Purse Spider web
Karla Brandt
This is the web of a purse-web spider. Related to the tarantula, the purse-web spider is named for its tubular webs thought to resemble an old-fashioned pull-purse. Inhabitants of damp woodlands, purse-web spiders spend most of their lives in burrows underground, which they line with silk. They extend the silk up the sides of tree trunks, camouflaging it with bits of dirt and debris. Attached to the tree at the top only, the tube vibrates when an unsuspecting insect crosses the tube. Feeling the vibration, the spider rushes up the tube and impales its victim.

White-tailed deer are abundant and frequently wander by the Conservation Center. The Pinewoods treefrog sounds out its morse-code-like tapping from high in the trees. Turkeys are found among the oaks and pines and sometimes roost in the cypress fringing May's Prairie. Because May's Prairie occasionally becomes dry, fish are rare, making it a sanctuary for thousands of amphibians, including pig and bull frogs, barking treefrogs, squirrel treefrogs, dwarf sirens, and tiger salamanders. After  heavy fall and winter rains, you can hear the snore-like call of the gopher frog, a species of special concern. May's Prairie is also home to sandhill cranes, herons, ibises, egrets, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups, and hooded mergansers.

Bobcats frequently leave telltale scat on the boardwalk leading through the swamp to May's Prairie. Higher up in the surrounding sandhill, gopher tortoises, another species of special concern, browse near their half-moon-shaped burrows.

Chinsegut is a choice location for seeing migratory as well as resident birds. Migrants include the black-and-white warbler, indigo bunting, blackpoll warbler, redstart, and Cape May warbler. Summer tanagers, white-eyed vireos, eastern towhees, pine warblers, and northern parula warblers nest in the area. Each spring Chinsegut hosts a welcome back songbirds festival. Check out our  bird list PDF to find out what you might see on your bird watching expedition.


Reptiles and Amphibians: Implications for Management

Gopher Frog by Kevin Enge
Kevin Enge - Gopher Frog

In 1995-96 and 1998, wildlife biologists Kevin Enge and Kristin Wood used drift fences to survey reptiles and amphibians in sandhill, xeric hammock, and basin marsh habitats of Chinsegut Conservation Center. The area proved to have a rich and diverse array of reptiles and amphibians. Four adult eastern tiger salamanders were captured in the xeric hammock, representing the southernmost record for this species in Florida. Large numbers of juvenile gopher frogs, a state listed species of special concern, were captured dispersing from May's Prairie in June and July. A juvenile short-tailed snake, a state listed threatened species, was captured in the sandhill on June 5, 1998. Only one other short-tailed snake has ever been recorded for Hernando County.

Two management implications emerged from the study. Although the xeric hammock at the Chinsegut Conservation Center was once sandhill as evidenced by remnant longleaf pine, restoration of the xeric hammock adjacent to May's prairie would be difficult and may not be beneficial to amphibian populations, which thrive in the humid and moist environment of the hammock. Stocking of fish in May's Prairie would also be harmful to the over 15 species of amphibians that breed in the marsh. Most of these breed in small, ephemeral wetlands and are not adapted to withstand predation by fish. Even without fish, large wetlands may be highly productive for reptiles, wading birds, and mammals as well as amphibians.

Chinsegut Bird List PDF
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