I spent the morning in the central part of the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary. My post from April 14th discusses how much of the sanctuary was overgrown too much for the Florida Scrub Jay. The central part, however, is being managed to keep the habitat more amenable to the jays and other scrub-adapted wildlife.
The Malabar Scrub Santuary was set up in the early to mid 1990s, using a failed housing development from the 1980s.
Here are a few photographs of what post-burn scrub habitat looks like from ground level. I am not sure exactly when this was burned, but probably some time this year. Vegetation grows back very quickly; these plants are adapted to fire.
You’ll notice the lower part of the tree trunks are charred, but there’s no evidence of buring in the upper part. Management fires, like the natural fire they mimic, are fast moving and low to the ground. The taller trees here are relics of pre-management days. Left to its own devices, a scrub habitat would tend to be devoid of any taller trees. You can see that the burns have caused many of these taller tress to die, though.
Lack of shade is par for the course in scrub country.
There were some Blue-grey Gnatcatchers calling in their wheezy-complaining way along the paths off the paved boulevard, but as I walked down the defunct street, I noticed something ahead that excited me a bit. I couldn’t be sure until I got closer, but yes! Florida Scrub Jays! One was acting as a look-out on top of a dead sapling while another foraged on the ground. The foraging jay actually came within 2 feet of me and was very curious. I know that many people tend to feed them (which is illegal), so I don’t know if this jay is habituated to hand-outs or if this was just a normal level of curiousity seen in the species.
I walked along some of the paths that led into the more forested parts of the sanctuary. I saw a White-eyed Vireo, but wasn’t able to get a photo (again!!), but was hearing what sounded like an Eastern Towhee. I know that the White-eyed Vireos in this area love to mimic towhees, so I was skeptical. It took some careful and lonely stalking, but sure enough, there was male Eastern Towhee singing in the shade of a tree. The race of Eastern Towhee here in Florida has white eyes (rather than the red eyes of northern bretheren) and a slightly less musical and slurring voice.
At this point the sun was really beating down and I started to head back out. I saw a few more jays and another towhee. I noticed on my way back out to the scrub habitat a six-lined racerunner and creepy flies (like I’ve seen at Turkey Creek Sanctuary).
The only other resident I saw before exiting the sanctuary was this small Gopher Tortoise. It was about the size of a small bagel, but I don’t know how old that would make it, but I expect pretty young in turtle-years.
Both the Florida Scrub Jays and the Eastern Towhees are firsts for this year, bringing my 2013 total to 132 species.