This arch marks the entrance to the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Center. It was made by the same artist who made the faux scat for the scat trail at the new wildlife boardwalk. There are a number of plant and wildlife species woven into the design. People were standing around the archway, trying to count how many. I heard the number "17" being tossed around…
This morning, I’m attending an environmental education conference at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida. The conference opened with a short hike to the new Wildlife Education Boardwalk. Here’s the view of the “tunnel” into the mangroves that flows beside the new observation tower. Looking forward to learning more today on beautiful Sanibel Island.
I’m here at Walt Disney World for a couple of days to visit with family in town from Long Island. Right now, I need to chillax a little and have some lunch. Then well have some fun! Bongos for dinner tonight – mmmm Cuban food, can’t wait *drools a little* C’MON LET’S GO!
I adventured last week with some fellow nature lovers to Estero Marsh Preserve, a Lee County Conservation 20/20 property in Fort Myers, Florida, where we encountered this beautiful osprey. She was quite vocal and animated about something as we passed by the huge slash pine where she was perched. Here are some FUNky facts I’ve learned about the osprey.
1. The osprey occurs on every continent except Antarctica. It’s the 2nd most widely distributed raptor, right after the peregrine falcon.
2. Ospreys have a reversible toe that helps them to hold onto slippery fish. You can see the toe in this picture, gripping the back end of the branch while the other toes are in the front. However, I have personally witnessed the failure to hold onto a fish. Several years back, I saw an osprey snatch a fish from the pond in my back yard, only to drop it back into the water on the ascent. The bird circled round and round, screaming in frustration, but was not able to find the fish again, and eventually gave up. Lucky fish!
3. The osprey pairs for life, breeding with the same mate year after year. They build a giant nest of twigs and sticks, often atop man-made structures such as channel markers and street light posts. A pair of osprey will cohabitate for about half the year – as long as it takes to mate, lay and incubate eggs, and fledge their young from the nest.
4. 99% of the osprey’s diet is comprised of fish, so they always live near water. They hunt in fresh water as well as brackish and salt water. What comprises the other 1% of the osprey’s diet? They will occasionally catch and eat small animals such as mice, rabbits, frogs, lizards, or other birds.
5. The more dense the local population of ospreys is, the later in life an osprey will breed. This is due to competition for suitable nesting sites – places that will support the massive nests and are high enough off the ground to reduce the risk of predator invasion. Sometimes, environmental or wildlife groups will build platforms to provide more nesting site options.
More photos of local ospreys:
Critter encounters at Bowditch Point (scroll to the bottom on this one)
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I’ve got a new camera. I promised myself that if I could sell $X amount of stuff on eBay within Y amount of time, I could have it. Coveting a camera makes for some powerful motivation, and I not only met my sales, goal, I exceeded it. This is the camera: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 50x Wide-Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom
I did a little messing around with it at home once it arrived, but yesterday – Easter Sunday – was my first foray into the world to give it a test drive. The primary reason I wanted 50x zoom is because I get frustrated with not being able to get close enough to wildlife to take a decent shot. It always astounds me that even with the near-sightedness of middle age, my eyes sometimes see more than my camera can. On the flip side of that, there are some particular wildlife specimens to which it is quite inadvisable to get too close. Therefore, a healthy amount of zoom is in order.
I have much to learn about this camera! Without further ado, here are some of the inaugural shots, taken at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, aka “my cathedral”. Let me know what you think! There will be more posted to my Facebook page.
I was surprised to find out that there is more than one green anole; I’d thought the green one was the American native (Anolis carolensis) and the not-green are invaders. I have since discovered that there is a Cuban green anole (A. porcatus), and that it has blue stripes or specks, like this one (see the area of his shoulder). So maybe this isn’t Anolis carolensis, and it’s actually a Cuban.
A little blue heron hangs out on the “barge” in the middle of Gator Lake. There were also a number of turtles parked on the platforms, sunning themselves.
I don’t really see the blue stripe phenomenon going on here, so my guess is that this anole is a native Floridian.
Up until now, we’ve been looking at zoomed photos. This one was taken as a macro. The macro button is in a different spot than it was on my previous Canon camera, but I finally found it! Oddly, the legs are looking really good, but the body is a bit vague… possibly because it is shiny? The spider was really delicate but patiently waited for me to get my shot. I thanked her profusely 😉
From death springs life; the swamp is really cool that way
In addition to heat-seeking anoles, there were quite a few gators sunning themselves, too. In this particular pond were three 1 – 1.5 footers, like this one. Of the other two, one was sleeping and the other was quite actively swimming around. This time of year, the livin’ is easy, what with the water levels lower and the ponds shrinking into concentrated pools of food. No wonder they are all tuckered out by afternoon!
I took lots of pictures of this little green heron. He was quite accommodating. Want to know what he was looking at?
There was another little green heron resting in the shade on the far left of the pond.
LOVE this shot – this gator, about a 5-footer, looks so smugly satisfied and comfy in his napping spot in the sun. The arc of his reflection is kind of neat, too.
A bit dark and not the best, but this shot of the pileated woodpecker at work would not have been possible with my old camera. He was simply too far away to capture without massive zoom. According to something the instructor said in a photography class I took last month, I might actually have been able to help this shot along with a long-distance flash.
More shots on Facebook – come check it out! CLICK HERE for more
Heading out of the park now – have taken leave of the family and will soon be on the road back to Fort Myers area. Stopped just long enough to enjoy Daisy playing a game of badminton. Fore! Or whatever one shouts prior to launching the birdie LOL 😉
The birds situation here at the waterside tables in Mexico is abhorrent. We spoke to the manager and let him know that the dining experience is severely degraded and the birds and humans are in peril when guests are not told that feeding wildlife table side is not acceptable. He asked us to stop by guest relations and tell them too.
There is a fairy tale legend surrounding the Warwick wedding cup. A man wanted to marry a princess, but was told by her father that he could not unless he invented a drinking cup out if which two people could drink simultaneously without spilling a drop. He made it in the shape of this woman. And they got married and lived happily ever after.
When a mama duck will parade her children past a crowd that is only 6 feet away, it’s time to relocate the family. These ducks are simply too unafraid of humans and this leads to encounters with humans that are not safe for anyone involved.
This morning on Walt Disney World property, I witnessed parents and children alike persisting in chasing ducks down, trying to pet them, and then "OUCH – hey it BIT me!". More signs and more Cast Members are needed to educate and intervene.
Please, Disney – you used to be better at this! Don’t wait until someone gets hurt. And yeah, "someone" includes the animals. Practice a little risk management while making the World a little safer for the wildlife that lives and breeds on YOUR property. You can do this – don’t let me down!
He’s a little dark in the shade here but I thought the Eiffel Tower in the background made for a nice tableaux. I think I will head to France for my brunch. I had to pass by the RUM Dole Whip booth because of empty stomach – mon Dieu, we need to get our drink on!
Because what the world really needs is Yet Another Monorail Shot!, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.
I stood and watched two toddlers playing in the wet play area while waiting for the monorail to come along. It smells indescribably delicious in EPCOT right now. And I am HUNGRY!
We hung out on Disney’s Boardwalk for a while after dinner, and then I elected to take a turn around Hour Glass Lake before heading for the parking lot and my hotel. The weather is just picture perfect this evening. Hoping for the same for the rest of the week. Good night!
This is actually a grand experiment because I’d forgotten it came with a generous handful of nuts sprinkled all over. I have been avoiding nuts as a dietary precaution, and was a actually hoping it would be temporary. We’re going to find out, I guess. Bon appetite!
The first sea shell I ever picked up in Southwest Florida, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.
Who could forget the magic of finding something so small, so perfect, so enchanting? This sea shell is the Florida cerith, also known as the dark cerith, if you are reading about them on the Bailey-Matthews Shell museum web site.
This was the first kind of sea shell that I ever picked up in Southwest Florida. I’d come for an extended weekend with my three best friends from high school. We were celebrating a milestone birthday with a few nights in a beach cottage on Sanibel Island. I sat down in the sand, with the tide nibbling at my feet, and started examining all the bits and pieces around me. The joy of finding something so tiny and whole and miraculous cannot be adequately described.
Of course, back in my early days of shelling, I wasn’t so discerning and tended to not realize when a cerith was missing it’s “ear” – my term for the aperture. This one is perfectly intact. These little beauties like to hang out in the sandy bottoms and the grass flats of the Gulf, so it’s not uncommon to find them near inlets and bays, and not at all surprising that I spied this one sticking out of the wet sand on Bunche Beach in Fort Myers, FL. To this day, I still get down in the sand to find small sea shells like these. It’s one of my favorite things to do at the beach.
I feel lucky to have finally discovered one of these – it’s a sand
collar, or more accurately, the egg mass of a moon snail. "Moon snail"
is the common name for a family of gastropods known as Naticidae. The
snail uses sand and it’s own mucus to make these collars, which consist
of two layers. The eggs are between the layers. It’s pretty sturdy
until the babies start to hatch; then, it just disintegrates. This
means that no one should really have a sand collar in their
beach-combing collection, for if it’s intact, that means it was still
carrying babies. If you find one, by all means examine it, but then
leave it where it is so the eggs can hatch.
sand collar from Bunch Beach in Fort Myers, Florida
I have a lot of shells; make that a whole LOT of shells. They live in
Rubbermaid bins and plastic Domino sugar containers in a big kitchen
cabinet. They clutter book shelves, fill up bowls on the piano and the
kitchen breakfast bar, and generally hang out in odd places here and there,
all over the house. I’m going to say something that would have been unheard
of 10-12 years ago when I first started to collect sea shells. I have TOO
Still, I love to trawl the beach, and I cannot break myself of the habit of
looking for them and picking them up. But I know that when I get them
home, I will have to perform some combination of washing, de-sanding,
de-stinking, barnacle removal, drying out, sorting, shining, and putting
away. You know, in those Rubbermaid bins and plastic Domino sugar
containers in the big kitchen cabinet.
So last week, I freely looked and hunted and collected, but stopped just
short of bringing them home. Instead, I went up a little way beyond the
high tide line, wrote a message in the sand, and left my gifts from the sea
for some (hopefully delighted) tourist to find.
I think I’ve discovered a new hobby
[image: sea shells for you Bunche Beach Fort Myers Florida]
After photography class the other day, during which I was treated to a dizzying array of fun facts about my digital camera, I went for a walk at San Carlos Bay Bunche Beach Preserve in Fort Myers. The Gulf coast has suffered a recent spate of red tide occurrences, ranging from up in Sarasota to as far south as Naples, on the northern tip of the west Everglades. This, combined with a series of cold fronts, has resulted in some fish kill. While dead fishes washing up en masse isn’t fun for anyone, it does afford an opportunity to examine species that a non-fishing enthusiast (like me) would not normally get to see.
This is a *striped burrfish*, also called a *spiny boxfish*. The first thing I noticed about it, aside from the painful-looking spines, was his black spots. This reminded me of some butterfly species who have “false eyes”, dots on their wings that fool predators into thinking it’s a much larger “something else”, something not so tasty as a butterfly.
According to some quick research, the striped burrfish seems to like warmer waters than we’ve had; although they range up to New Jersey for spawning, that usually happens only when the water up north is warmer, typically July. The southern end of their range is the West Indies. The beaches were cleaned of dead fish after last week’s episode with red tide, so I’m leaning toward the possibility that this little dude expired of the cold.
It was cold and windy, so after touring the farm, making some purchases, and standing around schmoozing for awhile, we headed to the warmth and comfort of Downtown Pizza, in the Fort Myers River District. We finished our lunch and, revived, took a walk around the waterfront. Then, weaving our way through the streets, we finally arrived back at the car.
The farm stand at Roots Heritage Urban Farm is located at 3901 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd (SR 82) in Fort Myers FL. They plan to be open 6 days a week, and want to expand into a real farmers market. If you are a vendor, check them out!
Lee County FL produces and sells organic compost. It is made primarily from yard waste; in my neighborhood, that’s collected on Fridays. It can be used to amend soil or to top dress/mulch plants and trees. And it is exempt from lee County’s fertilizer ordinance June through September.
Roots Heritage Urban Food Hub will celebrate their Grand Opening today here in Fort Myers, FL.
Roots Heritage Urban Food Hub is a sustainable garden growing on 5 acres off Martin Luther King Blvd where seasonal vegetables are grown without chemical assistance, using recycled water and bio solids.
We’re hoping that something tasty for lunch will be for sale. If not, there’s always the possibility of pizza in the Downtown Fort Myers area.
Weather permitting, I’ll mobile blog some photos when we get there.
Ready? Lets go!