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

Arizona: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

Bonito Lava Flow

Yellow-Orange Juniper Mistletoe

Beautiful Weathered Juniper Wood

Tiny White Spider on Lava Flow

Yellow Newberry Twinpod Growing on Cinders

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a beautiful place to visit just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.  The sunset colors reflect the volcano’s composition of silica, iron oxide, and gypsum.  The volcano erupted about 1040-1100 AD .  It is amazing how life returns and survives on the tough conditions of the lava flow!  Information about visiting is at:  https://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm  and https://www.livescience.com/50237-sunset-crater-photos.html

Arizona: Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam

Horseshoe Bend Overlook

Horseshoe Bend Photography Viewpoint (click to enlarge)

Prickly Pear Cactus with Flower Buds

Hedgehog Cactus Flowers

Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

Glen Canyon Bridge (at completion in 1959 it was highest arch bridge in world)

Squares are Support Rod Tips Piled Deep into Sandstone Canyon Walls

Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Tracks Found Nearby

Chuckwalla

Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, are spectacular sights!  Both are located just past the eastern edge of Grand Canyon National Park.  Horseshoe Bend was formed by erosion from the Colorado River over millions of years.  The meander formed when water flowed around harder stone.  Since water flows fastest on the outside of a curve, the meander gets more pronounced over time.

Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1964 and provides daily hydroelectric power to 5 million customers over 7 Western states.  After the dam was built, the newly backed up water of the Colorado River formed popular Lake Powell.  This desert landscape is beautiful!

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/

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