Category Archives: Wildlife in North Florida- Critters Big and Small

Two month old red wolf puppies gather around their father at the Tallahassee Museum.

Red Wolf Family Celebrates First Year at the Tallahassee Museum

The Tallahassee Museum’s red wolf pups are shy, and especially early on, few people were able to see them.  Luckily, they became accustomed to our cameras, and so we’ve been able to watch them grow.  Below is a documentary on their first year.

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Some days, the red wolves are more obviously “wild” than others.  One day, for instance, I got footage of two pups fighting over a bone.  Just as soon as the short tailed alpha puppy asserted that it was his rib, he became alert.  I could hear a police siren faintly in the distance.  Soon, all eight of the Tallahassee Museum wolves were howling.  It sounded more monkey than wolf-like to me, a combination of longer howls and strange whoops.  It was everything I could ask for out of a shoot day. Continue reading

Red Wolf Pups at the Tallahassee Museum- December 2017 Update

Not only are the Tallahassee Museum’s red wolf pups getting big- they’re going to be here longer than originally expected.  Learn more below:

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

When I get to the enclosure, three red wolves of similar size are out.  At first it looks like three adults, one more than I know should be here.  The father wolf has always been easy to pick out; he’s a good bit bigger than the mother.  I take a close look at the other two wolves, and it’s the skinny legs that give away the pup.  In the almost three months since I last visited the Tallahassee Museum, these puppies have done a bit of growing. Continue reading

Gulf frittilary in flight over a large gathering of butterflies, including little yellow, orange sleepy, and cloudless sulphur species.

Tallahassee Butterfly Count 2017: Know Your Local Species

Butterflies are all around us, and they deserve a closer look.  When you pay attention to butterflies, you notice the plants they use, and other interesting insects.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

Some of my favorite butterfly shots in this video came from an unrelated shoot.  We were at Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy on the day of the eclipse.  Did red cockaded woodpeckers get fooled into acting like it was sunset?  No, it never got that dark in Tallahassee.  But, on the way out, we found our way blocked by the hundred-plus butterflies you see in the opening shots. Continue reading

Steephead Salamander Search, and the Apalachicola’s Ice Age Refugees

In a steephead ravine, we enter a landscape as Appalachian as it is Floridian- perhaps a glimpse at the Apalachicola River of the ice ages.  In part 3 of our salamander adventure, Bruce Means climbs down in search of the Apalachicola dusky, an animal he discovered here over 50 years ago.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

“We’re standing at one of the places I most love in this world,” Bruce Means tells the camera.  “There’s a big surprise right behind me.”

Dr. Means stands in an open field, a row of oak trees a short distance away.  When we get to the tree line, we look down.  Up here, all we see are the tops of trees and a slope that descends into shadows.  At the bottoms of those trees, however, lies the promise of rare plants and animals, a few of which aren’t found anywhere but the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines region.  This is a steephead ravine. Continue reading

Bruce Means inspects his dip net, which is full of dead leaves. He is searching for southern dusky salamanders in the Bradwell Bay Wilderness, Apalachicola National Forest.

Bradwell Bay | A Last Refuge of the Southern Dusky Salamander

The Bradwell Bay Wilderness is dark and mysterious- and full of life.  In part 2 of our salamander adventure, Bruce Means searches the swamp for the southern dusky, a critter that has disappeared from almost everywhere else.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

Is there something you love doing enough to do it for over fifty years?  Some do, and that’s why I’m here today.  I’m following Bruce Means into a titi swamp in the Bradwell Bay Wilderness.  He’d scour this place as a Florida State University graduate student in the 1960s, and today we’re on the same mission.

We’re on the hunt for southern dusky salamanders. Continue reading

A Hillis's dwarf salamander perches on the finger of Dr. Bruce Means.

Dwarf Salamander Search in the Chipola River Floodplain

We take an eye level look at the habitat of the Hillis’s dwarf salamander, a species new to science.  Our guide is Dr. Bruce Means, who, along with other researchers, discovered the salamander along regional waterways.  A few months ago, we spent a day in the forest with Dr. Means and an eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

After about an hour of searching for salamanders, Bruce Means stops to grab a drink.  It’s a hot summer day, and about time for some cool refreshment.  He gets down on his hands and knees and presses his lips against the muck on the slope.  There, cool, clean water is seeping from an underground lake, creating the ecosystem favored by the subject of our search. Continue reading

Three monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed plant.

Monarch Caterpillar Predators | Beneficial Insects Aren’t Always Beneficial

If you haven’t seen it, you might be interested in watching our video chronicling the life cycle of the monarch– from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.  We also went down to the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge last fall for a little monarch tagging, and to learn about their Monarch Milkweed Initiative.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

Our second monarch raising season started much earlier this year.  At this point last year, we had just released our first six monarchs; as of Monday, we have released twenty six (we released one on August 21, just after the eclipse).   Continue reading

A red wolf puppy peeks out of its artificial den at the Tallahassee Museum.

Red Wolf Pups at the Tallahassee Museum | July 2017

These puppies are running!  The Tallahassee Museum’s red wolf pups are three months old, and visibly larger than the last time we saw them.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

If you’ve been visiting the Tallahassee Museum looking to catch a glimpse of their red wolf pups, you’ve been out of luck.  So far, anyway.  They’re growing fast, and their behavior is changing as they grow.  There is a pattern to my two shoot days with them.  After the animal exhibit trails close, they start to poke their heads out.  When the animal staff heads out on their cart, the four pups come out and explore. Continue reading

Red Wolf Pups at the Tallahassee Museum | June 2017

We’ll be visiting the Tallahassee Museum every few weeks to see how their four red wolf pups are growing.  If you missed it, we had previously visited the Museum when their mother was pregnant with them.  We also took a look at the Museum’s role within the overall effort to restore this native predator to the American southeast.  We also visited Saint Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, a red wolf island propagation site within the system.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

Yesterday, the Tallahassee Museum reopened its red wolf exhibit.  Their four new pups are two months old, and they’re still kind of shy.  But, if you’re patient, you may get a look at one of them.  Last Friday, I took a camera down to get the shots in the video above.  After two-and-a-half hours, people stopped coming and little heads topped up from the wolf den.  Thirty minutes after that, perhaps they felt better about my presence; they came out and played with their dad for a few minutes (The mom came out for a total of ten seconds during my time there). Continue reading

Adopting an Ephemeral Wetland | Kids’ Adventures in Citizen Science

(Above) Zoe, Dylan, and Max sit in a field of bog buttons after a day of sampling ephemeral wetlands in the Apalachicola National Forest.  Read more about their adventures in citizen science below.  Thanks to Dylan’s dad, Don, for letting us use his photo.  And thanks to my wife, Amy, for taking most of the photos below.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

After a picnic by the water, the kids all pile into a surprisingly sturdy hammock.  Four sets of arms and legs shift and bulge against the hammock’s mosquito netting, laughter mixing with the occasional “Ow!”   They’re wearing fresh, dry clothes after a wet and muddy Sunday morning.  Citizen science can be dirty work, after all. Continue reading