The Birds and the Bees and the Bats and the Trees

The Ranch is Nature’s Classroom with 80 acres of wooded land. Here is what you may see:

BIRDS

  • Barred Owls
  • Bald Eagles
  • Merlin or American Kestrel
  • Turkey and Black Vulture (Buzzards)
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Eastern Bluebird (4 houses on site)
  • American Robin
  • Fish Crow
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Sand Hill Cranes
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Common Flicker
  • Red-Bellied, Hairy, Downy, Pileated Woodpecker
  • Eastern KingbirdGreat Crested Flycatcher
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Grey Catbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Blue Jay
  • Osprey
  • Red-Winged Blackbird
  • Brown-Headed Cowbird
  • Common and Boat-Tailed Grackle
  • Chimney Swift
  • Barn Swallow
  • Morning and Common Ground Dove
  • Cattle, Snowy and Great Egret
  • Great Blue, Tri-Colored, Little Blue, and Green Heron
  • Wild Turkey

BEES

CampgroundWe have a few new houses at the Ranch.  One is for the native Mason bee.  There are about 140 species of Mason bees in North America.  The males do not have a stinger, and the females will only sting if trapped or squeezed. This makes them an ideal neighbor for the home garden, since they pose little to no threat of stinging. The Mason bees are increasingly being used to improve pollination for early spring fruit flowers.  They are very effective pollinators. Just two or three females can pollinate a mature apple tree! Mason bees will also work in cool or rainy weather when honeybees are more likely to take the day off.   The honeybee we are more familiar with came from Europe.

BATS

Two new houses were recently built at the Ranch to hold 100’s of our friends.  Yes, friends because these friends eat mosquitos.  We now have two bat houses.  Each bat can consume about 3,000 insects every night!  Did you know bats are the only mammal that can truly fly?  Many bats take up residence in buildings, or other manmade structures, due to loss of habitat.  Bat houses provide alternative roost sites for Florida’s colonial bat species.  A bat house in your backyard will offer local bats a much needed place to live.  There is no known way to attract bats to a bat house.  A good design, place it in a good location, and hope the bats will find the bat house, like it, and move in.

Did you know that bats have the same five senses as we do? Smelling, hearing, tasting, seeing and feeling.  Bats are quite timid and basically ignore humans.  The most common misconception that people have is that bats are rabid.  This is not true.  Studies have shown that less than one percent of bats contract rabies and if they do, they usually die within three or four days.

NEVER HANDLE OR PLAY WITH ANY WILD ANIMAL, INCLUDING BATS!  They are wild and meant to be left alone.

NATIVE TREES AND SHRUBS:

FieldOver 3,100 plants including 300 plus species of native trees, or about half of all the trees which grow in the entire continental U.S. occur as native in Florida.  Is it a tree or a shrub?  A tree is described as a perennial woody stemmed plant, having a single main stem (trunk), that is 13 feet tall or more at maturity and having a distinct crown.  A shrub denotes a woody stemmed plant usually having multiple stems (trunks) that never or rarely exceed 13 feet in height.  What is considered native?  Plants that existed in Florida prior to the first European contact, occurring as part of the natural landscape and apart from human influence are considered native.

The Ranch has over 80 acres of wooded land.  Here is what you may see at the Ranch:

  • Hickory tree
  • Sweet Gum tree
  • Live and Laurel Oak trees
  • Southern Magnolia tree
  • Sweetbay Magnolia tree
  • Cedar tree
  • Long Leaf Yellow pine
  • Bay tree
  • Red Maple tree
  • Wild Coffee shrub
  • Carolbean tree or small shrub
  • American Beautyberry shrub
  • Walter Viburnum shrub
  • Saw Palmetto  – low growing palm
  • Sable Palm – Florida’s state tree
  • Resurrection fern
  • Wild Bromeliads

You also may see citrus trees growing wild in the woods, but these are actually non-native.  Citrus trees arrived in America in the early 1500’s, but were not grown commercially until the 1800’s.  Early Spanish explorers planted the first orange trees near St. Augustine, Florida in the 1500’s.  Citrus trees can be dangerous because of their thorny trunks and branches.  You never want to climb a citrus tree or grab one of the branches.  The presence of thorns has evolved for exactly the same reasons that animals, such as hedgehogs or porcupines have prickly hides – protection from predators, specifically hungry animals that want to nibble away at the tender leaves and fruit.

HAVE FUN AND GO EXPLORE!