Whiskey Creek


Pileated Woodpecker

The Pielated Woodpecker is on the of the most striking “forest” birds in the general area. Its size is comparable to the black crow but with bold white stripes and flaming red crest. You can hear the Woodpecker whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. These holes can make crucial shelter to many species including bats to pine martens and ducks to owls. A Pileated Woodpeckers “excavations” can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half. Larger tree are needed for nesting which can become a lightening hazard for rearing their young. Once established, the Pileated pair will remain on its territory all year round and defend it. They will tolerate new arrivals during the winter season for mating. Did you know that the NFL had studied the Woodpecker’s physiology in an effort to develop safer, shock absorbing helmets for football players? Their unique physiological structure allows them to withstand severe deceleration. A wood pecker’s head experiences decelations of 1200g on a tree up to 22 times per second. Humans are often left with concussions it they experience 80 to100g. The longest living known Pileated Woodpecker to be approximately thirteen years!

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Grey Catbird

A medium-sized songbird with a long, rounded, black tail and a narrow, straight bill. Catbirds are fairly long legged and have broad wings. Although they appear entirely slaty gray with a closer look you’ll see a small black cap, blackish tail, and a brown patch under the tail. Catbirds are energetically secretive hopping and fluttering from branch to branch through tangles of vegetation. Singing males, with their song lasting upwards to ten minutes, sit atop shrubs and small trees to proclaim his territory. There are reluctant to fly across open areas, preferring quick, low flights over vegetation. These song birds are know to be a long-lived species with the oldest recorded (banded) for just shy of 18 years!

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Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Despite its different last name, the Little Blue Heron is more related to the Snowy Egret. When it’s young, this heron is white but molts to a dark slate-blue plumage as an adult. These herons and generally wary and hard to approach. The nest in colonies typically associates itself with various other heron species. Their feeding habits are a bit slower than that of their Snowy Egret cousin with their diet consisting of small fish and crustaceans.  Life expectancy of the Little Blue is 7 to 8 years however, the oldest know Little Blue Heron had lived for almost 12 years. 

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Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies embark on a marvelous and unbelievable migratory phenomenon. They travel between up to 3000 miles from the northeast United States, and southeast Canada to the mountain forests in central Mexico, where they find the right climate conditions to hibernate from the beginning of November to mid-March. The monarch butterfly exhibits the most highly evolved migration pattern of any known species of butterfly or moth and perhaps any known insect.  Adult monarch butterflies possess two pairs of brilliant orange-red wings, featuring black veins and white spots along the edges. Males, who possess distinguishing black dots along the veins of their wings, are slightly bigger than females. Each adult butterfly lives only about four to five weeks.

Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs and the only source of food for baby caterpillars. But urban planning and agricultural expansion have paved and plowed over millions of acres of milkweed. Planting of Milkweed in a given area can help these amazing butterflies and other pollinators thrive. To help restore and attract the Monarch Butterfly, specifically for the Southwest Florida climate, one should strive to plant the Milkweed variants such as Butterfly Weed (well drained soil), Whorled Milkweed (prairies/open areas), White Milkweed (thickets, woodlands), Aquatic Milkweed (wet soil), Sandhill/Pinewoods Milkweed (dry sand soil)

Climate change threatens to disrupt the monarch butterfly’s annual migration pattern by affecting weather conditions in both wintering grounds and summer breeding grounds. Colder, wetter winters could be lethal to these creatures and hotter, drier summers could shift suitable habitats north.  2013 report from Mexico showed that the number of monarch butterflies wintering there was at its lowest in 20 years. The number is measured by the amount of forest they occupy, and in 2013 the number of butterfly acres decreased from approximately seven to three. Abnormal patterns of drought and rainfall in the U.S. and Canada breeding sites may have caused adult butterfly deaths and less plant food for caterpillars. Fewer butterflies up north mean fewer then migrate south to Mexico for the winter.

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Wood Stork

The FEDERALLY THREATENED Wood Stork is a large long legged bird with white feathers but the primary and tail feathers are black. The head and upper neck of the adult wood storks have no feathers but have rough gray scaly skin. The rough scaling skin is remnants of previous moltings giving them their “distighished” appearance where as the juvenile beak and head are more smooth and yellow in appearance than gray to black. Adult wood storks are voiceless and are only capable of making hissing sounds. These prehistoric looking stork is the only species of stork that breeds in the United States. and are very social in their nesting habits sometimes in colonies of 100-150 nests. The Wood Storks feed on fish, crayfish, amphibians and reptiles. Their hunting technique is unique as they move their partially open bill through the water, snapping up prey that comes in contact with its bill. They possess a degree of longevity with the record being 22 1/2 years!


The Swallow-tailed Kite has been called “the coolest bird on the planet.” With its deeply forked tail and bold black-and-white plumage, it is unmistakable in the summer skies above swamps, mashes and large rivers of southern Florida. The Kite’s aerial acrobatics are a sight to see. It continually rotates its tail easily switching from a straight course to a tight turn in an instant as it scans for prey. Flying with barely a wingbeat and maneuvering with twists of its incredible tail, it chases dragonflies or plucks frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestling birds from tree branches. They usually ingest their food while flying with the exception of bringing sustenance to the nest. Aside from parental duties, they rarely perch during the day. These birds are simply creatures of the air, spending most of their day aloft circling fairly low over trees on the hunt. After rearing its young in a treetop nest coinciding with the end of summer, the kite migrates to wintering grounds in South America.

Yellow Garden Spider

Garden spiders live about one year. They range in size and color but are typically black or brown with yellow and shiny silvery or white markings and large, spindly black or brown legs. Females have much showier markings than males. Male spiders’ bodies are much smaller, about a quarter inch to half inch compared to females that reach three-quarter of an inch to 1.25 inches. They emerge from teardrop-shaped egg sacks each spring as spiderlings. The tiny spiders disperse by ballooning or throwing a strand of silk into the air to catch the wind to other locations. Spiderlings feed on small insects and molt as they grow. By summer, males search for females, build a web nearby and begin trying to mate without being eaten. Once they mate, females construct an egg sack and lay around 500-1,500 eggs inside it. Females can produce multiple egg sacks depending on mating success. Eggs typically hatch out in late summer or fall, and spiderlings overwinter inside the sack. Garden spiders are predators of a wide range of insects. Adults capture annoying pest insects like moths, flies, stinkbugs, leaf-footed bugs, katydids and grasshoppers. However, they also feed on beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. Think twice when you see your beneficial eight-legged friends! They’re nature’s exterminators!

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Red-Tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk has been heard numerously throughout Hollywood where their cry has been unjustly applied to other raptors such as the Eagle in their films. You may even have heard these raptors also called Chicken Hawk although they rarely prey on chickens. These raptors are amazingly adapted for life in the air and their diversity can acclimate to all the biomes within their range, occurring on the edges of non-ideal habitats such as dense forests and sandy beaches. They’re one of the largest birds you’ll see from the interior of Alaska and Northern Canada to as far as Panama and the West Indies. They have been known to hunt from perches in pairs and rely on a diet consisting of small mammals, rodents and infrequent invertebrates. Because they are so common and easily trained as capable hunters, in the United States they are the most commonly captured

Tri-Colored Heron

The tricolored heron is among the most lively of the active hunters. The Tricolored heron uses a technique known as canopy feeding to elude their prey. The strategy behind canopy feeding entails shading the water with their outstretched wings hoping small fish will seek refuge from the sun and swim into the shade they provide. When a fish is in sight they strikes! This creative approach to catching fish becomes a dance performed in rhythmic circular patterns. The dance is quite graceful and from what I can tell unique to the tricolored heron. 

Another one of the more compelling aspects of the tricolored heron is their natural ability to change colors for mating season. The beak and legs of this bird remain yellow for the majority of the year until some time in early spring when their beak takes on a stunning almost iridescent blue hue with a  back tip and their legs become a rich pink tone.

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If you happen to see a dark body stealthily swimming through the lake and intermittently having its snakelike head poking above the surface, you did not see the Lock Ness monster. This stealthy predator in an Anhinga. Unlike most waterbirds, the Anhinga doesn’t have feathers that are “waterproof” however, this adaptation allows them to slowly submerge to slyly stalk fish. The Anhinga’s distinct shape has earned the reputations of being the “water turkey” due to its turkey like tail and the “snake bird” for its snake-like neck that slithers through the water. Their dagger like beak is quite efficient at stabbing fish while under the surface. Anhingas inhabit shallow freshwater lakes, ponds and slow moving streams with branches or logs for their nesting. They also use brackish bays and lagoons along the coast but are cautious to enter extensive open water. When not on their submarine hunt, they can be seen usually with silvery wings spread wide catching the sun’s heat to dry their waterlogged feathers. Once dry, they will soar high on thermals stretched out like a cross. Typical life span for these 10 years. All photos that appear in the Whiskey Creek News are captured only within our favored community. Should you like to follow the exploits of what this camera bug captures, follow the journey here. You’ll need to request membership to gain access! https://www.facebook.com/groups/1430022127286192

Great Blue Heron

Great blue herons are one of the most beautiful birds in America. Spotting a regal, statuesque heron is always a treat. The male and female look almost exactly the same. On average, males are a little larger with longer ornamental plumes, but these distinctions are so slight and variable that it’s hard to see the difference, even when members of a pair are together. And pairs are together only when they are on the nest for courtship, taking turns incubating the eggs and all their interactions around raising their young. When they fly off to find food for themselves and their young, they go separately, not together. The great blue heron is the largest heron species in North America, standing about 4 feet tall and have a 6 foot wingspan. But even though they are large birds, they only weight about 5 to 6 pounds, thanks to their light, hollow bones. For such large and lanky birds, herons are speedy, flying as fast as 30 mph. They usually fly with their necks in an S-shape and their legs trailing behind them. One part of the great blue heron that’s not beautiful is its call. The rough squawk has a guttural, almost prehistoric sound to it.


The Ibis is a community bird staying together to probe shallow water, mud or grass with their long curved beaks. They live, travel and breed in flocks. In flight they form diagonal lines for a “V” formation. This configuration decreases wind resistance for the trailing birds. As the “leader” tires, it falls to the rear of the formation and an alternate take the lead. This is an effective way to cover a great distance. You won’t hear much from this breed, only an occasional grunt to warn the colony or a croaking on the breeding grounds. As an indicator of how ancient this species are, there are fossil records going back 60 million years!

All wildlife portrayed in my articles are of those species that call Whiskey Creek “home”.

Article by Mark Franzer


The Osprey is a rather unique Bird of Prey where their outer toe is reversible allowing them to  grasp with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish. Only the Osprey and Owls have this particular feature. The efficiency of this “grasp” can allow for Ospreys to even catch two fish in one strike. When prey has been captured, the wide outstretched wings will provide adequate lift to retreat from their hunting grounds. In flight, the Osprey will orient their catch with head forward to reduce drag for efficient flight. 

The sexes appear fairly similar, but the adult male can be distinguished from the female by its slimmer body and narrower wings. The colored breast band, or “chest plate” of the male is also weaker than that of the female, or is non-existent. It is straightforward to determine the sex in a breeding pair, but harder with individual birds.

The osprey is the second most widely distributed raptor species, after the peregrine falcon. If there is water to sustain an adequate food supply, the Osprey will be perched for its hunt! Listen closely for a repetitive shrill chirp and its a good indication that an individual is call for its mate!


The Squirrel, generally, any of and 268 species of rodents whose common name is derived from the Greek word skiouros, meaning “shade tail,” which describes one of the most conspicuous and recognizable features of these small mammals. These distinctive animals occupy a range of ecological niches worldwide virtually anywhere there is vegetation. A few fun facts of this “rodent”, a word derived from the latin word “rodere” to gnaw, is that their teeth never stop growing. 25% of their buried food is usually stolen by competitor squirrels and/or birds. To combat this, they are extremely intelligent in deceptively digging a hole and vigorously covers it up again, but without depositing the nut. It seems this is done to throw off potential food thieves. There is even a National Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21 for this variety of roles mammal for the variety of roles the acrobatic creates play from bandit to gardener to trickster. This energetic little critter has even (accidentally) contributed countless trees to our nations forests by not retrieving all of their buried nuts!


Flying insects are usually annoying. Mosquitos bite, bees and wasps sting. Flies are just disgusting. But there’s something magical about dragonflies. Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches, but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet. There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies. In their larval stage, which can last up to two years, dragonflies are aquatic and eat just about anything—tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish, other insect larvae and even each other. Once they’ve left their water borne nursery, taking up to days to dry their wings to become expert fliers. They can fly and hover like a helicopter. All activity is air borne; from capturing and devouring their prey to mating. They’ll starve if they can’t take flight. They’re so effective as an airborne hunter rating 90-95% inflight captures. Life expectance is anywhere from a few weeks up to a year during their adult stage. Nearly all of its head is and eye that provides incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except right behind them.


The Jesus Lizard is called that because it can indeed walk on water just like Jesus. Its real name is Basilisk and it hails from sunny Central America and is related to the Iguana.

The Jesus Lizard likes to live near water, that way, when it is frightened by an approaching predator it can get to the water and run across the surface. Their predators are: large birds, snakes, fish, other larger reptiles, and a few mammals.

The lizards can run on water because they have a fringe of scales on their hind toes which makes little webs that can trap bubbles of air and water beneath their feet. This keeps them from sinking into the water if they run quickly enough across. When they do stop running they don’t mind taking a little swim. The smaller lizards can run further than the bigger and heavier ones. Basilisks usually weigh between 200-600 grams (0.44 – 1.3 lbs) and may grow to be about 2 feet (61 cm) long although they average about 1 foot (30.5 cm) in length.

Green Anole

All of Florida’s anoles have expanded toe tips with a small claw, which makes them excellent climbers, and there are several species of anoles in the state that may be confused with the brown anole. All but one of these species was introduced by people. The only native anole species in the United States is the green anole (Anolis carolinensis), which is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a “chameleon” because it can change color. True chameleons, which are not native to Florida, are members of an entirely different group of lizards than the anoles. As their name implies, native green anoles are often green, but they can quickly change to brown or gray. Invasive brown anoles are never green. Although green anoles may be various shades of brown or green, they lack the extensive markings of brown anoles. Green anoles have a longer, pointier snout than brown anoles, and males in most of the state have a pink dewlap. Female green anoles have a thin, light stripe down the center of their back. By Mark L Franzer

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Ducks, a non-domestic species to the Florida environment, are large, heavy-bodied ducks with long necks that can make them look like small geese. They have a unique appearance with red facial skin with odd warty growths. The tail is fairly long. Males are larger than females; domesticated individuals are often larger than wild. Wild Muscovy Ducks are mostly black. Adult males have large white patches on the wings; juveniles show much smaller white wing patches. In good light, the black feathers can show a greenish gloss. Wild Muscovy Ducks are wary birds that feed by dabbling in shallow wetlands. These ducks were domesticated primarily for farming purposes.

The pictures above is a tribute to the one that I have called “Mildred”. Personally I had despised this species for its initially perceived “ugly” appearance. She won me over as her warm demeanor inquisitively frequented our property. I had seen her young accompany her as they foraged through our grass. Sadly, following Hurricane Ian, she was a constant on our property and approached me more than previous almost as if asking for some assistance. This gentle soul passed and was discovered the following morning. I will miss my “beautiful friend”.

by Mark L Franzer

Honey Bee

The simple HoneyBee is significant singularly important insect that provides so much for our survival. Some know of their importance to pollenating plants but do you know these other facts of this mighty “bee”? The average honey bee flies at a speed of 15 mph and visits 50-100 flowers in one trip. To do this, they flap their wings 11,400 times per minute. Bees never sleep and during their lifetime, they only consume 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey. At this rate, one ounce of honey could fuel a bee’s flight around the world! A pound of honey is made from over 2 million flower visits and range up to 55,000 miles back and forth to the hive. The honey comb is equally amazing with its hexagonal (six-sided) shape capable of with standing 25 times its on weight from the 0.002” thick (or shall I say thin) walls. Their hive can consist of up to 60,000 worker bees. Honey keeps very well too! When King Tut’s tomb was discovered, a pot of honey was found in good condition. Eating honey is a natural way to get an energy boost due to mixture of simple sugars glucose and fructose and its variety of vitamins, essential minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. Study has shown that this works best in preventing fatigue while enhancing athletes performance. Among these “internal” benefits, honey is also an antimicrobial agent that can be used effectively on minor burns and scrapes to speed healing of the wounds. Now for the big fact: The humble honey bee is the only insect that produces food for humans! Now for a personal “funny” story for the mighty bee! In my early days of sailing and honing my skill at tweaking sails and capturing wind, I was quite proud of my “superior” sailing skills when heeling and cutting waves to compete in my first Regatta! Then from the corner of my eye as I’m enjoying this accomplishment, this humble bee effectively passed me at twice the speed I was sailing!

Night Heron

Seen by day, these chunky herons seem dull and lethargic, with groups sitting hunched and motionless in trees near water. They become more active at dusk flying out to foraging sites as they pass high overhead in the darkness. They usually feed at night because they are dominated by other herons and egrets by day. This Heron forages mostly from late evening through the night, but also by day during breeding season or in unusual weather. Their diet comprised mostly of fish but are opportunistic with squid, crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, snakes, clams, mussels, rodents, carrion. Sometimes specializes on eggs and young birds, and can cause problems in tern colonies. The Night Heron may begin nesting earlier in season than other herons. Male chooses nest site and displays there to attract mate. The nest’s construction, built mostly by the female, can be from on ground to more than 150′ high, in trees, shrubs, marsh vegetation on firm support. Both parents feed young. Young clamber about in nest tree at 4 weeks, able to fly at about 6 weeks. After 6-7 weeks, may follow parents to foraging areas and beg to be fed there. Populations had been declining owing to habitat loss and, in mid-century, effects of DDT and other persistent pesticides. Following the banning of DDT, many local populations have increased in recent years. Water pollution is still a problem in some areas, but overall population probably stable or increasing.