Gardening with Georgia

Archive - February 2014

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Spectacular Orchid Flower: 'Big Bull'

Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 01:45:00 PM

Blc. Pamela Finney 'Big Bull' may be a horrible name, but the flower on this orchid is spectacular. The flower is 9.5 inche tall by 8 inches wide.  It is a cross between Lc. Irene Finney x Blc. Pamela Heatherington. Both parents are old-time cattleyas.

Big Bull orchid

The Pamela Finney hybrid was created in 1964. At last year's International Orchid Festival, the big hybrid was named best Cattleya Alliance and appeared in the exhibit by the Orchid Society of Coral Gables. We have grown this plant for several years, and exclaim every time it flowers.

Big Bull orchid


Atala Butterflies in the Garden

Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 09:48:29 AM

Atala  butterflies were flitting around the garden this morning, and the Long John tree (Triplaris cumingiana), which has been in bold red flower for some time now, was their nectar source of choice.



Everglades Winter Birds

Thu, Feb 06, 2014 at 03:46:17 PM

Ospreys, once known as fish hawks, return to the same nest year after year. Likewise we return to the same birding spot year after year. With great satisfaction, we can report that the pair of osprey in Eco Pond in Everglades National Park has again successfully produced a youngster. Maybe more than one, but we only saw one small head rise above the sides of the huge and high nest. The remarkable thing about these birds is that the soles of their claws are spiny and the front outer talon is able to move forward or back to better hold a fish.

Osprey parent and chick
Osprey parent and chick

A Caribbean “race” may have an all white head rather than a head with brown markings on top, according to some bird experts. Females of this type may have a light brown necklace. Both male and female birds have a dark eye stripe. During the Florida Keys and Wildlife Festival, Rafael Galvez, director of the Florida Hawk Watch, and David Simpson, bird guide, spotted an osprey with nearly a full white head flying at Long Key State Park. Other birds with similar marking also have been seen and photographed. In “Birds of Southern Florida”, G. Michael Flieg and Allan Sander say the Florida osprey “is entirely white headed and totally white below.” The birds I saw today were white below, with an eye stripe, but I couldn’t get a clear view of the tops of their heads.

Osprey in Flight
Osprey in Flight

The youngster was so high up and far away, that I was able to see only the beginnings of an eye stripe.

Sharing the waters and trees of Eco Pond were roseate spoonbills, wood storks, ibis, black-necked stilts, snowy egrets, an American coot and blue-winged teals.

The only action at Anhinga Trail: birders covering their cars with blue tarps now provided by the park, along with bungee cords. A few black vultures already have learned to peck away at the tarps as well as the rubber around windows and windshields and windshield wipers.


Sunday in the Park

Mon, Feb 03, 2014 at 08:55:03 AM

Super Bowl Sunday in Everglades National Park’s Shark Valley:  Arriving at 8:45 a.m. (Shark Valley doesn’t open until 8:30), we secured a spot along the canal to practice our bird photography. Black-crowned night-herons are said to be reclusive birds, nesting and in hidden colonies and fishing at night, but today, four night-herons – two juveniles and two adults – were in plain sight fishing from perches on the drainage canal that originally was built for oil exploration. That narrow canal is a favorite for wading birds and photographers with long lenses. A pair of red-shouldered hawks is nesting again this year in one of the tree cabbage palms at the juncture of the canal and the parking lot.  Snowy egrets, anhingas, little green herons, blue herons, great gray herons and alligators were present and accounted for. Some catfish met untimely ends, but the garfish are enormous.

Night Heron
Young NIght Heron and Catfish

Snowy egret hunting

The bridge on Tamiami Trail that now allows water from the L-29 Canal and Water Conservation Area 3B to flow south into the park was completed last spring. Reports indicate that the recovery from decades of drought is well underway.  It did this environmentalist’s heart good to drive across it. We may see a revitalized Everglades ecosystem in our lifetime – the Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.