Palm Beach Zoo

March 21, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Posted in For the Family | Leave a comment
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Another beautiful South Florida day means another perfect day at the zoo.  I know what you’re thinking.  “This girl goes to the zoo a lot!”  OK, guilty, I do.  I happen to live an hour or less from 3 great zoos and I have a 2 year old son, of course I do!  Plus, with annual passes, why not!  This AZA accredited zoo is a great place to spend just a few hours or the entire day. During the summer time I can promise you won’t see so many trips to the zoo.  But that’s not what this post is about, we’re here to talk about the animals we saw!

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The first direction we always head when entering this zoo is to the left.  Call it habit.  We love to see some of the zoos larger reptiles, including Mardi, the zoo’s White Alligator.  Seeing him is always very cool… My son loves alligators and this is one you’re able to see quite close, I always find myself amazed that Mardi is one of only 10 White Alligators in the world (truly white, not albino, they have blue eyes), making him an incredibly rare sight!

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There are a lot of other adorable and entertaining animals as you make your way into the zoo.  You’ll come across animals from the slow Sloth to two breeds of quick little Tamarins, colorful Macaws, and the always playful Ocelots.  Today the Ocelots we playing with whatever was nearby, chewing on bundles of plant debris and ambushing each other and they moved around their enclosure.

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In the Australian area of the zoo you’ll find some of coolest and cutest Aussie animals out there.  The New Guinea Singing Dogs aren’t always super active, but today we got lucky!  The pair actually approached the fence, tails wagging, and actually seemed genuinely interested in visitors.  The kids loved that they were able to get so close and the dogs even licked their hands through the safety of the fence, we even got to hear one “sing”.  You’ll also see Wallaby’s and Australian water fowl when you enter their habitat, being separated by a mere gate on the boardwalk.  The Australian Birds habitat features some of the islands famous feather species.  On this particularly cool day we watched at the Red Kangaroo did absolutely nothing.  Sounds exciting, right?  It was actually quite adorable, it laid itself out in the sun as if it were a tourist laying out at the beach.  And of course, the Australian Exhibits main focal, Oz and Abby the Koalas.  Palm Beach Zoo was chosen by the AZA to participate in the Koala Species Survival Plan, recieving this adorable pair in hopes that they will reproduce.  Their enclosure is fronted with glass, allowing people to get a close look at these precious little marsupials, and hopefully leaving them with a lasting impression to care and take action toward Koala conservation.

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The Asian area of the zoo has a good selection of critters from Asia, including the Howler Monkey who’s yells are rivaled only by my son and a walk through Asian Bird aviary with colorful birds from the continent.  The big feature of this area is obviously Asia’s famous big cats, the Tigers.  This May, Tiger Cubs Jaya, Bunga, and Penari will be celebrating their 2nd birthday.  Their births at the Palm Beach Zoo was a huge success for their breeding program and the zoo deserves a high five for taking such great care and ensuring the success of their program of this critically endangered species.  With any luck, they will continue with their success!

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Over in the Tropics of the Americas display you’ll find some wonderful animals from Central and South America.  Here you can see the beautiful resident Jaguar, check out the Nocturnal Animal Observation, and kids can take their pictures on structures in the Mayan Plaza.  When you cross the bridge you may catch a glimpse of Tapir’s swimming in the water and Patagonian Cavy’s lounging around.  Also be on the look out for Delilah, the zoos baby Giant Anteater.  Look carefully, that adult Anteater doesn’t have a hunched back, that’s actually little Baby Delilah hanging on her mothers back.

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Heading along our way, we walked past the Spider and Capuchin Monkey Islands.  The sight on the Spider Monkey Island stopped me (and everyone else) in my tracks… a little bitty baby hanging on its mother.  It was too cute for words!  I watched as Momma Monkey climbed down the tree and over to the water to grab herself a drink.  Just as I thought for sure there was no way possible the sight could get any more adorable I was proven wrong.  Anyone who argues that animals don’t have emotional feelings needed to see the precious moment we watched.  Momma Monkey walked over to another monkey sitting alone and they threw their arms around each other and embraced in a monkey hug.  It was a moment I almost missed capturing on film because I was too busy “Awwwwwww”ing the precious moment between these two friends.

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Our last stop at the zoo was the Florida Wetlands area.  Here you can see on display our very own wildlife found here in Florida.  There is an aviary with Roseate Spoonbills and Scarlet Ibis, a pair of beautiful Bald Eagles, an Alligator display, and Florida Black Bears just to name a few.  A favorite of so many, including my son now and myself as a kid (and admittingly now) is the River Otter display where you can watch Otters swim and play and glide by you.  They seem to love an audience, even pressing against the glass when people gather to watch them.

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Naturally, no Florida display would be complete without the Florida Panther.  This endangered cat’s population is dangerously low in the wild with only around 100 cats remaining, though this is a serious improvement from the estimated 30 in the early 90’s.  Last march the zoo lost their Panther of 17 years, Colin Patrick, but were fortunate enough to add two new cats over the summer, both orphaned rescues.  The two here at Palm Beach Zoo are still considered kittens, and boy were they acting like it today! They were pouncing at each other, chasing one another, and climbing everything in their enclosures.  In case you’re looking at one of the above photos and thinking “Why is there trash in their enclosure?”, it’s not.  The cardboard box is part of the zoos enrichment program, giving the animals safe objects to play with they they don’t usually have within their enclosure, providing physical and mental exercise. They seemed to love it and be enjoying life.

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IF YOU GO:

This is a great zoo to visit and time of year.  During the summer it is well shaded and has a fountain the kids can play in.  They also offer special events throughout the year after regular hours like overnights and nighttime parties as well as birthday parties and weddings.  For more information, visit them here…

http://palmbeachzoo.org/

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Welcome Spring 2013

March 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Posted in For the Family, Furry, Feathered, Finned (and Scaley) Friends | Leave a comment
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It’s official, Spring is here!  So because I still have a good half a dozen stories to write, instead of babbling on here, I welcome Spring by giving you photo’s of adorable baby animals to gawk at.  Enjoy!

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Robin’s Have Invaded Green Cay

March 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Posted in The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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It was another beautiful day in South Florida.  Not to be wasted, my son and I wen’t for a quick walk at Green Cay to enjoy the cool air.  Turns out we weren’t the only ones loving the beautiful South Florida weather this day, but we’ll get back to that later…

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Most of the usual suspects were out and about today.  There seemed to be a larger than normal number of Blue Winged Teals and they were rather rowdy, making all kinds of noise and flying about.  Perhaps they were displeased with the Red Shoulder Hawk that had perched itself upon a Wood Duck nesting box.  I don’t entirely blame them in that case, that seems like cheating to me.  All of the usual (but no less beautiful) Heron’s were out and about looking for breakfast too.

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Toward the front was The Breakfast Club, the usual group of birds that always seem to be hanging out and feeding together consisting of White and Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, different kinds of Egret, and the sometimes a couple of Tri-Colored Herons. (On lucky days this group will even have Spoonbills hanging with them, no such luck today.)  They all wade together, sifting through the water looking for that lucky catch…

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One lone Ibis seemed to have hit the jackpot.  Biting off more than it could chew didn’t seem to have this bird down and it played with the large frog it had captured trying to figure out a way to eat it without choking.  How does one eat food larger than it’s head anyway?  By the time we continued walking on, it was still trying to figure out how to deal with its super sized meal.

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Now about that enjoyable South Florida weather I spoke of earlier…

While I enjoy seeing all of the usual birds and animals I see at places I always love to see new and different things.  This day there were what had to be hundreds of Robins in the parking lot of Green Cay.  While this area of Florida is technically part of their range we very rarely see a Robin in our parts, they usually stick to more Northern parts of the state.  Luckily for those of us who don’t usually get to see them a cold front had moved through North of us, seemingly pushing flocks of Robins down into warmer weather.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one fly in front of me at my car!  I though for sure I was seeing things.  I heard other photographers along the boardwalk talking about the robins so I didn’t feel quite as crazy.  I consulted with a fellow Bird Nerd via text messaging and she told me she too had seen one at her bird feeder and she too thought she was seeing things.  We got into the car and drove around to the back side of the parking lot where the Robin I saw was headed.  It was back there that I was in the middle of what I’m sure was a few hundred birds.  They were everywhere – flying back and forth, perched in trees, foraging along the floor… literally everywhere.  They were a very pleasant surprise, they reminded me of my home town of Chicago.  I do hope that next winter they remember how lovely it was here and decide to return.

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Pic of the Week – 3/16

March 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Pic of the Week | 2 Comments
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Here we are, mid March, and Spring is clearly in the air.  Nothing says Spring like all the baby animals on their way!  Last week while walking at Green Cay, my son flew up in his stroller and yelled “Bird!” as a little bird flew right in front of us with nesting material in her beak.  We stopped and watched where she went, landing in a plant near the boardwalk.  As we quietly approached where she was we could see her shuffling around between the leaves.  I knew she must have been building a nest yet I was still a little surprised to see such an elaborate little creation of dried grasses woven around branches to secure her little nest and soon to be home to her eggs.  Her dedication to her offspring was quite evident as she settles proudly into her nest, making her more than worthy of settling in at my Pic of the Week.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Furry, Feathered, Finned (and Scaley) Friends, One Shot Wonders | Leave a comment
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I just wanted to take a quick minute to wish all of you, my fellow readers, a Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Sure, you’re not all Irish, and that’s ok (nobody is perfect), but on St. Patty’s Day EVERYONE is a little bit Irish. Including my Siberian Husky, Lani, who has been quite the party animal all weekend long while I was away. As you can see, she’s all partied out, it was time to take her home and put her to bed.

Tortuga Music Festival is Coming Soon to Ft. Lauderdale!

March 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Animal Events, Breaking Tradition, For the Family | 3 Comments
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It’s almost here!  In just over one short month, Ft. Lauderdale Beach will be taken over by the wonderful music of artists such as Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Jake Owen, Michael Franti & Speahead… and so very many others that you’ll just have to look at the photo above to get an idea.  And more artists are still joining in!  All for an awesome cause – to help save out oceans!

The Tortuga Music Festival, brought to you by Rock The Ocean and benefiting the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, is a weekend long music festival to help out our oceans, presented by Landshark Lager. (Thank you Jimmy Buffett, feel free to drop on in!)  Think it’s not a big deal?  Flashback to geography class and remember that 3/4 of our planet is ocean.  That’s a big part of our world, and considering how much they provide all of us with, the big blue sea is something everyone needs to care about.

So come on down, catch some amazing music and eat some fantastic food to your hearts content, all while helping support the cause – to help raise awareness and educate folks on marine conservation and supporting a sustainable ocean.  I’ll be there, son (and sun) on my shoulders, rockin out!  And don’t forget your Guy Harvey shirt!

IF YOU GO:

You can learn more about the festival, purchase tickets, sign up and join the loyalty program for a chance to win tickets and other exciting prizes (wanna to snorkeling with Gloriana?), or even donate to the cause here…

http://www.tortugamusicfestival.com/

Learn more about Rock The Ocean and see if they’ll be having an event near you here…

http://rocktheocean.com/

And learn more about the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation here…

http://www.guyharvey.com/our-mission/

Hope to see you all out there!

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Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

March 11, 2013 at 12:09 am | Posted in The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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So many times I’ve driven up and down 441, so many times I’ve seen Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, so many times I’ve said to myself “I need to make time to spend a day there.”  Finally, just a few weeks ago, I did.  I was taking my son to Bedners Farm to pick strawberries and decided that we should check out the refuge before we did that.  It was a lovely cool day outside, the skies were blue, and there was no legitimate reason not to spend as much time as possible outside, so we popped in.  There are a lot of different areas to explore, so be sure to allow yourself some time!

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After checking out the Visitors Center, we headed to the very back of the park.  Here you can get out of your car and launch your boat, rent a canoe, fish, or hike or bike up and down the levy.  We explored the nearby surroundings and saw tons of wildlife!  There were pairs of ducks and wading birds at the shore.  We walked over by the fishing pier to see what we could see… and boy did we see something!  A monster sized alligator was relaxing in the water, just yards away from someone fishing, seemingly fast asleep.  I’m sure it was waiting for a special delivery on the other end of the fisherman’s line, but the fish didn’t seem to be biting that day, and it appeared someone got a little tired of waiting.  Other animals seemed to have noticed Sleeping Beauty as well, ducks swam just feet from it without flinching and fish were picking bits of gunk off its back.  A little further down the fishing pier were several baby turtles out sunning themselves, safely distancing themselves from the alligator.  Personally, I think they should be more worried about the ducks, they can be a bit shady.

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After checking out the first area we piled into the car and went over to the area you can park to get out and hike.  This foot traffic only area is park of the Great Florida Birding Trail and has miles of dry hiking and an observation tower around marshy areas where you will find plenty of wildlife.  We saw tons of herons of all kinds wading in the water looking for lunch, butterflies fluttering all over, small birds flying between trees, coots and moorhens swimming among fish and turtles, and turkey vulchers circling above who knows what.  The trails are easy to walk and there are areas with bridges to cross over canals making it a very pretty hike.

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Probably my favorite part of the hike (and the day) was the final stretch heading back to the parking lot.  Along this last walk we came across a small alligator sitting atop some sawgrass that was enjoying the sun and warmth far too much to be bothered by anyone or anything.  It sat peacefully as small crowds gathered to look at it.  Also along this area were small ponds with water so still that it looked almost like a mirror.  In this area were turtles also sunning themselves, creating a picture perfect scene that so many people seemed to miss because of much “bigger and cooler” things happening.  A few yards down was another distraction, and certainly my hilight of the day, a very brazen red shouldered hawk who sat atop a small tree with people a mere 10 feet away.  People directly below, he couldn’t seem to care any less as he preened away and surveyed the area.

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As promised to my son, we jumped back into the car and headed off to Bedner’s Farm to pick strawberries.  When you’re leaving the preserve remember to check out the canal along the road, you never know what you’ll see… you may see a Great Blue Heron of large and lazy Alligator like we did or maybe you’ll get super lucky and see some of the resident Otters.

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Of course, if you head into Bedner’s and are out in the fields picking strawberries don’t think you’re out of the wildlife woods.  We came across this little guy on our way in swimming with tomatoes.  He was small and harmless and surely looking for rodents sneaking into the fields to snack on some fresh produce.  So if you see a gator in the fields don’t fear it, thank it.

IF YOU GO:

Check out Loxahatchee Wildlife Preserve here…

http://www.fws.gov/loxahatchee/

Don’t forget to stop in at Bedner’s and either pick some fresh produce for yourself or purchase some from their farm store, they’re really great!

http://www.bedners.com/

Pic of the Week – 3/9

March 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Pic of the Week | Leave a comment
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I know what you’re thinking… “It’s Monday, how could you possibly have a pic of the week already?”  Let’s face it, it’s not going to get any better this week than that face above!  Over the weekend my best friend and I returned to Crystal River because I wanted to spend my birthday with manatees.  Strange request maybe, but they are quite the party animal!  This little guy above kept on making his way away from other groups and back to us.  He was not only the hilight of our trip but also my Pic of the Week. (Stay tuned for full story to follow… as soon as I manage to catch up on other backed stories!)

Pic of the Week 3/2

March 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Pic of the Week | Leave a comment
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This weeks Pic of the Week is a throwback picture from a long time ago. This past week marked two things – it was the 9 month mark since my dear Hoku had passed. 9 months later, it still hurts and I’m still heartbroken. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of her. But Hoku was more about laughing than crying and I know she wouldn’t want tears shed over her. So while I miss her terribly, this week also marked a very important day – it was 12 years ago on February 26th that I brought Hoku home. This picture was from that day. My adorable little bundle of fluff that stole my heart and forever changed my life. So even though she’s not here with me today, her spirit lives on in our hearts, and I am so grateful and honored to have been her human for over 11 wonderful years. My Hoku, the 4- legged love of my life, and this weeks adorable Pic of the Week!

(For my newer readers who are wondering who this lovely little puppy is, see my above tab “Farewell Hoku” to read about the World’s Best Dog)

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