So many native and migratory residents can be seen this time of year just by taking a short walk along the bridge over Smith Preserve at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The female gopher tortoise pictured below created a new burrow right next to the bridge and often basks in the sun usually between 10 a.m. — 12 p.m. every day. The white sand surrounding the mouth of her burrow is called an apron, and that is where she will lay her eggs. The whiteness of the sand and shows she has been working hard to keep her burrow open and growing in length.
As I walked along the bridge, I could hear warblers calling. Warblers are very small birds that migrate through or spend the winter in Florida. Some of them are brilliantly colored. All of them depend on a healthy food source of either berries or insects or even arachnids (spiders) to get through the winter and be healthy enough for the flight home in spring. Some of the more common birds you might see are the black and white warbler, painted bunting, northern parula, yellow breasted chat and of course the yellow rumped warbler.
The wax myrtle seen below is visible from the bridge attracts many species of birds. This incredible native shrub is an awesome addition to any home landscape, as it can take being wet for a long time, and go dry, as evidenced by it growing here in a dry scrub community. This plant produces a fruit called bayberry (yes, bayberry candles were made from them long ago) that is sometimes the only food yellow rumped warblers eat while in Florida. Without this plant’s bountiful harvest, this beautiful bird would have to expend more energy searching for food. So please add wax myrtle to your landscape if you can.
If you are a patient and persistent birder, you can see and photograph many bird species at Smith Preserve. Access is limited to the bridge boardwalk that spans the preserve, and it is the perfect site for seeing wildlife. Pileated woodpeckers, red shouldered hawks, and many different species of butterfly are also frequent visitors to the Smith Preserve.
We hope you’ll take time this winter to visit with friends and family. For more information on the wildlife found in Smith Preserve, be sure to click here.