Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Spring

Prairie Wetlands

Prairie Wetlands

Alligator Sunning on Bank

Alligator Sunning on Bank

Pond Turtle

Pond Turtle

Green Heron Fishing

Green Heron Fishing

Green Heron Plunging for Fish (yes he pulled himself back up on perch)

Green Heron Plunging for Fish (yes he pulled himself back up on perch)

Crayfish Burrow

Crayfish Burrow

Spanish Moss Draped Oak Tree

Spanish Moss Draped Oak Tree

Pickerelweed in Pond

Pickerelweed in Pond

Duck Potato

Duck Potato

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Daisy Fleabane

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Daisy Fleabane

Open land stretches to the horizon at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (south of Orlando, Florida). Spring is an especially good time to visit. If you look closely, you can see all kinds of wonderful plants and animals. A previous post about this special park is at: http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/florida-kissimmee-prairie-state-park/     More info is at: http://floridabirdingtrail.com/index.php/trip/trail/Kissimmee_Prairie_Preserve_State_Park/

Baby Raccoon Licking Bottlebrush Flowers

Baby Raccoon Running Bottlebrush Flowers Through Hands

Baby Raccoon Running Bottlebrush Flowers Through Hands

Baby Raccoon Licking Bottlebrush Flowers

Baby Raccoon Licking Bottlebrush Flowers

Baby Raccoon Sitting in Weeping Bottlebrush Tree

Baby Raccoon Sitting in Weeping Bottlebrush Tree

Now this was a sight that I never thought I would see in our garden.  I looked out the front window before dusk and saw baby raccoon licking bottlebrush flowers!  He was running the soft red flower stamens through his hands and licking the “brushes” like popsicles.  Precious!  Bottlebrush is in the genus Callistemon, which means “beautiful stamens”.  This showy small tree attracts plenty of wildlife, including bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and warblers.

Florida Snapping Turtle Laying Eggs

Florida Snapping Turtle Digging Hole for Eggs in Sand with Back Feet

Florida Snapping Turtle Digging Hole for Eggs in Sand with Back Feet

Florida Snapper - Top View of Head and Shell

Florida Snapper – Top View of Head and Shell

Florida Snapper - Back View Laying Eggs

Florida Snapper – Back View Laying Eggs

Sometimes you just get lucky! This Florida snapping turtle was laying eggs along a trail at the Orlando Wetlands right before a thunderstorm rolled through last weekend. Notice the spiny tubercles on her neck and tail. Snappers lay 5-50 eggs, grow up to 18 inches long, and weigh up to 35 pounds. Interestingly, these turtles have wormlike growths on their tongues that they wiggle to attract fish.  Never touch one – they are called snappers for a reason!

Spectacular Silk Floss Tree!

Thorny Trunk of Tree

Thorny Trunk of Tree

Tree in Early Spring

Tree in Early Spring

Close-up of Branches and Pods

Close-up of Branches and Pods

Pod Bursting Open to Reveal Silk

Pod Bursting Open to Reveal Silk

Cottony Silk Ball on Tree

Cottony Silk Ball on Tree

The Silk Floss Tree is spectacular year round!  It is native to Brazil and Argentina, and can be quickly recognized by its spiny trunk.  In Fall the tree drops its leaves and becomes covered with clouds of pink flowers.  The lily-like flowers produce rich nectar and attract abundant butterflies.  By early spring (before leafing out) it is covered with avocado-like seed pods filled with cottony silk.  This exotic tree puts on quite a show!  It grows well in mild climates like Florida and California.  I want to plant one soon!

DisneyWorld: 2014 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower Beds and Floating Gardens

Epcot Flower Beds and Floating Gardens

Flower Beds near Future World Pyramid

Flower Beds near Future World Pyramid

Flower Beds Around Lake

Flower Beds Around Lake

Great Blue Heron on Floating Garden

Great Blue Heron on Floating Garden

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Dog Pluto Topiaries

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Dog Pluto Topiaries

Donald Duck Swatting Bee Topiary

Donald Duck Swatting Bee Topiary

Bambi, Thumper, and Skunk named Flower Topiaries

Bambi, Thumper, and Skunk named Flower Topiaries

Butterfly Topiaries

Butterfly Topiaries

Lady and the Tramp Topiaries

Lady and the Tramp Topiaries

Kermit and Miss Piggy Topiaries

Kermit and Miss Piggy Topiaries

Norway Troll Topiary

Norway Troll Topiary

Cinderella and Prince Charming Topiaries

Cinderella and Prince Charming Topiaries

There are currently over 100 topiaries on display at the 2014 Disney World Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.  Over 70,000 flowers surround the lake, and 220 mini-gardens float on the water.  The effect  is quite stunning!  Spring is here, and the weather is warm and sunny in Florida.  More info is at:  http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/guides/epcot/events/ep-flower-garden.htm

 

Florida: Viera Wetlands – So Many Birds!

Viera Wading Birds

Viera Wading Birds

Over 50 White Pelicans!

Over 50 White Pelicans!

White Pelicans Fishing - One Swallowing a Carp

White Pelicans Fishing – One Swallowing a Carp

Great Blue Heron Chicks are Hatching Now

Great Blue Heron Chicks are Hatching Now

Male Anhinga in Breeding Plumage

Male Anhinga in Breeding Plumage

Female Anhinga with Chicks on Nest

Female Anhinga with Chicks on Nest

Adult Little Blue Heron with Fluffed Feathers

Adult Little Blue Heron with Fluffed Feathers

Green Herons use Tools as "Bait" to Attract Fish

Green Herons use Tools as “Bait” to Attract Fish

Ospreys (Fish Hawks) are Nesting Now

Ospreys (Fish Hawks) are Nesting Now

Hooded Mergansers Erect Head Feathers as a Crest

Hooded Mergansers Erect Head Feathers as a Crest

Northern Shovelers have Largest Duck Bill

Northern Shovelers have Largest Duck Bill

Purple Gallinules use Long Toes to Walk on Lily Pads

Purple Gallinules use Long Toes to Walk on Lily Pads

We’ve seen so many birds at the Viera Wetlands lately!  This water reclamation facility is a favorite stop for birdwatchers and visitors at the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival:  http://spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org/  Recent bird sightings are posted by Friends of the Viera Wetlands at:  http://friendsofvierawetlands.blogspot.com/  General info and maps are at:  http://www.brevardcounty.us/NaturalResources/EnvironmentalResources/Wetlands

Great Egrets are Nesting Now in Florida!

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage

Great Egret Courtship Display

Great Egret Courtship Display

Great Egret Breeding Pair

Great Egret Breeding Pair

Great Egret "Gator Surfing"!

Great Egret “Gator Surfing”!

Beautiful great egrets have started nesting now in Florida!  We love birds, so nesting season is our favorite time of year.  Egrets are 3 feet tall, so they make quite an impression.  The oldest known great egret lived to be 22 years old.