The first installment of the Friends of the Wekiva River Ecology Field Course was held on August 19 th at Seminole State Forest (SSF). All 25 slots for the course were taken and there was a waiting list – we may have to schedule another nocturnal excursion into SSF later.
Based on a study of the breeding frogs in shallow, ephemeral marshes on SSF a couple of years earlier, I had already identified the areas that we visited on Saturday night. I had also done some recent reconnaissance to find the most convenient way to access a couple of the most productive marshes.
During a site inspection the night before, I had documented 10 different species of breeding frogs, and our hope was to hear all of them. We talked about the characteristics of the marshes on SSF and why they were of high-value to frogs: they exist in a landscape mosaic that includes viable uplands, there are no predatory fish, and they experience the dynamic hydrology that is
suitable for episodic breeding by native species of frogs.
Although the frog activity was not as intense as previous nights with recent rain and stormy weather, we did ultimately here almost all 10 of the species that had been recently documented. We also waded into one shallow marsh where we captured cricket frogs, green treefrogs and photographed barking treefrogs in amplexus (breeding posture).
In total, we heard and/or saw: barking treefrog, green treefrog, squirrel treefrog, pinewoods treefrog, cricket frog, narrow-mouthed toad, pig frog, little grass frog, southern leopard frog and bullfrog. Everyone waded in calf-deep water to be immersed in frog habitat and even seemed unaffected by a snake that passed right through the middle of the crowd. We also observed white-tailed deer, bats and a bobcat during our tour of the forest.
All in all, we had a great group of people from 7 to 70 years old that had a unique Saturday night experience in the wilderness of the Wekiva Basin.
The next field course will focus on Fire Ecology. It will be held on Sunday, October 15th at Wekiwa Springs State Park.