Archive for ‘Observations’

It’s All About Optics

While I was excited to spot a Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) hunting atop aquatic plants, I was disappointed with the lighting. Unlike most species, the beauty of these birds relies on the angle of illumination.

I felt fortunate to get a closer look while on my second loop through the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The iridescence is just stunning! For the most widespread ibis species in the world it is a rare sighting for me. They don’t spend much time here on the west coast (though I have plenty of White Ibis, their less striking cousins).

Cartilaginous Carapace

I met this Florida Soft Shell Turtle (Apalone ferox ) while touring the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive over the weekend. This is the largest of our three soft shell species, so called because they lack hard shells and scutes.

Based on the massive size of this one I believe it was a female (males tend to be noticeably smaller). Since it is the height of egg-laying season I presume that’s why she was out of the water. It was a treat to get to see her up close, look at that snout, it looks like a snorkel.

Cleaning Up

I joined the Treasure Island cleanup this past Saturday. As you’ve probably gathered by now, I take any chance to hit the beach. And as you may also know, I’m constantly picking up litter (have been since I could walk). So, spending a morning strolling the sand is not a hardship for me.

I definitely benefitted from the outing; filled two bags full of trash, savored the scenery, and scored some fun finds (an unopened bottle of water, a pair of sunglasses, and some cool beach toys).

For the Birds

In addition to the other creatures mentioned previously, my afternoon at Circle B Bar Reserve was full of feathered friends.

What I found interesting was that I took most of these images within 50 feet of each other. I couldn’t figure out the secret of that little bend in the creek but there must’ve been some magic there.

Top to bottom, left to right: Great Egret, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron (white juvenile maturing to blue), Black-crowned Night-Heron, Tricolored Heron, Pileated Woodpecker, Osprey, and four Ospreys in a tree (plus a number of smaller species that I couldn’t capture).

Enjoy the Red-winged Blackbird symphony (percussion courtesy of Pileated Woodpeckers):


Circle B Bar Reserve is famed for its robust population of alligators. Amazing to think that because of overhunting, the American Alligator was one of the first species listed with the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1967 (which was replaced by the Endangered Species Act in 1973). Thankfully, the species rebounded so well they were removed from the ESA in 1987.

As I strolled the trails I kept my eyes peeled for gators, especially once I started down Alligator Alley. With the exception of one large (and putrid-smelling) carcass all I saw were juveniles. There was one thing that gave me pause (look closely at the photo below):

Did you see the wet duckweed that slid off the gator? The large tail drag in the center? The foot and claw scratches in the lower right?

I could only guess at the size of this animal as I never did find it in the thick foliage. To be honest, I didn’t hang out that long looking for it, knowing it was mobile and nearby made me a bit uneasy. Especially since it’s the middle of breeding season.


I’m not sure the hatched cooter eggs belong to this specific species but there were definitely a lot of Florida Red-bellied Turtles (Pseudemys nelsoni) at Circle B Bar Reserve this past weekend.

Though they are a favorite snack of alligators, these brave terrapins are known for laying their eggs in alligator nest mounds. I’m sure the choice location offers protection from pillaging by raccoons (and others). As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Intentional or not, duckweed serves as excellent turtle camouflage. I was especially impressed with the one below who went the extra mile.

Does it remind anyone else of the Carol Burnett Went with the Wind curtain skit?

Like Highwayman Art

I stopped by Circle B Bar Reserve out in Lakeland this weekend. I arrived at the central Florida location a bit late in the day and the throng of early visitors had already cleared out, so I pretty much had the place to myself.

It was just me and the plentiful wildlife at the 1,200+ acre nature preserve (I’ll share more about some of them later this week) but first, the scenery. Tall, puffy clouds floated above Live Oaks laden with Spanish Moss while shades of greens were layered from the aquatic plants below to the towering Bald Cypresses above.

The views reminded me of the Florida landscapes painted by the talented, self-taught Highwaymen. They captured an idealized view of the natural beauty of the state, which sadly, is rapidly disappearing (much like the Highwaymen themselves). I’m so glad that areas like Circle B have been protected!