Mystery Photo Revealed

Six Baby Gators (Numbers are to the left of each head)

I only noticed the three “swamp puppies” on the small hummock on my return trip down the trail. Once I spotted them it was relatively easy to find the other three floating nearby. I thought this view would make for a good challenge.

I felt comfortable being that close and spending time capturing their portraits as I was on a raised boardwalk. I did keep an eye out for momma, as I know she had to have been close by, though I never did spot her.

Spreadeagle Atop Siblings

Still Impressive

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St. Petersburg, Florida September 2020

I was pleasantly surprised to encounter this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last week. It was truly only a matter of time since there are over 1500 nesting pairs of them in Florida (the highest number outside of Alaska).

This eagle’s imposing presence explained why the south side of Lake Maggiore was so quiet that day – all the Ospreys were giving the area a wide berth!

After spending time in the Pacific Northwest (mostly recently on the Central Oregon Coast and years earlier, the Alaskan Coast) I can see that there is a sizable difference between the birds of these discrete locations. This biological phenomenon is known as Bergmann’s rule; members of a species increase in size when living further from the Equator.

Mainly observable in birds and mammals (and also a few plants), it is related to the surface area to volume ratio. In warmer climates, body heat needs to be released rapidly while in colder climates it behooves the animal to store the heat (perhaps counterintuitively, larger animals emit less body heat).

In this case, Florida Baldies average just over nine pounds, while in Alaska they top the scales at fifteen. No matter what the size, Bald Eagles are still majestic!

Unfortunately, it was not that impressed with me…

Upended Pulchritude

Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida September 2020

The large, lavender bloom (1.5 inches) was the first thing that drew my attention to this Spurred Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum). On closer inspection, I found the growth at the top of the flower to be most curious.

After a bit of research I learned the “spur” is a uniquely formed sepal that is actually the lower lobe (but the flower opens upside down). Presumably, this distinctive twist assists with pollination, as the white line in the middle is a nectar guide (a sort of directional arrow for pollinators, “Good food here”).

It’s All Going to Pot

To say that this year has been incredibly challenging thus far, is an understatement. And the hits just keep on rolling.

My friends in Oregon had to evacuate yesterday, chased out of their homes on the (normally damp) Central Oregon Coast by the Echo Mountain Fire Complex. Other friends are on alert and ready to go if necessary. Here’s hoping they all stay safe and that the damage is minimal.

Though Willie and Merle recorded this song five years ago, it seems even more appropriate now. With only a few months left, I shudder to contemplate what 2020 has left in store for us.

“Well, it’s all going to pot
Whether we like it or not
The best I can tell
The world’s gone to hell
And we’re sure gonna miss it a lot”

Spinner of Golden Threads

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Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St. Petersburg, Florida July 2020

Measuring over three inches long, I couldn’t help but notice this attractive, female Golden Silk Orb-weaver (Trichonephila clavipes). The genus name describes this spider quite well; in Ancient Greek nephila means “fond of spinning”.

She builds and maintains a web that stretches for about a yard, anchored between trees up to ten feet away. Not only is that impressive but as the common name mentions, some of the threads are yellow in color (hard to photograph but you can see a few in the photo below).

I included the photo below even though it is relatively poor quality for a few reasons. One, it shows the diminutive male hanging out behind her (far away from her mouth). Two, she was in the process of wrapping up a meal. And third, part of her food cache is visible behind her back legs. There was really a lot going on in that shot, I do wish it had come out better!

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Sawgrass Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida August 2020