Happy World Sea Turtle Day

June 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, Endangered Encounters | Leave a comment
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Happy World Sea Turtle Day, creature lovers! It’s not exactly easy to be a sea turtle. From the moment they hatch, they face the struggles of artificial light disorientation and being eaten by predators, to growing up and facing the dangers of ingesting litter and being struck by boats, all the way to having their nests poached when its their time to return to the beach from which they hatched to lay their eggs. Humans really seem to have turned out to be their worst enemy. But no matter where you are in the world, you can help. Help save our turtles, and the oceans they live in! Pick up trash, say no to plastic bags, make the switch to environmentally friendly lighting to reduce sky glow. Lets save what we have left for future generation to enjoy! A turtle that hatches today could still be around for our great grandchildren to enjoy, let’s be sure they are.

Top 12 of 2012

December 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Posted in Creature Feature | Leave a comment
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Here we are. It’s New Years Eve, 2012 is coming to an end in a short 8 hours. This has been quite a year for me personally, filled with a lot of highs, some horrible lows, but without doubt a ton of pictures! So to honor my year behind the camera and my first year blogging I would like to share with you my favorite pictures – my top 12 of 2012!

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12. Newly Hatched Duckling

This spring, a friend and I were heading out early to go canoeing. We stopped at a nearby Dunkin Donuts to grab some much needed coffee. On our way out to the car we were stopped dead in our tracks by the adorableness of this newly hatched Muscovy Duckling. While not attractive as adults, baby Muscovy’s are simple precious and “Awwwww” worthy.

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11. Feeding Anhinga

Just a few months ago, while walking at Green Cay Wetlands in Boynton Beach, we came across an Anhinga who had popped its head out of the water. We had seen some splashing and ripples in the water and knew it had been hunting. When is emerged from the water, it had a small fish speared on its beak. We watched as the bird shook its head around trying to get the fish off, laughing about its situation. I was taking pictures of it, mockingly saying “It looks like you have a little food on your face there…” as it managed to flip the fish into the air and eat it. The photo above, total accident! I love it when that happens!

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10. Mother of the Year

Speaking of accidental photos, this is one that I didn’t know what I had until I or home and really took a look. Last January I was with my family at Green Cay, it was a chilly day (for us here in Florida anyway) and it wasn’t a surprise to see Alligators up on banks summing themselves. Once I got home and was able to get a real look at my pictures I noticed I had captured something special – a mother alligator with her young. Alligators, as creepy as some people (not myself, for the record) may find them, are excellent mothers and super protective of their babies. This big girl was no exception, keeping her little ones close as other animals passed by.

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9. Old Fashioned Hand Washer

This summer, at around 18 months of age, my son was exploring with foods. And by exploring, I mean squishing the heck out of everything in his dish to get a full range of the textures he was about to eat. One of his favorite things to do this with was (and sadly, sometimes still is) fruit. Lucky for my, my dog Lani is always willing to lend a helping paw with clean up, including removing every last piece from his hands. Now if I could just get her to do the laundry.

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8. Coming In For A Landing

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Green Cay is one of my favorite hot spots for wildlife. Part of the reason I love Green Cay is that recently the Spoonbills have been pretty reliable, and I love those pretty pink birds and their goofy spoon shaped beaks. Unfortunately, due to only boardwalk access, it’s not always easy to get near these shy pinkies. One day this fall, however, a small group of us had quite the treat when a small flock of Spoonbills decided to wade our way. They spotted a group of other birds in a feeding frenzy and decided to come in for a closer look. This one bird in particular must have been hungry, he flew right past the others and landed about 10 feet from us.

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7. Ocean of Wonder

One of my favorite beaches in the world is Blind Pass Beach on Sanibel Island. I hadn’t been in years, so my family and I decided to take a trip over to the area in late spring. We were taking my sons pictures and walking the beach, picking through the endless piles of shells and admiring the beauty of the ocean near sunset, when we spotted something spray in the not so far distance. Before we knew it, a small pod of dolphins, including the mother and baby above, were yards off the beach and playing in the water. Even the pelican watched in amazement as we did at these beautiful creatures.

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6. Manatee Ahoy!

Also on the West Coast of Florida, we stopped in Manatee Park in Fort Myers during our visit at Thanksgiving to see what we could see. It had been chilly so we pretty much expected to see a few manatees there keeping warm. A few was an understatement. There was easily around a hundred preset this morning. Down by where the warm water fed out from the FPL power plant was a small group of manatees goofing around, wrestling and playing with each other, even breaking the surface and coming out of the water. They’re one of my favorite animals in the world, it was delightful to see them having so much fun.

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5. Bird is the Word

At one of our local parks, Peacocks have made themselves at home amongst the other farm animals. Typically shy thanks to rowdy children chasing them around, we were lucky on this quiet day to have this particular peacock put on a show. He flared up his feathers, fanned his tail, and shouted to anyone who was listening.

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4. Let Freedom Ring

Back on the West Coast of Florida, it was Thanksgiving Day and I had spent a good portion of the day kicking myself for missing the opportunity to take a photograph of the several Bald Eagles I had seen flying about while out driving. On the way home at nearly sunset I spotted a pair perched on a dead tree by a Dollar Tree in Cape Coral. Right as we pulled up, one took off, and this was right before the second was off and flying.

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3. The Manatees World

This picture is one of my favorites for so many reasons. Taken just last week, the memory of this day is still fresh in my head. This was from a trip to swim with the Manatees in the Crystal River. I was on a trip with almost my entire family, 12 of us were on the boat this day. In all the hecticness of the vacation itself, this beautiful mammal peacefully wading in Three Sisters Springs was a perfect reminder to slow down and enjoy what’s around you. This picture will forever remind me of how much I love manatees and how much fun I had with my out of control family.

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2. Under The Sea

Over the summer, I went with a friend and her sister to see our resident Sea Turtles that inhabit our local reef at Deerfield Beach. The reef was a mess and under a lot of sand thanks to hurricanes passing by. It took a while, but we finally found a section of reef full of beautiful fish. As we were taking pictures of the fish I could feel something looking at me. Mind you, it was Shark Week and I had just been watching it before meeting my friends at the beach. Go ahead and imagine how creepy that felt. As I turned to my right, there sat this adorable little Sea Turtle staring at us, giving us that “whatcha doin?” look. We then realized we had somehow wound up in the middle of a swarm of jellyfish. After we noticed we weren’t being stung, we cheered on this little guy as he swam among us and chowed down on the jellyfish.

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1. Patience

This particular photo is one of so many pictures I have of my son and Hoku. As my regular readers know, or those of you who can see the “Farewell Hoku” tab at the top (go ahead and check, it’s there) I lost my dear Hoku this year at 11.5 years old. It was an earth shattering loss, and I sit here more than 7 months later still heart broken. (I’m not gonna lie, I cried today over her.) While her absence is mourned every day, I was truly blessed to have had her in my life, and feel even more so blessed to have had her be a part of my sons life. Everything he knows about being kind to animals – kissing them, hugging them, cuddling them, petting them nicely, he learned at Hoku’s teachings. And even though he would occasionally get adventurous and try to taste her ear, pull on her tail, or pick her nose, she took it all like a trooper and loved him for it. This picture was taken back in February, it was just another day in the life of Hoku, being crawled al over like a jungle gym by the baby. Many times he would run up to her and just lay on her, sometimes he would feel the need to crawl across her, and she always had the Patience of a Saint. This is how I will always remember her, as the kind, loving soul she was every single day of her life, as my sons guardian, and as my best friend.

A Symbol of America on Thanksgiving

November 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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On Thanksgiving day, on the way home from Sanibel, I was still kicking myself for missing the opportunity to snap pictures of the Bald Eagles we had seen that day.  Little did I know, my real opportunity was 5 minutes down the road from my inlaws at the Dollar General!  Yes, that’s right, the Dollar General of all places.  We were making the final right turn toward our families neighborhood when I spotted two large birds on top of a large bare tree.  Most of the day, I had been getting my hopes up of seeing these majestic birds only to find out what I though could have been them from a distance was actually an Osprey or a Turkey Vulture.  This time though, with their bright white heads glowing in the sunset, I was sure!  I frightened my husband into popping a u-turn and going back.

With around 1,200 nesting pairs, Florida has the third largest population of breeding eagles, with Alaska having the most and then Minnesota. Bald Eagles usually make their way down to Florida around September for the winter/breeding season, often returning to the same nest they have used in years before.  Because Eagles return to their old nests, organizations have been able to install “Eagle Cams” at the nests while the pair isn’t using it.  This gives anyone with internet access the ability to check in on a nesting pair and watch from the time eggs are laid until the young fledge.

While I didn’t see a nest in sight, I’m certain this pair of Eagles will be nesting nearby.  Three times we drove past the Dollar General, three times at least one of the raptors was there, if not on the old tree than perched upon a cell tower on the other side of the building.  Cape Coral has around 11 pairs of nesting Eagles in or near the town, we were pleasantly surprised to find this pair was practically our neighbors.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

To locate a nest in Florida, try FWC’s Nesting Locator…

https://public.myfwc.com/FWRI/EagleNests/nestlocator.aspx

Not near a nest but want to catch the nesting action anyway?  Try one of these Eagle Cams…

http://www.eaglenestcams.com/

Return of the Wood Stork

October 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, Endangered Encounters | Leave a comment
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It’s late October, and while that may not mean much to us here in South Florida as we enjoy our sunny, 83* warm day outside, it does mean something to migratory wildlife.  As it cools down pretty much everywhere but here, some wildlife begins to make its way South for the winter.  One of my favorite seasonal birds is the not-so-adorable Wood Stork, who’s numbers have been increasing locally over the course of the last few weeks, with more to come I’m sure.

Though we may not realize it with the powerful numbers we see of them sometimes, the Wood Stork is in fact on the Endangered Species List, with it’s population decline most likely due to loss of habitat.  They’re a rather large bird with a bald head, the kind of face that only a mother (or bird lover) could love.  Wood Storks, the only breeding stork found here in North America, make their way down to our area every winter to breed.  True to their social nature, they nest in colonies.  The Wood Stork is a unique hunter.  They wade through the water with their beaks open and wait for prey to pass through, literally inviting small fish over for dinner.

Remember, next time you see that funky dinosaur looking face on a giant white birds body to respect these snow birds.  The species is trying to make a comeback from the threat of extinction, let’s cheer them on!

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

Florida Atlantic University Gives A Hoot

October 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, Endangered Encounters, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Check out Florida Atlantic University’s hooters!  Seriously, check them out, they’re adorable!  FAU has more on campus than just their mascot owl, it is home to many Burrowing Owls and Gopher Tortoises.  On the lack side of the stadium, next to a parking lot and just behind the airport, you will find a beautiful grassy area that is home to FAU’s resident creatures.  FAU has done a wonderful job of preserving habitats for these animals, making it easy for everyone to enjoy them but safe enough for the animals so they don’t feel threatened by anyone watching.

The Gopher Tortoise is an endangered species and federally protected.  It is experiencing loss of habitat everywhere it lives, so designated scantuaries like this are extremely important to help with the survival of the species.  There are “Tortoise Crossing” signs all over to remind students to watch where they’re driving in case they decide to leave their designated area for any reason.  The tortoises are fairly shy, usually retreating to their holes when they see or sense humans nearby.

While not considered endangered or threatened, the Burrowing Owl is considered a “species of concern” by the FWC, meaning they’re protected on a state level from and type of harassment.  They’re a small owl, only around 9 inches tall, with bright yellow eyes (as adults) and lack the tell-tale owl ear tufts.  They live in treeless prarie grasslands and as their name suggests, they nest by burrowing into the ground.  Sometimes they will take over old Gopher Tortoise burrows but they typically dig their own, anywhere from 4 – 8 foot burrows, where they nest and live as mating pairs.  Unlike most other owls, they’re active at all hours, which is nice for those of us who like to observe them.  These particular photos were taken about an hour or so before sunset, always a beautiful time of day and great for observing all kinds of wildlife.

Having lived just minutes from FAU for most of my life and even going to the school, I can honestly tell you it was only recently that I have actually seen these little guys.  Maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough, or maybe the teenager in me wasn’t REALLY trying to find them, but I never could.  Their scantuary near the stadium makes it easy to observe and photograph them.  They seem to be used to human presence.

Of course, that’s not to say they stay in their designated area, they’ll set up shop pretty much anywhere a person doesn’t typically walk and they can make (or find) a hole in the ground.  The adult and juvenile pictured below were by the student apartments next to a busy parking lot.  In the case that they do decide to move in wherever they please, the school fences off the area they’re in puts up a T perct nearby.  I was happy to see them in random locations throughout the campus, the more owls the merrier!

IF YOU GO:

You may want to skip a day in which FAU has a football game at home, they’re next to a parking lot just off the stadium.  Let’s face it, wildlife viewing and tailgating don’t really mesh well.  They’re here all year long so don’t worry.

Remember, the Gopher Tortoise is endangered and the Burrowing Owls are protected as well.  Give them their space and don’t disturb them.  Under no circumstances should you go over the fence and into their designated areas.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

Herons in Florida

October 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Florida is home to a ton of different wildlife.  A good majority of that wildlife is made up of different birds, from the tiny hummingbird to the much larger great egret.  Herons are quite popular throughout all areas of the state, usually found near any type of water body including canals, lakes, marshes, and the coast.  Here is a crash course in Florida’s Herons…

With a wing span that can stretch over 6 feet wide and standing up to 54 inches high, the Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America.  They typicalls feed on fish and aquatic invertebrates but can also be seen grabbing small mammals, small of baby birds, and even the occasional baby allgator if they’re brave enough to face momma gator.  They nest in the winter time with huge nests that look like giant stick piles in trees or anywhere up high.  There is also a white color morph, which looks nearly identical to the Great Egret, except that the Heron has light colored legs.

The Tricolor Heron is also a very common heron here in Florida.  Standing at around 26 inches and with a wingspan of about 36 inches, this little guy is much smaller than his Great Blue cousin.  Once known as the Lousiana Heron, the Tricolor is often confused with the Little Blue Heron.

The Little Blue Heron is a tad bit bigger than the Tricolor Heron, up to 30 inches tall and up to a 40 inch wingspan.  They are still often confused with one another.  The little blue is a solid deep blue looking color with a dark beak, while the Tricolor often has white on its chest and wings and a lighter colored beak.  The exception to the Little Blue’s color is in its younger days, it is solid white and grows into its dark color, with a white/gray pied look when it’s a juvenile.

The Green Heron is a cute little bird.  At only 19 inches high with a 26 inch wingspan, this year round resident is the smallest of our herons.  They are typically rather shy around humans and tend to keep a good distance.  The Green Heron has a unique behavior – it is actually known to “fish” by using a small insect of twig to skim the surface of water to attract a fish.

There are two types of Night Heron here in Florida.  The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (pictured above) and the Black-Crowned Night Heron.  The Yellow-Crowned is much taller and more common that the Black-Crowned, who is a short, squaty little bird and a somewhat rare sight. (Which is why I only have a photo of the Yellow-Crowned to share with you.)

*UPDATE*  Look what I FINALLY found!  A Black Crowned Night Heron.  I actually saw two on this particular day.  This one was resting in the trees as I left a park, then a second one attempted a game of chicken with the windshield of my car.  No worries, no animals are ever harmed in the making of this blog.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

And there you have it!  Your quick guide to impressing friends with your Heron knowledge… or making them think you’re a total weird-o for all of a sudden becoming a wildlife pro.

The Peafowl Problem

October 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Creature Feature | Leave a comment
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With their vibrant colors and beautiful tails, peacocks have long been admired across the planet for many years. The males have a long train tail that is used to attract females when they fan it out in a mating ritual.  More then just the lady birds are impressed, this display is always sure to make people of all ages “Ohh” and “Ahh”.  Unless they’ve set up camp in your neighborhood, then they’re not quite as exciting.

Peafowl (used to describe both males, peacocks, and females, peahens) are native to India.  So why is it that they’ve taken over certain parts of South Florida?  Just as with so many other invasive species like Iguanas and Lion Fish, the peafowl started as pets that were either released or somehow escaped.  With South Florida being the beautiful tropical oasis that it is, the species has managed to flourish.  They’ve taken over areas in Coconut Grove, Miami, and Boynton Beach where in the neighborhood of Fox Hollow their population reached an estimate of about 400 birds earlier this year.

So what is it about these beauties that make them such horrible neighbors?  For starters, they missed their potty training seminar, and they poop everywhere!  With their feces all over and the likelihood of it transmitting disease, yoy could probably imagine this isn’t the best combination in a neighborhood full of children playing outside.  Secondly, they’re loud!  Sure, birds make noise, this isn’t exactly front page news.  But if you’ve ever heard a peacock scream, you know how loud they can be.  Now imagine that outside of your window at 3am,  And unlike your obnoxious college neighbors, you can’t call the cops (well you can, just don’t expect them to actually do anything) so you’re stuck with night after night of peacock hollering at all hours from sunset to sunrise.  Also, though they don’t mean to be, they’re destructive.  Those long, sharp claws of their that can be used for self defense can do a number on your cars beautiful paint job.  Sound like a fun bunch, don’t they?

HOWEVER, for those of us who don’t have to deal with the not-so-glamorous side of them, peacocks remain a beautiful display of nature.  This particular bird was at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek, FL.  I didn’t happen to see any females nearby, so I can only imagine he was trying to impress (or challenge) my sons brightly colored stroller.  Regardless of his intentions, he put on quite an impressive show that both my son and I loved to watch.  Tradewinds is pretty reliable if you want to see them for yourself.  Just remember not to feed them, or you may end up with a rowdy neighbor.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

Pretty In Pink, The Roseate Spoonbill

September 27, 2012 at 2:35 am | Posted in Creature Feature | Leave a comment
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It’s not every day I see a beautiful pink bird, but every so often Mother Nature is kind enough to surprise me with the presence of a Roseate Spoonbill. I’ve seen them most flying over the Everglades while driving across Alligator Alley, and on occasion I’ve seen them at Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach, but this one in particular I happened upon in Loxahatchee.

 

Often confused with a Flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill is smaller than it’s pink cousin with a distinctive spoon shaped beak. (Hey, is that how they get their name?!) They get their pink pigment the same way Flamingo’s do, through their diet. Once hunted to near extinction in the 1800’s for their beautiful pink plumes, the Spoonbill population is on the rise thanks to the protection it recieved while on The Endangered Species List. Though it has been removed from the Federal list, it is still considered a speciec of concern in Florida. Habitat loss is it’s biggest threat now. This delicate bird is also a great indication of the health of the environment it lives in. I can only hope that the more often I see the uncommon bird, the better the environment is doing, and that there is a chance out children can enjoy creatures like this for years to come.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

This Otter be interesting…

September 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Creature Feature | Leave a comment
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Oh, Boca Raton – famous for your riches, snobby residents, and otters?  Well, a few years ago it was anyway when a rabid otter was wreaking havoc in the Western suburbs of Boca, attacking joggers, dogs, and a teenage boy who captured it on video who quickly became the butt of jokes by shows like George Lopez and Tosh.0 not because of the attack but because of his ability to scream like an 8 year old girl.  Luckily for the residents of Boca that otter is gone and times are back to normal.  But that doesn’t mean the otters are gone from Boca!

I was driving down Lyons Rd. (for those of you familiar with the area) when I was something in someones backyard that looked like a disoriented duck that had flown into a building.  As I passed it, I realized that it wasn’t a dizzy duck, but an otter in somebody’s backward, flopping around, cleaning himself, and playing. I quickly popped a u-turn, put on Finding Nemo for my son, and pulled off to the side of the road like a crazy person to take it’s picture.  Of course all it takes is someone seeing someone else with a camera, I quickly had attracted an Otter Paparazzi.  We stood around watching and taking his picture as he ignore our presence bu playing with blades of grass and grooming himself.  He was adorable and put on a great show.  In my 27 years down here, this was only the 2nd otter I have seen in Boca, and I hope to see them more frequently.  I keep checking where I saw him last, but no such luck… yet…

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