January 2018

January 2018


A little help confirming and identifying some butterflies, skippers and moths.


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-30  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-30  


I'm still learning the many species of the order Lepidoptera, and these have me stumped. The skippers are especially tough to differentiate. 

Fiery skipper? Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield
Cloudless sulphur, perhaps an older one? Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield
Whirlabout skipper? Or Fiery? ....Skippers all start to blend together if you look at enough. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield
A coworker asked me about this one a while back and I just have no idea. Photo Credit: Michael Fiedler




A very large and uncommon treat to see in Florida - American White Pelicans


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-30  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-30  


Photo Credit: Manjith Kainickara

American white pelicans spend their winters in warmer parts of the world including Florida, those other Gulf states that are not Florida, Texas, and Mexico. They just come to relax and enjoy the warm fish, not to breed. 

The oldest known white pelican was 23 1/2 years old, but that may not reflect updated data, so if you know of an older one please fill us in. The normal lifespan is about 12- 14 years in the wild.

These birds are massive! I had the rare luxury of sighting some recently and that 9-foot wingspan is mesmerizing. They can weigh anywhere from 7 to 30 pounds, but the mean average usually hovers around 15 pounds.
White pelicans at Circle B in Polk County, FL Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield

Although females normally lay 2 eggs, usually only one chick survives due to something called "siblicide," which means one sibling kills the other. I'm not saying I encourage such behavior in humans, but I can definitely relate to feeling.

Learn more about these lovely birds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
White pelicans and a Bald eagle in the tree below them Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield




Gynaephora groenlandica is a Hardcore Arctic Survivor


Written by: Neil Copes  
Published: 2018-01-29  

Written by: Neil Copes

Published: 2018-01-29  


A Gynaephora groenlandica caterpillar looking adorable.
Photo credit: Mike Beauregard

Because I’ve lived my entire life in the perpetually muggy weather of Florida, it’s easy for me to forget that plenty of animals live beyond the Arctic and Antarctic circles (people included), and that our planet’s poles are home to more than direwolves and Andorians. Our planet is actually saturated with life, with bacteria and fungi many kilometers up into the stratosphere and mesosphere, and nematodes and bacteria found many kilometers deep into the earth. If fish can live in freezing Antarctic waters, it should come as no surprise that an enormous variety of life manages to make a living on land above the Arctic circle – which brings us to Gynaephora groenlandica (better known as the arctic woolly bear moth). G. groenlandica live in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and spend the first six years of their life as adorable furry caterpillars. Although they look like the invention of Pixar animators, they regularly give Mother Nature the middle finger by withstanding sustained freezing temperatures, tolerating extremes as low as -60 C. In fact, G. groenlandica spend 90% of their life frozen solid, thawing out each spring to eat, molt, and gain strength before going dormant again by the summer and riding out the rest of the year in durable cocoons called hibernacula (I love that word). It takes them until their seventh year to undergo metamorphosis, transforming into moths that spend their final summer gliding across the arctic landscape.
Pictured: Not a Gynaephora groenlandica.  Instead it's one of its close cousins, Gynaephora selenitica, because I take what I can get in terms of pictures.  Let me know if you happen to have an arctic woolly bear moth image I can use.
Photo credit: Didier Descouens

Call me odd, but I find all of this strangely comforting. If an adorable creature can happily eke out a living in an unforgiving environment, while regularly freezing solid like Captain America, then perhaps life in the rest of the world isn’t so bad.




Florida mornings - Happy Tuesday


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-23  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-23  


Ibises waking up at Circle B Bar Preserve.
Photo credit: Clare-Anne Canfield
Giant swallowtail   Photo credit: Clare-Anne Canfield




The Overlooked Yet Spectacular Tube Worms


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-23  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-23  




Lamleibrachia luymesi
may look odd, but if you happen upon some in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, you may be meeting an organism that is 250 years old!

Visit The Moirai Animals to learn more about these tube worms and if you happen to know more about them, we'd love to hear from you.




Have a Beautiful New Week - That tree looks funny


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-22  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-22  


Photo credit: Clare-Anne Canfield

Even the common raccoon is a delight to see when I'm hiking.  This one seemed to be a bit overconfident about her camouflage skills. 
Although raccoons can live up to 20 years in captivity, their life in the wild is not easy and they usually do not make it past 3 years old. Then again, life in the wild is not easy for anything.
Photo credit: Clare-Anne Canfield

The Moirai came into existence to assist in conserving and rehabilitating the natural habitat of species. 




The White-Tailed Kite: a hidden Florida gem


Written by: John Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-22  

Written by: John Canfield

Published: 2018-01-22  


The White-Tailed kite is another of the world’s beautiful raptors, though many people are unaware of its presence here in South Florida. Simply catching a glimpse of one of these lovely birds perched atop a tree or hovering gracefully in the wind will make for a memory you won’t soon forget. Next time you are out for a hike, keep an eye out for this not-so-common bird of prey. In the meantime, here is a quick run-down to get you familiar with a few of the unique characteristics of the beautiful White-Tailed kite. Note: Thank you to Mr. David McQuade of the SW Florida Bird Alert for generously allowing me to use his photos for this entry.   
Photo credit: David McQuade
Measuring over a foot long with a wingspan of over three feet, this distinctive medium sized bird can be easily identified, especially when soaring in the wind or hovering in an open field. As the name implies, the White-Tailed kite has a soft white tail, with a faint gray stripe down the center. Its body is mostly white, with bold black shoulders and striking red eyes. The underside of the wings are marked by eye-catching black patches and greyish-black primary feathers. Juvenile White-Tailed kites look quite similar to adults, but can be identified by yellowish-brown streaks on the head and breast, and yellow eyes. 
Photo credit: David McQuade
These alluring birds love to build their nests in the tops of Live Oak trees, though nests have been found in many different tree species. The nests are usually made of small sticks, and lined with soft grasses, leaves, and Spanish moss. They typically build in isolated trees, or in trees on the edge of a forest near open grasslands. Speaking of grasslands, the White-Tailed kite can be commonly observed hovering motionless over open fields, before dropping directly down onto prey. This behavior, known as ‘kiting’, is a magnificent site to see! By facing directly into the wind, these birds remain stationary while using their excellent eyesight to search the ground for prey, without as much as a flap of the wing. 
Photo credit: David McQuade
Another unique characteristic of the White-Tailed kite is the courtship display. Prior to female egg laying, the male flies while holding prey as an offering to the female. Then, in a fascinating aerial event, the female will fly up to the male, grasp and take the prey, sometimes turning completely upside down in the process. The female will then lay a clutch of 4 brown-blotched white eggs, which she will incubate for about one month. 

I could go on and on about these majestic birds, but I will wrap it up here. And remember, the next time you’re outside, look up. You never know what you may see! 




We're really not much different - Wild Chimpanzees Enjoy a Night cap too


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-19  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-19  


Some chimps were observed to drink the equivalent of a bottle of wine! Photo Credit: Purpleairplane

I never understood the "that's my spirit animal" memes until I read about wild chimpanzees that sometimes drink the fermented sap of the raffia palm. They collect the sap with leaf sponges and all ages and genders take part in the party. The sap is collected by locals for palm wine and the chimpanzees climb the palms and use crushed leaves as sponges to soak up naturally fermented palm sap.

Check out the scientific publication at The Royal Society Open Science - Tools to tipple: ethanol ingestion by wild chimpanzees using leaf-sponges.

You can also read the BBC news article Chimpanzees found to drink alcoholic plant sap in wild.




January Raptors - Celebrating Bald Eagles


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-18  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-18  


Adult Bald Eagle Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield

Some interesting facts about this iconic species:

  • The oldest wild banded Bald eagle lived to be 38 years old [1].

  • Juvenile bald eagles have brown feathers rather than white on their head. There's a good chance you've mistaken a juvenile bald eagle for a vulture at some point in your life. It's not until about four years of age that the dark belly and white head plumage develops fully.


  • They hold the record for the world's largest nest: 20 feet deep, almost 10 feet wide, weighing in at two tons. This beast of a nest was found in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Eagle nests are usually 1/2 to 1/3 of that size, so these two were taking no chances with the Florida hurricanes (they built a damned bunker).

  • Males and females sport the same plumage pattern, but females are larger than males.

  • They are a conservation success story. A 1963 survey found that there were less than 500 breeding pairs of eagles in the United States. These low numbers were due to habitat loss, hunting, and DDT. Thanks to protections placed by Endangered Species act and banning DDT, the beautiful (and silly sounding) Bald eagles are now almost at 9,800 breeding pairs. This also means that the eagle mentioned in the first sentence lived long enough to see the species make a major come back thanks to conservation efforts.
Not an adult, just yet. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield
In flight Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield




1. An Elegy for America's Oldest Bald Eagle.  http://www.audubon.org/news/an-elegy-americas-oldest-bald-eagle

2. Bald Eagle Sex: The Acrobatic Mating of America's National Bird. https://www.livescience.com/55278-animal-sex-bald-eagles.html 





Science and literature come together to name 7 new species of spiders!


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-01-17  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-01-17  


Literature lovers and fans of the arachnids will be happy to know that 7 new found species of spiders were named for some well known characters. These spiders were found in caves in northern Brazil and each have a species name that you may recognize. 
Charlotte, the cutie that cured my fear of spiders when I was 5 years old (so no I can't relate to your silly adult fears). 

    • Ochyrocera varys: Lord Varys from George R. R. Martin's book series A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Ochyrocera atlachnacha: the Spider God Atlach-Nacha created by H. P. Lovecraft.
    • Ochyrocera laracna: Laracna (the giant spider that attacks Frodo and Sam) from Tolkien's book The Lord of the Rings.  
    • Ochyrocera ungoliant: Ungoliant is from Tolkien's, The Silmarillion.
    • Ochyrocera aragogue: Aragog from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling.
Harry Potter fans will love this one!

    • My personal favorite - Ochyrocera misspider: Little Miss Spider by David Kirk.
Another author that allows children to be curious of nature rather than scared of it. Try being kind to spiders, you're gigantic and terrifying to them.

    • And you can't talk about spiders without Ochyrocera charlotte:  Charlotte's web by E. B. White.
If you loved the book and cartoon, then hopefully this picture makes you smile.

There's still so much that we don't know about this fantastic world around us. There is also time to protect and preserve the biodiversity so that we continue to find these hidden gems for many generations.



1. Antonio D. Brescovit, Igor Cizauskas, Leandro P. Mota. Seven new species of the spider genus Ochyrocera from caves in Floresta Nacional de Carajás, PA, Brazil (Araneae, Ochyroceratidae). ZooKeys, 2018; 726: 87 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.726.19778

2. Pensoft Publishers. (2018, January 10). Seven new spider species from Brazil named after seven famous fictional spider characters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 16, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180110112954.htm