Florida: Rare Atala Butterfly Sighting

Atala Butterfly on Coontie

Atala Butterfly after Emerging from Cocoon

The Atala butterfly was thought to be extinct in Florida until a small colony was discovered in Miami in 1979.  This beautiful iridescent butterfly was protected and expanded its range over time.  We saw this rare butterfly for the first time in Sebastian a couple of weeks ago.  The Atala’s only native host for its eggs is the coontie – a small palm-like cycad.  If you live in Florida and want to do your part to help the Atala hairstreak butterfly, plant a few low-maintenance coonties in your yard.  The butterflies will travel miles to find these host plants by smell!  Locally, Busy Bee Nursery in Vero Beach sells coonties and regularly holds butterfly gardening seminars:  http://archive.tcpalm.com/specialty-publications/vero-beach/careful-gardener-uncovers-rare-butterfly-species-in-indian-river-county-ep-1233688624-340516281.html

Cute Baby Raccoons

Baby Raccoon Climbing Tree

Baby Raccoon in Bird Feeder

Baby Raccoon Face

Mama raccoon in our Florida backyard now has four little babies – what a handful!  The babies play, wrestle, and roll around together.  They are like puppies, except they climb.  One time I caught them swinging in the hammock at night for fun!  I was surprised to go outside recently and see this baby raccoon inside the bird feeder.  Even so, they are really cute.

UPDATE JUNE 2018:  A raccoon made the national news because she climbed a 25 story skyscraper in Minnesota!  Read about it at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/us/mpr-raccoon-building-climb.html

Florida: Cute Baby Sandhill Crane

Baby Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane Family

Look who showed up at our house this week – the sandhill crane family.  The baby crane is so cute!

 

Florida: Mama Owl is Nesting!

Eastern Screech Owl

Yellow Rose

Mama screech owl has been in her nest box all week – she is here to stay.  Nesting season has arrived – it is spring in Florida!

Florida Manatees in Winter

Mother and Baby Manatees at Homosassa Springs

Mother Manatee Nursing Baby Underwater

Manatee at Crystal River

Manatees Have Good Eyesight

Manatees Have Sensitive Bristles on Body and Breathe Through Two Round Nostrils

Manatees Have Flexible Lips to Grab Sea Grass

Manatees Drink Fresh Rainwater

Manatees Have Round Paddle-like Tails

Florida manatees are easy to spot in winter because they congregate in springs and canals to stay warm.  Famous places to see them include the Three Sisters Spring at Crystal River (http://www.threesistersspringsvisitor.org/) and Blue Spring State Park (https://www.savethemanatee.org/manatees/manatee-webcams/).

Sea cows live 40-60 years and are related to elephants.  They weigh up to 1200 pounds and use their flexible, sensitive snouts to graze on sea grass. Their whiskers can feel water ripples that are smaller than a human hair!  They surface frequently to breathe air through two round nostrils.  Manatees do not have eyelashes, and close their eyes in a circular motion like the aperture of a camera.  Manatees move through the water by pumping their round paddle-like tails up and down.  They communicate with a series of chirps, whistles, and squeaks.  Kids especially love these slow moving, gentle giants.  Fun info and activities for kids is at (https://www.savethemanatee.org/manatees/education-materials/student-resources/.   Learn more at:  https://www.savethemanatee.org/

Warm Florida Beaches

Sebastian Beach Waves

View of Sebastian Beach from Pier

Seagull with Mouthful of Fish

Sanderling Running with Waves

Shell Pile-up Near Pier

Brown Pelican Flying

Inlet Side Opposite Beach

Two-Tone Water where Indian River Meets Atlantic Ocean

Gopher Tortoise Eating Grass

The weather is perfect here in Florida!  Migrating birds have arrived, and it is a beautiful time for a walk at Sebastian Inlet State Park.

Nature Outside My Window

Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Group of Cactus Flowers

Cactus Wrapped Around Sabal Palm

Wildlife Cam: Raccoon Trio

Wildlife Cam: Deer Peekaboo

Wildlife Cam: Tom Turkey

Wildlife Cam: Mother Turkey (right) and Chick (left)

Wildlife Cam: Mottled Duck

Wildlife Cam: Cardinals, Blue Jay, and Woodpecker

It is amazing how much nature is visible outside my home office window.  Since it is summer, we are enjoying a spectacular show of cactus flowers every night.  The automatic wildlife camera captured these raccoons playing beside the flowers.  During the day the female white-tailed deer was caught visiting the same spot, as well as wild turkeys, mottled ducks, and many other birds.  I always have handy a flashlight, binoculars, and camera to look at and capture any surprises I might see.  

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