February 2, 2018

Autumn in Winter

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Believe it or not, this is what the cypress trees look like now at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Normally, this time of year, the trees are bare. But, look at those fall colors -- amazing! Apparently, Mother Nature is a bit mixed up since Hurricane Irma ripped through here in September, stripping away all the leaves.   They grew back -- like this -- and have stayed on the branches well past the time when they should have fallen.  New buds are supposed to start growing this month, so who knows what's going to happen! More on the affects of Irma here at Corkscrew...coming soon!

January 26, 2018

Red Shouldered Hawk

Red Shouldered Hawk 

As a volunteer at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary led me toward the coiled up, well camouflaged cottonmouth, this big guy swooped in and landed a few yards away from me. He certainly seemed to be on the hunt and some visitors were concerned the red shouldered hawk was going to try to grab the nearby (venomous) snake. The raptor scanned and scanned the area, and even flew from one branch to another in the vicinity, but showed no interest in the snake. Makes you wonder if it recognized the cottonmouth as a potential threat.  I'll will post more pics from our Corkscrew adventure soon.  In the meantime, the SDP staff is enjoying a long weekend.  Happy Friday!

January 23, 2018

Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth Do you see it?

Cottonmouth

Also known as a water moccasin, this cottonmouth snake is venomous and, as you can see, blends in amazingly well with its surroundings. Yikes!  I was a healthy distance away, safe and sound on the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary when I snapped this pic.  I never would've seen it, except a sanctuary volunteer led us to it.  Next post...the predator that arrived nearby and some thought it was eyeing this snake for dinner.  Enjoy the day!

January 21, 2018

Anhinga Family

Anhinga Nest 

The SDP team visited Audubon's Corkscrew Sanctuary yesterday and had a great adventure!  Most of the sanctuary is open once again after it was closed for three months due to extensive damage from Hurricane Irma. (More on that in upcoming posts.) We spent almost four hours wandering along the 2-mile boardwalk looking for birds and other wildlife. A highlight of the walk was spotting an anhinga nest -- conveniently located a few yards off the boardwalk for excellent viewing opportunities.  Here the female was spotted with one fuzzy little baby peeking out the nest. But, was that it?

AnhingaBaby2 

No, it wasn't! While I was adjusting my camera settings the mom & dad switched places -- revealing two chicks!  But, wait...

AnhingaBaby3 

Yep -- there was a third chick in the nest! Incredible. That's the female sitting in the nest and the male nearby. The anhinga is also known as the 'Snake Bird' because of its long neck.  When the babies stretched, they were all neck -- amazing.  This was my first time seeing an anhinga nest -- great experience watching them.

January 18, 2018

Frolicking Manatee

Manatee 

Recently, the entire SDP team visited Blue Spring State Park in Florida. The St. Johns River runs through the park and during the colder, winter months the constant 73 degree water flowing from Blue Spring attracts manatees. Knowing this, we visited the park on a chilly afternoon on the hunt for manatees. We were not disappointed! The day we were there 380+ had been counted by park rangers and volunteers. Manatees as far as the eye could see! And, these manatees were quite active and playful. Not sure if it was because of the flow of the spring water, but I've never seen manatees so animated! The one pictured was underwater playing with a downed tree limb. (I especially like his little white toenails.)  Manatees can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and eat 10-15% of their weight everyday in vegetation.  These big, lovable sea cows don't have any natural enemies -- just boaters that might not see them, which is why manatee zones are prevalent in Florida, requiring boaters to slow down.  Great visit -- the SDP team definitely will return!    

January 16, 2018

Touch Down!

Bald Eagle 

The eagle has landed! I visited the eagle nest in N. Fort Myers over the weekend to see if I could catch a glimpse of the two little eaglets in the nest. They're less than a month old, and while they're growing fast, they're probably still too little to be able to peer over their nest.  The past several years, a few traumatic changes have occurred at the nest: Ozzie (the male) died and Harriet was courted by a new suitor (M-15). The  couple has produced several eaglets, but, unfortunately, they haven't all survived, which has been tough for some people around the world who get very attached to these creatures as they watch them via a live webcam. The Eagle Cam is still tracking every movement in the nest...from an adult landing with a fish for lunch, to feeding the little ones, to taking off for a little quiet time away from the nest.  A word of warning: Watching these creatures is addicting!  By the way, Jack from Naples & Hartford in Season also visited the nest a few weeks ago and captured some amazing photos.

January 11, 2018

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler 

I knew this cute little guy was a warbler.  But, the question was...What kind of warbler? Turns out it's a prairie warbler, which, according to bird guide descriptions, lives in the south and east -- but, not on prairies. Go figure. I spotted him at Six Mile Cypress Preserve.  He was flitting from branch to branch so quickly, it was quite a challenge to get a decent shot. This is one colorful songbird I definitely could spend more time observing.