A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

Natural World

March 31, 2008

04/15/08 Public Meeting for National Maritime Heritage Area

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

National Maritime Heritage Area Workshop


Please join us for a National Heritage Area Feasibility Workshop
(Feel free to bring a brown bag lunch.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 12:30 pm until 5:00 pm
GTM NERR Environmental Education Center
505 Guana River Road
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida 32080

RSVP requested by April 11, 2008
Contact Pam Troll at 904-829-0745, ext 224 or

February 19, 2008

Can You Help Grow our Community Service at the Lighthouse and LAMP?

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

The Lighthouse would love to have you as a member of our Founding Lights Family. You can make a difference.

It takes a great many of us working together to keep the Light Station strong. It takes all our support to keep the lighthouse preserve and programs going.

Today, we are about $25,000 short of having $350,000 dollars in our small, but growing endowment fund. Why is $350,000 the magic number? Well, when we hit $350,000, then we can apply for another $250,000 from the State of Florida. And that will help us a great deal. It makes us more secure, more stable in a world where changes happen and surprises hit us with new things to repair. It makes us more able to continue wonderful community services like those so many enjoy.

Our Founding Lights Campaign helps preserve and keep alive our story for generations. Fifty percent of every Founding Lights pledge becomes part of the endowment. This money is not ever spent, but and stablity and generates interest that supports programs and our restoration efforts. The remaining funds are put to good use right away.

Won't you help protect the lighthouse? Won't you help save our maritime heritage?

Please join us as a Founding Light!

The Levels Founding Lights: $1,000 per year for five years - Leadership level Legacy Circle: $500 per year for five years - Recognition in a special annual ceremony here and up. Heritage Club: $250 per year for five years Guardians: $100 per year for five years
Find a Pledge Form at this link: http://www.staugustinelighthouse.com/foundinglights.php.

Or call us here at the Lighthouse 904 829-0745.

Kathy Fleming
Executive Director

September 8, 2007

Cuban tree frogs arrive in St. Augustine

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Two weeks ago Darlene Humphreys, who works at the St. Augustine Lighthouse, asked me about huge tree frogs climbing up the walls of her home and coming to rest on the outside of the windows every night. I asked Darlene and her husband, Jay, to take pictures so I could identify these frogs. Two days later they sent several pictures via e-mail.

In one picture Jay placed his hand beside a frog on the window so its size was immediately easy to see. The frog was at least 4 ½ inches long and would cover the palm of a human hand. Its toes ended in the familiar round tree frog toe pads, but this was definitely not a Florida tree frog. It has warty skin and can be cream or pale brown. The one in Darlene’s picture had pale green around the back legs and huge eyes.Cuban%20tree%20frog%20w%20hand

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August 8, 2007

Florida Tree Snails Arrive at Lighthouse

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The Lighthouse Summer Camp kids and their teachers, Jeff Wessel and Andy Magee, found two Florida tree snails crawling on the Lighthouse patio on August 7, 2007. Why is this worth noting? Florida tree snails normally populate coastal hammocks in South Florida and the Keys. The northernmost area reporting tree snails is Indian River County. There, tree snails have been found on orange and grapefuit trees and since they do no harm to the trees they should not be disturbed.


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June 15, 2007

New Box Turtle Resident at LIghthouse

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Florida Box Turtle
Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina bauri)

[Here's a sample of pages on St. Augustine Lighthouse widlife being created--Chuck Meide, Administrative Director of LAMP, found a box turtle crossing the road in front of his house and brought the turtle for release at the Lighthouse, perfect habitat for box turtles. The photos are Chuck's.]

Description; Small land turtle, maximum length, 7.5 inches.High domed upper shell (carapace). Lower shell (plastron) is hinged about half way down to allow tight closure to protect head and legs. Upper shell has a black or brownish background with radiating yellow lines. These lines fade as the turtle ages. Can live to over 100 years. Notice the yellow on the side of the head and on the foot in the pictures above and below. Males have slight indentations on plastrons to help balance when mating with a female. Females have flat plastrons.

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June 4, 2007

Raccoon daytime retreat.

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Friday, June 1, Sharon Ferguson, Office Manager, took these pictures of a mother raccoon and her four youngsters curled up in grape vines at the top of trees just behind (west of) the Lighthouse tower. Sharon took these pictures from the top of the tower. The grapevines make a soft hammock strong enough to hold the ready-to-wean pups and their mom.


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May 15, 2007

Insect/Spider Workshop May 12, 2007

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Entered by Gail Compton, Lighthouse Naturalist

At 9:00 a.m. six people showed up for the Lighthouse insect/spider workshop. We shared numbers of insect and spider guide books available and had a discussion about insects in Florida and the differences between beetles, bugs, flies and spiders. It was a bit foggy outside at first, but when the sun came out we immediately saw insect activity on the red bay tree next to us.
When the sun warmed the leaves, we began our insect/spider safari and had gone only five steps on the Lighthouse grounds when we began spotting all sorts of insects and signs of insects. Noah Budkoski, our youngest safari member, was our sharpest eye and found more insects than we could identify. Good job Noah!
The red bay tree next to the breezeway always has small leaf galls caused by a tiny wasp species. In this case, the female injects an egg into the leaf layers at the edge of the leaf and, in reaction to the foreign object, the leaf curls over the egg or larvae and forms a hard, protective shelter for the growing larvae. Most of the time galls do no harm to the host plant and the larvae grow until they chew their way out and drop onto the ground to finish development. We found one gall that had already been chewed open to expose the small chamber inside. Different wasps seem to specialize in specific plants and we even found an old goldenrod stem with galls on it. Sources say there are hundreds of species of tiny wasps, each creating its own distinctive gall. Most of these wasps are unnamed and unstudied.
One safari member, Jim Barnes, found an assassin bug nymph among the red bay leaf galls. It was only a half inch long, had an orange abdomen but the thorax and head had turned gray. The wings had not formed yet (probably within the next two instars). The daggerlike beak was folded under its head and was still a bright orange. Assassin bugs go through an “incomplete metamorphosis” from egg to nymph to adult. The nymph will go through several “instars,” or moltings before it reaches adult size (at least an inch and a half) and colors (grays and blacks). It’s a predator on other insects and uses ambush techniques to capture its prey.
Another interesting insect we saw was a tiny, delicate fly that glowed iridescent gold in sunlight. Beth Mansbridge took photos and was able to zoom in to get several close-ups of this beautiful fly. We saw one or two of these flies everywhere sunlight touched leaves. [Can’t find this fly in my insect guides; if you know, please contact me, 829-0745]
We found several spider webs low in the underbrush but the spiders are still in the early stages of their development and are so tiny you need magnifying glasses to see them. We did find several orchard spider webs among the fronds of palmetto. We could identify the spiders by the bright orange dots on their abdomens.
A nearby woodpile was populated by brown anoles, there to exploit the rich insect life of the woodpile. One brown anole had reached maturity and had turned a dark brown, almost black and had a crest starting at its head and running down its back.
We saw one pale brown anole with a narrower head that might have been a green anole. It stayed pale brown but was stalking insects on a small tree. The skin was much smoother than the brown anoles.
We also saw mourning doves, heard the resident family of Carolina Wrens calling to each other, found a beginning paper wasp nest on the underside of a palmetto frond, saw what appeared to be tiny white eggs on the tips of grass seed heads. Don’t know what insects laid them, perhaps one of the wood nymph or satyr butterflies that inhabit shaded woods and use grasses as host plants.
We did not need to go far, but the insect/spider yield was high. It's all in focusing the senses.

April 24, 2007

Lighthouse outdoor classroom

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Nature has always been a part of Lighthouse histories: the sea, beaches, dunes, inlets, salt marshes and the plants and animals inhabiting them. Humans and lighthouses don’t exist in vacuums. Natural forces influence our lives and shape our actions, our architecture and culture. Engaging school tours and regular visitors in the natural history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse is exciting education.

The Lighthouse has a natural classroom that’s never closed. Six acres of oak hammock now exist on dunes that were, at one time, bare. The present oak hammock is a living classroom and class is always in session. Earlier this year, visitors to the top of the tower looked down to see a mother and two young raccoons curled up in tree-top grape vines to sleep. Tracks of raccoon, armadillo, opossum, gopher tortoise, and mourning doves leave patterns in the parking lot and on the nature trails. We have a pair of box turtles—over the last six years, the female has been seen many times in the garden by the brick wall surrounding the tower. Three years ago, I found a male box turtle trying to cross Anastasia Blvd in front of the fire station and brought him to a safer environment in the Lighthouse garden. Since box turtles prefer a forest habitat and stay put in small home territories, we hope the matchmaking effort has paid off.

Last week, Donna Schleifer on tower duty, spotted a mature bald eagle soaring by the tower. Red- shouldered and red-tailed hawks, black and turkey vultures and bald eagles are attracted to thermals forming within sight of the lighthouse. And, as Kathleen McCormick observed in her blog, wading birds fly to and from the Alligator Farm—early mornings on their way to favorite spots to fish; late afternoons flocking back to the Alligator Farm to nest and roost. We’ve seen swallow-tailed kites, tree swallows, and now chimney swifts, back from South America for spring and summer, dart around the tower snatching insects on the wing.

I hope to get my digital camera up and running soon to record Lighthouse plants, mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and spiders to share with you. Saturday, May 12 we’ll offer a workshop, “Insects and Spiders of the Lighthouse,” 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Meet in the breezeway to the left of the Visitors Center entrance. Please call for reservations, 829-0745 and ask for Gail. Join me to explore the secret life of the Lighthouse hammock. I look forward to the adventure.