in terms of grazing tolerance and recommended planting technique. Contact your county’s extension office for more details.
Legumes provide high amounts of protein to deer and other wildlife because they contain relatively high amounts of nitrogen. Due to a symbiotic relationship with a specific type bacteria, legumes are able to utilize atmospheric nitrogen. Other plants are dependent solely on soil nitrogen. To ensure that the proper bacteria is available to the legume it is important to inoculate legume seeds prior to planting. Inoculants are available through most seed dealers. Be sure that you get the proper inoculant for the species you are planting. Aeschynomene, Alyceclover, and Cowpeas all require the inoculant for the cowpea group. Soybeans and Lablab each have a species specific inoculant. Perennial Peanut does not require inoculation because it is not planted from seeds. Additional information about inoculants, planting techniques, and fertilization is available from your county’s extension office.
Planting food plots does not guarantee any additional antler growth but it is one way to help alleviate a possible limiting factor. Habitat improvement and additional available nutrition can benefit the entire ecosystem. If you want to get the most out of your property, in terms of deer production, it is important to provide the deer what they need all year long, not just during hunting season.
March 8th: Tropical Soda Apple (Solanum viarum) & Alligator Weed (Alternanthera philoxeroide)
Tropical Soda Apple Photo Credit: Jeffrey Mullahey, UF, Bugwood.org
Tropical Soda Apple: Florida ranchers know Tropical Soda Apple (TSA) as the “Plant from Hell”. The plant is a native of South America. It was first noticed in south Florida, but its seeds survive in the digestive tract of animals and it spread north through the movement of hay and cattle. TSA plants are covered with thorns and can make large sections of pasture nearly useless for livestock. Concerted efforts to lessen the population of TSA since its arrival have reduced the populations in pastures but it persists in sheltered or waste locations. Cattle, birds, deer and feral hogs ingest the mature fruits and spread the plants to loafing and browsing areas that may be inaccessible to mechanical treatment with anything larger than a hoe. According to Dr. Jeff Mullahey, who has been working on TSA since its appearance in south Florida, one plant can produce 40,000-50,000 seeds with seed germination ranging from 75%-100%. The seeds remain viable for at least three years. Be on the lookout for these while engaged in outdoor activities.
In South Florida, populations of the tropical soda apple leaf beetle (Gratiana boliviana) have had some efficacy as a biological control. However in North Florida the efforts to establish populations of these beetles from TSA’s native habitat have been stymied by their inability to overwinter in our colder temperatures. Although you won’t want to pull them up barehanded, isolated plants can be controlled by mechanical means. Herbicides effective on TSA can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw097, or contact your local Extension agent.
For more information contact the author Jed Dillard, Livestock & Forages Extension Agent by phone at 850-342-0187.
Alligator Weed photo by Vic Ramey courtesy of UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida
Alligator Weed: This highly invasive aquatic weed, which is a native of South America, was first discovered in Florida in 1894 and is believed to have been transmitted through ballast water. Alligator Weed is usually found as sprawling mats across the surface of water. Although classified aquatic, it can be found along shorelines or dry land.
This plant is a category II invasive and also an aquatic weed. The following information from the Center for Aquatic and Invasive plants, “This species is on the FL DACS Prohibited Aquatic Plant List – 5B-64.011. According to Florida Statute 369.25, No person shall import, transport, cultivate, collect, sell, or possess any noxious aquatic plant listed on the prohibited aquatic plant list established by the department without a permit issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. See 5B-64.011 for more information.”
There are several biological controls of Alligator Weed, such as the Alligatorweed Flea Beetle. When they attack mats of alligatorweed, the entire mat will begin to turn yellow and eventually turn brown to die. Significant control can be achieved in 3 months once beetles are established. For more information about this biological control and others, please see the following IFAS extension publication, Alligatorweed flea beetle Agasicles hygrophila https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in831.
Chemical control is also possible with glyphosate, imazapyr and several other products. Always read the label carefully when using any herbicide. For more information please consult Efficacy of Herbicide Active Ingredients Against Aquatic Weeds (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag262).
For more information, contact the author Matt Orwat, Horticulture Extension Agent 850-638-6180.
March 7th: Eurasian Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), Tiger Prawn (Penaeus monodon), The Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)
Myriophyllum spicatum photo by Alison Fox, University of Florida, Bugwood.org
Eurasian Water Milfoil: Eurasian water milfoil is a submerged aquatic plant that can be found in northwest Florida in lakes, rivers, and coastal marshes. Water milfoil forms a dense mat of vegetation that can block sunlight and habitat for native plants. These mats can increase water temperatures and interfere with boat traffic, fish habitat, and native aquatic plant species.
Eurasian milfoil was first documented in Florida in 1964. It was reportedly planted by aquarium plant dealers. It is still used today in the aquarium industry and obtained through suppliers and through internet sales. This plant is listed as a category II on the Florida Exotic Species Pest Plant Council List, which means it has the potential to overtake native submerged plant communities.
The spread of Eurasian milfoil can be caused by the breaking of stems and roots, which can be carried by boats, engines and trailers to other lakes and coastal marshes. To help prevent spread of Eurasian water milfoil to Florida’s waters, always clean off your boat, motor and trailer at the ramp to avoid transporting vegetative stems to other areas. In addition, never release or dispose of aquarium plants or animals into local waterways.
For more information, contact the author Chris Verlinde, Marine Science Agent 850-623-3868.
Giant Tiger Prawn Photo Credit: FWC photo by Michelle Sempsrott
Giant Tiger Prawn: This large shrimp, also known as the Asian Tiger Shrimp and the Black Tiger Shrimp, can reach lengths between 8-12 inches. It resembles are native edible penaid shrimp but differs in that it has distinct black and yellow stripes. It was brought to the U.S. from the Indo-Pacific region as an aquaculture product. There was an accidental release of 2,000 animals from a South Carolina farm in 1988. Reports of this shrimp in the wild have increased over time. They have been found in all Gulf coast states and there has been at least 1 record in each of the Florida panhandle counties. The impact of this shrimp to our area is still unknown but they have a high tolerance for salinity change and consume many types of benthic invertebrates. It is thought that they could become serious competition for our native penaid shrimp and could possible transmit diseases. If you think you have found one of these shrimp, record size location (GPS preferred) and email information to ExoticReports@MyFWC.com. To learn more about this species view the USGS factsheet.
For more information, contact the author Rick O’Connor, Sea Grant/Marine Sciences Agent 850-475-5230.
Image by Dr. Steve A Johnson 2005.
The Cuban Tree Frog: was introduced into Florida as a stowaway on vehicles and plants in the 1920’s. As of 2013, breeding populations have been recorded as far north as Georgia. Cuban Tree frogs have larger toepads and eyes than any of the native species. Being larger in size, the Cuban Tree frog out-competes other tree frogs for resources, to the point that they are predators of Florida’s tree frogs and inhibitors of native tadpoles. Juvenile Cuban Tree frogs can be distinguished from natives by their red eyes and hind legs with blue bones. Three-foot-long sections of 1.5 inch diameter PVC pipe can be placed in the landscape to monitor for tree frog species. Should Cubans be found, they should be reported and euthanized. For additional details visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw259.
For more information contact the author Sheila Dunning, Commercial Horticulture Agent 850-689-5850.