Florida: Sebastian Beach and Fishing Jetty

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Black Skimmer on Beach

Black Skimmer on Beach

Beach Morning Glory

Beach Morning Glory

We always enjoy visiting Sebastian Inlet State Park.  The beach is beautiful, and we never know what we’ll see from the fishing jetty.  More info is at: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Sebastian-Inlet

Florida: Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (blue background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (blue background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (white background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (white background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar  Face

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Face

Black Swallowtail Butterfly on Pink Zinnia Flower

Black Swallowtail Butterfly on Pink Zinnia Flower

We were so happy to find black swallowtail caterpillars in our flower bed last weekend.  We knew caterpillars are very hungry, so we went out and bought more fennel plants for them to eat.  They are growing fast, and will soon turn into beautiful butterflies!

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/

Purple Martin Babies are Fledging!

Female Martin and Babies Wanting Fed

Female Martin and Babies Wanting Fed

Martin Activity at Nesting Gourds

Martin Activity at Nesting Gourds

Martin Activity Above Gourd Rack (new fledgling is on lower left)

Martin Activity Above Gourd Rack (new fledgling is on lower left)

Martin Babies Grow Fast

Martin Babies Grow Fast

Two of Three Eggs Have Just Hatched in Late Nest

Two of Three Eggs Have Just Hatched in Late Nest

Martin on Gourd Rack with Dragonfly for Babies

Martin on Gourd Rack with Dragonfly for Babies

Closeup of Martin with Green Darner Dragonfly

Closeup of Martin with Green Darner Dragonfly

Our purple martin babies have grown so fast! Many are fledging and taking their first flights this weekend. This year our count is 57 babies and 22 adults for a total of 79 birds. What a joy to see them do so well!

Purple Martin Babies are Hatching!

Three Purple Martin Eggs in Nesting Gourd

Three Purple Martin Eggs in Nesting Gourd

Six New Hatchlings

Six New Hatchlings

Close-up of Hatchlings (love the bird lips!)

Close-up of Hatchlings (love the bird lips!)

Six Babies in Leaf-Lined Nest

Six Babies in Leaf-Lined Nest

Six Hatchlings Starting to get Pin Feathers

Six Hatchlings Starting to get Pin Feathers

Hatchling Face

Hatchling Face

Hatchling Wanting Fed

Hatchling Wanting Fed

Adult Male Purple Martin on Top of Nesting Gourd

Adult Male Purple Martin on Top of Nesting Gourd

Adult Female Martin Diving into Gourd

Adult Female Martin Diving into Gourd

Frog Hiding in Martin Pole Pulley Rope

Frog Hiding in Martin Pole Pulley Rope

Our purple martin babies are hatching! We currently have 11 nests containing 54 babies and 3 eggs – our highest season total ever! It is such a joy hearing the martins’ cheerful songs, along with constant feeding activity in and out of the gourds. The hatchlings are so young that they haven’t even opened their eyes yet. A frog was hiding in the martin pole pulley rope when we lowered the gourds for inspection. If the babies have mites, we change the nesting material for good health. Love this time of year!  Our previous posts about purple martins are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=martins

Beautiful Deer Visits Yard

Deer Hello

Deer Hello

Deer Eating Corn for Turkeys

Deer Eating Corn for Turkeys

Deer Portrait

Deer Portrait

What a nice surprise out our home office window – a beautiful deer was walking around our yard!  She had wandered in since I had left the gate open.  I had been hoping to get a picture of a deer in our area, because our neighborhood is called “Deer Run”. She is expecting, so maybe we’ll see a little fawn soon!

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!

Best Caterpillar Ever!

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

This past weekend I was working in the flower garden and found this Tersa sphinx moth caterpillar under our tapioca bush. Sphinx/hummingbird moths come out at dusk to drink flower nectar. They especially love pentas. I couldn’t get over the realistic eye spots on the caterpillar – I think it was pretending to be a snake so that birds wouldn’t eat it. It had gold spots on its body, along with delicate shades of pink and blue.  After taking pictures, and I carefully placed it back outside exactly where it was when I found it. What a spectacular caterpillar!

Space Station on a Starry Night!

Space Station Trail in Night Sky

Space Station Trail in Night Sky

Starry Night Sky with Constellation Orion (middle) and Bright Planet Venus (upper right)

Starry Night Sky with Constellation Orion (middle) and Bright Planet Venus (upper right)

Space Station Track (Yellow Line) by Our House (Blue Dot)

Space Station Track (Yellow Line) by Our House (Blue Dot)

Long Exposure to Capture Owl Hunting in Dark

Long Exposure to Capture Owl Hunting in Dark

The International Space Station tracked right by our house last night in Palm Bay, Florida! It moves FAST! ! Other evening sightings included tree frogs on the window, raccoon and babies under the tree, armadillo looking for bugs, and owl hunting from a favorite perch by the pond (her sudden whinny behind me was surprising!). 

Screech Owls are Nesting!

Screech Owl in Nest Box

Screech Owl in Nest Box

Screech Owl with Erect Feather Tufts

Screech Owl with Erect Feather Tufts

Screech Owl's Round Yellow Eyes

Screech Owl’s Round Yellow Eyes

Screech Owl Wink

Screech Owl Wink

I did some gardening yesterday after work, and had a wonderful surprise.  I looked up and saw mama screech owl watching me!  She moved into her nest box right on schedule for spring.  Amazingly she continued to pose while I took pictures.  Lucky day!  Eastern screech owls pair up and remain together for life.  Other posts about screech owls are at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=screech+owl 

Florida: Sea Glass and Ocean Gems Symposium

Melbourne Beach

Melbourne Beach

Boardwalk at Barrier Island Center

Boardwalk at Barrier Island Center

Entrance at Barrier Island Center

Entrance at Barrier Island Center

Signpost

Signpost

White Bowl of Sea Glass

White Bowl of Sea Glass

Blue Bowl of Sea Glass

Blue Bowl of Sea Glass

Red Bowl of Sea Glass

Red Bowl of Sea Glass

Sea Glass on Table

Sea Glass on Table

Old Auto Headlight Sea Glass Fragment

Old Auto Headlight Sea Glass Fragment

Our Recent Sea Glass Find (5 inches long)

Our Recent Sea Glass Find (5 inches long)

On Saturday we attended the First Sea Glass and Ocean Gems Symposium at the Barrier Island Center in Melbourne Beach, Florida.  The Center is located in the heart of Archie Carr Refuge, a major nesting site for sea turtles. The festival celebrated not only sea glass, but also sea life and all treasures found at the beach.   There were educational displays, along with arts and crafts on the back deck overlooking the ocean.  The sea glass displayed was collected on local beaches over the past 40 years – some of it washed in from ancient shipwrecks! More info about the Center is at:  https://www.facebook.com/BrevardCountyBarrierIslandCenter/   and  https://www.brevardfl.gov/EELProgram/Sanctuaries/BarrierIslandSanctuary

Florida: Pretty Turkeys!

Turkey Pair

Turkey Pair

Turkey's Iridescent  Feathers

Turkey’s Iridescent Feathers

Male Turkey Walking

Male Turkey Walking

Wild turkeys are displaying now in Florida.  These pictures were taken in our backyard this past week.  Male turkeys puff up and fan their feathers to impress the females.  They also stamp their feet and turn around in circles.  Usually the females pretend to be unimpressed and pointedly ignore them.  Turkey feathers are beautiful and shimmer with colors in the sun (bronze, gold, purple, and green).  A turkey’s gobble can be heard over a mile away, and is unique to each one.  They are intelligent  social animals that form lasting bonds.  Baby turkeys flock with their mother all year.  I am always surprised by how fast they can run and fly.  What a treat to see them every day! 

 

Happy New Year from Florida!

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull

Sebastian Beach, Florida

Sebastian Beach, Florida

Cannonball Jellyfish

Cannonball Jellyfish

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Happy New Year!  Warm wishes for a year ahead filled with peace, beauty, and joy.

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

Happy Turkeys!

Flock of Wild Turkeys in Our Backyard

Flock of Wild Turkeys in Our Backyard

Four Wild Turkeys Along Fence

Four Wild Turkeys Along Fence

A flock of wild turkeys visits our Florida backyard every day.  They are safe in our wildlife-friendly neighborhood, and happily eat a meal of whole corn put out for them every morning.  They are surprisingly good at running and flying – such a joy to have around.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Florida: Birds Pretty in Pink!

Spoonbill Walking

Spoonbill Walking

Spoonbill Pose

Spoonbill Pose

Spoonbill Feeding

Spoonbill Feeding

Spoonbill Wing Stretch

Spoonbill Wing Stretch

Flamingo Light Pink

Flamingo Light Pink

Flamingo Light Pink Closeup

Flamingo Light Pink Closeup

Backlit Flamingo

Backlit Flamingo

Flamingo Dark Pink

Flamingo Dark Pink

Flamingo's Dark Pink Feathers

Flamingo’s Dark Pink Feathers

Flamingo Face

Flamingo Face

Flamingo Feeding

Flamingo Feeding

Florida has two large pink birds that you might see when visiting – spoonbills and flamingos. Both get their pretty pink color from carotenoids in the shrimp and algae they eat.  The more carotenoids they eat, the pinker they get!  Flamingos are pink all the way through – even their skin, blood, and egg yolks are tinged pink!  

Roseate spoonbills are named for their spatulate-shaped bills – they are the pink bird you will see in the wild. Spoonbills feed by touch, and swing their bills back and forth through the water to find food. Their sensitive bills instantly snap shut on small fish, insects, and crustaceans. They can be found throughout the state, especially near coastal mangroves in central and southern Florida. Places we’ve seen spoonbills include Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (in the mangroves along Black Point Drive); Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; nesting in the wild at both the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Gatorland (in Kissimmee); and various other places including the Viera Wetlands, Orlando Wetlands, and the Sarasota/Tampa area.

Flamingos are usually seen in formal exhibits, but a wild group of 147 birds was discovered living in western Palm Beach County in May 2014. It is believed they migrated from their native breeding range in the Caribbean and Mexico. Long ago there had been a small breeding population deep in the Everglades, so scientists hope the birds get reestablished in the state.  A flamingo feeds by holding its bristle-lined bill upside down as a scoop to sieve out brine shrimp, algae, and other aquatic organisms from the water. Flamingos are an iconic symbol of Florida, and can be seen at many zoos, wildlife conservation centers, and theme parks (in summer they can be seen on their mud-cup nests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Update March 2015:  The wild flamingos have returned to the Palm Beach County Storm Water Treatment Area 2 west of Miami!  Field trips are hosted by the Audubon Society of the Everglades (http://www.auduboneverglades.org/).

Update March 2018:  Conservationists have documented historical evidence that flamingoes are native to Florida and are on an upswing coming back in the wild!  http://www.audubon.org/news/its-official-flamingos-belong-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!

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/

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 

 

Lionfish in Florida

Lionfish in Aquarium

Lionfish in Aquarium

Lionfish are now seen frequently in Florida waters. These beautiful fish are native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. DNA evidence suggests that all lionfish here can be traced back to 6-8 female lionfish that were released into the Atlantic Ocean. The first reported lionfish in Florida waters was caught by a fisherman offshore Dania in October 1985. The next report was of 6 red lionfish seen swimming in Biscayne Bay shortly after Hurricane Andrew washed an aquarium off a seawall there in 1992. Since each female lionfish can lay up to 2 million eggs per year, their numbers can grow quickly! Fishermen are being encouraged to catch them, since they are non-native and unbalance the natural ecosystem. Many restaurant owners have now added lionfish to their menus (the meat is firm and white and tastes like grouper). If you catch a lionfish, don’t touch the spines – they are venomous and will sting you.

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/

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!

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  

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.

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!

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