Pollinator Party

Spent part of a hot and humid day roaming the trails at Lake Chautauqua Park last week. No surprise, very few creatures were stirring; I only saw two other humans and no wildlife.

Unless you count pollinators; the bees, ants, and flies were very busy! Considering it is the height of summer they had a nice variety of flowers to choose from. As proof of their hard work, there were also lots of berries.

The least showy of the blooms was easily the most fragrant. It took me a moment of searching to find the source for the pleasant floral scent that hung over the trail. I ended up following the buzz of bees to an unimposing bush in the back of a thicket (and I am sad to admit, I still do not know the name of the shrub).

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Slack Tide

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Slack Tide, Treasure Island, Florida July 2020

At my favorite sunset spot at John’s Pass last week I caught a photo of slack water (or slack tide), the calm period between the change in tides. It brought to mind the song “Slack Tide” off Jimmy Buffett’s new album, Life on the Flip Side. Though Jimmy Buffett wrote these lyrics before 2020 and recorded this song in January it is fitting for this chaotic time we’re living in:

“Well we could use some quiet
We could use a little calm
Find the good in everybody
Share that “one love” balm…

I wish the whole wide world could swim along, at slack tide”

Sponge Fun

I have been avoiding touristy, crowded places (for obvious reasons) but last week I finally succumbed to my unceasing curiosity and checked out the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs. Thankfully, it was a wet visit which played in my favor as there were very few other people wandering around. Thank you, rain!

This small town along the Anclote River was founded in the 1870s as a fishing village but the discovery of sponge beds put the town on the map. Before the proliferation of synthetic sponges, natural ones were used for cleaning, art, and even contraceptives.

Surprisingly, in the early 1900s, sponges were Florida’s leading industry and the majority of those sponges were harvested and processed in Tarpon Springs. Though the sponge market has diminished over the years it left an indelible mark on the town in the form of Greek heritage.

One of the first investors, John K. Cheyney, was an immigrant from Greece and he brought over divers from the Dodecanese Islands to work in the industry. Their descendants remained in the area and it now has the highest percentage of Greek Americans in the country.

Walking along the waterfront I overheard folks speaking their cultural tongue, but of course, it was all “Greek” to me! In the future, I’d like to dine at one of the many Greek restaurants in town or perhaps I’ll return for one of the festivals.

Oh, Sh*t!

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Manatee Manure, Treasure Island, Florida July 2020

I occasionally glimpse Florida Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in the shallows as I stroll along my beach. Even if I don’t get a good visual I know they are nearby since I often find their feces on the sand. Fun fact: their poop floats!

If you have ever been out on a nature walk with me, you know I find animal excrement fascinating. There’s a whole story packed into fecal material, just waiting to be “read”.

So, I was thrilled to find this video about Manatee dung. As a self-professed “scatologist” I think Betsy Stoner and I would get along really well!

Not Alone

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Crabby, Wall Springs Park, Palm Harbor, Florida July 2020

Stopped off to explore Wall Springs Park yesterday afternoon. After a bit of a wander I settled on the bench on a fishing pier to relax in the cool air left behind by a midday storm.

Though I was the only human in the area I wasn’t alone: Anhingas were drying out in the mangroves, a Great Blue Heron patiently hunted in the mud, and Ospreys hovered overhead. They were all just as aware of my presence and kept their respective distances.

The little creature on the railing beside me, however, was a whole nother story. This Mangrove Marsh Crab (Sesarma curacaoense) wasn’t perturbed by me at all. In fact, I had to move my arm so this terrestrial crab could continue on its way!

A few minutes later, a couple aquatic mammals caught my attention as they glided through the flat water. What a lovely way to wrap up the day!

Head Shot

It was incredibly hot and humid that afternoon, in other words, it was a typical summer day in Florida. I pulled into a convenience store to purchase a refreshing iced beverage and, strangely enough, parked next to a Sandhill Crane.

Smartly standing in the shade of a small tree, the bird had no interest in leaving so I was able to snap a few photos. In lieu of sweating, the crane was gular fluttering (like panting) in an effort to cool down.

A bit of research and I learned that this is actually a subspecies, known as the Florida Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis pratensis). If it had been during the winter I would not have been able to differentiate this crane from the migratory Greater Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis tabida).