Category Archives: wildlife

Some FUNky facts about the osprey

Some FUNkey facts about the osprey

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:

A Sanibel osprey vogues for me

Critter encounters at Bowditch Point (scroll to the bottom on this one)

Sunset cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 5

Inaugural photo foray – Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

ยฉ Copyright 2013 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

IMG_0231I’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.

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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.

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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.

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I don’t really see the blue stripe phenomenon going on here, so my guess is that this anole is a native Floridian.

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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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From death springs life; the swamp is really cool that way :)

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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!

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I took lots of pictures of this little green heron. He was quite accommodating. Want to know what he was looking at?

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There was another little green heron resting in the shade on the far left of the pond.

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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.

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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

 

 

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Everglades adventure! Part 2

ยฉ Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 2 of a series, 2012-06 Everglades Adventure

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Last time on the Everglades adventure!, we drove down through several state parks to Chokoloskee Island, where we met with some fellow nature geeks and boarded a boat bound for adventure. We’re still on the beach at Pavilion Key, observing all the wonders heaped upon it by the tides. The horseshoe crabs were incredibly, um, active with one another. I did some research and found that they are not actually having “sex on the beach”; she is digging a hole and depositing eggs for him to fertilize. He is merely clinging to her back. Research did not indicate WHY he does this – perhaps he is shielding the hole so no one else can fertilize her eggs? It’s as good a guess as any!

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A cluster of mostly oyster shells has washed up alongside some yellow-green algae, called sargassum weed – pelagic sargassum. “Pelagic” comes from a Greek word meaning “open sea”. The pelagic zone is the part of a body of water that is not the bottom, nor is it near the beach/shore. Sargassum floats around the pelagic zone on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Those little spheres aren’t seeds or fruits; they are BB-sized air sacs or bladders, which provide buoyancy.

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This is a rhizome from a plant known as mother-in-law’s tongue, more commonly referred to in this country as a snake plant. My mom had one of these in the picture window at the front of the house while I was growing up. They are attractive house plants, and make excellent air filters. However, on the beach in Southwest Florida, they are invasive exotics. They are native to West Africa. You can see how easily this plant must spread from island to island – all it has to do is send a rhizome out into the world and watch it float away.

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Ah, here we have every gopher tortoise’s favorite – the prickly pear cactus. This was a baby, maybe three inches high, and were it not for the center “ear”, I’d be tagging this “hidden Mickey” ยบoยบ ๐Ÿ˜‰

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At first glance, I took this for the biggest piece of branch coral I’d ever seen; it was as big as my hand, with wrist attached. However, when I picked it up, I found that it was light and had a chalky feel. Our guide told me it was a sea sponge. I’m not really able to identify it from the books I’ve got here at home; it looks close to what’s called a “variable sponge”, but I can’t be certain.

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Here’s a little field of mother-in-law’s tongue aka snake plant, growing on the dune. The plant behind it with the round, flat leaves is probably a sea grape, which hasn’t any fruit on it at the moment.

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Ah, the tree – THE TREE! This was a bit of serendipity for me. I think it’s BEAUTIFUL just the way it is, but wondered what it had been in its prime. I started googling for “trees on Pavilion Key”, thinking someone had perhaps documented the wildlife and plant inventory. What I found was a beautiful tribute to this tree, posted on Geocaching.com, of all places. I left my own picture (“Ann Terrie” is my geocaching name; private joke between me and my beloved nieces ;))This tree has been dubbed “The Sunset Tree” and is listed as a virtual cache. You can read about the tree here, and see pictures of it in its former glory. It seems the tree is in the surf pretty much all the time, and that may have contributed to its demise. It is possible that Pavilion Key is losing beach, or simply shape-shifting, which left the tree perpetually in the water. I wonder how much longer it will be there.

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After my reverie at the tree, I looked up to see our guide, Bruce, pointing to something in the sand. It’s a crawl! A mama turtle came ashore on Pavilion Key sometime after the last high tide (the tracks would probably be gone otherwise). I hurried over to see if there was a nest.

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At the bottom of this picture, you can see a disturbed area, which is possibly the nest. Bruce is standing up by a second disturbed area. We pondered this for a bit until I noticed lots of insect activity around the first area, and none in the second area. Thus, we speculated that the first area was more likely the nest, and the second area was merely a place to which she crawled before turning around and heading back into the sea. You can see that there’s some mother-in-law’s tongue growing in the possible nest area, and to the left of that, a small plant with bright pink flowers…

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Our guide called this plant “periwinkle” and indicated that it has healing properties relative to certain cancers. It grows in the dunes on Pavilion Key in little clumps here and there. There was also a white variety (previous photo, on the upper right of the “nest”, just below where Bruce is standing). After some investigation, I’ve determined that it’s Madagascar periwinkle, with eight variants, most of which are native to – you guessed it – Madagascar. Indeed, the plant is used to make a treatment for leukemia. It amazes me how many invasive exotics there are growing in Southwest Florida, and I often ponder how it is that they got here, from far off places like African and Asia. We finished up our exploration of the turtle crawl and turned back to retrace our steps to the place where the boat was beached.


NEXT TIME: MORE Pavilion Key, and our return to Everglades City!


Take me to Everglades adventure! Part 3, The Finale


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Everglades adventure! Part 1

ยฉ Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 1 of a series 2012-06 Everglades Adventure!

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On Friday, I ventured further south in Florida than I’ve ever ventured before, to participate in the annual meeting of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism (Florida SEE). The above map, captured from Google, shows where I wandered. “A” is Everglades City, Florida. Not many people are aware that part of the Everglades is Gulf-front, in Collier County. This map clearly shows the proximity of Everglades City to Marco Island, which is just off the coast of the city of Naples, Florida. “B” is Chokoloskee Island, which is partly comprised of a shell mound built by Native Americans over the course of a couple of thousand years. Chokoloskee is in Collier County. “C” is Rabbit Key; there’s a tinier island right next to it (can’t see it on the screen shot, but trust me, it’s there) that’s affectionately, if unofficially referred to as “Bunny Key”. “D” is Pavilion Key. Rabbit and “Bunny” and Pavilion are all in northern Monroe County. All three islands (B, C, D) are part of the Ten Thousand Islands area; Rabbit and Pavilion are part of Everglades National Park.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Chokoloskee from my house up in Lehigh. As you can see from the previous “on the road” mobile post, I had to pass through the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, which is made of of bits and pieces of other lands, including the Fakahatchee Strand, Everglades National Park, and the Big Cypress National Preserve. I went through Everglades City and straight on to Chokoloskee because I was scheduled for an ecotour with Everglades Area Tours, one of the ecotour operators certified by Florida SEE. I was excited to be meeting up with fellow members of Florida SEE and spending time out in the natural world with them. LET’S GO!

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After sitting and chatting a few minutes with the other members scheduled for tours, we split up – some were going kayaking, and two of us had opted to tool around the mangroves with a guide looking for birds. Almost right away, we came upon a group of royal terns named John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Kidding, I just gave them those names about three seconds ago. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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The osprey is one of my favorite critters to look at – they’re just so handsome, physically incapable of taking a bad picture! Naturally, they’ve also been a favorite blogging subject

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Tiny shore birds frolic on a sandbar; we saw a bull shark idling by our boat while we were stopped here. The large landmass to the right is Rabbit Key. The tiny cluster of mangroves to the left is the “Bunny”.

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The advantage of having a guide whose experience with the area extends back some 25-ish years – he knows where to go in the backwaters to find the pretty critters :) How many roseate spoonbills can you count? Click the picture to see the full size version in Flickr!

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A group of 3 (I think) dolphins did a drive-by and started hunting around our boat. This is one of the few times I’ve been lucky enough to get more than a fin while watching dolphins hunt.

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Our Pavilion Key welcoming committee ๐Ÿ˜‰ We spent some time walking the beach and mourning that shelling is not permitted there.

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There was lots of “yard art” on the beach at Pavilion Key. This beat up whelk was longer than my foot and twice as fat. Some of the ones we found were clearly former Calusa tools, with a hole in the side into which a handle was fitted.

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If there was one empty, still-attached set of Venus clam shells, there were a hundred. My friend Christene would have gone NUTS on this beach.

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Mossy yard art! I could have gone on forever photographing these ginormous old lightning whelks, but I’ll spare you more of them.


NEXT TIME: more stuff from the beach on Pavilion Key!



Take me to Everglades adventure! Part 2


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