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

© 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 😉

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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.


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Everglades adventure! Part 2

© 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” ºoº 😉

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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

© 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. 😉

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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 😉 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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Hiking ’round Harns Marsh, Part 2

Thanks for a great hikeThis is a follow-up to Part 1 of the same hike, which was posted a couple of weeks ago.

I promised you shelling, and shelling you shall have :) There are at least two different varieties of apple snails at Harns Marsh – possibly, three – but only one of them is a Florida native. The other two are from South America, and having established themselves here in Florida, are considered “invasive exotics”.

There are some other types of freshwater snails in residence at the marsh, too. I’ve seen rams-horn, sprites, and Choctaws littering the shores and paths. Aquatic gastropods make for some tasty dining options for birds such as the snail kite and the limpkin, both of which favor marsh habitats. This means that Harns Marsh is positively INFESTED with empty freshwater snail shells. I was sorely tempted to collect them, but remembering that this is a preserve, I refrained. We’ll have to console ourselves with cyber-shelling. Are you ready? Here we go…


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My foot’s in this photo for scale. The Florida applesnail is only 1.5″; this one is much bigger than that, so we know it must be one of the invasive exotics. I dug this shell out of the sand on the banks of the pond with the toe of my hiking shoe. When I flipped it over, I discovered that the grass growing nearby had sent roots into the shell. There must have been something in there that the grass wanted – moisture, or possibly fertilizer! This demonstrates that the applesnail shell continues to provide value in nature long after the original inhabitant has departed. The shell below the applesnail in this photo belonged to a rams-horn snail. The small one by my shoe might be either a sprite or else a baby rams-horn.

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Here’s a closer look at another rams-horn snail shell. This one is vividly colored. It is showing us its “umbilical” side – see how the whorls are a bit concave, instead of raised? This is right-side up; how the animal would present if we’d found it live. The “spire” side, or the side where the whorls protrude, would be on the underside. I’ve read that the rams-horn snail has hemoglobin in its blood, marking the presence of oxygen. This gives it a nice rosy color. I’d love to observe a live one some time.

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I saw some odd things in the dry pond and stream beds in the marsh. Perhaps they were not visible until the water level had diminished, and therefore no one had gone ’round to collect them before this. Here we see a bunch of snail shells strewn about, along with what looks like half a rubber chicken and what appears to be the red tie closure to a plastic trash bag. If you click the link below, you can check out the original size photo, and you’ll see that around the rim of the rubber chicken, it says “MADE IN TAIWAN”. Scroll around the original size photo to go cyber-shelling – you’ll see lots of applesnails and at least one sprite and one rams-horn. If you spot anything else, leave a comment! 😉 CLICK HERE for super-sized photo

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Someone has recently feasted upon this egg; it looks like a freshwater turtle egg. The outside is pristine, but the inside is full of debris, so I believe the feast was not TOO recent. It was also the only one I found in the area, which may mean that the predator carried it there from the location of the nest. I didn’t have too much time to think about it, for a movement on the path in front of me caught my attention, and I thought no more about the turtle egg or where the nest might be.

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It’s a snail kite! I thought at first it was a hawk, but on a hunch, I fired up the Audubon app on my phone. Lo and behold, the juvenile snail kite looks just like this guy. I felt very lucky to have spotted one

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While still on the western perimeter path of the marsh, a sign appears that announces the boundary between Harns Marsh, a facility of the East County Water Control District, and some Lee County, FL lands. Conservation 20/20 is the vehicle by which the county acquires land parcels for conservation and water management purposes. Sometimes those two goals can be made to co-exist quite amicably. I later learned that this parcel is called the West Marsh, and trails will be developed so that hikers can cross back and forth between West and Harns at will. What a field trip THAT will be!

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Continuing up the west side of the marsh, the woods veered off and I came upon a vast open wetland with tall grasses waving in the breeze. I scared both a turtle and a great blue heron coming around the bend that leads to this open space. It is beautiful, isn’t it? However, this stretch is relentlessly shadeless, so be prepared if you ever come here and decide to do the loooong 4 mile hike around the North Marsh. It could be killer in weather any warmer than this. Here we see that a group of white ibis have taken the field with their bright red, probing bills.

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I was hot and tired and thirsty when I rounded the corner on the (thankfully) short north end of the marsh. I could see where I’d parked my car, way off in the distance; however, there was this large body of water and grass between me and it, so I figured I should keep on moving if I ever wanted to sit within the confines of its air conditioned comfort once more. And then I saw them – birds that are well on their way to being as tall as I am, with magnificently plumed butts and a loud, distinctive call. These are sandhill cranes, and they had babies with them! My first clue was a little fuzzy yellow head, barely visible in the tall grass; see red arrow in picture above.

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One of the parents – Dad? – began to move purposefully in the direction of the youngster. I glanced to the left and saw the reason why. Standing absolutely stock still was a heron – I think it was tri-color (see the white stripe down the throat?). The youngster stood beside his towering parent and faced the heron down. “Oh, yeah?”, he seemed to be saying. “Well, my old man can kick your butt!”

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From way off to the right, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. “Why does all the good stuff happen when I’m not there?”, he grumbled as his short little legs worked overtime to get him to where the action was. “Hey wait up – wait for me!”

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The tri-color took off as the second youngster caught up. I’d caught up too, and now that the Dad wasn’t so distracted, he decided to notice me and trumpet his disapproval at my presence. There must have been some magic line in the path over which I eventually crossed, for he stopped honking abruptly the minute I stepped over it and summarily ignored me once more.

In short order, I’d reached the car and broken out some cold water. I was thoroughly satisfied with my day and knew I’d be back to this beautiful place. Actually, the call to hike there once more came much sooner than I’d thought it would. Friends were planning a Florida Master Naturalist “reunion” hike, and did I want to come along? You bet I did! Pictures to come…

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© Copyright 2011 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

Hiking ’round Harns Marsh, Part 1

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

Harns Marsh MapSaturday morning, I stumbled to my computer as per usual, ample dose of caffeine in hand, and sat down to read the news, check my email, and catch up on Facebook. I happened across an article about a nature festival taking place right here in Lehigh Acres, at a place called Harns Marsh, not far from where I live. I recalled that a couple of my classmates in the Freshwater Wetlands class (Florida Master Naturalist Program) had developed a trail guide to Harns Marsh for their final project. Without further fanfare, I decided to strike out for the preserve; gulped down some breakfast, slathered on some sunscreen, grabbed a thermos of water and off I went. I mobile blogged a bit from the trail (see yesterday’s posts) and now I want to share the rest of the photos I took.

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The marsh was engineered to handle runoff from the Orange River, a tributary off the Caloosahatchee River. The Orange River itself had been altered ‘way in the early 20th century; it was originally known as Twelve Mile Creek but then the Army Corps of Engineers dredged it 4’ deep by 50″ wide. Like many of Florida’s freshwater wetlands in winter, the marsh appeared to be significantly dried up as compared to the obvious high water lines that could be seen here and there. That will change as soon as rainy season is properly upon us, circa mid-May. Still, there was plenty of water to sustain abundant waterfowl and other wildlife. I saw turtles, coots, moorhens, apple snails, rams horn snails, a variety of herons and egrets, some vultures, squirrels, anoles, white ibis, glossy ibis, ducks, sandhill cranes, and to my surprise and delight, ONE snail kite on the side of the path.

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Freshwater turtles take advantage of the rocks protruding from the pond, sunning themselves on this glorious March day under sunny Florida skies. It was already past noon when I set out to the preserve, and the day was warm but breezy.

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When you’re out and about in a park or preserve, you can guess what amount of human traffic has been occurring by the behavior of the wildlife. For instance, at Lakes Park, where there are always lots of people walking, running, biking, picnicking and playing, the animals don’t flinch. In fact, they may approach you, if they have learned to associate humans with food. Here at the marsh, I passed the two turtles from a goodly distance, yet the little one hastily slipped into the pond rather than risk unknown danger from this unknown beast (me) treading the waterside path. However, the larger one stood his ground, unwilling to sacrifice his daily dose of D on the outside chance that I was looking for soup ingredients.

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It was not long before I realized that I’d been following a set of tracks in the muddy path. I thought it might be a dog’s paw prints, but then I realized there weren’t any people tracks to go with them, and I thought it odd that a dog might be at the preserve all on his own. I began to consider other options. Possibly, this was a bobcat I was following. I really thought it more likely to be a dog, but I’m not good enough at tracking to know the difference without reference materials.

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The Audubon app on my phone showed me pictures of bobcat tracks, but the prints on my path were not clear enough along the bottom of the pad to determine if it was canine or feline. I figured that the mystery might be solved, or at least a likely suspect identified, if I should come across some scat. I knew what bobcat scat looked like from a previous wetland field trip I’d taken with the Master Naturalists. Time would tell. I continued along the trail.

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As I moved northeast-ish along the path, I began to notice odd things in the water. Here we find a strange, spherically shaped object that looks to have seen better days. From afar, it has that pitted, wave-weary look of an old sea shell, the kind my friend Christene refers to as “yard art”. Now that I’ve got the photo up on the big screen, I confess I don’t know WHAT it could be. Anyone want to take a guess?

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It always surprises me when I come across the inevitable tire-in-the-water tableau. It just seems to ridiculous to be in a remote spot and see such obvious evidence of man having been here. WHY we must leave such evidence of our having passed through is mystifying and troubling to me. Pick up your damned tire and pack it out with you.

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Now, this is more consistent with what I would expect to have naturally landed in the water of a marshland preserve. After getting this home and enlarging it on the big screen, I determined that I’d captured the partially hollowed-out stump of a palm tree, lying on it’s side. Again, during one of my previous hikes with the Master Naturalists, I’d encountered a palm tree growing in erosion conditions, thus discovering that there was a huge, conically-shaped, solid mass under the soil which helps to anchor the tree during the high winds of hurricane season. It was surprising to see, but that kind of adaptation makes thorough sense when you think about other types of trees that topple in storms while palms remain upright.

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I was really excited to come upon this guy – I think this is my first relatively close look at and picture of a glossy ibis. Back in October, I took a hike at C.R.E.W.’s bird rookery swamp and caught sight of a flock of white ibis with juveniles amongst them; they can have very dark plummage, and I thought for a moment I was going to be able to photograph a glossy, but alas! It was a case of mistaken identity. This guy was VERY shy. The minute he became aware of me, he was outta there like a shot, over to the South Marsh. I find the white ibis to be less reticent in the presence of humans, especially if said humans are seated at a table outside of Casey’s hot dog place in the Magic Kingdom 😉

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Ah-HAH! At some point in the trail, I found the poop. I could not be absolutely sure, but again the wonders of the big screen at home enabled me to see the abundant amount of HAIR in this scat sample, which was squarely in the middle of the path. This does not look like dog poop to me! That’s not to say that the tracks weren’t those of a dog; perhaps the dog was following the bobcat 😉 It had rained the night before, which provided the mud that gave us the tracks, yet the scat was not looking terribly waterlogged. I feel pretty certain that there had been a bobcat on the path as recently as that morning, after the rain had stopped.


NEXT TIME: We’ll do some shelling

:)


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Cute critters at the Animal Kingdom

© Copyright 2011 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a must-do for me when I go to Walt Disney World, even more so than the Magic Kingdom. I guess I’m not so much a character geek as I am a critter geek :) Here are a couple of favorites from my October visit to the World.

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This is the endangered cotton-top tamarin of South and Central America. You can sometimes find them scampering in a little tree near the big “Tree Of Life” sign where the Discovery Island pathways start. I hadn’t seen one there in a very long time, so I was delighted with the encounter. I wonder what he sees up there?

FURTHER READING: Cotton-Topped Tamarins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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As if there weren’t enough happiness in my world already, having spied a tamarin for the first time in ages, I then came upon a sleeping pile of otters. These are my FAVORITE critters on the planet, and like the tamarins, they had been MIA during my frequent visits for quite some time. So glad to see them back! Would you look at that face? What’s not to love? :) <3

FURTHER READING: From the “Sad Sights At Disney” series: OTTERLESS! :(

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Where character meets critter 😉 – this is my friend Jiminy Cricket. I found his cousin in a swamp a few weeks ago, while I was field tripping with my Florida Master Naturalist class. I’ll post a photo of him at some point. In the meantime, if you are headed to Walt Disney World, you can find Jiminy hanging out at Conservation Station in the Animal Kingdom

FURTHER READING: A SIGN that Disney thinks GREEN | My Mobile Adventures *~*~*

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Screaming (from the) trees



Screaming (from the) trees, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

I passed this fellow twice during my run in Lakes Park this morning, and both times he screamed his head off at me. I am embarassed to say that I could not ID him by sight because I wasn’t wearing my glasses – but his screaming gave him away as an osprey.

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Spooked each other in Lakes Park, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

Came trundling up the bridge on my morning run, and who do you suppose swooped in low before me? He came to rest on the rail and allowed me to take his photo. He kept a watchful eye on me as I thanked him and passed. The stop was worth ruining my time this morning (dipping down into the low 14:xx minute mile nowadays).

Critter Encounters at Bowditch Point

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06112011610-Bowditch-wildlife-signageThis post will pick up where Wilderness At Bowditch Point left off. We’re on a field trip with my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module), and we’ve got a really great guide named Roger Clark, from Lee County, Florida’s Conservation 20/20 program.

After telling us about a few of the plants and trees that we found growing on the perimeter of the parking lot, Roger led us up the man-made hill at the very northern tip of Estero Island aka Fort Myers Beach. Once on top of the hill, we saw a prominent “KEEP OUT” sign posted on a split-rail fence. Almost immediately, it became apparent that we were in for a critter encounter!


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If you are looking for a gopher tortoise burrow, here’s how to spot one – just look around for a heap of sand that looks like an ant hill on steroids. The ones I’ve seen come complete with a hole that’s partially obscured by brush. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or just one giant co-inky-dink.

IMG_5619-Bowditch-gopher-tortoise

A female gopher tortoise contemplates jumping the fence.


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Whut-oh! Stand back, she’s on the move!


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She’s getting pretty close – Immma-skeered! 😯


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Oh. Em. Gee! She passed very close to me. I got up and moved to the other side of a tree and turned on the video camera …

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This tortoise had a single-minded mission to leave her burrow and head into a scrub area, and no wildlife geek with a camera in her hand was going to stop her! I can’t believe I moved out of her path, and then she headed right for me anyway. You can hear one of my classmates coaching me (translation: playing with my head a bit) about how vicious these animals can be 😀 You can also hear him say “no” when I ask if I should move. In the end, I was running out of options to keep the lens on her and had to stand up to avoid becoming a pretzel. You can also hear scrub jays screaming in the background about the time I stand up.

After the official part of the field trip was over, I doubled back over the route we’d taken so I could get some better shots of the plants that had been discussed. As I came up the hill, I spied this little tableau:

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At first, I thought this osprey had an extra tail, or maybe one of her feathers was coming loose.

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Now we see that it’s definitely a tail, but it’s not hers. It’s lunch! I think this is what they call “mantling” behavior, where they hunch over their food so that nothing flying overhead will see it and try to compete for it.

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She’s really got an impressive profile, with a beak made for tearing. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” 😉

There will be one more installment of this Florida Master Naturalist field trip adventure in the very near future – so stay tuned! :)

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Photo Friday:Wilderness at Bowditch Point

© Copyright 2011 Erin | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

BowditchOnTheMap


For our first field trip, my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module) went on a botanical exploration of a small wilderness located at the northern tip of Estero Island in the town of Fort Myers Beach, Lee County, Florida. This is Bowditch Point Regional Park, part of the Lee County park system. The site had been used as a repository for channel-dredged sand, and is consequently the highest point on the island at 22 feet. The land changed hands several times over the years until the County had the opportunity to purchase it in December 1987 for $5.75mm. Since that time, much effort has gone into the creation of a natural coastal habitat where native Floridian plants can thrive and wildlife can find refuge.

Our guide for this trip was Roger Clark from Conservation 20/20 here in Lee County. He was patient and knowledgeable and had a unique way of conveying information about a plant or animal; he’d first tell you some facts and attributes and THEN tell you the name. It was kind of like Jeopardy – first you get the answer, and then you get the question.

Roger had a field guide with him which he recommended to the rest of us – Florida’s Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber. I stopped at Barnes & Noble on the way home and they had ONE left, so I quickly purchased it. I also found it on Amazon. The other book I like to use is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida. It’s the typical slim, easy-to-pack-and-carry Audubon volume, and it’s great for just general identification while you’re out and about. I’ve got the paperback, which seems to be in short supply these days, so that’s a link to the hardcover edition.

I took quite a few photos, so I’ll be splitting it up into several posts. Here is the first installment – enjoy :)


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Notice how specific this sign is – couldn’t be plainer. I’ve seen similar signs at all beaches in Lee County, yet I’ve also seen people violating this law :( Most folks, however, are conscientious about it.

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At the bottom of the “mound”, just where it meets the parking lot, there’s a nice little shady spot to sit and enjoy the view of Matanzas Pass. The word “matanzas” is Spanish for “killings”. History tells us that the indigenous people who once lived here, the Calusa, had a habit of paddling out to meet Spanish explorer’s ships while extending a special kind of welcome with the business-end of their spears. Indeed, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon met his fate from a mortal wound received at the hands of the Calusa. There’s speculation that Matanzas Pass is the place where a lot of these “welcome”-type activities occurred.

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What do the gumbo limbo tree and the Florida tourist have in common? They are both red and peeling… ha ha ha ha ha 😉 Migratory birds like the fruit of the gumbo limbo tree. We’ve got lots of these trees here in Southwest Florida.

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I was surprised to find out that palms aren’t really “trees”; they lack a vascular system. The smaller trees in the swale are pond apples. They were planted there because they can well tolerate having their feet wet.

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Pond apples have compound leaves – more than one leaf attached to the same leaf stalk. The apples are edible by animals and humans but they don’t taste very good, I’m told.

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The sea grape wants to be a tree! However, many people chop at them to keep them shrub-like. They are used in landscaping as hedgerows and borders. This one was allowed to be a tree. During this field trip, we found out that there are ANSI standards for pruning trees and that one should NEVER “top” a tree. ANSI standards? Who knew?!?!!

ANSI = American National Standards Institute

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This Jamaica Dogwood is otherwise known as the Florida Fish Poison tree. Powder made from the tree can be used to stun fish, making them more easily captured.

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We’re about to continue up the hill and catch a glimpse of some of the residents. OK, WAY more than a glimpse! Stay tuned – PART TWO of this field trip will be posted in a few days!

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[VIDEO] Look, up in that tree – it’s “Woody”!

© Copyright 2011 Tink *~*~*
http://MyMobileAdventures.com

Pileated Woodpecker at Six Mile Cypress SloughWeek before last, I took a stroll deep into the swamp – the Six Mile Cypress Slough here in Fort Myers – and I heard a familiar sound. After looking around for a bit, I found him. He’s a pileated “Woody” woodpecker, with a ruby red crest on his head. Isn’t he beautiful? What a treat! Actually, I did even better than this – I got about a 10 second video of him before he moved around to the other side of the tree and out of sight. Sorry it isn’t longer, but that’s wildlife for ya – always doing just as they please, leaving us photographers fumbling to get something decent. I hope I see him again sometime when I go back. Enjoy!

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Sometimes, the signs are perplexing

This one always cracks me up. Not only that, but I see something like this and immediately question WHY I can only go one way. I don’t see anything dangerous. What’s over there that they don’t want me to see?

(I am at the Six Mile Cypress Slough this morning)

Sent from my Nokia N97

LIVE from the Six Mile Cypress Slough, Fort Myers

I haven’t been to the Slough in a while and I saw a notice on Facebook that there was an event today so I thought I’d come and check it out. Maybe I will see some gators!

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Photo Friday: Best Shots Of 2010

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Photo Friday wants us to show our Best Shots of 2010. I think this shot of the moon is my best, but there were lots of others that made the also-ran list as I went through my Flickr account in search of treasures. So here they all are – bon appetite, and have a fabulous New Year! <3

Full Flower Moon

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The Full Flower Moon rises over Gulfside City Park, aka “Algiers” beach on Sanibel Island. Thursday May 27th, 2010.
 

What are YOU lookin’ at?

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Almost-grown osprey awaits the return of a parent with dinner. Lighthouse Beach, Sanibel Island, Lee County, Southwest Florida. May 2010.
 

The Fishing Dude

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“The Fishing Dude” declares victory, June 13th 2010 (this is part of a series)
 

Sanibel Causeway Sunset

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Some brilliant colors were seen on July 31st 2010
 

Sanibel Sunset Silhouette

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A young tree silhouetted against the dramatic backdrop of a Sanibel sunset. September 12th, 2010
 

Heading Up The Rose Walk

Heading up the rose walk toward Imagination


Yellow rose in bloom, aken at EPCOT on October 25th, 2010 – WITH A CAMERA PHONE!
 

Dinner!

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A great blue heron spears himself a meal from the pond in my back yard. October 10th 2010.
 

Frenzy On The Sanibel Causeway

Frenzy on the Sanibel Island Causeway


Seagulls out of control on November 7th 2010. And I will give you the entire original rant that went with it:
“There’s a guy off-camera throwing gawd knows what at these beach birds. People, you should NOT feed wild animals! It makes them unafraid of people and they can become a nuisance or worse. Plus it makes them dependent on people for sustenance.

Don’t feed the animals unless it is dire circumstances (like, a blizzard, which is unlikely to happen here)

Sent from my Nokia N97”
 

All Aboard The Magnolia Blossom

All Aboard The Magnolia Blossom


Taken at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida on December 5th 2010. Love the drama of the darkening sky behind the cheerful blue and yellow boat docked in the sunshine.
 

The Big, Golden Ball

Big Golden Ball


Big Golden Ball – December 1st, 2010. Really, it’s Spaceship Earth, the iconic geosphere at the entrance of Disney’s EPCOT theme park. Late-day sunlight glinting off the Big Silver Ball! (to quote an entry on Foursquare). Makes it look like The Big Golden Ball instead.
 


Healthy, Happy and Peaceful New Year To All :)



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O hai, baby gators!



O hai, baby gators!, originally uploaded by Erin aka Tink*~*~*.

These guys are in a tank in the lobby of my hotel. I do not believe they are um misbehaving in this shot – they are too young for that. They are about a foot long from tip of nose to tip of tail. I think they just like to sleep piled up, like otters. Or it’s some weird dominance thing, maybe. I’ll have to google this later on.

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Southwest Florida: Scenes From Everyday Life

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It’s still rainy season here in Southwest Florida, which means we are still subject to the daily deluge. Here, a waterfall forms where the roof of the lanai meets the roof of the house. This is why I pick up “junk shells” from the beaches – I use them for erosion control! If I didn’t do that, there would be a big hole right there where the pavers meet the grass.


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Here’s a sight of which I am somewhat proud. Ever since I switched to an organic lawn maintenance company, I’ve seen a few green anoles around my property. Green anoles are indigenous to the southeastern United States. They face enough of a challenge from the invasive brown anole, which comes from Cuba and other Caribbean islands. We don’t need to be further eradicating them through overly-ambitious applications of pesticides. Even though I don’t care for the presence of anoles on my lanai (they poop all over the place!), I still think it’s a good sign that some green ones are hanging around.


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(s)Wanderin’ around the Oasis

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IMG_3004-WDW-DAK-black-necked-swan

The black-necked swan hails from South America and is considered the prettiest of all the varieties of swans in the world.


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Top 5 FUNky Facts About The Roseate Spoonbill

© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*
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IMG_2987-WDW-DAK-roseate-spoonbill:) One morning this past March, I found a pair of roseate spoonbills in the Oasis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As I pointed my camera at them, they regarded me with their red-rimmed eyes as though a bit suspicious of the hunk of hardware in my hand (Canon SX110 IS). Today I decided to try and find out a bit more about them, so here are my Top 5 FUNky Facts About The Roseate Spoonbill:

  1. Aside from vultures and raccoons, one of the biggest enemies of a young nestling roseate spoonbill is fire ants!
  2. One of the top places in the United States to observe the roseate spoonbill in its natural habitat is Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, located on Sanibel Island. I’ve seen them feeding there and roosting in Rookery Bay down in Naples, Florida – check out these posts.
  3. The roseate spoonbill sometimes assumes a “wing-lift posture” to dry off its wings, similar to other fishing birds like the anhinga.
  4. I’ve often mistaken the roseate spoonbill for a flamingo when at a distance (and stubbornly not wearing my glasses). However, they’re actually not related at all. They are more closely related to the ibis. Here are some posts about the scarlet ibis (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and the white ibis (Sanibel Island).
  5. The head of the adult roseate spoonbill is sort of green, except when they are breeding – then, it turns a kind of golden color.
  6. The oldest known roseate spoonbill was found in 2006; it had been banded and the band showed it to be 16 years old!

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My “Nemo” license plate has arrived!

Nemo_plate

OK, I know that all uh y’all Suthrunuhs call ’em “tags” but I’m from Noo Yawk, where we call ’em “license plates”. I had to renew my registration and decided to indulge in a special “tag”. Since I have been so concerned about the Gulf and the water quality that wildlife depends upon, I decided to get an AQUACULTURE tag. Comes complete with a couple of “Nemo” fishes. Some assembly required 😉

Critters from the Naples (Florida) Zoo

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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IMG_2107-Porcupine-Naples-Zoo-Florida :) Once upon a time, a cougar stuck his tongue out at me at the Naples Zoo (Just call me “The Cougar Whisperer”. The long name for the Naples Zoo is Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. The property was once privately owned by a botanist, who had populated it with plants and trees he’d collected from around the world. A few subsequent owners later, animals were added to create a zoo, which was opened to the public in the 1960s.

There are other animals dwelling there besides my friend the raspberry-blowing cougar – let’s have a look at a few of them. The day of our visit was very hot, so we found that most of the animals were sprawled out in whatever shade was available. The porcupine in the photo above was hiding the cool comfort of his stone cave (thank you 10x optical zoom).

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The fosa is a native of Madagascar, so he’s used to the heat and knows what to do – sleep through it!

IMG_2159-Egret-Naples-Zoo-FloridaThis egret is probably not a resident – more likely, he is a squatter from the wild. And he’s doing that “strike a pose there’s nothing to it VOGUE” thing that birds of his ilk do so well.

I’d like to go back and visit this zoo again sometime during the cooler weather – I think I’d linger longer at each exhibit and get some better photos.

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A marauding mob of African meerkats

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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As mentioned previously on this blog, meerkats are among my favorite animals because, like prairie dogs and otters, they are the shape and size of puppies and therefore very cute. In fact, all three species – prairie dogs, otters and meerkats – are known to “bark”, just like a puppy. The only time a meerkat doesn’t look like a puppy is when he’s standing up on his back legs, using his tail for balance.

Last week, I referred to a group of meerkats as a “colony” but I have since discovered that this is incorrect. One needs to refer to a group of meerkats as a “mob”, sometimes also “clan” or “gang”. This makes them sound dangerous, like they should be starring opposite the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story 😉

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This fellow is performing sentinel duties while the rest of the colony forages for insects, small lizards, scorpions, eggs, centipedes and anything else that might be “slimy yet satisfying”, as Timon of The Lion King has been known to describe his diet. Should the sentinel spot a predator approaching, he will emit a warning bark and all the mob of meerkats will scatter into the many “bolt holes” they have built on their territory, so they have a place to hide during such emergencies. The sentry is responsible for emerging first and checking to see if the predators are still there before giving the “all clear” signal.

Last time I visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the sentry posed nicely for me for several minutes before staring at me to signal that the photo shoot was over. Here’s a slide show of the sentry from that visit, along with a clan from 2008.

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BONUS!- the Animal Planet channel has a series called “Meerkat Manor”, and there are some snippets of episodes on YouTube. Season’s 1 through 4 are available from Amazon.com on DVD

Meerkat Manor – Season 1
Meerkat Manor: Season Two
Meerkat Manor: Season Three
Meerkat Manor: Season Four – The Next Generation

Here’s Season One, Episode One snip from YouTube, which explains what the whole ongoing drama serial is about. I hope you enjoy it :)

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Random Animal Kingdom trio

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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IMG_3065-WDW-DAK-great-blue-turaco

This is the Great Blue Turaco. I heart this bird’s colorful plumage.

RANDOM FACT about the great blue turaco: In the province of Africa formerly known as Zaire, the great blue turaco is hunted for food as well as feathers. Those yellow feathers on the underside of the turaco’s tail are considered good luck. Next time I visit the Pangani Forest Trail, I hope I remember to look around on the ground for a yellow tail feather.


IMG_6989-WDW-DAK-meerkat

Here’s a meerkat – for fans of The Lion King, that’s a “Timon”. I like meerkats for the same reason I like prairie dogs and otters – they remind me of cute little puppies.

RANDOM FACT about meerkats: Meerkats are social and live in little colony families. One of them always keeps lookout while the others forage for food.


IMG_1470-WDW-DAK-butterfly

Saved the best for last. I stalked this Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly all over creation, it seemed, but only got ONE good shot, and this is it!

RANDOM FACT about swallowtail butterflies: There are over 500 species of swallowtail butterfly that live on every continent of the Earth except Antarctica.

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Dear Governor Crist…

© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*

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IMG_5423-mingled-species-grazing-Ding-Darling

I sent an email last Friday to Florida governor Charlie Crist regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and what I consider to be the frittering away of funding on advertising tourism when we’re expecting to have a disaster to clean up. I realize people are suffering from lack of business, but I think there is other recourse to compensate them, and that it isn’t right to encourage tourists to gamble their hard-earned vacation dollars on a Florida Gulf beach vacation when we know there’s a good chance of the oil plume making landfall here.

If you would like to contact Florida’s governor or lieutenant governor, please visit

http://www.flgov.com/contact_governor

To: Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com
Subject: Redirect those advertising funds toward saving our Gulf shores!

Dear Governor Crist –

I moved to Southwest Florida 4 years ago from New York. I came here because of the tropical climate and natural beauty of the Lee Island Coast and because of my love for Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers Beach and the surrounding out-islands. I love the wildlife sanctuaries and rookeries along Estero and San Carlos Bays, the availability of fresh seafood all year round and our astounding beaches. It breaks my heart to think of all this beauty and abundance covered in crude oil, consequently dead and ruined for generations to come.

IMG_0362-Sanibel-sailboat-seagulls-beachThe oil gushing into the Gulf has been doing so for over 40 days. Even capped, it is still leaking. I know better than to think that any part of the Gulf states’ shorelines are going to escape some sort of impact. There’s just too much of it out there, and now hurricane season is upon us which will bring unpredictability in the form of currents and winds.

It is unethical, bordering on immoral, to dupe people into coming to Florida’s Gulf Coast, when we cannot guarantee them an oil-free vacation. We are bilking them out of their hard-earned vacation dollars. WHY are we wasting these funds on misleading advertising when they could be applied DIRECTLY to the problem? We could be using the funds to compensate the fisherman and those in the tourist industry for loss of income. We could be conserving some of it to help pay for the cleanup we KNOW we are going to need.

IMG_0385-American-brown-pelican-Sanibel-IslandWhile Louisiana’s leaders are making quite a compelling and widely publicized case for disaster funding, Florida is busy telling people everything is coming up sunshine and lollipops. By this time next week, we could be just as awash in the foul stench of crude oil and decomposing wildlife as Louisiana is right now. Anyone with even half an ounce of sense knows this is true. So why are we being deceitful with our tourists and wasteful with our funding?

IMG_0642-Lighthouse-Beach-2004-SanibelGovernor Crist, I hope you will do everything in your power to stop this foolishness with the advertising campaigns and start instead and in earnest to prepare Florida’s Gulf Coast for the impact that we all KNOW is coming our way. Start working on BP to step up to the plate and provide compensation for the tourism and fishing industries and funding for the cleanup. Stop worrying about enticing tourists and refocus all that energy – and all those dollars – on ensuring that Florida is prepared to meet the beast swiftly and intelligently when it strikes.

It’s going to be bad. But you can mitigate a lot of that if you will just focus on what matters, on what makes sense and on doing the right thing, always.

Sincerely
Erin White
Lehigh Acres, Florida

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It’s just ducky in Canada

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05162010848-WDW-EPCOT-Canada-ducks

A pair of ducks stop for a rest on the lawn of the Canadian pavilion at EPCOT.

Someday, when I grow up, I want to live in that little cabin.

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What Floridians Should Know About Reporting Oil

© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*
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IMG_1534-Ding-Darling-Sanibel-Cove-In-Mangroves :( I am thankful to report that our beaches here in Southwest Florida are as yet unaffected by the catastrophic BP oil spill. However, no one knows how hurricane season (started June 1st) will affect ocean currents and therefore the direction the oil spill takes.

This oil well has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for more than 40 days. Impact would be devastating for this area – there are wildlife refuges that house rookeries and sea life breeding grounds all along the Lee Island Coast. The potential for unrecoverable destruction is high and it’s severe.

The City of Sanibel has provided links to important instructions that must be followed in the event that evidence of the oil spill is discovered. Follow the link below to access these documents from the City of Sanibel website.

City of Sanibel Urges All Residents to Review & Know the State of Florida “Oil Spill Reporting Guide” / News / City Manager’s Office / Departments / Home – City of Sanibel.

A Sanibel osprey vogues for me

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IMG_3854-Sanibel-Lighthouse-Beach-OspreyThere’s an osprey nest atop a tall pole at the Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach. Nearby are the branches of a dead tree which make for a convenient perch for this young osprey. He waits impatiently for a parent to come back with some dinner. While he waits, he whines, much like his human counterparts. Only, he whines on a single note, rapidly and repeatedly. “Where! Is! My! Food! I! Want! To! Eat! Where! Is! My! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! MOM!” If you want to hear what the osprey sounds like, then CLICK HERE for a *.wav file I found (it opened Quicktime in the browser for me). OK, now picture being subjected to that for even two minutes straight while you are trying to shell serenely. Do you not want to run away screaming yourself? 😉

IMG_3853-Sanibel-Lighthouse-Beach-Osprey
Since he’d given me his profile in the previous shot, he decided to turn the other way and give me the other side, too. Not sure which I’d classify as his “good side”, but he does seem to be sporting quite the stylin’ cowlick in this one. This is one hawt seahawk! 😉


IMG_3877-Sanibel-Lighthouse-Beach-Osprey
And finally we get his very best, “What are YOU lookin’ at?” pose – as though he totally isn’t digging all the attention! I think the only way he’d like it more is if I had a dead fish in my hands instead of a camera!

Click each photo to see a variety of sizes in Flickr

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Snowbird where are you? Baby in distress!

He fell out of a tree near a mama duck and ducklings. Mama sounded alarm, babies ran behind her. Mama duck pursued, baby bird fluttered across pond, almost drowned!!! I kicked off my shoes, was ready to jump in but he made one, big heroic flutter and made landfall.

Now mama bird has discovered baby is gone, dive-bombs mama duck. i ran and got a CM who got an empty box to capture baby. She got dive-bombed too. Mama bird just won’t let anyone help.

Circle of life…
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Tink’s *~*~* Links: Wallabies, whales and warm-fuzzies

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Wallabies by Victius

Wallaby Wanders Wonder

This is a great story that I first discovered on a blog called OMG, what IS that?. I love this blog because Alison can usually dig up some strange, off-beat animal stories. This one is no exception, so I went googling about it.
 
The Orlando Sentinel reports that a woman from Texas was visiting relatives in the Windemere, Florida area. They live on a street called Wonder Lane – I kid you not! She brought her pet, a 1-year old wallaby named JAK, and he escaped his harness and bounded away.
 
He’s been spotted here and there in the neighboring area. I’m wondering if anyone thought he was the Easter Bunny!
photo by Victius. Some rights reserved.

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DisneyNature OCEANS – coming on Earth Day 2010

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DisneyNature’s freshman offering, entitled EARTH, was comprised largely of regurgitated footage from the highly acclaimed BBC series Planet Earth. I’ve found the DVD of the complete BBC series to be a worthy investment, and I’ve watched each episode several times. Naturally, I’ve studied the trailer for this next installment, and a lot of it looks familiar. Therefore, I’m more excited about the soundtrack! There’s some nifty background music going on in that trailer, and lacking a soundtrack disc available for purchase as yet, there’s some discussion and searching going on at the AdTunes forums (I haunt that place – TV commercial tunes are my new obsession hobby). (aside: I would have LOVED to have been there when that HUGE whale jumped out of the water – you’ll see it at the end of the trailer!)
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Oh, Tink *~*~* – not gorillas AGAIN?!?!?

IMG_3128-WDW-DAK-gorilla-daddyWell, I have been writing about ’em lately, haven’t I? 😉 Which is why this article in The Daily Disney caught my eye, I guess. I have to admit that it gives me a warm-fuzzy to know that useful research is conducted at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – useful not for the human race but for the animals themselves! The gorillas who live on the Pangani Trail in Harambe have been trained to cooperate in the taking of images of their hearts without the use of sedatives. This is useful because silverbacks are known to have heart problems later in life. Therefore, anything that can be learned without putting the animals through an unnecessary procedure is alright in my book! Oh and the other bonus of reading this article is that there are “related links” on the top right of the page. If you are a baby animal enthusiast, you will see lots to explore here.

That’s it for TINK’S *~*~* LINKS this week – hope you’ve enjoyed :)


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Me and my girl-illa: escape from the paparazzi

© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*
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This is a continuation of the story that began on March 19th 2010 with “Me and my girl-illaClick the photos to see them larger in Flickr.

IMG_3134-WDW-DAK-baby-gorilla:) Hello again. Last time we met, I was busy sneaking around in the brush, trying to keep the prying lenses of the paparazzi away from my newborn baby girl-illa. There was a whole swarm of them, so I kept her pretty close to me (here you can only see the crown of her cute little head), creeping from one bush to the next, hoping to lose them. It’s not easy to elude the paparazzi; they’re a sly and resourceful bunch of stalkers, often working together to corner us, like dolphins herding schools of fish. I saw that on the BBC’s Planet Earthseries, which seems to have greatly contributed toward Disney’s own Earth (Disney Nature)

IMG_3142-WDW-DAK-baby-gorillaFinally, I found a nice fallen tree behind some bushes; it looked like a good place to lean back and rest from all the running to and fro, hither and yon, trying to find someplace, ANYPLACE to hide from the hordes. It was sunny and peaceful out there for a bit, and we both got some shut-eye. Well, I have one eye shut -the other one has to remain open at all times, just in case we’re invaded again. While we were snoozing, my mobile rang – it was Britney and Billy Ray, conference-calling with some advice on dealing with the whole publicity spotlight thing. Britney says that sometimes it’s better to bring the kid out into the open for a few minutes, under carefully controlled circumstances, of course, to make it seem like you’re friendly and cooperating. Billy Ray concurred that this tactic had worked with his darling Miley many times.

IMG_3150-WDW-DAK-gorilla

Well what’s a mama to do? I took her up on the hill, a safe distance from that herd of pests, and let them see her face. And wouldn’t you know, she turns out to be quite the little ham! She turned that sweet face up and gazed into my eyes and said, “I dunno who you are but I wuvs you!”. Couldn’t you just melt?

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After a while, the paparazzi just started to annoy me. They yell directions, calling me by my first name like they’ve known me all my life, telling me to look this way, hold the baby higher, smile, turn your head, no the other way…. I tell you, this one guy was on my LAST nerve. Here I am giving him my best withering look. I think he was good and properly scared, as well he should be. These paparazzi dudes, they may be armed with a camera, but I’ve got THIS.

Meet the baby daddy :)


IMG_3128-WDW-DAK-gorilla-daddy

You talkin’ to me? Are you talkin’ to ME?”




DISMARK this article!


Happy Critturday!

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Me and my girl-illa

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IMG_3130-WDW-DAK-baby-gorillaIt’s not easy being the parent of a child star these days, especially when your child is a DISNEY star. We’ve been pretty much besieged ever since my darling little girl-illa was born. So much activity, so many people to see, so much of our lives played out in the spotlight. I tell you, sometimes I feel like we live in a zoo! Well, if you were paying attention during the late 90s/early 00s, you know that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is “nahtazoo”, but it still feels like one at times. On this particular day, the baby and I were just hangin’ out in the clearing up on that little hill in the forest, trying to take a little nap – but there were a lot of those noisy humans congregating on the bridge, and sleep wasn’t coming.

IMG_3126-WDW-DAK-baby-gorilla I think one of them was aggravating one of the boys across the ravine; a Cast Member had to go and put a stop to whatever shennanigans were going on over there. I decided it was too much for us to tolerate, so I thought of another resting spot and relocated. Clutching my little princess tightly to my chest with one hand (which makes me sort of lope along sideways on my other three limbs), I scrambled over the hill to a nice little rocky enclave where I’d stashed the baby’s pink receiving blanket. There we settled in, hoping to get a little rest.

IMG_3131-WDW-DAK-baby-gorillaWell, we were both nearly asleep when those damned paparazzi figured out where we’d gotten to and descended en masse upon the glass enclosure! Ridiculous amounts of flash ensued – I mean, don’t these people read the manual when they buy these newfangled point-and-shoot cameras? If they did, they’d know we were too far away for the flash to help their pictures, but close enough for it to nearly blind us when we looked up. And I hate to be the one to tell them this, but you know all those pictures they thought they were getting of my child, the little girl-illa star? Well, I’ll just bet you that all those pictures turned out horrible – just blobs of light bouncing off the glass. Silly, silly humans!

IMG_3134-WDW-DAK-baby-gorillaBy this time, I was just really grumpy – I mean, wouldn’t you be? All I wanted to do was catch a nap and see to it that my little princess was properly fed and rested. I am starting to rethink this Disney child star thing… maybe we should move far, far away and dye our hair and that sort of thing, live in disguise for a few years until all of this blows over. I honestly don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Children are born every day! There’s nothing extraordinary about that. I mean, if all those peoples with their cameras, ooo-ing and ahhh-ing all over the place think she is so special, they can just come on in and take a turn at changing her diaper! Then we’ll see what the definition of “special” is… anyway, I was done, I tell you – D-O-N-E, done! Carefully cradling my princess once more, I mustered all the dignity I could and stalked off into the brush to hide…


TO BE CONTINUED…

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Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it…

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IMG_1268-WDW-DAK-egret:) I was walking in the Oasis, a quiet, lushly green and tranquil section just inside the gates of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. It’s a soothing place where you’ll find twisting paths, a rope bridge, a joyously tumbling waterfall and all manner of exotic animals and birds. The day was hot, and the air was heavy and still. The silence was broken only by barely discernible ambient music and the gurgling of a stream. I rounded a corner and came upon a beautiful glade that surrounded a pool. And there he stood, on a rock – a Great Egret.

I became excited when I realized that he was in full breeding plumage. My heart started to beat faster; it was so loud in my ears, I was sure he would hear it, become frightened and take flight. I think I might have even been holding my breath. I crept forward to get a closer look, reaching into my bag for the camera.

IMG_1269-WDW-DAK-egretThe closer I got, the more convinced I became that he very well knew that he had company and didn’t mind in the least.. He seemed to straighten a bit and puff out his chest. I took this as a good sign in terms of getting some photographs, and I was no longer afraid of making the slightest sound. The mechanical whir of the camera’s lens opening and extending broke the reverie, contrasting sharply against the backdrop of rushing water and the far-off exclamations of other types of birds who lived at the Oasis. The Great Egret stood his ground, unperturbed. I fired off several shots of him just standing there on the rock, playing with distance and focus. He started to fuss a little, and I stopped shooting, holding my breath again, finger hovering in mide-air over the button.

And that’s when he did it…

IMG_1270-WDW-DAK-egret

… the Great Egret VOGUED for me!

(to be continued…)

Happy Critturday!

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Now playing: Madonna – Vogue

Things with wings at Walt Disney World

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Walt Disney World is in the quasi-tropical climate of Orlando, Florida. The flora is so well-maintained and lush, it can support any number of critters that love the warmth and humidity. Encounters with local wildlife (in other words, not placed there by Disney) are not only very satisfying, but can also be frequent if you keep your eyes open and pay attention to your surroundings. Today we’re going to look at some “things with wings” – butterflies I’ve met at Walt Disney World.

IMG_0454-WDW-MK-butterfly Found and photographed near “stroller hell” aka the former sky ride in Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom – November, 2004


 

IMG_0638-WDW-EPCOT-butterfly Not sure if this is a butterfly or a moth. Found in EPCOT, and I believe I was over by Universe of Energy. April, 2005


 

IMG_3055-WDW-DAK-butterfly Last one – this beauty was found quite near a gorilla at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – it was like “beauty and the beast” in there that day 😀 October, 2006


 

Happy Critturday, everyone!

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Critters in bronze – it’s Jiminy Cricket!

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IMG_0064-WDW-MK-Pinocchio-Jiminy-Cricket-bronze

Love these little bronze statues that circle the hub at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Here’s Pinocchio with his beloved little friend…

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“… and always let your conscience be your guide!”

For a twisted take on Jiminy Cricket = conscience, take a look at this blog post at Disney Every Day. My Twitter friend @AmandaTinney has put together a clever post filled with humorous animal pictures, one of which I tweeted to her earlier this week. Enjoy!



Happy Critterday!

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Fancy flyers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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Click the pictures to see larger versions in Flickr

IMG_1306-WDW-DAK-pair-scarlet-macaws:) Look at those colors. Look at those wings! These are scarlet macaws, one of the more colorful parrots that are native to the New World. They’re shown here with a Cast Member at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, who had stopped by to check their feed and ended up sticking around to answer questions and interact with the birds. The first time I laid eyes on a scarlet macaw, I didn’t quite believe that these were their natural colors. It just sort of reminded me of the 80s, when seemingly every teenager I passed on the streets of New York City had used Jell-O to add patches of color to their hair.

IMG_1311-WDW-DAK-scarlet-macaw-sitting-prettyHowever, I quickly came to discover that the scarlet macaw, so called because the predominant color is red, comes naturally by all these colors. I love the yellow on the underside of the wings, and the blue down the sides. There are some subspecies that are differentiated by how wide the yellow band is, or whether or not green is present in the plummage.

The scarlet macaw is a native of humid, subtropical locations in Central and South America, and is the national bird of Honduras. Deforestation and pesticides have drastically reduced their numbers in recent decades. Hunting/capture/sale is illegal in many countries, except for very specific, permitted circumstances.



IMG_1300-WDW-DAK-Scarlet-Macaw-closeupScarlet macaws can be found in singles, pairs or sometimes in large flocks. The more remote the location, such as sparsely populated islands in Central America, the bigger the flocks tend to be. They nest in hollows of trees, and their young stay with them for well longer than a year before striking out on their own. I was amazed to learn that they can live to be up to 75 years old! They are very social when they are in captivity and like interacting with their people.

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The dread jackalope of Captiva

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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04202009020-Jackalope-on-Captiva:) Of all the exotic creatures discovered by explorers when they first set foot on Captiva Island, there is none more respected and feared than the dread jackalope. Entire ships full of pirates and other scalawags were brought down by the resident herd, making it difficult to transform Captiva into a proper pirate hangout. This is why the jackalope was hunted nearly to extinction, and why in later years, a permit was necessary to hunt them. Here we see one of the last known specimens of the dread jackalope, stuffed and mounted, hanging over the bar at Captiva’s Mucky Duck restaurant.

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Just call me “The Cougar Whisperer”

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IMG_2068-Naples-Florida-zoo-western-cougar-sign 😛 While touring the Naples Zoo in Southwest Florida last week, we came upon an enclosure full of cougars. No, not the Courtney Cox variety! These are the type found in the wilds of the western United States. Other words for cougar are panther, mountain lion, even puma – all are part of the same species of big cats.

I remember reading a few years back about genetic defects found in the Florida panther that scientists attempted to correct by introducing DNA from Texas mountain lions. They trapped a number of female mountain lions and transported them from Texas to Florida, releasing them into the Florida panther’s habitat. When the females gave birth, the genetic defects had been either reduced or eliminated from the offspring. All of the Texans were then returned to their home state.

At the zoo on this particular day, a pile of cougars lay sleeping on the ground in the shady enclosure, while a significantly larger one lounged on a wooden platform. I stood there silently wishing he’d get up and move about so I could get a good shot of him. Suddenly, as if my wish were his command, he roused himself and looked directly at me with sleepy, patient eyes – and then he stuck his tongue out at me! 😛

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Just call me “The Cougar Whisperer” 😉

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Oh, give me a home… at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Beware of buffalo!

While walking the path in the Pangani Forest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we are admonished to beware of the dangerous, marauding buffalo! I wonder how often a stampede actually occurs there? And come to think of it… have I ever actually SEEN a buffalo in Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Hmmm, I don’t think I remember seeing one… anyone? Have you been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Do you remember seeing any buffalo there?

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Into the belly of the beast at the Naples Zoo, Southwest Florida

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IMG_2095-Naples-Florida-zoo-gator-feeding-time:) I recently had the privilege of touring the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens here in Southwest Florida. OK, “privilege” is stretching it a bit – it was REALLY hot and the animals were mostly sleeping, so not so much in the excitement department. But the botanical gardens were beautiful, and we know that if we go back in, say, December, we’ll have better luck with the animals being more alert. As it happens, it was the animals that are accustomed to the heat who provided the most entertainment and education for the day – plus, my spot of red for Ruby Tuesday! In this photo, we see one of the animal handlers at the zoo ringing a dinner bell – hmmm, who’s getting fed?

IMG_2099-Naples-Florida-zoo-gator-feeding-time
Hey, who said you could come up out of the water yet? Back, back you beast!

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Now, you just get right back into that water this instant, young man. You heard me – git!

IMG_2101-Naples-Florida-zoo-gator-feeding-time
Aw, you’re so cute when you’re all contrite and sorry like that! Good boy!

IMG_2106-Naples-Florida-zoo-gator-feeding-time
OK, here ya go – nice, juicy, RED steak. Supper time!

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When critters attack! Part 2

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IMG_6610-WDW-EPCOT-Germany-blue-train:) It’s a a day just like any other day in the beautiful German alps. A gentle breeze sets the pines a-whispering amongst themselves. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and a single, blue passenger car serenely makes its way along the alpine train tracks, little suspecting what insidious dangers lurk ahead…

IMG_6612What a pretty and quaint train station! OK, so the dead truck isn’t very attractive… but the buildings are a lovely pale yellow and the railroad staff stand ready to attend to the passengers, looking so smart and spiffy in their uniforms… but wait! What’s this I see? OH NO!

 

IMG_6612_cropIT’S A GIANT LIZARD! This horrible beast has apparently felled one person already (the unfortunate soul lying face-down by the tracks) and now it lies in wait on the roof of the station, ready to pounce upon the unsuspecting villagers as they disembark from the train.

 


 

RUN, UNSUSPECTING VILLAGERS – RUN!

(in case you hadn’t already guessed – just like Part 1, this is also the model train set-up at the German pavilion in EPCOT).

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When critters attack!

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IMG_4311-when-bunnies-attack
Unsuspecting villagers practice yodeling outside the local pub while a giant bunny prepares to attack the village. RUN, UNSUSPECTING VILLAGERS – RUN!

(it’s really just the toy train village that’s set up outside the German pavilion at EPCOT)

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My top 5 FUNky Facts about the ring-tailed lemur

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IMG_1363-WDW-DAK-ring-tailed-lemur:) Ring-tailed lemurs can be found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, pretty close to the entrance to It’s Tough To Be A Bug. I enjoy watching these guys. To me, they look like an odd mixture between a fox (pointy face), a raccoon (rings on the tail) and a spider monkey (general shape of body). I’ve done some reading about them and here are the FUNky facts I’ve discovered

1) Ring-tailed lemurs are in fact primates, so they are related to all sorts of monkeys as well as to humans. However, they are not of the simian order of primate; they are what’s known as Strepsirrhine primates, typically regarded as less intelligent than simians (although, that has recently been debated). There are several different kinds of lemur, and all of them hail from Madagascar.

IMG_1364-WDW-DAK-ring-tailed-lemur2) Ring-tailed lemurs like to sunbathe, and are often found doing so sitting up in the Lotus position. The sunbathing is to warm themselves during the day, but at night they sleep all piled up with one another to share warmth. Such a sleeping pile is called a “lemur ball”. They are usually found moving about on all-fours (quadrupedal), but are also capable of standing on hind legs for short periods. Whenever I’ve seen one walking around, they’ve usually sort of stalked along, similar to a cat or a raccoon.

3) While most lemurs are nocturnal, the ring-tailed lemur is dirunal – like (most!) humans, they are awake during the day and asleep at night. They are very social and live together in troops of about 30. The most lemurs I’ve seen at Disney is two, and I often wonder if they miss living in a big troop, and what Disney does for them to help compensate for socializing with the troop. I hope to remember to ask around next time I’m there.

IMG_1366-WDW-DAK-ring-tailed-lemur4) Ring-tailed lemur troops are female-dominant. This is true of all types of lemurs. The hierarchy of females in the troop is not inherited; you don’t get to be the top mama lemur just because your mother was.

5) Lemurs have scent glands that they use to mark territory, and sometimes they even have stink fights with other lemurs. They soak their tails in “stink” from their scent glands and wave them at the opponent. I have to admit that I giggled when I read this. In my head, I heard the voice of the French soldiers in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – “Hah, I stink in your general direction!” 😀

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Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge – pelican roost

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:) Back in May 2009, I took a cruise on Tarpon Bay with the Tarpon Bay Explorers. The cruise was a “thank you for your donation” gift from the local National Public Radio (NPR) station, WGCU, 90.1 FM in Fort Myers, Florida. The narrator is Dr. Jerry Jackson, a professor at FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University) who also narrates a daily radio spot on WGCU, “Out With The Wild Things”. Enjoy! And for those in the USA, hope you’re having a wonderful Labor Day Weekend.

I enjoyed the tour of Tarpon Bay – beautiful surroundings, sunny May day, fascinating speaker, what’s not to love? But I much preferred last year’s tour with Dr. Jackson on Rookery Bay. Click this link to see photos and videos from the Rookery Bay tour.

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Native Wildlife in Disney’s Animal Kingdom – the brown anole

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IMG_1541-WDW-DAK-giraffe-statue-upright:) Every time I visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, my appreciation for the theme park Imagineers’ incredible attention to detail only deepens. The park is impeccably themed, and I especially enjoy the animal statues sprinkled here and there. Some are carved of stone like idols, while others are made to look like wood carvings but are more likely made of resin – this is Florida, after all, a land where the termite thrives and flourishes 😉 Tucked away in a stand of bamboo, congregating in a forest pool or peeking out from behind dense foliage, I delight in happening upon these imaginative and often colorful critters.

IMG_1543-WDW-DAK-giraffe-statue-bent-anoleRelatively close to the front of the park, there’s a grouping of orange and yellow giraffes grazing in the underbrush by the side of the path. I remember stopping there once when Nieceling was young to photograph her with the smaller one; there’s a conveniently-placed flat stone for a kid to stand on, in case she’s too short to get both her head and the giraffe’s head in the photo. On this particular day, I was strolling by on my way out of the park – and I admit, it takes me a LONG time to stroll out of this park, so I have to start about an hour or so before I actually intend to get on the bus! Anyhow, I glanced over at the giraffes, and something caught my eye…

IMG_1542-WDW-DAK-giraffe-statue-back-anole-dewlapIt’s a brown anole, hanging out on the bent back of one of the giraffes. I caught him with his dewlap open! Technically, the brown anole is not a “native” of Florida – more of a naturalized citizen from the Caribbean. However, they’ve been here so long, they seem like natives. Just like all the other Americans, I guess 😀

Happy Critturday!

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Bee-auty in bloom at EPCOT

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IMG_1196-WDW-EPCOT-jacaranda-bee
After getting my new camera for Christmas, there was a long stretch of time before I was able to get over to Orlando again to Visit Walt Disney World – but when I did, boy was I glad I now had a camera with 10x optical zoom! I was able to capture this little guy feasting on these blossoms at EPCOT.

Todays-Flowers-Logo Scenic Sunday

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Native wildlife in the Magic Kingdom – The Great Egret

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IMG_1213-WDW-MK-Frontier-trading-post-egret :) At first glance, I thought this was a statue perched atop the Trading Post in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland. But then my brain reset itself and remembered that egrets are often found in this section of the Magic Kingdom – it’s right across the street from the lagoon that separates Frontierland from Tom Sawyer Island. If you take the time to look, you will find that there are egrets flying, wading and hunting all over Walt Disney World. These are native Floridians, availing themselves of the amenities of the Walt Disney World resort – well-maintained habitats and dropped food opportunities 😉

IMG_1211-WDW-MK-great-egret

See? Told ya he’s not a statue :)

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My Top 5 FUNky facts about the eastern lubber grasshopper

Lubber grasshopper on Sanibel IslandI mobile-blogged a slightly cloudy version of this photo a couple of weeks ago. My niece and I encountered this lubber grasshopper while on line to see the premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’ve done a little research and found out some FUNky facts about lubber grasshoppers.

1) RANGE: You might have seen one of these critters while vacationing at Walt Disney World or elsewhere in Florida. In fact, the range of this extraordinary creature, so lobster-like in appearance, extends across the southeastern United states from North Carolina to Texas.

2) GROUNDED: Even though lubber grasshoppers have wings, they cannot fly. To get around, they jump or crawl. This one was crawling rather pathetically up and down the cigarette butt receptacle outside the movie theater. It felt around before taking a step, so much so that I thought lubber grasshoppers might be blind. However, I’ve found no evidence suggesting sight issues, so I guess maybe they are just very careful crawlers.

3) COSTUME CHANGES: Lubber grasshoppers go through several colorful stages; this lobster color is representative of an adult in a light colored phase. Other phases can include stripes, green, yellow and deep navy blue. They don’t just turn colors; they molt! Man, I wish I could find the shell of one that has molted. It would be cool to have because it would look pretty without actually being a creepy-crawly critter 😉

4) REPRODUCTION: Females lay their eggs in the summer time; the eggs hatch in the southern part of Florida in February, but wait until March over the rest of the lubber’s range.

5) MISCHIEF: The lubber has been known to cause significant damage to vegetable and citrus crops. The best way to control lubbers is to remove their habitat – they like dense vegetation in moist areas, so if swales and roadsides are kept clear of vegetation, the lubbers will move on to denser pastures and not migrate over to chow down on your orange trees.

More information: eastern lubber grasshopper – Romalea guttata (Houttuyn).


Happy Critturday!

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Sand sculpture critters at Walt Disney World

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:) Several years ago, the BBC presented a series called Planet Earth, which explored wildlife stories as they unfolded in natural habitats. The story goes, there was footage to spare, and since Disney, like country radio, is all about “the story”, there was enough to form stories about three animal families and release it as a DisneyNature production called Earth.

IMG_1041-WDW-EPCOT-sand-dolphin-EARTH

This past spring at the 2009 International Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT, the film was being publicized in the form of sand sculptures strategically located in the fountain plaza just outside of MouseGear. There were some Cast Members on hand, as well as activities for smaller children. Me, I just thought the sand sculptures were cool – enjoy!

IMG_1042-WDW-EPCOT-sand-whale-EARTH


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Dragonfly gymnastics at EPCOT

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:) I found this little guy hanging out in the lily pond outside the China pavilion in Walt Disney World’s EPCOT theme park. I don’t know what he’s doing, but it looks like gymnastics to me! Click the photos – you’ll be taken to Flickr, and you can choose a different size to examine. You’ll see that the poor little fella’s wings are a little tattered and torn – I wonder how that happens, and how it affects his ability to fly?

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Behold, the power of duct tape!

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I think someone figured out that “alligator” and “proceed” do not a successful pairing make…

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The White Ibis on Sanibel Island

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IMG_0556-white-ibis-family :) The American white ibis is found from the mid-Atlantic region of the United States all the way south into the tropics. They are colonial by nature, and can be found roosting among quantities of other types of wading birds, such as herons and egrets. The two genders are virtually identical in appearance, but they do have different calls – the male is more of a grunter, while the female is more of a squealer. Doesn’t THAT just make you want to be around while they’re rockin’ the rookery? 😉

Getting back to their appearance – the feathers of the adults are actually not completely white. When an ibis takes flight, you can see that the tips of their unfurled wings are black. Juveniles have a sort of mottled appearance, like this one I photographed a few weeks ago on Sanibel Island here in Southwest Florida.

IMG_0563-whilte-ibis-family-wading You can often find an ibis or 5 patrolling the beaches here for their dinner. They use their long, curved, red beaks as a probe to find tasty morsels amongst the piles of marine debris brought in on waves from the Gulf of Mexico. The ibis will eat fish and other marine animals, insects, small reptiles and frogs. In addition to being found at the shore, the ibis can often be found hunting for insects on people’s lawns. Since I’ve had cinch bugs destroy parts of my lawn on more than one occasion, I don’t think I’d mind if a flock of them decided to drop by now and then!

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Playin’ hooky on Captiva Island: Great Blue Heron

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While I was playin’ hooky on Monday, I saw a great blue heron
stalking prey in the surf on Captiva Island, Florida.


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Feeding the birds can be hazardous to your vacation

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Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…

– From Disney’s Mary Poppins

Virtually all of us have done it. Sometimes we’ve done it deliberately, clutching the remains of a week-old plastic bag of Wonderbread as we head off to the local duck pond. Sometimes we’ve done it accidentally, when a request to “super-size it” has resulted in spillage that is immediately pounced upon by pigeons and sparrows in the parking lot of the local fast-food joint. Whether thoughtfully or thoughtlessly, we have all fed the birds.

IMG01520This seemingly innocuous pastime has consequences that add up to much more than “tuppence a bag”. People food is bad for a bird’s digestive system. Feed any wild animal and they learn to associate humans with food. This makes them lose their fear of humans in favor of a full stomach. It can also make them lose their hunting skills and give them a sense of entitlement, to the point where you almost have to beat them off with a stick in order to eat out-of-doors in peace.

I found this sign posted on the green wrought iron fence that surrounds the Village Lake at Downtown Disney. Times past, there used to be fish kibble machines peppering the perimeter of the lake. Pump in a quarter, get a fist-full of fish kibble. I don’t know if the machines are still there. You could fling your handful of kibble all at once and watch the fish (and sometimes turtles) jump for it, or else you could drop your pieces one by one, very close to where you were standing, so you could get a good look at them as they surfaced with their large mouths open, ready to devour whatever you were dropping.

Problem, Houston. One time as we were flinging our kibble into the lake, my NIeceling and I were set upon by a mob of hungry, swooping, squawking, flapping avian muggers. In broad daylight! We had to keep walking and pretend we weren’t furtively dropping a kibble here, a kibble there over the side for the fish.

Other times I’ve been seated outside at the Boardwalk or outside the Peppermarket at Coronado Springs or even in the Magic Kingdom at Caseys or in Frontierland, and all manner of feathered fowl and fiends have milled about my feet, hopped up on the table and even attempted to steal food right out of my hand. And every time I’ve seen bad behavior from the birds, it’s been right alongside bad behavior from the humans.

Moral of the story: since we all paid much more than “tuppence” for that burger, not to mention our theme park admission and accommodations – DON’T feed the birds!

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Colorful birds from Orlando, Florida

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Probably what makes my Monday Meme Trifecta so much fun is that I never know until the Friday before what sort of prompt Mo is going to serve up for Manic Monday. It’s fun and easy to come up with something for Blue Monday and for Mellow Yellow Monday, but to make it fit with the “Mo factor”, well that takes some strategic maneuvering! 😉

Mo has prompted us with “birds” this week, so without further ado, I bring you two specimens – you guessed it, one blue and one yellow – from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

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I found this little guy in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In the spring of 2004, I was walking the paths in the Pangani Forest and some splashing to the left startled me. There he was, splish-spalsh, takin’ a bath :) I think I’ve blogged this photo before, or one close to it, but no matter – he’s a cute little guy, and I’m happy to have him on the front page again.

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Fast forward to October of 2004. The sun was going down, and it was a bit overcast, too. I was walking that promenade between the fountain and the World Showcase Plaza at EPCOT, and stopped to check out the turtle action in the lagoon. After watching them a while, I looked up and saw an egret hanging out with some moorhens, and then a little further off, this beautiful little blue heron. He stood still just long enough for me to get this one shot, and then he took off into the gathering dusk.

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Just hangin’ around at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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I bet he says that to ALL the girls


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:)

Sanibel Seagull Smiles

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There’s an attention ho in every flock; Dave was theirs.

IMG_0375-mixed-seagulls-Sanibel

HAPPY CRITTURDAY!

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The unfortunately named peacock at Disney and Busch Gardens

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IMG_0293-peacock-plummage-disney-animal-kingdom

This peacock blends in pretty perfectly with his surroundings.
Photo taken at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. April 25th, 2004

Peacocks come in different colors, which is something I did not know until I encountered this one at Busch Gardens “Africa” in Tampa, Florida –

Interestingly enough, I’ve discovered that the peacock technically should not be included in Busch Gardens “Africa” because it is indigenous to India. But he was pretty so I’ll let it slide. 😉

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Respect The Power Of The YETI! at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Respect The Power Of The YETI! at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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IMG_3019-Yeti-shrine-Everest-loomsWandering through the Asia “land” of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, you’ll eventually come upon a waterside shrine, laden with many gifts of food, candles and trinkets strewn upon it. “Mount Everest” looms large in the distance, a dramatic, snow-capped backdrop for this sacred spot in the village of Anandapur. But who is it a shrine TO? We must get a little closer to investigate…

IMG_3020-close-up-yeti-shrineIt’s a rather strange and ferocious-looking creature, is it not? Somewhat like a bear or an ape, walking erect with claws extended, it is clearly revered by the people who have come to lay down treasures before this statue of it. Since that is “Everest” in the distance, we can be sure that we are approaching the Himalayas, and that can only mean that this feared-revered creature is none other than the fabled Abominable Snowman, a.k.a., the Yeti. This creature has been the subject of countless expeditions and studies by scientists, writers and adventurers for several centuries.

IMG_4130-Yeti-shrine-red-dotThe people of the Himalayas have made the Yeti the subject of much of their local art and folk lore. The Yeti is the stuff of legend, much like “Big Foot” a.k.a. Sasquatch in North America. Primatologists, anthropologists and many other types of -ologists, I’m sure, have studied such evidence as footprints and hairs left behind by this creature, but no evidence has thus far been deemed conclusive insofar as proving the existence of the Yeti.

IMG_3016-Everest-inside-queue-yetibiliaThe Yeti so captures the human imagination, there have been expeditions in search of one as recently as 2008, when a band of Japanese researchers went off adventuring into the Himalayas to see if they could find one. Scientists routinely test “evidence”, usually hairs that are claimed to have come from a yeti, but DNA results indicate that they are always some other type of animal, chiefly bears. That region of Tibet enjoys the presence of three different types of bears – blue, brown and red, and the word “yeti” seems to be derived from two Tibetan words, one for “bear” and the other for “rocky place”. Given the location, “rocky place” does make sense.

IMG_4132-respect-power-YetiOne of the pet theories that has been floated now and then about both the Yeti and Big Foot is that somehow, the gigantopithecus giant ape from the Pleistocene era has survived and is alive and well and living in the Himalayas. It’s a nice theory, but most scientists agree that gigantopithecus was a quadruped, which would not explain why the Yeti is able to climb up Disney’s Expedition Everest attraction on two legs while ripping up the tracks with his hands! I guess those fans of the gigantopithecus theory have not been to Disney World recently.

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Ring-billed gulls, and “the circle of life”

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Ring-billed gulls, and “the circle of life”

(a Camera Critters post)

click any photo to see the bigger version in Flickr
IMG_0101-ring-bille-gull-marchingEarlier this week, I posted a photo of shore birds feasting upon some scallops that had been stranded by the tide. I realized that I didn’t know what the birds were called, so I went through some recent photos to see if I could find a close up. Here’s a shot from early in January, and according to my National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida, this is a ring-billed gull. You can see that there is, indeed, a ring around his yellow bill. According to Audubon, this bird migrates north for the summer, but non-breeders will probably stick around here.
IMG_0204-Ring-billed-gulls-feastingLast week, when my friend Kim and I were at the beach, we encountered a pile of shells that had been tossed up onto the shore by the tide. As we pawed through the pile for treasures, we found many scallops had been stranded with the empties. Some were still alive, as evidenced by their nervous chattering as we came near. Yes, they do that thing that you see them do in the old cartoons – they open and shut rapidly, trying to scare us away with the clatter, I guess. Usually, when I find a live one, I will endeavor to place it back in the water. But then I began to notice that humans aren’t the only ones interested in a pile of shells.
IMG_0207-ring-billed-gull-tasty-scallopThe ring-billed gulls were feasting! And here I thought, with all the hubris and inflated sense of importance that a human can muster, that we were doing the scallops a favor by giving them a “second chance”. It’s not really a carnage that humans need to “fix” (oh, we are such fixers, we humans, aren’t we?). As often happens, it dawned upon me in the lyrics:

Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life…


Yeah, I did. I burst into song. I think Kim laughed at me, but I don’t mind. If you’re embarrassed 😳 by people who are prone to bursting into song, don’t go shelling with me 😆 . The point is, the scallops had found “their place on the path unwinding”. It was right there, on the beach, waiting for a ring-billed gull to come along and decide it looked tasty.
The scallops, they have their purpose. They don’t have to think about it, or struggle to discover what it is they are meant to do. The Circle Of Life just kind of takes care of that for them. Not so much for us humans. We often struggle to find our place. For many of us, it’s not all that clear what we are meant to do with our lives.
Sometimes, I still don’t know what I’m supposed to be when I grow up. If “when I grow up” should ever happen, I’ll be sure to let y’all know.
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Eagles from the Florida Gulf Coast

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Eagles from the Florida Gulf Coast

(a Camera Critters post)
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A couple of weeks ago, I saw a bald eagle hanging out in a dead tree on Sanibel Island. I was only able to get a few shots, most of them no good, before it took off. I was told that the eagle had been collecting sticks out of the tree to make a nest.

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This got me thinking about some other photos of eagles that I’ve got in my archives. Here’s the big Anheuser-Busch topiary eagle. It can be found in Busch Gardens “Africa” up in Tampa.

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The other eagle I found on my hard drive is made of sand. I photographed this particular eagle at The 2008 American Sand Sculpting Championship Festival. The detail is amazing, and I find it a real treat to watch people create beautiful tableaux from a pile of ordinary sand.

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Bald eagles have spent some time on the endangered species list. Use of the pesticide known as DDT had a huge negative impact on bird eggs until it was banned in the early 1970s. The second largest population of bald eagles in the United States is now in Florida (first: Alaska).

I’ve written about the effects of DDT poisoning before, when I cruised Rookery Bay with Dr. Jerry Jackson last spring. Dr. Jackson is a wildlife biologist at Florida Gulf Coast University, and has a radio spot on the local NPR station, WGCU 90.1 Fort Myers. The eagles have made a significant comeback since the banning of DDT, but encroaching civilization represents a new threat. Deforestation in Florida has resulted in a loss of habitat. Very often, people will point to eagle nests coexisting with human neighborhoods, such as the one by the Dairy Queen on Sanibel, as evidence that the eagles will be fine, and that they have adapted. Dr. Jerry Jackson says that situations such as the Dairy Queen nest have not existed long enough to know whether or not coexistence is really a success.

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Bird Temple at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Bird Temple at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

(a Wordless Wednesday post)

IMG_3076_DAK_Birdhouse

Bird temple at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A fluffy blue and green bird feeds as the goddess looks on from the background

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Lamp Post Critters at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Lamp Post Critters at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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click any photo to see a larger version in Flickr

IMG_6915-DAK-lamp-post-spider-webSpiders! *shudder*
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the infrastructure – buildings, bridges, light fixtures, etc. – are covered with folk-art styled critters. Carved, painted, bright and whimsical, some of these cuties can be found on the lamp posts sprinkled throughout the park. Here’s a spider weaving a web on a lamp; click the photo and you’ll see evidence of the presence of this faux arachnid’s real-life brethren.

IMG_6938-DAK-lamp-post-bunniesThe Prey Prays
I found these bunnies in the quiet patio area out back of the Flame Tree BBQ counter service place. I like this area because of the spectacular view of Expedition Everest; one can sit there with a cappucino and become mesmerized watching the cars slowly ascend into the darkness, only to emerge from the other side, careening around with screaming cargo. Anyhow, you might have noticed that these bunnies are in a sort of a praying posture, and they appear to be a bit bug-eyed. Of what are they a-feared, you ask? Well…

IMG_6937-DAK-lamp-post-owlEEEK!
Well, no wonder – there’s an owl soaring above that’s got the bunnies assuming positions of supplication. “Please, don’t swoop down and eat us!” they seem to plead… actually, that owl doesn’t look all that scary to me. In fact, he sort of reminds me of Van Halen’s logo. C’mon, you see it too, don’t you? That’s not scary! Well, not unless they’re thinking of getting back with David Lee Roth AGAIN. In which case, my advice is to “run, little bunnies – FLEE! Flee for your lives!” 😉

IMG_6917-DAK-lamp-post-turtle-snail“I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain…”
I love this one – the turtle assumes the Gene Kelly position and I fully expect him to break into song at any given moment. And the sky! The sky is just that amazing Florida blue sky that I’ve grown to revere.

I’m sure there are lots more whimsical lamp posts in Walt Disney World. This is just a small sampling of them. I hope you’ve enjoyed them!

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Flora, Fauna, Magic! revisited

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Flora, Fauna, MAGIC! revisited

(a Camera Critters post)

Was reliving some old trip reports to Disney, and came across this Photo Story that I call “Flora, Fauna, MAGIC!”. It’s 4 minutes, 38 seconds, set to music, mostly animals found around Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It’s a Windows Media Player file.

Enjoy!

CLICK TO VIEW Fall Frolick 2004 – Flora, Fauna, MAGIC!

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Tigers of The Royal Forest of Anandapur, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Tigers of The Royal Forest of Anandapur, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

(a Camera Critters post)
click any photo to see a larger version in Flickr

IMG01416-DAK-tiger-trash-can-artLast week, I wrote about my Favorite Critters At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and one of them was the tiger.  In that post, I explained that Disney has placed their tigers in a setting that is similar to the “temple of the tigers”, a preserve in India that had at one time been royal hunting grounds. 

IMG01430-DAK-tiger-sign-wood-houseDisney places the tigers along the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and calls the forested section “The Royal Forest of Anandapur”.  I googled “Anandapur” and found two villages, one in the state of Crissa in India, and the other is in Bangladesh, from whence the Royal Bengal tiger comes.  Well they also hang out in Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma), but a “Bengal” is someone from Bangladesh, so there you go.

The first image above is actually trash can art, and was captured just outside the Maharajah Jungle Trek entrance. The second image heralds your arrival in the Royal Forest of Anandapur, where the tigers frolic amongst the ruins of a royal palace that is crumbling with antiquity.

IMG_7079-DAK-one-tiger-fountainPlease excuse the “ghosts” on these photos; they were shot through glass, and I think it’s remarkable that they are as clear as they are, given how many little fingers leave their imprints on a daily basis :) This tiger guards a crumbling fountain; he doesn’t see what I see behind him…. maybe he’s got tiger “spidey sense” that allows him to know somehow, but I didn’t consider that at the time and I thought we, the tourists of Anandapur, were about to see some action…

IMG_7078-DAK-one-tiger-pool No, I have no idea why there appears to be a board in the water, but I’m glad you noticed because I was kind of wondering myself. A second tiger stealthily skirts the fountain pool, looking for all the world like s/he was stalking the first one. What will happen? Is there going to be a conflict, a great, fierce battle? The tourists of Anandapur hold their collective breath!

IMG_7082-DAK-two-tigers-fountainWhew! It looks like the second tiger is disinterested in conflict after all, passing by without a even a passing glance, never mind a roar or even a growl. The tourists of Anandapur, lungs bursting, release their collective breath.

Peace descends upon the Royal Forest of Anandapur. Happy ending – YAY! :)

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Favorite Critters from Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Favorite Critters from Disney’s Animal Kingdom

(a Camera Critters post)

Here are some of my favorite animals that are “must see” whenever I visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

(You can click any picture to go to the original in Flickr; when you get there, click “All Sizes” and then select “Original”)

IMG_0156_DisneyAK_Elephant_2004

This is an African elephant; looks like that might be Paw, as opposed to Maw. Elephants have a remarkable capacity for emotion. When a member of the herd passes on, they have been known to behave in ways that mimic our own death customs, including mourning for several days (waking or sitting shiva) and throwing branches or grass clumps on the carcass (dropping clumps of earth into the grave). To read more about elephant emotions, visit the Public Broadcasting (PBS) page for the TV show “Nature – Unforgettable Elephants”

IMG_0145_DisneyAK_Flamingo_2004

I’ve featured pink flamingos here at My Mobile Adventures *~*~* several times in the past. That’s because I love them! Oh, when you pass by where they hang out, they absolutely STINK, to be sure. But they are so beautiful, I don’t mind the stench too much. Some of them have wings that are sort of outlined in black, which is stunning when set against the deep pink of the flamingo’s other feathers, and which you can only see when they stretch their wings. The sometimes overwhelming odor near the flamingos in zoos and theme parks is probably from their diet. Flamingos eat a diet based upon an algae known as spirulina. The Nature site has a page on flamingos too, which goes into greater detail about why some flamingos are pinker than others.

IMG_0307_DisneyAK_Tiger_2004
Here’s an Asian tiger, looking pretty bored. I think these are actually Royal Bengal tigers. The environment that Disney has built for the tigers is very similar to what “Nature” calls the “temple of the tigers” – the Bandhavgahr Preserve in India. Mythology meets archeology in this place, which consists of an ancient fort (est. 2,000 years old), statues of some of India’s gods, a series of man-made caves complete with hieroglyphics, and a pleasing biodiversity that includes some members of India’s “Project Tiger” at the top of it’s food chain. I think the setting Disney has created for these tigers is the reason why I like visiting them so much. It’s as though the tigers themselves are the gods, slipping in and out of the ruins like ghosts; we are fortunate to catch glimpses of them now and then, frolicking in the crumbling remains of ancient walls and fountains.

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I saved my very, very favorite for last – it’s the river otter! There is no visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom that’s complete without making a stop, probably several stops actually, to watch the otters play and swim and tumble about and BARK. Yes that’s right, they BARK, like little prairie dogs. In fact, it would not surprise me if I found out that they were related – otters and prairie dogs, i mean. These are gray; native Floridian otters are more of a chocolate brown color, I believe, but have the same sleek coat that helps them to glide and dodge and weave through the water effortlessly. Sometimes the otters aren’t there, or you see them off in the distance, sleeping in a little cave, all piled up on top of one another. When they sleep in a pile like that, it gives one the impression that someone is going to have to go in there and unknot them, but then they slither around and voila, no more pile o’ otters.

Well there you have it – some of my favorite critters from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I’ve got lots of critter photos that I took the last time I was there, and I’m happy to be able to share them on Camera Critters over the next few weeks. Please DO leave your link in the comments, so I can visit you back and see your critter posts.

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Cotton-Topped Tamarins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Cotton-Topped Tamarins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

(a Camera Critters post)
click the photo to see a larger version

IMG_0330-Disney-Animal-Kingdom-Tamarin-2004I met these two little fellas (gals?) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during a trip I took in 2004 (my pre-Florida resident days). They are called cotton-topped tamarins, and they used to be found in the wild as far north as Costa Rica. However they are now endangered and you have to go to Columbia to find them.

At the time this photo was taken, the Cast Member who is feeding them  (vitamins, by the way – yum!) told me that there were more in captivity than in the wild at this point, probably only about a thousand or so in the jungles. They are the smallest of all primates, and when they speak to each other, it sounds like birds singing! I was fortunate to hear that once.

The last few times I’ve been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the tamarins were not anywhere to be found; I hope they are just resting or maybe on loan to a zoo or something like that.   I used to see them in a tree in the garden area around the Tree of Life, close to where the lemur and the entrance to It’s Tough To Be A Bug is.  If anyone has seen them recently, please let me know where and when.

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The Gacking Owl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
http://MyMobileAdventures.blogspot.com
The Gacking Owl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Shhhhhh! I’m not here. I’m not blogging, cause it’s Blogless Thursday.

One of my nieces is actually blogging today. See, I remembered that there was video of the gacking owl that I mentioned the other day, but what I didn’t remember is that it was HER video of the gacking owl.

It’s about 4 minutes long, and the first minute or so is sideways – sorry! But a promise is a promise, so without further ado, I present – I mean, MY NIECE presents – The Gacking Owl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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The Scarlet Ibis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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The Scarlet Ibis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom



This is the scarlet ibis (pronounced: EYE-bis; click photo to enlarge). A native of South America, the scarlet ibis is also found in Trinidad and Tobago, where it is one of the birds featured on the national coat of arms.

The ibis is a wading bird, and most of them here in Florida are white with a long curving red bill. The presence of the scarlet variety in the wild here in Florida does not necessarily mean migration occurred – as Dr. Jerry Jackson of Florida Gulf Coast University explains, scarlet ibis eggs were brought to Florida and fostered by resident white ibises.

The scarlet ibis pictured above was photographed among a flock of white ibises at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida on 31 October 2004.

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– Readers may remember that I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jerry Jackson speak during a sunset cruise on Rookery Bay (Naples, Florida) this past spring. I got lots of video with Dr. Jackson speaking in the background. CLICK HERE for the Rookery Bay series of posts.

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The Black Swan – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
http://MyMobileAdventures.blogspot.com
The Black Swan at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
After coming through the turnstiles at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you have the opportunity to wander along criss-crossy paths in a shady portion of the park called The Oasis. A waterfall flows into a stream, which babbles along until it empties into a pond. There are ducks, turtles, lizards, wallabies and all manner of water fowl in residence at The Oasis.



click photo to enlarge

This is a black swan. Its latin name is cygnus atratus, and it is native to the wetlands of southern Australia. He isn’t completely black; you can see white feathers peeking out from beneath the black ones, which are more dramatically visible while the bird is in flight. One of the most interesting things I’ve read about black swans is that their pair-bonding habits present an excellent example of how homosexuality can be an evolutionary advantage! You will just have to Google that now, won’t you? 😀

The black swan always reminds me of figure skating. During the 2000-2001 figure skating season, the incomparable Michelle Kwan used music called Song of the Black Swan by composer Heitor Villa-Lobos for her long program (there are brief clips at that link – it’s #9). There have also been skaters who’ve chosen to portray The Black Swan from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet.

The black swan’s beak is completely bright red in color. You can only see a tiny sliver of it here because he is napping, but if you use Google Images, I’m sure you will find some good examples.

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