Tag Archives: wildlife

Grazing in Mexico



Grazing in Mexico, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

The birds situation here at the waterside tables in Mexico is abhorrent. We spoke to the manager and let him know that the dining experience is severely degraded and the birds and humans are in peril when guests are not told that feeding wildlife table side is not acceptable. He asked us to stop by guest relations and tell them too.

Six Mile Cypress Slough – it’s for the birds!

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Boardwalk pavilion at Six Mile Cypress SloughI’ve been trying to make it a point to get to the Six Mile Cypress Slough at least once a week during the cooler months. So far, I’m three for three (weeks, that is!). This past Friday, I actually remembered to bring my camera with me, so I was able to avail myself of some optical zoom, which certainly helps when you’re trying to photograph things that will cut and run – or, more accurately, FLY – if you get too close.

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As I entered the gated portion of the boardwalk, I was pleased to note how much water there was in the slough. Just last week, parts of the swamp were mere mud puddles. Due to nearly four days of gray skies and rain last week, pretty unusual for December, the slough is nicely recharged. Walking through this section, I heard this little guy before I saw him – a downy woodpecker was pecking his way up and down and all around the branch of a tree. He’s fast! Hard to catch him before he ducks around the other side.

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This majestic great egret stood his ground, even when I inadvertently spooked a group of ibis and they fluttered all around him. I was on my way to one of the viewing pavilions, where I saw this next fellow…

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This male anhinga has been on the same branch in the same corner of the same pond for the last three weeks in a row. I think that’s “his” branch. He’d probably be annoyed if he ever found someone squatting on it. Also on this pond, but too far away to photograph – two turtles, a black-crowned night heron, a baby gator about a foot long, and another anhinga sleeping with his head all tucked in. Back down the boardwalk and off in the bushes, I was able to capture this fellow…

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I could barely see him in the branches – he’s well-camouflaged! I believe this is a juvenile black-crowned night heron. There were a few of these guys hanging out here several weeks ago.

Well, those are the best of the bunch for this week. It’s quite a thrill every time I get to hang out with these guys πŸ™‚

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Late autumn in Southwest Florida – paradise!

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

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What a beautiful time of year it is to live in Southwest Florida!

The summer can be unforgiving – the heat and humidity are relentless, the rain is capricious, and there is always the threat of a hurricane or two hanging over our collective heads.

However, as October melts into November, a kinder, gentler Southwest Florida emerges. Blue skies and refreshing breezes reign in the late autumn and early winter days. It’s a little cooler, a little drier, and much more enjoyable. It’s time to take it outside in Southwest Florida – let’s go!


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I got a call earlier in the week from friends who were going to take a boat out of Fort Myers Beach, and did I want to come along? You bet I did! We did a leisurely tour through Matanzas Pass and Ostego Bay, then emerged into the Gulf via Big Carlos Pass, near Lovers Key. That’s the bridge over Big Carlos, behind us (above).

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We decided to head for Nervous Nellie’s in Fort Myers Beach after our excursion. The town is all done up for Christmas. As a native New Yorker, it still gives me the giggles to see Christmas decorations juxtaposed against palm trees and blue skies.

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Here I am, enjoying royal status for about three minutes – Princess Without A Country πŸ˜‰ You will find this over-sized bench with the cutout near the gazebo beside Nervous Nellie’s, should you have a princess you’d like to photograph.

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At Moss Marine, I saw this egret standing on a post and took aim with the camera. I saw the pelican come in for a landing behind him, but did not see the little shore bird on the post in front of him until I got the picture up on the computer screen later on.

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A closer look at the egret – handsome fellow, isn’t he?

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The sun was setting as I crossed back over Matanzas Pass and made my way toward Summerlin. I decided to take a side trip before heading back to Lehigh, and made my way to Bunche Beach Preserve, where I saw this little blue heron hunting for his supper.

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The little blue wasn’t the only one looking for dinner – pelicans and an egret hunted as well. A misty glow enveloped the Sanibel Causeway in the distance – one of those scenes that makes your heart go “ahhh!”

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The sky is streaked in Creamsicle shades as the sun descends upon Sanibel’s east end.

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A side trip to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve the next day yielded the delight of finding a cute little two-foot gator sunning himself in the vegetation along the banks of the gator lake. He would not be the last gator I would see this week!

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Saturday found me at the C.R.E.W. Bird Rookery Swamp, where I would participate in a geocaching event. It was a glorious day to be tramping around in the cypress swamp’s wide trails. Here’s a balsam pear we found growing wild alongside the path. It’s a relative of the cucumber.

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I haven’t identified this moth yet, but I liked the angle of his upper wings against the lower “tail” part of his flying apparatus.

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It’s that time of year, when the beautiful but destructive lubbers turn into lovers. These grasshoppers go through several colorful stages before they reach the cooked-lobster hue you see here.

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See? Told ya there would be another gator! Actually, there were two, on opposing sides of the path, but the other one was a bit too far away to get a decent shot. I’d say they were about 4 feet or so. We observed them for a while and when we were ready to move on, they quite agreeably slunk into the swamp and let us pass unmolested.

So that was my post-Thanksgiving week. How was yours?

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A visit to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge

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

IMG_6509In celebration of the Florida Panther Festival here in Southwest Florida, I participated in a field trip on Friday 11/09/2012 at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County, Florida. Last year, I hiked the Bird Rookery at CREW (Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed); this year, I went a little further afield. The excursion came in two parts. First, we rode along the firebreaks in a swamp buggy, learning about maintenance efforts that keep the habitat in good shape for the Florida panther’s food chain. Then, we took to the trails on foot, exploring “the clubhouse” and back-country areas that are only seen by the public perhaps twice a year. The cell phone signal was spotty, sometimes working great but other times dismal or completely absent, so I did not attempt to mobile blog the adventure. Are you ready to explore? Let’s go!

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Our leaders for the field trip were several members of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife team who maintain this refuge as well as Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, also located in Collier County. There were two swamp buggies, each of which could seat 6 or 7 participants, and about 24 people showed up. Therefore, we were split into two groups. One group hiked while the other group rode, and then we made a rendezvous and swapped places. I was in the first buggy group with my friends Charles and Vicki Wright who run Everglades Area Tours in Chokoloskee, FL, and Jacquie Roecker, hiking buddy extraordinaire and sole proprietor of Nature’s Voice Photography in Naples, FL. Jacquie and I do these things together on purpose, but stumbling across Charles and Vicki was a pleasant surprise.

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The buggies would stop along the way so the rangers could point out efforts to control overgrowth, invasive exotics, and habitat diversity. They talked with us about herbicides, fire, and hydrology. It’s been an okay summer rainy season here in Lee County, but further south there has been disappointment. They’re just not getting the rain that they should, and man’s efforts to control flooding has resulted in a complex canal system that often diverts water from where it is needed and carries it away to where it’s not. I snapped the above photo while standing on a dock out back of the “clubhouse” that should have been under water. If freshwater wetlands do not receive sufficient water in the forms of sheet flow and rainfall, then they cannot properly support the life forms that depend upon it for habitat and food.

I’ve mentioned “the clubhouse” twice now. It’s an accessible-access wooden structure, screened in, which is intended to someday house an environmental education program about the refuge in general, and specifically about orchids. The failure or success of orchids growing in the swamp is monitored closely, and with great interest. Orchids are an “indicator species” for a Florida swamp; if your habitat has them, then your habitat must be doing pretty well. A lack of them growing where they are supposed to be could indicate that environmental conditions are not right, or perhaps another species is hogging all the resources.

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Every now and then, while prowling through panther country, you come across something like this. Panthers like to use a fallen log as a scratching post. The fallen log happens to be alongside a footpath or firebreak trail that is used by humans. It doesn’t matter to the panther. Panthers like to use the trails because they will be unencumbered in their travels by understory plants. In addition to stretching and sharpening their claws on a log, panthers just plain like to play with such things, biting and wrestling and rolling it around. But how do we know that panthers like to do these things while no one is watching?

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Someone IS watching! The location of such logs is the perfect spot to install both video and still cameras. In this manner, wildlife can be observed without being disturbed at the presence of people. In addition to capturing the antics of panthers, these cameras pick up the activities of other wildlife on the preserve such as the black bear, the white-tailed deer, bobcats, and raccoons. The rangers mentioned that lately, there is evidence of coyotes moving into the refuge. I’d love to be the person who gets to review the footage πŸ™‚

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Once the field trip was over, we filled out evaluation forms and took a quick turn through the newly built greenhouse, where different plant experiments were in various stages of being conducted. I snapped the above photo at pond near where we had all parked. There’s allegedly a one-legged alligator lurking in there. If there was one bee on these wildflowers, there were a billion! Jacquie and I had each packed a lunch, so we dragged our beach chairs out of our cars and sat in the shade of some ginormous live oaks dripping with epiphyte air plants, ferns, and Spanish moss. One of the refuge interns joined us and we all enjoyed being with our “tribe” for some lively discussion. I drove home contentedly, and felt the wild desire to nap when I got back to the house. An early start and lots of fresh air will do that to a person πŸ˜‰

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Please do not feed the critters!



Please do not feed the critters!, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

Last week, an ecotour operator made the fatal mistake of enticing an alligator out of the water for the entertainment of the tourists. He lost his hand. The gator, quite unfairly, lost his life. There’s a reason for the law. These are not trained Disney critters. They are wild and real and you’re in their territory. Please keep your hands and feet – and FOOD – inside the vehicle at all times, and don’t mess with the critters. Thank you.

Everglades adventure! Part 1

Β© 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. πŸ˜‰

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰ 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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Spooked each other in Lakes Park



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).

Upcoming Adventures: Food, Family, Fun, and More!

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Good grief, have I got a ridiculous amount of adventures lined up in the next several months! Suddenly, we’re going from zero to 60 in a matter of seconds. I’m still not quite sure how this happened, but my dance card filled up rapidly and I’m looking for places to insert a breath or two πŸ˜‰

OCTOBER 2011
2010 Food and Wine Festival themingEPCOT International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World | Yes, it’s that time of year again – Chez Bro and da fambly will be rocking Disney World starting next week. I’m going for just three nights, but that should be long enough to sample all the new goodies that will be offered this year. I hear there’s a Hawaii booth offering a really good mai tai… also looking forward to visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the wake of the announcement that there will be a new “land” developed there that’s based on the film AVATAR. This land will be focused on “living in harmony” with the environment. I hear there will be an “AVATAR 2” in 2014, and I’m wondering if they will be coordinating the opening of the new section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom with the opening of the film… that would be pretty exciting πŸ™‚

Arriving at CityWalk - Universal ResortUniversal Orlando Resort and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter | These days, I do not plan an expedition to Orlando without including a visit to Universal Orlando Resort in my plans. I am smitten with The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. While I don’t think there’s anything really new there to see or do, it’s kind of cool to wander through Universal Studios circa Halloween time – they do the place up nicely, so I’m looking forward to dropping by and taking it all in. One thing that won’t be available there YET is the new book Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey – guess I’ll have to pre-order from Amazon like the rest of the world!

IMG_2067-Naples-Florida-zoo-western-cougar-tongueFlorida Panther Festival | At first I thought, “oh dear, I’m going to miss it πŸ™ ” because it’s on a Saturday and as I will explain below, my Saturdays are all booked up through early November. Then I realized I could do one of the field trips that wasn’t on the same day as the festival, and I felt a bit better as soon as I signed up. So I’ll get to hike a bit through Corkscrew Swamp, something I’ve yet to do but it’s “on the list”. Eager not only to learn about and experience the swamp, but also to observe a naturalist in action, taking people on an adventure. I think I finally know what I want to be when I grow up… πŸ˜‰ DISCLAIMER: That is not a panther. I do not have a photo of a panther. However, I had a picture of a western cougar, and since they are the same species (but two different sub-species, separated by the Gulf of Mexico), and also since he is so cute with his tongue sticking out at me like that, I decided what the heck – western cougar it is LOL.

One down, two to go - the certificate I earned in June!Florida Master Naturalist – Freshwater Wetlands Module | Having completed the Coastal Systems module several months ago, and having had a total blast doing it – it’s like day camp for adults πŸ˜‰ – I am eager to begin the Freshwater Systems Module, immediately upon my return from Orlando. Every Saturday through the beginning of November, I’ll have lecture in the morning and then field trips in the afternoons. One of the field trips will happen in a place that is very familiar to me – the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, right here in Fort Myers. The rest of the field trips are in places up in Charlotte County, to places where I’ve never been before. Oh, yes! New adventures! And I get to learn how to kayak! Doesn’t this just keep getting better and better? πŸ™‚

NOVEMBER 2011

Mote Marine mobile aquariumMote Marine Aquarium, Sarasota | Ever since I saw the “Mote Mobile” at the Mango Festival this past July, I’ve wanted to visit Mote Aquarium, which is about an hour north of Fort Myers, in Sarasota. It’s attached to a Marine Laboratory which was founded in 1955. As if the excitement of a new adventure isn’t enough, I have a Groupon for admission AND they’re opening a new exhibit in November called “Penguin Island”. Since I’m all booked up through the beginning of November, and since the Groupon expires 11/22, guess what I’ll be doing sometime in between? Yep, I’m Sarasota-bound πŸ™‚

DECEMBER 2011

It's Grinchmas! At Seuss LandingHoliday Meet in Orlando | This is becoming a habit – some friends from Ohio typically come to Orlando circa the first week of December each year, and I’ve met them there several times now. We are usually good for dinner somewhere special and an adult beverage crawl around the World Showcase in EPCOT. Of course, I’ll visit not only Walt Disney World but Universal Orlando as well. The SeussLand deco is beyond ridiculous; every possible square inch is covered in tinsel and lights in celebration of “Grinchmas”. I was thinking that this year, I might expand my “in search of Christmas” resort hop; I’ve pretty well covered the Port Orleans resorts, the Boardwalk, and Downtown Disney. It’s time to expand my repertoire! So if you have a favorite resort that you’d like me to visit for the Christmas decor, please leave a comment below and I will try to include it in my itinerary. Thanks!

122720103047Christmas In New York | One of the great ironies of my life is that I’ve yet to spend Christmas Day in my own home. I moved away from New York in 2006 and have been going “home” to Long Island for Christmas every year since then. I basically pull a plug-in two foot tree out of a box to enjoy for a few days before jetting off to points north, LL Bean flannel-lined jeans and waterproof Uggs in tow. I’m-a-skeered – last year, there was a blizzard while I was there! Well, I guess it wouldn’t make very much sense to have Uggs and not get to wear them in the snow. Plus, I bought a round-trip ticket, so I’ll be back in Florida eventually πŸ˜‰ It’s good for me to go north in the snow; it makes me grateful that I’m not stuck with it and that I get to come back here to warm, sunny Florida.

Well, that’s the adventure report for the rest of the year. If I add something, I’ll be sure to let you know – but I’m pretty much certain that’s all the adventure I can stand! Stay tuned, ’cause mobile blogging from Orlando starts SOON!

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Old-world charm with a modern world backdrop

I ambled down to the Caloosahatchee River from Ford’s caretaker’s-cottage-turned-gift-shop and sat on a bench. Immediately, the wind coaxed a song from the giant stands of bamboo that paint a lacy pattern on the sky.

Feeling for all the world like Forest Gump waitin’ on the bus, I watched with held breath as a feather wafted down from somewhere above and gently deposited itself in the river.

Safe journey, little wafter.

An egret glided in and claimed a spot on one of the pilings of Ford’s old dock. Without his black-beaked profile, he blended with the clouds behind him.

I raised the camera and whispered, "Turn sideways, please".

He turned and I took the shot. He turned again and looked right at me. I grinned at him and whispered again. "Thanks, dude."

Give me one good reason why I should ever rise from this bench!

Seining on Lover’s Key, Florida

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

06182011648-Lovers-Key-Real-FloridaDirectly after we finished up with the Field Trip On Estero Bay, we all got into our cars and drove down to Lover’s Key State Park for some more nature geek fun. First we all congregated in a shady area, settled in at picnic benches and ate our bag lunches. Then we proceeded down the path to the beach to go seining.

“Seine” is not just a river in France. A seine is a net that is used to capture small fish and other aquatic life. The seines that we used on this field trip look like a volleyball net strung between two poles. There are floats at the top of the net and weights at the bottom. I take one pole, you take the other, we stretch the net between us and then we walk through the water, slowly trawling toward the beach. Then, quickly, before someone perishes, we scoop up what we found and place it in tanks for observation. When we’re done learning, we set the critters free.

Lover’s Key is a Florida state park that is comprised of several islands/keys. The Bonita Beach Causeway cuts through it coming down from Fort Myers Beach. This proved to be an excellent site for studying the Southwest Florida coastal environment.

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PATH TO THE BEACH ON LOVER’S KEY

Lovers Key is covered with many different species of plant life. In true geek fashion, I am starting to find the biodiversity of nature to be endlessly fascinating, so I was happy to crawl all over the place with my camera after the expedition had ended. Here’s a shady nook close to the causeway entrance with a path down to the beach. Notice we are standing under the dense shade of a cluster of trees that include seagrapes; the branches overhead were heavy with fruit.

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CAUTION: SHOES REQUIRED

A different path to the beach here leads over a wooden bridge that spans a small bayou of sorts.

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PROTECTED AREA ON LOVER’S KEY

This is part of the bayou over which the little foot bridge crosses. Our instructor had wanted to investigate and observe life in the bayou as well as off the beach; however, it’s been marked as a “keep out” zone now, so we had to content ourselves with craning our necks over the side of the bridge to see what we could see. And of course, we all wore shoes πŸ˜‰

Look at those clouds pop, huh? The beauty of the Southwest Florida sky is endless.

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VIEWING THE BEACH FROM THE BAYOU

Here’s a view across the bayou toward the beach, Big Carlos Pass and the hi-rise condos beyond. Note that there are plenty of hidey-places along the shore of the bayou; not sure what nests there but futher back in the protected area, I would not be surprised if there were some gators lurking now and then.

Funny thing about protected areas; in addition to the critters, they might be protecting YOU, too! So always take heed of the signs, OK? I don’t want to hear that you became lunch!

06182011650-Lovers-Key-Blue-CrabA LOVER’S KEY BLUE CRAB | Our instructors equipped us with plastic tanks which we filled with salt water from the beach in preparation for examining our finds. These tanks had “bubblers” attached to keep the water aerated and moving.

Our first seining attempt brought up a couple of crabs. Can’t really tell what the one submerged is – speckled, maybe? but on the right is a male blue crab. Normally, you turn them over to see if they are male or female. The female will have a marking underneath that is rounded like the US capital dome, whereas the male will have more of an obelisk-shaped marking, like the Washington Monument.

In the case of blue crabs, however, the female’s claws are tipped in bright orange. I don’t see any orange on this one, so it’s a male. Floating behind him are his sectioned “swimmies” – swimming paddles that are attached to the rear leg.

I don’t have any other worthy photos of the critters we saw, which included several types of fishes, some snails and a sea horse! It’s hard to photograph them in the tanks with the brilliant sunshine blasting them and the water distorting them. Also, I need to solve the problem of handling my camera while my hands are salty, sandy, wet, or any combination thereof.

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SEA OATS

After the seining expedition was done, I stuck around to take a few photos and find some plants for identification. Sea oats are one of the types of grasses that grow in the dunes. They are perennial and multiply by means of underground rhizomes. They can grow to be six feet tall or more! You’re not allowed to collect wild sea oats because they play a critical role in helping to keep the dunes together.

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INKBERRY PLANT


This is one of two tropical plants that look similar and are often confused with one another. The inkberry (pictured) and it’s counterpart, the beach naupaka, have pretty similar configurations, including the berries while green and the flowers, which look as though someone had pressed them in between the pages of a book. However, the leaves of the beach naupaka curl while the inkberry leaves do not. Inkberry fruits become very dark, looking like purple/black grapes; the ones pictured here will mature that way, while a beach naupaka’s berries will turn white.

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STRANGLER FIG


This is a strangler fig; looks like the “host” has long since succumbed to the treachery of its “guest”! These ficus trees are kind of like those guys in Corporate America who get to the top by crawling up the backs of their colleagues. Stranglers germinate on a host tree, sending roots down and branches up. In an effort to support their climb toward sunlight, they “strangle” their host. Here we see the hollow made where the host used to stand; you can see a bit of bark remains, but the rest has rotted away.

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TROLLEY TO BONITA BEACH


The beach trolley trundles its way across Big Carlos Pass. I like the foot/bike section on the bridge. It made me feel somewhat protected even as the vehicles went zipping by. These trolleys are a pretty efficient way to get around this area, especially during “season” when there are too many cars and not enough road down this way. There’s even a starting point on the mainland – park your car at the Winn Dixie on Summerlin Road and in a little bit, a trolley will come by to collect you.

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LOVER’S KEY FROM THE BRIDGE


This is the scene when you climb up the hill from the parking lot up to the foot/bike path on the bridge. You can see the bayou off to the left, above the blue truck, and the beach where we did our seining and discovery of cool critters.

Between the boat trip on Estero Bay and then this segment at the beach, everyone was some combination of hot, tired, wet, salty, sweaty, a little sunburnt and very happy by the time we were through.

I proceeded to Sanibel Island after this, let myself into a friend’s house to take a shower and when she got home from a hunting expedition of her own (shopping!), we went out for dinner with some other friends on the island.

Life in Southwest Florida is GOOD. πŸ™‚

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Dolphin chase on Estero Bay

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Here’s some bonus footage from the my field trip on Estero Bay with the Florida Master Naturalist program here in Lee County, Florida. One of our classmates made up a song about the joys of Estero Bay and the dolphins seemed to love it. They ended up chasing our boat for a few minutes, leaping in and out of the wake as we sang our way toward the dock. Check it out in this video, below – Email Subscribers: if you do not see a video posted below this sentence, please CLICK through to the blog.


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Field Trip On Estero Bay, conclusion

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

IMG_5734-Estero-Bay-NO-WAKEToday we’re continuing our exploration of wildlife and habitats in Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve with my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems module).

As mentioned in my previous post, Estero Bay is very shallow. Sunlight penetration allows for the growth of sea grasses (they’re green, they need sunlight for photosynthesis), and sea grasses provide an excellent nursery for marine life, which in turn provides excellent feeding grounds for birds and bigger marine life.

See how it works? πŸ™‚

If you speed through and your prop tears up the grasses, then you’re destroying habitat and the whole ecosystem is compromised. So, always pay attention to the “no wake” and “low wake” signs – they are there for a VERY good reason.


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“DIVE-BOMB BEACH”

As we rounded a corner and emerged from under the Big Carlos Pass bridge, we saw tall high-rise buildings standing sentry over a stretch of unraked beach – kind of unusual, since beachfront high-rise residents usually want to see an unblemished expanse of sand, not dune vegetation. This beach is unraked because it is a bird breeding ground. While we were floating out here discussing the habitat, we saw two people haplessly wander into the breeding ground and get dive-bombed by the birds defending their territory. It was a perfect example of this type of protective, territorial behavior. The people ran for cover; I think they were probably totally innocent and didn’t realize where they were.

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JET-SKIERS ON TOUR IN BIG CARLOS PASS

We could hear the leader of this tour speaking to the group; they might have been eco-tourists too, just like us. It’s actually fortunate that we took this ride in June. During “season” here in Southwest Florida, these waters would have been pretty well jammed with all sorts of recreationists.

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FLYING IN ESTERO BAY ?!?!?!!?

No sooner had we taken leave of the jet skiers and headed out of Big Carlos Pass then we saw this … I’m not sure what it is but it looks like fun! It’s a regular water sports and recreational paradise down here in Southwest Florida.

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TRI-COLORED HERON

I believe we are now heading into what our intrepid boat captains referred to as “Spoon Lagoon”, the location of which we swore never to reveal. I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you…. It’s called “Spoon Lagoon” for reasons that will become obvious soon. This is a tricolored heron. You might be thinking, “Hey wait a minute, didn’t she just tell us that kind of bird was a little blue heron?”. Nope, I didn’t. See the white underbelly? Not a little blue!

 

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RED MANGROVE ROOTS

Here’s a sight I love, although I haven’t quite figured out why yet. This tangled mess is actually a the prop root system of the red mangrove tree. It’s a vast and intricate network, like a very complicated work of architecture or sculpture. I just get lost looking at it, and not unpleasantly so. Well, as it turns out, the prop roots ARE somewhat of an architectural feature. They serve as braces for the tree, to hold it up. They also collect and hold sand and silt, so an island forms under and around the mangrove. Finally, they pipe air down to the actual roots of the tree. Pretty useful, huh?

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BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON

I feel a little sorry for this bird. It doesn’t have any neck to speak of, and it must feel a bit dowdy as compared to the other, more graceful-necked herons. This was the first time I’d seen the black-crowned variety; I’ve had a close encounter with a yellow-crowned night heron before, years ago in Ding Darling. It was doing yoga and smiling at me. Good times, good times πŸ˜‰

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ROSEATE SPOONBILL and WHITE IBIS

And now we come to the rhyme and reason of naming “Spoon Lagoon” – it’s the roseate spoonbill, which our captain has known to hang out in this particular spot in the bay. Along with our spoony friend is a white ibis.

The spoonbill uses it’s bill to sweep along the mud for delectable morsels to nom-nom-nom, while the ibis has a bill more appropriate for probing down into the mud.

One of the things this class is teaching me is that my camera is woefully inadequate for these purposes. Perhaps Santa Claus will do something about that…

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THE NESTING POLE

Sights such as this one are common in Florida. As habitat is lost, the osprey often improvise, as we have seen previously with the nest on top of a channel marker sign. They are also frequently given a perch like this one. You see these platforms a lot along a certain stretch of the I-4 interstate, where the birds had been building on poles close to dangerous power lines. The chicks would fall out and fry themselves. Conservation groups come along and build these platforms to encourage a safer location for the nests. I’ve also seen these man-made perches back home on Long Island, specifically in the area of the Connetquot River in Oakdale, NY. It’s kind of cool – like building a bird house, only open-air.

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REDDISH EGRET

This reddish egret’s head nearly blends in with the reeds from far away. We recognized him by his lively hunting technique – he flaps and hops and jumps, chasing his prey all over the shallows. We enjoyed watching his antics πŸ™‚

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ESTERO BAY SKYSCRAPERS


I am in love with the Southwest Florida sky. Clouds are endlessly fascinating to watch as they morph and change before your eyes. I am so lucky to live here, and I know it.

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THE FRIENDSHIP SENTRY ON ESTERO BAY

Our friend the cormorant strikes a regal pose atop the manatee sculpture that sits on a sign,which says: “The basis of environmental recovery lay in oneness with creation and with ourselves. Enjoy it.” The sign below it says, “Friendship Sentry”. I guess the cormorant is taking his job seriously!

This pretty much concludes the Estero Bay field trip. It was a wonderful excursion, a great way to spend a Saturday morning, and I highly recommend my classmates and boat captains for this trip, Good Time Charters. They are knowledgeable, skilled and generous tour leaders and no, they didn’t pay me to say this LOL πŸ˜‰

Fear not – there are more Florida Master Naturalist adventures to document here! NEXT TIME: Lovers Key State Park !!! πŸ™‚
BR> 

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Field Trip on Estero Bay, Part 1

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

Snook Bight Marina on Fort Myers BeachOn June 18th 2011, my Coastal Systems Module class in the Florida Master Naturalist program embarked upon their second field trip. This time, we started from Snook Bight Marina on Fort Myers Beach and hopped aboard a sturdy vessel as the guests of Good Time Charters. We were fortunate to have Captain Mike, Captain Cristina and Captain Dwight all in our class, and found them to be excellent and knowledgeable guides for our “three hour tour… a three hour tour….” We had a beautiful sunshiny day for this adventure and the wildlife did not disappoint. There was some speculation that Captain Mike paid them all to show up πŸ˜‰ Well, if that’s true then it only serves to prove what clever wildlife tour guides those people at Good Time Charters really are!

Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve is the first aquatic preserve designated in the state of Florida (1966). The bay is extremely productive and contains elements of historic (and even pre-historic) significance, some of them submerged. A wide diversity of marine life starts out in the grass beds “nursery”. The environment is also ideal for rookeries, colonies of nesting birds who breed and raise their young on the many islands that dot the bay. Here are a few of the critters we managed to encounter on this adventure.

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LEAST TERNS

Least terns are picky about who hangs around their nests. If you walk through their nesting area, they will dive-bomb your head. We would witness this phenomenon later in the trip near Big Carlos Pass.

 

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BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN

Hard to catch these guys in action; you see them, get the camera on the spot where they WERE and they have already submerged, only to resurface somewhere your focus ISN’T. One of my many field guide books calls them “toothed whales” – as opposed to baleen whales, who have food filters instead of teeth.

 

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WILSON’S PLOVER (maybe…)

I think this might be a Wilson’s Plover but I can’t be sure because I cannot really see what color the legs are; if they are tan, then it is probably Wilson’s. They like to eat fiddler crabs.

 

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DOUBLE-BREASTED CORMORANT

The way to tell a cormorant from an anhinga is to examine the beak. Does it look like it’s good for spearing, or for tearing? This guy, looking very statuesque, has a hooked beak, so it’s good for tearing – and that means he is a cormorant.

 

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BROWN PELICAN and SLOW DOWN!

A brown pelican in breeding plumage (note the chestnut brown on the neck) stands sentry over the low wake zone. I read in the news this week that there’s a certain budding political party objecting to low wake zones, claiming that they elevate wildlife over people. I can only roll my eyes at such arrogant, self-centered ignorance. πŸ™„

 

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OSPREY NEST, IMPROVISED

Adaptive behavior – in the absence of tall trees, osprey will commonly build their nests on man-made structures such as light poles, tall buildings and yes, channel markers like this one. Saw lots of this type of adaptation in Rookery Bay too.

 

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BIRDING and RESPECTING THEIR SPACE

While observing wildlife, always remember to maintain a respectful distance. You don’t want to get close enough to interrupt their natural behaviors. Another good reason to keep your distance – if you’re in a boat, you risk running aground! We were advised that if you fall overboard in Estero Bay, the first thing you should do to save yourself is… stand up! It’s only a couple-three feet deep out there, which is part of what makes it a great breeding ground. Those are brown pelicans on the far sandbar, an osprey flapping around taking a bath in the middle, and an egret (can’t tell which – from the “fuzzy” head, I’ll guess snowy egret) hanging out in the foreground. I see another egret behind the prop roots, too – looks taller, my vote is great egret.

 

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LITTLE BLUE HERON

The class on the boat spent a bit of time trying to identify this bird from afar. Sometimes the colors can be deceptive in light reflected off the water. In the end, we determined via binoculars, zoom lenses and getting a bit closer that he was indeed a little blue heron.

 

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FLOCK O’ PELICANS

Here’s a closer look at the flock of brown pelicans at rest on a sand bar.

 

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BIG CARLOS PASS and THE PARADE OF CLOUDS

We’re out of the no wake zone now and speeding toward the bridge that spans Big Carlos Pass. I fell in love with that line of cloud formations. They look like they are marching over the bridge toward Bonita πŸ˜‰

 


Just under a minute of some cruising on the bay – feel the wind in your hair! πŸ™‚

NEXT TIME: More cruising, more critters and a surprise musical performance!

 


 

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Lily, aka “The Toddler Of Terror”

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

Ok, where in Walt Disney World am I right now?There is a place deep in the Pangani Forest of Disney’s Animal Kingdom where mere mortals fear to tread; where unspeakable horrors lurk in the bush; where destruction and mayhem breed. Here, in the heart of the lowland gorilla tribe, we find *cue scary music* LILY, THE TODDLER OF TERROR!

In a rare surge of generosity, Lily and her mom granted an exclusive photo interview to My Mobile Adventures *~*~* this past spring. Let’s take a peek and see what Lily had to say:

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“Look! I gots a log. I bet there’s ants and grubs and stuff in there.”


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“I gots important business to conduct; if you’re gonna take pictures, you’ll just have to keep up”


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“Watch me wrassle this here palmetto (I TOLE you it was important)”


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“Hah! TOLE you I would wrassle it. I gots girl-illa powah!”


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“Wait, I has an itch…”


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“Look I has a tail. Wanna see my butt?”


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“Look, I has cuteness. See, here’s my “Oh. My. Goodness!” face. Cute, right?”


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“OK, done. You go ‘way now. kthxbai!”


Well, the official portion of the interview was over right then and there. However, through the miracle of modern-day paparazzi-ism, My Mobile Adventures *~*~* is proud to bring you this (not very) exclusive video of the Toddler of Terror, foraging around with her mama. Take it away, Lily!


(Listen – you can hear the Conservation Station train whistling in the background πŸ™‚ )

Our previous coverage of Lily and her mama:
Me and my girl-illa
Me and my girl-illa: escape from the paparazzi

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Bowditch Point Field Trip – conclusion

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

06112011594-Bowditch-Point-BoardwalkThis is the final installment of my first field trip with the Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module). Last time, we explored a few critter encounters at Bowditch Point. Now we’re going to continue on our journey over the hill, through the dunes and onto the beach.

The day was getting pretty warm, and a few of the plants had an “aromatic” (translation: unpleasant!) odor. I believe it was the plant described to us as a “stopper” plant, used by the Calusa natives once upon a time to make a purgative drink.


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The Estero Island Garden Club created a butterfly garden at the top of the hill.

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There’s a statue of a child fishing in the butterfly garden at Bowditch Point Regional Park. I got a kick out of the fact that they use a real branch as a fishin’ pole πŸ™‚

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I’ve written of the EPCOT mystery shoes before, as well as a few non-Disney pairs of mystery shoes. But here’s a new pair – the Bowditch Point Mystery Shoes! They were on a bench near the butterfly garden while our guide was walking us through, and still there an hour later when I came through to take some pictures. Ya gotta wonder…

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There are a lot of coontie plants at Bowditch Point Regional Park. I believe this one is a female. The cones are shaped differently for a male. No I’m not kidding – male and female! This is called a dioecious plant – that’s Greek for “two houses”, and it means that the plant is either a male or a female. The Seminoles dried and ground the roots into flour and made it into bread. I’ve heard it referred to as arrowroot too, but there’s another plant called that… confusing, the world of botany! I guess that’s why people like to use the Latin names. There are no mistakes when you stick to the Latin names. So I’m told!

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You’ve heard of it all your life and now you’ve met one – it’s the prickly pear cactus! A few years back, I saw some of these fruits for sale in Publix but didn’t have the guts to try them. One of our classmates said he’s tried them and he felt great after a few days of eating them – I think they have anti-oxidant properties. Anyhow, the tortoises love ’em so they can’t be all bad, right?

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Railroad vine is related to morning glories and so is their behavior – they are open during the day and close up once night falls. The Latin name, ipomea pes-caprae, relates to the shape of the leaves. Google Translator is telling me “foot she goat”, so I guess the leaves are supposed to look like a girl goat’s hooves (so what do a boy goat’s hooves look like, then?).

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Sea grapes grow in a bunch but you can’t really pick ’em that way. They don’t mature/ripen as a bunch; they are individuals and each decides in its own time when it is ready to be ripe. That’s why you generally see only some missing from a cluster; the other ones weren’t yet ready to eat!

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This tree is called the strangler fig. It’s less than 20 years old and stands pretty much on the crest of the hill, spreading shade in a wide swath. Migratory birds like to stop and rest in this tree, for the fruits are nice to eat. The seeds are spread around via bird poop. Sometimes, the poop lands on another tree, where the new baby strangler latches onto and eventually envelops the host. As you can see, they have a pretty aggressive root system, too. I find it funny that one of my Florida landscape plant books identifies companion plants for the strangler; I’m fairly certain it’s just going to kill all its friends so I’m not getting the point…..

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Well, here’s at least one friend that the strangler won’t bother to strangle – a coontie grows low and spread out in the considerable shade. Our guide pointed out how different it looks from the ones in full sunlight. It definitely looks to me as though it is reaching around to find some sun.

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This plant has so many names, where do we begin? Chinese lantern, common ground-cherry, husk tomato (I’m told it tastes like a tomatillo), sand ground-cherry, bladder cherry (it floats)… a lot depends on where you live, I guess, when it comes to common names. Gopher tortoises like to eat these, too. I guess it makes sense – it’s certainly low enough for a tortoise to munch upon.

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These daisy relatives are called dune sunflowers. They pop up basically everywhere in the coastal system and they flower year-round, with just a bit of a break in the winter time. They are also related to Indian blanket flowers.

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Because of the way the tides flow around this area, Bowditch Point gets eroded and the sand is carted away by the sea. Periodically, the government will decide that “renourishment” is in order. The get a barge and a bunch of pipe, park the barge out in the bay and pipe in sand from “out there” somewhere. On the one hand, it’s intrusive to the environment and counter to what Mother Nature seems to want. On the other hand, Lee County is pretty dependent upon tourist dollars and cannot afford to have any of their public beaches get washed away. I checked this out pretty thoroughly before determining that the pipe was NOT bringing in quantities of good shells. Then I headed for the parking lot.

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There’s a shower and a foot sprayer behind me; to either side are little picnic areas and pretty flowers. It was a long morning and it was getting REALLY hot. I decided I was ravenously hungry and proceeded to meet friends at Jerry’s on Sanibel for lunch before heading home. Thus endeth the first field trip – but fear not, there’s more where this came from – stay tuned!

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Photo Friday: Sharp Focus

Β© Copyright 2010 MyMobileAdventures.com

http://MyMobileAdventures.com

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Some more “messing around” with the macro focus on my Nokia N97. Man, I LOVE this phone πŸ™‚

These are TINY flowers on a plant found at Bowditch Point Regional Park on Fort Myers Beach, Florida. The people we saw photographing these identified them merely as “heliotropium” so I had a tough time isolating it even with a bazillion books at my disposal. Finally found it at this site: www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx… – and found it interesting that on the east side of South Florida, they are yellow, but here on the west coast, they are white, as pictured. So it’s actually a Pineland Heliotrope but I’ve also seen googled pictures identify it as a “seaside” heliotrope.

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Critter Encounters at Bowditch Point

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

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.

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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 πŸ˜€ 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.” πŸ˜‰

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

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Camera Critters

Photo Friday:Wilderness at Bowditch Point

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

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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 πŸ™‚


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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 πŸ™ 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 πŸ˜‰ 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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Treasure, Trash and Tracks

Β© Copyright 2011 Tink *~*~*

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As previously mentioned, I’ve been attending classes for the Florida Master Naturalist program. The first module is Coastal Systems, for which I need to make a 3 minute presentation. I became inspired by way of indignation while reading about sea turtles and the conditions that can ensure their success in creating a nest – or else pretty much guarantee their failure.

Since my turn to present won’t happen until about 6:30 PM tonight, you guys are getting a “preview” – shhhh! πŸ˜‰

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Treasure, Trash and Tracks – this presentation aims to deliver key messages about how YOU can Help Coastal Wildlife To Survive and Thrive

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Everyone loves the beach for different reasons. In addition to the relaxing and beautiful environment, I love the beach for the TREASURES that can be found there. I’m always on the hunt for the perfect gastropod, but I see beauty in imperfection as well – decomposition and decay, as seen in worn driftwood and crumbly sand dollars, can indicate that naturally-occurring, healthy cycles are in place and chugging along.

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I’m not just interested in dead things! Wildlife is a kind of treasure, too, offering much beauty to be enjoyed. Plants and animals are bountiful when the environment is healthy and available.

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Rules have been put in place to help wildlife to survive and thrive. These rule were meant to govern the behavior of those who visit the beach, so the wildlife and their habitat are not harmed.

Do people always follow the rules? The sand in the sink is the least of it….

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People who love to the beach come here to play, to create, to celebrate, to build or just to relax. They leave behind evidence that they’ve been here doing all those things. Much of it is beautiful or interesting to look at (ahem – The Man From Nantucket), even thought-provoking like the left-behind shoes and the messages in the sand. But there are other things that people leave behind on the beach that are not beautiful or interesting, and can impact wildlife and the environment in distressing ways…

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Trash is defined as something that’s unwanted, discarded. Sometimes it’s done with flagrant disrespect for the environment and the rules, but sometimes it’s just that things get forgotten or lost, and that’s how it becomes trash. Much is plastic or other materials that won’t biodegrade. It will stick around “forever” and become a hazard to life or an obstruction to natural behaviors.

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A HAZARD is something that can cause risk or danger. Sea turtles and other coastal life have been found dead with the remnants of plastic bottles, toys and other debris in their digestive systems. Wildlife can be injured and even killed from becoming tangled in discarded fishing line. Some of this stuff is not only non-biodegradable, it’s also disgusting. Dirty diaper in the dunes – really? REALLY?

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The trappings of fun and recreation can make a turtle turn right around and head back into the sea without ever having completed her mission – digging a nest and laying eggs.

Baby turtles emerge from the nest exhausted and still need to keep going to reach the water – but they cannot do that with so many obstacles. If a hatchling encounters one of these holes, he may fall in and die there. The smallest things left on the beach can prove insurmountable for the babies.

These holes are also a hazard for humans – people can fall in and become injured. I’ve turned an ankle on smaller holes than these.

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A “false crawl” is when a turtle visits the beach but doesn’t make a nest. There are a variety of naturally-occurring reasons that a turtle will leave – maybe the sand conditions aren’t right, or there are predators present. These are compounded by people-caused conditions such as HAZARDS and OBSTRUCTIONS, noise, light and activity.

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Wildlife and the environment are TREASURES worth preserving.

TRASH and other people-caused impacts can lead to hazards and obstruction of natural behaviors.

If hazards and/or obstructions persist, then turtles will make TRACKS back into the sea without laying eggs

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If you want to help wildlife to survive and thrive, then let this be your pledge – LEAVE NOTHING ON THE BEACH BUT FOOTPRINTS. Thanks very much for your attention!

CREDITS: My friend Tootie provided all of the “trash” pictures, as well as the photo of the false crawl, which she documented on her blog last week. The rest of the photos were taken by yours truly.

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Slideshow: MORE from the Edison-Ford Winter Estates

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

IMG_5521Here are some more photos from our great ramble around the Edison-Ford Winter Estates here in Fort Myers, Southwest Florida. The place was lively with school tour groups, flowering trees and shrubs bursting into bloom, bees bumbling, water fowl foraging – and mangoes dropping out of the trees.

I like that you’re encouraged to walk on the lawns, and that it’s not that perfectly manicured golf course stuff. Loved the story of the Edison Botanic Research Co., which was formed because both Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone needed a domestic source of rubber. The location just can’t be beat – with the beautiful Caloosahatchee River spread before them, why would they want to spend their winters anywhere else? All in all, a splendid morning.

There’s a slide show below. If you want to read the detailed commentary that goes with each photo, CLICK HERE to visit the set on Flickr. Enjoy the photos πŸ™‚

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Earth Day Wildlife Wanderings

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

In observance of Earth Day, I took a stroll through the trails of the Calusa Nature Center, which is a local sanctuary here in the northeastern corner of Fort Myers, Florida. Most, if not all of the wildlife in captivity at the nature center has been injured in some way – they are either under rehab in preparation for release, or else they are permanent residents who cannot be returned to the wild.
Tortoises at the Calusa Nature Center


Here are some tortoises crowding together in a patch of sun. They love to be warm.

Lubber, sans blubber


The nature center boasts a collection of fossilized whale bones, including the skull, that were found on Fort Myers Beach. Here’s a young Eastern Lubber grasshopper taking a rest on the skull bone.

Publix says, "Thank you"...


After my nature center stroll, I went to the grocery store and was rewarded for using a reusable bag with this cute little green keychain thingie. I thought it was funny that the bag I used had actually been obtained at a different store, but I guess Publix isn’t being picky…

One of the things I did at the nature center was mobile blogging, which is not unusual for me – but I didn’t do it HERE, at My Mobile Adventures *~*~*, which IS a bit unusual. I have an iPod Touch and there was this free app called Zapd, which essentially lets you create a photo blog on the fly with your iDevice. Although my iPod Touch doesn’t take fabulous photos (only a 2MP camera), I still wanted to experiment, so I thought I’d test drive it today.

But… you protest – don’t you need a wi-fi connection with the iPod Touch? Why yes, yes you do! Which is why I was tethered to my phone the whole time I hiked πŸ™‚ Not the kind of thing I’d want to do all the time, as I already have a mobile blogging solution and this used twice the in-the-field battery power normally necessary for mobile blogging. But it was fun and easy, so I thought I’d share –

Happy Earth Day 2011 SWFL – CLICK HERE to see my first Zapd site

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

Β© 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

Β© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*

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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 πŸ™‚



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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

Β© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*
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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

Β© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*
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IMG_2987-WDW-DAK-roseate-spoonbillπŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰

Critters from the Naples (Florida) Zoo

Β© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
http://MyMobileAdventures.com

IMG_2107-Porcupine-Naples-Zoo-Florida πŸ™‚ Once upon a time, a cougar stuck his tongue out at me at the Naples Zoo (Just call me β€œThe 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

Β© 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 πŸ˜‰

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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 πŸ™‚

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Random Animal Kingdom trio

Β© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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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…

Β© 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

Β© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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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

Β© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*
http://MyMobileAdventures.com
IMG_1534-Ding-Darling-Sanibel-Cove-In-Mangroves πŸ™ 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 β€œOil Spill Reporting Guide” / News / City Manager’s Office / Departments / Home – City of Sanibel.

A Sanibel osprey vogues for me

Β© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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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? πŸ˜‰

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! πŸ˜‰


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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? πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ™‚


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Me and my girl-illa: escape from the paparazzi

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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-gorillaπŸ™‚ 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?

IMG_3151-WDW-DAK-baby-gorilla
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 πŸ™‚


IMG_3128-WDW-DAK-gorilla-daddy

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




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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-egretπŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜€ 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…

IMG_0065-WDW-MK-Jiminy-Cricket-bronze

“… 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

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

IMG_1306-WDW-DAK-pair-scarlet-macawsπŸ™‚ 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

Β© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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04202009020-Jackalope-on-CaptivaπŸ™‚ 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”

Β© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
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IMG_2068-Naples-Florida-zoo-western-cougar-sign πŸ˜› 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! πŸ˜›

IMG_2067-Naples-Florida-zoo-western-cougar-tongue

Just call me “The Cougar Whisperer” πŸ˜‰

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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-timeπŸ™‚ 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!

IMG_2100-Naples-Florida-zoo-gator-feeding-time
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-trainπŸ™‚ 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-lemurπŸ™‚ 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!” πŸ˜€

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Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge – pelican roost

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πŸ™‚ 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-uprightπŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜€

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰

IMG_1211-WDW-MK-great-egret

See? Told ya he’s not a statue πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ˜‰

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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πŸ™‚ 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!

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Happy Critturday!

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Dragonfly gymnastics at EPCOT

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πŸ™‚ 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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Reddish egret, Tarpon Bay

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The White Ibis on Sanibel Island

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IMG_0556-white-ibis-family πŸ™‚ 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? πŸ˜‰

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! πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚ 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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IMG_0371-contortionist-seagull-Sanibel

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

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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. πŸ˜‰

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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

Looking for the infamous Valentine Essay?Β  CLICK HERE
click any photo to see a larger version in Flickr

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 πŸ˜† . 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.
RESOURCES

  • Cornell University has a cool bird site, with sound samples.Β  Click here if you want to hear ring-billed gulls laughing (it opened Quicktime for me; your mileage may vary!).
  • Download The Circle of Life MP3 file from Disney’s THE LION KING, performed by Elton John. Amazon also has DVDs of the film and its sequels, the entire film soundtrack (CD or MP3 download), and my personal favorite, the original Broadway production sountrack.
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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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