Florida: Backyard Wildlife

Male Painted Bunting and Cardinal

Female Painted Bunting

Male Wild Turkey with Beard Feathers

Sandhill Crane

Peahen (female peacock)

Whitetail Deer

Armadillo

Raccoon Babies at Door

 

We love the variety of wildlife in our backyard here in Florida.  So much fun! 

Merry Christmas from Florida

Warm wishes from the beach here in Florida for a wonderful holiday and happy new year!

Driftwood Tree at Sebastian Beach

Florida: Beautiful Beach Weather!

Waves at Sebastian Beach

Waves at Sebastian Beach

Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

Manatee Snort

Manatee Snort

Spotted Ray

Spotted Ray

Snook Surrounded by Tiny Greenies

Snook Surrounded by Tiny Greenies

Needlefish

Needlefish

Orange Boring Sponge

Orange Boring Sponge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Beautiful Turquoise Water

Beautiful Turquoise Water

We make frequent trips to Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida, to walk out on the fishing pier and stroll on the beach.  The water is especially pretty right now, and there is always lots to see!  You can view a live cam at:  http://www.sebastianinletcam.com/

Florida: Pink Baby Spoonbills!

Group of Birds Onshore

Group of Birds Onshore

Spoonbill Family

Spoonbill’s Pink “Angel” Wings

Spoonbill and Baby

Roseate spoonbills are one of our favorite birds in Florida.  The babies are born with pink skin, which Is quickly covered with fluffy down.  We recently saw groups of the babies leaving their nests and feeding along the shore at Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area (Stick Marsh Critical Wildlife Area) near Fellsmere, Florida.  What a treat!

Big Fuzzy Anhinga Babies!

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Female Anhinga

Female Anhinga

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

Anhinga babies are so fuzzy!  The birds are nesting in the treetops now at the Viera Wetlands, Florida.  Anhingas are also known as water turkeys or snake birds (because of the way they stick their long necks above water when hunting for fish).  The babies sleep by tucking their heads over their backs and down into their feathers.  Their parents have quite a time feeding them.  Neat birds! 

Florida in Winter

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

White Ibis at Lagoon

White Ibis at Lagoon

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Alligator in Pond

Alligator in Pond

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

In Florida we enjoy an outdoor lifestyle year round.  Although it may get chilly from time to time when winter cold fronts blow through from the north, the weather usually warms back up to 70°F within a few days.  That means we go outside and enjoy the beach, gardens, and wildlife. 

Florida is home to over 500 species of birds, which makes it one of the top birdwatching destinations in the world.  Our local birding and wildlife festival is the largest in the nation!  Info about the festival is at:  http://www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org/   Come on down and enjoy nature in the Sunshine State!  

Florida: Holiday Boat Parade

Boat Parade Santa with Reindeer

Boat Parade Santa with Reindeer

Boat Parade Christmas Story Lamp

Boat Parade Christmas Story Lamp

Boat Parade Merry Christmas Penguin

Boat Parade Merry Christmas Penguin

Boat Parade Santa with Sunglasses

Boat Parade Santa with Sunglasses

Boat Parade Lights with Bell

Boat Parade Lights with Bell

Boat Parade Lights with Palm Tree

Boat Parade Lights with Palm Tree

Boat Parade Festive Decorations

Boat Parade Festive Decorations

Boat Parade Polar Bear

Boat Parade Polar Bear

Colorful Boat Parade in Canal

Colorful Boat Parade in Canal

Boat Parade Santa Fishing

Boat Parade Santa Fishing

Boat Parade Snoopy

Boat Parade Snoopy

Boat Parade Dolphins Pulling Sleigh

Boat Parade Dolphins Pulling Sleigh

Boat Parade Blue Light Reflections

Boat Parade Blue Light Reflections

Boat Parade Lights with Wreath

Boat Parade Lights with Wreath

Recently we enjoyed the annual Merritt Island Holiday Boat Parade on Sykes Creek, Florida.  We sat on the dock and watched over 70 Christmas-themed boats sail by.  Each one was covered with up to 1,000 colorful lights.  Some participants added to the fun by throwing candy.  The lights and reflections on the water were magic!  More info is at:  http://www.cffw.org/events/

Florida: Summer Clouds, Rain, and Frogs

Sunny Sky over Indian River

Sunny Sky over Indian River

Stormy Sky over Indian River

Stormy Sky over Indian River

Panorama of Isolated Storm over Sebastian Beach (click to enlarge)

Panorama of Isolated Storm over Sebastian Beach (click to enlarge)

Cuban Tree Frog in Grass

Cuban Tree Frog in Grass

Cuban Tree Frog Camouflage

Cuban Tree Frog Camouflage

Cuban Tree Frog's Golden Eye

Cuban Tree Frog’s Golden Eye

Native Southern Toad on Driveway

Native Southern Toad on Driveway

Green Tree Frog in Milkweed Flowers

Green Tree Frog in Milkweed Flowers

Squirrel Tree Frog in Bird-of-Paradise Flower

Squirrel Tree Frog in Bird-of-Paradise Flower

Tadpole

Tadpole

Cuban Tree Frog Transformation (still has tadpole's tail)

Cuban Tree Frog Transformation (still has tadpole’s tail)

In summer in Florida, heat buildup during the day leads to afternoon thundershowers and clearing in the evening. We love hearing the chorus of frogs singing after the rain ends. Later we see frog eggs and then tadpoles in the pond.  Florida has 33 species of frogs and toads.  A list is at: http://www.wec.ufl.edu/extension/wildlife_info/frogstoads/   

You can listen to calls at:  https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/Frogquiz/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.lookup&CFID=6699023&CFTOKEN=a2f85b2c81814818-693ABB52-FE37-1048-AA8EE1A8CE351F01

Our favorite smiling frog picture of all time is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/smiling-frog/

Florida: Artistic Sea Turtle Statues

“Ethel” at Environmental Learning Center

“Stormy” at Orchid Fire Station

“Ridley in the Garden” at Rock City Gardens

“Reflections” at McKee Botanical Garden

Painted sea turtle statues can be found throughout the arts community of Vero Beach, Florida. The statues were auctioned off years ago by Turtle Trax to raise money for mental health awareness.  The theme was “Overcoming Hurdles with Turtles”.  I am impressed by the artistic talent and effort that goes into each one of these decorated statues!

The sea turtle nesting season is going very well here so far at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Sebastian, Florida. As of July 11, 2015, current local totals are 10,550 loggerhead nests, 5,561 green turtle nests, and 55 leatherback sea turtle nests.

Around the Yard

Deer Walking Across Lawn

Deer Walking Across Lawn

Close-up of Deer's Antler Buds

Close-up of Deer’s Antler Buds

Mama Turkey with Her One Surviving Chick

Mama Turkey with Her One Surviving Chick

Sandhill Crane Feeding Young Chick

Sandhill Crane Feeding Young Chick

Sandhill Crane Chick and Daisies

Sandhill Crane Chick and Daisies

Sandhill Cranes Walking Away in Step

Sandhill Cranes Walking Away in Step

Lubber Grasshopper Sitting in Stapeliad Starfish Flower

Lubber Grasshopper Sitting in Stapeliad Starfish Flower

Lubber Grasshopper Babies

Lubber Grasshopper Babies

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly by Pond

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly by Pond

Fragrant Frangipani Flowers are used in Hawaiian Leis

Fragrant Frangipani Flowers are used in Hawaiian Leis

Queen Butterfly on Fireworks Gomphrena Flower

Queen Butterfly on Fireworks Gomphrena Flower

One of our favorite things to do is to take a walk around the yard.  We never know what surprises we will see!  Do you have a favorite sighting in your yard?

Florida: Pink Spoonbills are Nesting!

Goodwin Marsh

Goodwin Marsh

Rookery Island

Rookery Island

Spoonbill Landing on Nest

Spoonbill Landing on Nest

Young Spoonbill Being Fed

Young Spoonbill Being Fed

Close-up of Feeding Time

Close-up of Feeding Time

Young Spoonbill Takeoff

Young Spoonbill Takeoff

Adult Spoonbill Flying by Fledgling

Adult Spoonbill Flying by Fledgling

Colorful Adult Spoonbill Flying

Colorful Adult Spoonbill Flying

Critical Wildlife Area Sign – Respect the Nest

Critical Wildlife Area Sign – Roseate Spoonbill Nest

It is spoonbill nesting time here in Florida!  We enjoy seeing spoonbills nesting in spring on the Rookery Island at Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area – Stick Marsh Critical Wildlife Area near Fellsmere, Florida.  Love those beautiful pink birds!

Florida: Holiday Boat Parade

Boat Parade 1

Boat Parade 1

Boat Parade 2

Boat Parade 2

Boat Parade 3

Boat Parade 3

Boat Parade 4

Boat Parade 4

Boat Parade 5

Boat Parade 5

Boat Parade 6

Boat Parade 6

Boat Parade 7

Boat Parade 7

Boat Parade 8

Boat Parade 8

Boat Parade 9

Boat Parade 9

Boat Parade 10

Boat Parade 10

House with Christmas Lights Reflected in Canal

House with Christmas Lights Reflected in Canal

The Merritt Island, Florida, holiday boat parade was held on Saturday, December 20.  It was especially beautiful this year!  Everyone was happy and cheering all the colorful boats, and the night was warm and calm. 

Pink Florida “Snow”

Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Pink Large Flower Pusley

Pink Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Flying to Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Flying to Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Sticking Head into Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Sticking Head into Large Flower Pusley

Green Bee on Large Flower Pusley

Green Bee on Large Flower Pusley

Great Egret Sitting in Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Great Egret Sitting in Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Wood Stork Standing in Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Wood Stork Standing in Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Right now we see fields of pink “Florida Snow” when driving around town.  These fields are composed of Large Flower Pusley, which is also known as Mexican Clover (species Richardia grandiflora). The honeybees are crazy for it, so never run barefoot through these flowers.  We see bees sticking their heads far into the flower cups to drink the sweet nectar, and also collecting balls of white pollen.  These flowers are a delightful treat in winter!

Florida: Animals Around the Backyard Christmas Tree

Raccoon Family and Tree

Raccoon Family and Tree

Raccoons Lounging by Tree

Raccoons Lounging by Tree

Raccoon Pair and Tree

Raccoon Pair and Tree

Bunny and Tree

Bunny and Tree

Turkeys and Tree

Turkeys and Tree

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!  Best wishes!  Pam and Richard

Florida: Let’s Have Fun!

Walking on Sebastian Beach

Walking on Sebastian Beach

Watching Terns and Skimmers Flying

Watching Terns and Skimmers Flying

Boating on the Indian River Lagoon

Boating on the Indian River Lagoon

Sitting on the Dock at Dusk

Sitting on the Dock at Dusk

Designing our Personal Postcard

Designing our Personal Postcard

♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♫♪♫♪♫

Oh the weather is so delightful,

For Flo-ri-da we’re thankful.

Things to do, we can’t pick just one,

Let’s have fun, let’s have fun, let’s have fun.

♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♫♪♫♪♫

 

Florida’s McKee Gardens: Flower Power

Purple Waterlily with Purple Center

Purple Waterlily with Purple Center

Beautiful Green Reflection on Waterlily Pond

Beautiful Green Reflection on Waterlily Pond

Yellow and Pink Waterlilies Together

Yellow and Pink Waterlilies Together

Purple Orchid

Purple Orchid

Mutated Bicolor Waterlily (yellow and peach)

Mutated Bicolor Waterlily (yellow and peach)

Frilly White Waterlily Flower and Heart Shaped Leaf

Frilly White Waterlily Flower and Heart Shaped Leaf

Tall Purple Waterlily

Tall Purple Waterlily

Dark Pink Waterlily with Yellow Center

Dark Pink Waterlily with Yellow Center

Yellow Waterlily Beside Textured Leaf

Yellow Waterlily Beside Textured Leaf

Red Skimmer Dragonfly on Purple Waterlily

Red Skimmer Dragonfly on Purple Waterlily

Pink Angel's Trumpet Flower

Pink Angel’s Trumpet Flower

Frilly Lavendar Waterlily

Frilly Lavendar Waterlily

White and Pink Waterlilies Together

White and Pink Waterlilies Together

Voodoo Lily

Voodoo Lily

Banana Flower with Fruit

Banana Flower with Fruit

Banana Flower Cross Section

Banana Flower Cross Section

Blue Skimmer Dragonfly on Purple Waterlily

Blue Skimmer Dragonfly on Purple Waterlily

Infrared Image of Coconut Palm

Infrared Image of Coconut Palm

It has been a beautiful year for flowers at McKee Gardens.  There is always something in bloom.  Come and visit sunny Florida – the weather is perfect!

UPDATE May 2018:  McKee Gardens was recently recognized as one of the ten most romantic places in Florida by “Coastal Living” magazine!  Article here:  https://www.coastalliving.com/travel/gulf-coast/most-romantic-destinations-florida

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:  https://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!  A guide to Florida wildlife is at:  http://www.wildflorida.com/index.php

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 Florida Wildlife Guide is at:  http://www.wildflorida.com/index.php

 

Florida: Colorful Giant 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 giant 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/

Florida: Manatee Love

Manatee Swimming Offshore Sebastian Beach

Manatee Swimming Offshore Sebastian Beach

Manatee Mating Herd in Shallow Water

Manatee Mating Herd in Shallow Water

Mating Manatees (3 males and 1 female)

Mating Manatees (3 males and 1 female)

Manatee Named "Barney"

Manatee Named “Barney”

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

In Florida, manatee mating activity peaks in spring and early summer. When wildlife societies receive calls about beached manatees this time of year, they explain that it is natural behavior and manatee love is in the air. A female manatee will usually be pursued by several males into shallow water, and that forms a mating herd.  Florida’s West Indian manatee is an endangered species, so it is a real privilege to witness such an event. Best of all, a baby manatee will arrive a year later! At Sebastian Inlet State Park today, we saw 8 manatees off the pier in the ocean, and a mating herd of 4 on the lagoon side.  A manatee named “Barney” swam beside the jetty (named by surfers for the barnacles on his skin). 

Springtime Around Our Florida Yard

Foggy Sunrise

Foggy Sunrise

Eastern Screech Owl in Nest Box

Eastern Screech Owl in Nest Box

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Brown Anole

Brown Anole

Armadillo

Armadillo

Squirrel on Porch Screen

Squirrel on Porch Screen

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Pink Hibiscus

Pink Hibiscus

There is plenty of activity in our Florida yard in spring.  We just never know what we’ll see next!  Hope the wildlife and plants are doing well in your yard, too.

 

Purple Martin Babies are Hatching!

Purple Martins Resting Above Nesting Gourd Rack

Purple Martins Resting Above Nesting Gourd Rack

Five Purple Martin Eggs in Leaf-Lined Nest

Five Purple Martin Eggs in Leaf-Lined Nest

Newly Hatched Purple Martin Babies

Newly Hatched Purple Martin Babies

Purple Martin Baby's Face (eyes still closed)

Purple Martin Baby’s Face (eyes still closed)

Purple Martin Baby - Side View

Purple Martin Baby – Side View

Purple Martin Babies Sleep Huddled Together for Warmth

Purple Martin Babies Sleep Huddled Together for Warmth

Our first purple martin babies of spring are hatching!  We currently have 6 nests with a total of 20 babies and 9 eggs, and more on the way.  Our martins returned to Florida for nesting season on January 28. These large swallows spend half the year in North America, and the other half in Brazil.   East of the Rockies, they are the only bird species dependent on people to provide nesting sites.  As far back as the 1700s, Native Americans put up natural nesting gourds for the martins to use.  The partnership was of mutual benefit, so it has continued over generations.  Now the birds prefer to nest in backyards in human-supplied housing.  They don’t mind nest checks by purple martin “landlords”, who keep a close eye on the birds for problems.  Just about everyone who has hosted purple martins misses them when they migrate back to Brazil – they are such cheerful birds to have around.   If you might like to host martins yourself, more info is at:  http://www.purplemartin.org/  Other posts about our purple martins are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=martins 

 

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: https://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/

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!

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:  https://www.facebook.com/VieraWetlands  

Florida: A Very Wiggly River Otter

Otter Wiggling in Sand

Otter Wiggling in Sand

Otter Resting

Otter Resting

Otter in Grass

Otter in Grass

We saw this very cute river otter yesterday wiggling in the sand to dry off after hunting in the water.  Adorable!

Florida Beach in Winter

Sebastian Beach Waves

Sebastian Beach Waves

Scotch Bonnet Shell

Scotch Bonnet Shell

Fishing Jetty

Fishing Jetty

Tidal Cove

Tidal Cove

9 Armed Sea Star

9 Armed Sea Star

Willet Eating a Crab

Willet Eating a Crab

Snowy Egret (notice the bright yellow feet)

Snowy Egret (notice the bright yellow feet)

Black Skimmers and Beach Sunflowers

Black Skimmers and Beach Sunflowers

Royal Terns (male displaying to unimpressed female on right)

Royal Terns (male displaying to unimpressed female on right)

Herring Gull Sleeping

Herring Gull Sleeping

Florida beaches are delightful in winter.  Occasionally a sweater is needed, but otherwise it is great weather for being outside and walking on the sand.  These pictures were taken at Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s central Atlantic coast (east of Orlando).

%d bloggers like this: