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/

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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Everglades Sunset

February 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Posted in Breaking Tradition, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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When it comes to the motions of the sun, Florida has some pretty great views.  With Oceans to both out East and West we are able to see some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  The Keys were always the best to me, you could catch a sunrise, spend the day playing, and walk across the street for drinks on the beach at sunset.  Living on the East Coast on the main land of Florida, I’ve seen some beautiful sunrises at the beach.  I’ve always been bummed that there wasn’t a way to enjoy a sunset without spending a few hours in the car and hauling across Alligator Alley.  Turns out you don’t need the Ocean to enjoy a sunset.  If you’re on the East Coast and want to enjoy a beautiful, colorful, peaceful sunset look no further than our very own Florida Everglades…

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Just west of the Sawgrass Expressway is endless sights of Everglades, a true beauty of Florida.  If you happen to be in Broward County, take Atlantic Blvd all the way to the Sawgrass, get on going South, and before you actually hit the Expressway is a construction sight on the right.  This is a fairly popular place for people wanting to see a beautiful sunset, so don’t worry about being all alone in the Everglades.  Park along the road, walk on back and up onto the levy, and enjoy the sights.  You can bring a chair and relax or your hiking boots of bike and explore the levy, including a part that heads west into the glades.  It is the Everglades, so expect to see nature. Upon arrival, sparrows were swooping everywhere, hunting insects.  You’ll also see flocks of birds flying around, which makes for some pretty cool picture taking opportunities.  You’ll probably also hear larger animals shuffling around in the saw grass.  Naturally, my dog wanted to explore the noises, but as crazy as she makes me, I wasn’t about to have her become dinner for an alligator.  We didn’t come for trouble, we came to relax, and to see this…

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Sanibel Snowbirds

November 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Posted in For the Family, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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After an early dinner on Thanksgiving, my family and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather on the West Coast of Florida and head over to Sanibel Island for the afternoon.  I had read that the White Pelicans were in town for the winter and was dying to see them for myself.

Our first stop on the island was to Blind Pass Beach, an old favorite of mine.  We stopped to take pictures of the kids at the beach but we also had quite a show from feeding birds.  Out over the water, Brown Pelicans were diving left and right while Gulls circles frantically and Osprey hovered nearby.  It was a Thanksgiving feast for all the birds!  After watching the birds for a while, we “convinced” the kids to load into the car and head over to Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge to see who was wintering in town.

If there is one thing Ding never lacks, it’s shore birds.  We saw tons of Gulls, Sand Pipers, and Plovers at just about every body of water.  Even with these more common residents, I could see a big increase in population from our last visit back in May.  This was already good news to me, the cooler weather really does bring the birds into the park.

Another sure sighting in Ding Darling is the good ol Osprey.  At my last visit, we were there just after nesting season, when the young were getting ready to fledge.  This time, the posts with platforms that are set up for the Osprey to nest on were all empty, but the Osprey were still out and about.  I had heard that Bald Eagles were in town for the winter and quite often a cruising Osprey managed to psyche me out with my hopes of seeing one here. (We did, for the record, but we were driving outside of the park and it flew overhead. I cursed myself for the rest of the day, until we happened upon a pair when we were 5 minutes from where we were staying… another story to be posted over the course of the next few days.)

Of course, no trip to Ding would be complete without the plethora of Herons and Egrets.  Even the usually shy Little Blue Herons were making appearances today.  What I love about this place is that I always see at least one Reddish Egret, something I rarely see back home on the East Coast of Florida.

Despite the effort to come at the best possible time to Ding Darling (later in the day, at low tide) we didn’t see the massive flocks of Roseate Spoonbills that can be seen here at times.  I was still pleasantly surprised to see the two we did see, I always love seeing them.  We saw one wading out with other birds near a sand bar and another gracefully flying by as we got out of the car to admire something else.

Ah, the White Pelicans.  Winter residents to the refuge.  THIS was who I had come to see!  I had just missed them last spring so I wasn’t about to miss them this season.  They certainly didn’t disappoint.  There were several groupe hanging out together as more flew in for the evening doing everything a snowbird does – sleeping, eating, preening, and driving horribly… oh, wait, that’s the other kind of snowbird.  They were a beautiful sight to see!  I am grateful to have family on the West Coast now, I know I’ll be back to see them before they head back North for the summer.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Fl

January 26, 2012 at 2:36 am | Posted in The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I took my son for a walk at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray. (It’s a good thing I took a picture of the sign, otherwise I never would have been able to spell it! You would get a good laugh out of me trying to actually pronounce it.) This wetland area has about 2 million gallons of “fresh” water pumped into it daily, making it’s name, “Wakodahatchee” (Seminole for “created waters”) quite appropriate. The water being pumped in is reclaimed water from it’s neighboring water treatment plant. At least it’s not getting dumped into the oceans where we swim, right? Regardless of where the water comes from, the animal residents here are happy as pigs in, um, freshly recycled poopy water. (I joke, but in all seriousness for those of you just getting to know me, the animals really are very happy here in their home and the water is being pumped in is more clean than some swimming pools)

Just like at Green Cay, our welcoming committee was a soft shell turtle. No, wait, make that two. Hold on, there’s three and four… OK, let me try this again – the welcoming committee was made up of a whole bunch of soft shell turtles. As soon as we looked over the edge at them they quickly came swimming up. Even though the rules for the park clearly state “No feeding the wildlife”, these guys were clearly begging! I know begging, I have two large dogs. They had the same reaction to everyone who looked at them, hoping that someone would take pitty on the poor starving turtles.

As soon as we walked around the bend in the boardwalk to the first big opening in the water we saw this guy basking in the sun. Quite happily too, look at that gator-smile! I could over hear some people, who were clearly regulars at the park, saying things like “Look, there he is again” and “Oh he’s always at that same tree”, which leads me to believe this is his throne. From here, he gets a good view of everyone coming and going, and those of us on the boardwalk get to see a beautiful alligator.

One of the things I found really cool about this park was all of the nesting birds. They were literally EV-RE-WHERE! There are a lot of “islands” made up of old trees in the middle of the water, all covered with bifferent kinds of nesting birds. Herons, anhingas, cormorants, ibis… all peaceful neighbors on these trees that remind me of birdy apartment buildings.

Aside from the usual ibis, coots, and moorhens, the bird I seemed to notice the most today was the Great Blue Heron. Some were down in the water hunting but most were roosting away in the trees.

The Great Blue’s weren’t the only herons making big numbers. The adorable little Tri-Colored Heron seemed to be around every bend too, and typically very close to the boardwalk. I don’t think they even noticed all the people around them… or the woman walking the boardwalk who was talking on her phone so loud that I’m fairly certain my best friend in Atlanta could have faintly heard her.

While not present in the large number of it’s much larger heron cousins, this single little Green Heron was a nice find. He was creeping through the trees, looking for his next meal. I never knew the bottoms of their feet were so colorful!

There were also a few Great Egrets at all ends of the park aw well, most in the shallow water, looking for their next big catch.

There are a few other kinds of turtles present here other than the soft shells. The back side of the park seemed void of a lot of action but was full of turtles. Of course, the loud woman on the phone had walked this path just before me, so the turtles might have been the first brave beings to come out of hiding after listening to something they probably thought was the shrieking of a giant predator.

There were quite a few beautiful breeze ways throughout the park. Sometimes you’ll find marsh bunnies hopping through or grazing in them, somethimes they’re empty. I happened to be lucky enough to find these two beautiful Wood Storks strolling through this one.

This park isn’t just home to big birds. You’ll also find several types of Warblers here in all types of environments (reeds, trees) as well as the Red Winged Blackbird. Some of the Warblers had me fooled, I was looking for Cardinals with the sound they were making, instead I found an itty bitty impersonator. The Red Winged Blackbirds, by the way, are much less obnoxious than te regural Blackbirds you’ll find begging for french fries in a McDonalds parking lots and are absolutely beautiful when in flight. (If you’re on the right side of them to see their brightly colored shoulders.)

Soon after walking past the cute little Warblers, we spotted this Osprey circling in the sky. He was beautiful, he was huge, he was clearly hungry and looking for a meal… I quickly pulled forward the cover on my sons stroller and I kid you not, he flew away. Of course, there’s no way he could have ever actually grabbed my tank of a child, and I don’t honestly think it was more than a coincidence, but I still didn’t want to have to fight with a bird of prey, especially one as majestic looking as this.

Our smaller gator at the front of the park wasn’t the only one we saw. When we were looking at the smaller one at the beginning of our walk two women asked me “Did you see the big one yet?” They told me he was toward the end of the walk (or beginning if you go left at the split) and “looks like a pile of mud”. By the time we made it around, there was the big ol pile of mud, fast asleep, with birds practically about to crawl over him.

Toward the end of our walk, quite possibly as tired as my son, we saw this pair of Blue Winged Teal Ducks napping under a couple of trees. They were the first pair I had seen all day and I was happy to have stumbled upon them, I like these little guys.

As we were walking out and watching the poor starving turtle show we noticed ripples in the water moving fast. It was this little cormorant speeding after fish. At one point he bumped into a turtle, who was not entertained, and must have bit at him because it was followed by a big splash and resulted in this guy fleeing the scene faster than he had been chasing the fish.

IF YOU GO…

Bonus, this is another FREE park! Don’t be surprised if it smells a little, well, birdy. Birds are everywhere, therefor birds poop everywhere, it’s a fact of nature. This is another park where the pets need to be left home. (Do you really want Fido becoming gator bait?) There are restrooms at the enterance of the park, but that’s as extensive as the facilities go. You may consider bringing a snack, certainly water. There are stops along the walk for you to sit and rest in a covered pavillion. What this park does lack is frequent trash cans, so don’t be a slob and hold on to your garbage until the end of the walk where you can get to a trash can. Also, don’t be like that loud mouth woman who let all of the park visitors know her business, if you’re going to ignore the nature around you and blab on the phone just do it quietly, remember that other people are there to enjoy the wilflife.

Enjoy your visit!

http://www.pbcgov.com/waterutilities/wakodahatchee/

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