Florida: Port Canaveral and Jetty Park Beach

Back View of Iridescent "Sail" of Exploration Tower

Back View of Iridescent “Sail” of Exploration Tower

Exploration Tower Entrance

Exploration Tower Entrance

Top of Exploration Tower

Top of Exploration Tower

Exploration Tower at Sunset

Exploration Tower at Sunset

Color Wand Lit Path Around Tower

Color Wand Lit Path Around Tower

Exploration Tower at Night

Exploration Tower at Night

View of Port Canaveral from Top of Tower

View of Port Canaveral from Top of Tower

Recycled Art in Tower Atrium

Recycled Art in Tower Atrium

Recycled Glass Jellyfish in Atrium

Recycled Glass Jellyfish in Atrium

Recycled Glass Mobile

Recycled Glass Mobile

Ron Jon Surfboard Display in Tower

Ron Jon Surfboard Display in Tower

Cruise Ship Departure Past Jetty Park

Cruise Ship Departure Past Jetty Park

Jetty Park's Wide Sandy Beach

Jetty Park’s Wide Sandy Beach

Kitty Cat Drawing on Sand

Kitty Cat Drawing on Sand

Jetty Park's Long Fishing Pier

Jetty Park’s Long Fishing Pier

Dolphin Swimming by Pier

Dolphin Swimming by Pier

Seagull and Waves at Sunset

Seagull and Waves at Sunset

Seagulls Flying Overhead

Seagulls Flying Overhead

Vintage Poster of Jetty Park

Vintage Poster of Jetty Park

If you visit Central Florida, be sure to stop by Port Canaveral and Jetty Park near Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Exploration Tower acts as a Welcome Center for the area. The building opened in November 2013, and is meant to evoke the image of a sailing ship. The architecture is stunning, especially at night. From the tower’s 7th floor Observation Deck there is a bird’s eye view of Port Canaveral, Jetty Park, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and NASA to the north. It is an excellent place to view rocket launches (check schedule at: http://spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html).  Info about visiting the tower is at:  http://www.explorationtower.com/.

A fun thing to do is to watch the cruise ships go out to sea. They exit the port past Jetty Park, with people waving and cheering all the way. Popular times to watch are Thursday and Sunday afternoons around 4 pm (a full schedule of departures and arrivals is at: http://www.portcanaveral.com/cruising/ships.php).

Jetty Park’s wide sandy beach is especially nice for families. It is popular year round. If you walk onto the fishing pier, be sure to look for manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles in the water below. You’ll probably see egrets and pelicans “fishing” too. And don’t forget to bring bread to feed the seagulls – it is a family favorite. More info about visiting Port Canaveral is at: http://visitportcanaveral.com/.   Details about Jetty Park Beach and Campground are at: http://www.jettyparkbeachandcampground.com/park_index.

Wildlife Cam: Pumpkins, Raccoons, and Turkeys!

Raccoons and Pumpkins 1

Raccoons and Pumpkins 1

Raccoons and Pumpkins 2

Raccoons and Pumpkins 2

Raccoons and Pumpkins 3

Raccoons and Pumpkins 3

Raccoons and Pumpkins 4

Raccoons and Pumpkins 4

Raccoons and Pumpkins 5

Raccoons and Pumpkins 5

Raccoons and Pumpkins 6

Raccoons and Pumpkins 6

Raccoons and Pumpkins 7

Raccoons and Pumpkins 7

Turkeys and Pumpkins 1

Turkeys and Pumpkins 1

Turkeys and Pumpkins 2

Turkeys and Pumpkins 2

Turkeys and Pumpkins 3

Turkeys and Pumpkins 3

Turkeys and Pumpkins 4

Turkeys and Pumpkins 4

What a joy to see what pictures are waiting for us when we download them from the automatic wildlife camera!  It’s such a treat every time.  I placed some pumpkins outside for a Fall theme, and the raccoons and turkeys are having a wonderful time out there.  In fact, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the turkeys have been eating the pumpkin on the right!

Florida: Return to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Extremely Rare "Booger" Bromeliad (Globose guzmania)

Extremely Rare “Booger” Bromeliad (Globose guzmania)

Ant Plant (tuber gives ants a home and sweet sap; in return the ants protect and fertilize the plant)

Ant Plant (tuber gives ants a home and sweet sap; in return the ants protect and fertilize the plant)

Anthurium with Yellow Spathe

Anthurium with Yellow Spathe

Dove or Holy Ghost Orchid (Peristeria elata).  Endangered in Wild; National Flower of Panama.  "Bird" is in Center of Flower.

Dove or Holy Ghost Orchid (Peristeria elata). Endangered in Wild; National Flower of Panama. “Bird” is in Center of Flower.

Zygopetalum Orchid

Zygopetalum Orchid

Pink Tropical Lily (Amaryllis species)

Pink Tropical Lily (Amaryllis species)

Beautiful Lined Leaf

Beautiful Lined Leaf

Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes rafflesiana)

Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes rafflesiana)

Pitcher Plant (Monkey Cup)

Pitcher Plant (Monkey Cup)

Pitcher Plant with Gold Lip

Pitcher Plant with Gold Lip

Bamboo (World's Biggest Grass and Strong as Lumber)

Bamboo (World’s Biggest Grass and Strong as Lumber)

Banyan Tree (one tree expands into a "forest" with aerial prop roots that grow down to soil from branches)

Banyan Tree (one tree expands into a “forest” with aerial prop roots that grow down to soil from branches)

Hugging Tree Sign with Row of Bromeliads "Hugging" the Top

Hugging Tree Sign with Row of Bromeliads “Hugging” the Top

Hugging Tree Sign Describing Epiphytes

Hugging Tree Sign Describing Epiphytes

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is an excellent place to see rare and beautiful plants in Sarasota, Florida. The gardens are gorgeous! The organization is dedicated to botanical research, education, and conservation. The Tropical Conservatory houses rare bromeliads and orchids from around the world that bloom year round. The gardens specialize in epiphytes – plants that cling to other plants and have no roots in the ground (such as bromeliads, ferns, orchids, and pitcher plants).  After you finish visiting the garden, it is only a 5 minute drive across the causeway to Sarasota’s white sugar sand beaches and Mote Marine Laboratory. More info is at:  http://selby.org/  A previous post is at:  http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/florida-marie-selby-botanical-gardens/  An interesting article about exotic Asian tropical flowers and pitcher plants is at:  http://factsanddetails.com/asian/cat68/sub435/item2425.html

Fascinating Dung Beetles

Large Florida Dung Beetle in Hand (yes I will pick up just about anything)

Large Florida Dung Beetle in Hand (yes I will pick up just about anything)

Baby Dung Beetle on White Sandy Trail (combed antennae are extremely sensitive to smell)

Baby Dung Beetle on White Sandy Trail (combed antennae are extremely sensitive to smell)

Dung Beetle Doing Headstand Pushing Mushroom Cap Backwards

Dung Beetle Doing Headstand Pushing Mushroom Cap Backwards

Burrowing Owl Family

Burrowing Owl Family

Did you know that Florida has dung beetles? We saw this Canthon species of dung beetle on a sandy trail at the Sebastian Buffer Preserve. “Tumblebugs” are nature’s ultimate recyclers, and they make the world a better place. They push and roll vegetable matter or round balls of dung into a hole they dig underground (thus aerating and fertilizing the soil). They reduce fly populations and disease by burying waste. Without them cattle ranchers would be in a heap of trouble.

Dung beetles push their food backwards with their hind legs, which makes them look like they are doing headstands. They can easily push 50 times their weight, and are one of the few insects that care for their young. They’ve been around since the age of dinosaurs, and can orient themselves using the Milky Way.

Florida burrowing owls often place dung or pieces of rotting fruit around their burrows (which is tool use). It is believed they do this because it attracts dung beetles – their favorite snack! Egyptians considered scarabs (a kind of dung beetle) to be sacred. They believed a scarab pushed the round ball of the sun across the sky.

Automatic Wildlife Camera: Lots of Surprises

Blue Jays Have Beautiful Feathers

Blue Jays Have Beautiful Feathers

Bobwhite Quail with Feathers Fluffed Up

Bobwhite Quail with Feathers Fluffed Up

Bunny Portrait

Bunny Portrait

Blue and Pink Turkey Head

Blue and Pink Turkey Head

Red Bellied Woodpecker Drinking Nectar from White Bird of Paradise Flowers

Red Bellied Woodpecker Drinking Nectar from White Bird of Paradise Flowers

Stunning Boat-Tailed Grackle Feathers

Stunning Boat-Tailed Grackle Feathers

Dove and Red Flowers

Dove and Red Flowers

Wing Blur of Dove Landing

Wing Blur of Dove Landing

Mama Squirrel Eating a Peanut

Mama Squirrel Eating a Peanut

Baby Cardinal with Adult Feathers Growing In

Baby Cardinal with Adult Feathers Growing In

Raccoon Inspecting Peanut

Raccoon Inspecting Peanut

Happy Raccoon Eating Seeds and Nuts

Happy Raccoon Eating Seeds and Nuts

Raccoon Saying Grace

Raccoon Saying Grace

Raccoon Talking

Raccoon Talking

Raccoon Beside Automatic Wildlife Camera Setup

Raccoon Beside Automatic Wildlife Camera Setup

The best thing about using an automatic wildlife camera is being surprised by what you see – it might be new behaviors, interesting perspectives, or even animals you didn’t know lived in your yard. What fun!

Automatic Wildlife Camera: Animal Friends

Bunny and Dove

Bunny and Dove

Squirrel and Cotton Rat

Squirrel and Cotton Rat

Box Turtle and Eastern Towhee

Box Turtle and Eastern Towhee

Bunny and Cotton Rat

Bunny and Cotton Rat

Bunny and Squirrel

Bunny and Squirrel

Bobwhite Quail, Bunny, and Cotton Rat Eating Together

Bobwhite Quail, Bunny, and Cotton Rat Eating Together

Our automatic wildlife camera caught some unlikely animals eating together in our backyard in Florida.  Each one has an important role in nature.  These pictures make me smile.  A good link about Florida wildlife is at:  http://www.wildflorida.com/index.php

 

Florida: Colorful Land Crabs

Overview of Colorful Land Crab

Overview of Colorful Land Crab

Side View Showing Blue Land Crab’s Giant Claw

Side View Showing Blue Land Crab’s Giant Claw

Female Land Crab Carrying Eggs

Female Land Crab Carrying Eggs

Five Land Crabs Walking

Five Land Crabs Walking

Group of Land Crabs Crossing Sandy Road

Group of Land Crabs Crossing Sandy Road

Side View of Colorful Land Crab

Side View of Colorful Land Crab

Very Colorful Land Crab

Very Colorful Land Crab

Blue Land Crab under Stump

Blue Land Crab under Stump

White Land Crab (probably female)

White Land Crab (probably female)

Two-Inch Long Juvenile Land Crab (claw almost as big as body)

Two-Inch Long Juvenile Land Crab (claw almost as big as body)

Very Young Land Crab (too small to pinch)

Very Young Land Crab (too small to pinch)

Summer and early Fall are the best time to see colorful land crabs in Florida. They live along the Atlantic coast from Central to Southern Florida, and are also found along the Gulf coast. We usually see them around the time of the full moon in August and September in the Sebastian/Vero Beach area. Giant blue land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) like to live in wet sandy burrows, and need to be within 5 miles of the ocean to spawn. Only one in a million eggs survives to adulthood. The distinctive brown “fuzz” around the mouth parts of land crabs is actually a net-like pattern of hairs. It works in conjunction with the internal gills to help them “breathe” while on land. Both male and female adult land crabs have one claw bigger than the other.  The crabs can grow up to 6 inches across, and come in a variety of colors including blue, purple, red, orange, brown, and white.  More info about the life history of these fascinating crabs is at: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/blue-crabs/life-cycle/