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Monday, September 30, 2019

September 30, 2019

Location: Titusville, Chain of Lakes Park

I'm known as a Mole Cricket
I have a sneaking hunch
That the Red-shouldered Hawk had bad intentions
When he invited me home for lunch.

(Click to enlarge the photo and check out the hawk's beak. I had no idea that hawks eat bugs!)
Well, now I'm inside his tummy
You think he's tough - but I've heard the rumors
Underneath that bird of prey exterior
He's wearing fluffy white bloomers.

Sources: American Bird Conservancy - Red-shouldered Hawk
UF | IFAS Featured Creatures - Mole Crickets

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, September 29, 2019

September 29, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

This is Psychotria nervosa
Commonly called Shiny-leaved Wild Coffee,
Birds like it's fruit and it is the host plant to
The Coffee-Loving Pyrausta Mothy

(Sorry, it's actually just called "Coffee-Loving Pyrausta Moth" but that didn't rhyme as well as "Mothy")

Sources: University of Florida IFAS Extension - Psychotria nervosa Wild Coffee
iNaturalist - Coffee-loving Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta tyralis)

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, September 28, 2019

September 28, 2019

Location: Everywhere!

Welcome to my 1000th consecutive Dee at 8 a.m. blog post. It has been a great journey so far, and I thank you sincerely for coming along on it with me.

History: This blog started on January 1, 2017.  I started it on the spur of the moment on New Years Day. I was feeling very depressed and not exactly full of hope for the new year. I wanted to come up with a way to try to do something, anything to make the world a slightly better place. My brainstorm was to spread a little science fact every day in the form of a blog. Day 1 was a prose blog about the compost from my breakfast, with a link to another blog about composting.

After two weeks of pretty boring prose, on what would have been my dad's 86th birthday, there was an incident while I was taking my daily photo. The blog that day was quite silly, and I think it was the first time my true writing "voice" came out in a post.

I did a few more blogs that were just silly, like this one. The first poem appeared on January 26. This too, was just kind of silly. I had a few more story blogs after that, but from mid February 2017 till today, they have all been poems.

Fact Checking: Because of the proliferation of "fake news" it became much more important to me personally to document my sources. I updated my template in May to ensure that I always include a source when I state a fact. All of my facts are checked against multiple sources, and I strive link to the most trusted source (such as a university site such as Cornell or UF).

An example of fact checking: Recently,  I wrote a blog about a Eurasian Collared Dove. The explanation for the latin name, in almost every reference that I looked at, had the remarkably similar phrase, "In Greek mythology, Decaocto was a servant girl transformed into a dove by the gods to escape her unhappy treatment; the dove's mournful cry recalls her former life. " But here's the thing - there were literally no Greek Mythology (or other non-birding) sites that referenced this myth. I actually have a lot of real (remember paper?) books that I looked through as well, and could not find any reference whatsoever to this Greek myth. Hence, I left this "fact" off of the blog as it appeared to me that the phrase was simply copied from one bird site to another, but there did not appear to be any basis for it, at least none that I could find documented.

What have I learned? I have learned a LOT from writing this blog. Here are my top 5 favorite lessons learned:

  1. There are other invasive snails in Florida other than that Apple Snail. In researching this post, I realized that I had found an invasive snail. About 6 months after this post, I found another population of these snails near my house in Fellsmere while doing an Eagle Watch. I ended up working with a scientist from the USDA collecting and preparing samples for him so he could do some DNA analysis to verify the species of the snail population I found. I felt like a real scientist and was so happy to be able to help him. 
  2. Dragonflies have hollow heads. When I photographed this dragonfly, I found out their heads are kind of hollow. I love this picture just because it was such a weird angle, but at any other angle I never would have noticed this. 
  3. Birds have nictitating mebranes. I started noticing more and more birds showing their nictitating membranes. They just fascinate me.
  4. Ladybugs come from larvae that look kinda like weird, spiky caterpillars. I had NO idea. 
  5. Most scientists sincerely want to help educate others. This post was the result of sending email to a scientist in Australia who taught me about the root systems of Black Mangroves. 
What is my favorite post? My favorite post was this Walking Stick. I had learned about Walking Sticks while taking the Florida Master Naturalist class a long time ago, so I already knew that they can shoot goo into your eyes. Sometimes as a writer, I assume everyone knows what I know. But just in case, I included that fact in the poem. The day after it posted, I received an email from someone saying that they had picked up a walking stick the prior day, and although it didn't shoot goo in her eye, she really wished she had read this before she picked it up. This was the first time that I felt like I was making a difference with this blog.

What is my least favorite post? My least favorite post is this Cooper's Hawk post. I spend a crazy amount of time not just writing the blog, but hiking through woods and swamps carrying a 10-ton long lens camera getting pictures for it. Occasionally, people submit photos for me use. In this case my sister was working when she walked into a room with a window and a Coopers Hawk flew down and landed in front of her.  She whipped out her cell phone and took this incredible photo. I received more likes and comments on this post than probably any other post I've done. So I dislike the post out of sheer, blind jealousy:-)

What are my favorite photos that I've taken? From the first 1000 days, here are my personal favorite top 5:
  1. Tropical Orb Weaver. I walked into this web face first on coming home late at night. It made me realize how very far I have come - my first thought was not fear, it was, "I gotta get the camera before it goes away!" I am still astonished at how well the photos came out. 
  2. Poufy haired Great Crested Flycatcher - This picture makes me laugh. It really doesn't look all that much like a Great Crested Flycatcher, he has this weird bouffant hair-do. I also really like this photo because I heard the bird calling, and despite significant hearing loss and tinnitus, I immediately knew that it wasn't a bird I normally see in this spot.
  3. Spoonbill-Cattle Egret crossbreed - Although I strive to be scientifically accurate, I still have to give in to my baser instincts at times and go for the stupid, slightly off-color joke. This is one of those times and I am not ashamed to admit this still makes me laugh. Ok, I'm a little ashamed. 
  4. Soft-shelled Turtle - I like this picture cause you can see through his foot. I think Soft-shell Turtles are just one of the coolest looking critters around. 
  5. Thrasher bad wedding portrait - This is another picture that makes me laugh. It was not intentional, but the way the bird in the back is out of focus reminded me of those super cheesy wedding pictures where the bride is in focus and the groom is in the background out of focus. 
What's next? In general, I plan to continue the blog for the foreseeable future. And:
  • I would like add more videos. One video that I posted here (The Football Game) was accepted into the Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival, so while I am still over confident from that, I plan to make more videos.
  • I plan to make the web site more searchable, including adding keywords. I was somewhat lackadaisical in the beginning about including scientific names and other keywords. I would like to go back and add scientific names to previous posts to make the blog (especially older entries) more searchable.
  • Ideally I would like to find a way to make money off of this blog someday so I can quit my day job. My original thought was to do a book, but I don't know if that is feasible, it doesn't not seem that people buy paper books anymore.
  • I am open to suggestions on all of the above. Is there something you would like to see on the blog? Would you like more video entries? Any particular species that you think are missing or lacking? Please let me know, your feedback is deeply appreciated.
In closing, thank you so much for reading my blog, I cannot express how much all of your comments and kind words have meant to me over the last 1000 days. I especially like hearing that I made you laugh - although spreading science was my first intent, it always warms my heart to know I made someone laugh. 

Photos and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, September 27, 2019

September 27, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

This is known as a Ficus tree
It usually starts it's life on another tree as an epiphyte
It puts out long, vine-like roots
And eventually ends the original tree's life.

Sources: UF/IFAS Reprint: Ficus aurea: Florida Strangler Fig

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, September 26, 2019

September 26, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

I am a Saltmarsh Cicada
Like all Cicadas, I make loud sound
I make the noise using my tymbals
You'll hear me, but I'm rare to be found.

Sources: Cicada Mania - How do cicadas make sounds/noise 

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

September 25, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

This is Dalbergia ecastaphyllum
Commonly known as Coinvine
It got its name because its seedpods are flat,
Brown, round and look like a dime.

Sources: The National Gardening Association - Coin Vine (Dalbergia ecastaphyllum)

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

September 24, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

I am a Gulf Fritillary butterfly
You can find me on roadsides, in fields and in parks
You can also find me in woodlands and gardens
And if you are lucky, right in your back yard

Sources: UF | IFAS Featured Creatures Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, September 23, 2019

September 23, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

I am known as a Black-and-white Warbler,
My spotted butt is a diagnostic mark
It's also common to see me upside down
Picking bugs out of tree bark

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Black and White Warbler

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, September 22, 2019

September 22, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

Red-eyed Vireos really love this plant
Known as Virginia Creeper
Woodpeckers, Thrushes, Squirrels and Deer
All agree that this plant's a "keeper"

Sources: UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation 4-H Forest Resources - Virginia Creeper

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, September 21, 2019

September 21, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

I am a Semipalmated Sandpiper
"Semipalmated"means "partly webbed"
My feet aren't webbed like a duck's are-
They are partly webbed like Spiderman.

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Semipalmated Sandpiper

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, September 20, 2019

September 20, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

I am a Spotted Sandpiper
In North America, I'm quite wide spread
You can easily recognize me by the way I dance -
I shake my bootie but not my head.

Sources: Spotted Sandpiper video
Cornell Lab Birds of North America - Spotted Sandpiper

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, September 19, 2019

September 19, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

This is a Gumbo Limbo tree
Great-crested Flycatchers like its fruit.
It's bark is reddish and peels like
The skin of a tourist in a swim suit.

Sources: Florida Native Plant Society - Bursera Simaruba

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson


Special Announcement: Our 2020 Nature of Indian River County wall calendar is now available for sale - and for the first time ever, we are also offering a limited edition Dee at 8 a.m. version. To order, click here, and drop me an email that you would like the Dee at 8 a.m. edition.  You can also purchase the calendar at Ditch 13 Gallery and Gifts in Fellsmere,  Riverview Coffee, Tea and Books in Sebastian, or on any Birding with David Simpson tour or event

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

September 18, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

This is an American Beautyberry
But these aren't actually berries, they're "drupes"
Drupes contain several seeds in a hard endocarp
Regardless, birds like to eat the fruit.

Sources: UF | IFAS Gardening Solutions - Beautyberry

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

September 17, 2019

Location: Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

This is a Florida Strangler Fig
Growing on a Palm, you can't split one from the other.
I guess you can say that the Strangler Fig
Is truly the ultimate tree-hugger.

Sources: UF | IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants - Ficus aurea

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, September 16, 2019

September 16, 2019

Location: Vero Beach, private residence

I am a Gaudy Sphinx Moth
I am known to migrate quite far
I'm mostly green with colored patches but
When I'm a caterpillar I look a bit bizarre.

Very special thanks to today's guest photographer Heather Stapleton.

Sources: Butterflies and Moths of North America - Gaudy sphinx

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, September 15, 2019

September 15, 2019

Location: Indialantic Beach, James H. Nance Park

I'm known as a Sandwich Tern
My bill is black with a yellow tip
I like to eat invertebrates and small fish
Despite my name I don't eat Miracle Whip.

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Sandwich Tern

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, September 14, 2019

September 14, 2019

Location: Indialantic Beach, James H. Nance Park

I am known as a Sanderling
Right now I'm a non-breeding adult
When I'm breeding I get rusty on my head and back
And baby sanderlings are the result.

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Sanderling

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, September 13, 2019

September 13, 2019

Location: Indialantic Beach, James H. Nance Park

I am known as a Royal Tern
But John James Audubon called me a Cayenne
He thought I was the same as a Caspian Tern
At least he knew I'm not a Carolina Wren*

*Note from Dee: Inside joke for my sweetheart on his birthday. And I still don't know the Carolina Wren calls.

Sources: Cornell Lab Birds of North America - Royal Tern
John J. Audubon's Birds of America - Cayenne Tern

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, September 12, 2019

September 12, 2019

Location: Indialantic Beach, James H. Nance Park

I am known as a Heermann's Gull
I'm found only on the Pacific shore
Unlike most other gulls, I breed in the south
Then when I'm done, I migrate to the north.

(Despite "only" occurring on the Pacific coast, there have been a few sightings of this bird in Florida, including this one recently.)

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Heermann's Gull

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 11, 2019

Location: Bridge Plaza Drive, Vero Beach

This used to be a Northern Curly-tailed Lizard, Despite being headless, you can identify him
His body is wider than a Cuban Anole
And Carolina Anoles are green and thin.

(Note: Bookmark the site below for a great quick-lookup of Florida lizards.)

Sources: Florida Museum - Florida Lizards

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

September 10, 2019

Location: Island View Cottages, Sebastian

I am known as a Mottled Duck
My species is in peril because of the Mallards
We are closely related and can mate
Leaving only hybrids is the hazard.

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Mottled Duck

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, September 9, 2019

September 9, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

I am known as an Osprey
I can live to be 30 years old
I live on every continent except Antarctica
I don't mind the cold, but not that cold.

Sources: National Geographic - Osprey

Austrailian Government Department of the Environment and Energy - Antarctic Weather

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, September 8, 2019

September 8, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

I am a some kind of a hornet
But you are probably looking above
I'm in the middle,  left, at the top of the rope
You are looking at the Eurasian Collared Dove

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Eurasian Collared Dove
UF | IFAS Featured Creatures - Yellowjackets and Hornets

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, September 7, 2019

September 7, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

This looks like it could be a Muskrat
Or maybe Manatee dressed up fancy
But in fact, it actually is
A Palm Coconut covered with algae.

Sources: University of Florida IFAS Extension - The Coconut Palm in Florida

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, September 6, 2019

September 6, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

I am a Brown Pelican
I've almost gone extinct twice
I was saved once by the Migratory Bird Treaty
And banning DDT also halted my demise.

Sources: Smithosonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute Species Profile: Brown Pelican

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, September 5, 2019

September 5, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

This is Royal Poinciana
Also called Flamboyant or Flame Tree
Although not native to Florida
It's not considered an invasive species.

Sources: University of Florida IFAS Extension Solutions for Your Life: Delonix regia: Royal Poinciana

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

September 4, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

I am a Spotted Sandpiper
Shown here hiding amongst some roots
I sometimes lead a polyandrous lifestyle
But try to avoid Jerry Springer-type disputes.

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Spotted Sandpiper

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

September 3, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

I am a Great Blue Heron
I eat fish and other small prey when I get the chance
My hobbies include combing my "powder down"
And as shown here, interpretive dance.

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Great Blue Heron

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, September 2, 2019

September 2, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

I'm known as an Osprey
I am a bird of prey
My prey are fish, but sometimes my chicks
Are prey, it's just nature's way.

(Caution: Video linked below shows an Osprey nest being predated by a Great Horned Owl. I thought it was interesting though because I never really think of birds of prey as being prey themselves, but in the end, I guess most critters are.)

Sources: Hog Island Osprey Chick Snatched From Nest by Great Horned Owl

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, September 1, 2019

September 1, 2019

Location: Merritt Island, Indian River

I am a Rock Pigeon
Sitting on a roof
I'm quite the contortionist, check out my tail!
Just kidding, we are actually two.

Sources: Cornell Lab All About Birds - Rock Pigeon

Photo and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson