Worth the Trip

A good friend visiting from North Carolina was the extra incentive needed for me to make my first trip to St. Augustine. The warm and sunny weather was perfect for wandering the historic city’s streets.

While we only had part of a day to explore, we covered a lot of ground and it was a great overview. More importantly, we had a lovely time catching up. I know I’ll return someday for a more thorough exploration, though definitely not on a weekend (talk about crowded).

Native Son

Met this Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri) in a friend’s backyard during my visit to Atlantic Beach this past weekend. Like the one I encountered a couple of years ago, he was quick to closeup.

Endemic to this state, they are now considered a vulnerable species due to rapid habitat loss. While common in the pet trade, Florida has instituted a two turtle limit per household (unless you have a special permit).

As for the gender of the turtle, I observed a slight concave dip in the plastron which typically indicates a male (though I could be wrong). Don’t worry, I gently returned him to his spot under a bush after the photoshoot was over.

I can imagine him telling his story to fellow turtles, “Dude, this one time I was abducted by aliens. I went flying through the air – super fast. And when I woke up I was back in same spot. Maybe I was hallucinating, maybe it was something I ate?”

My Secret Garden

I arrived early for work this past Saturday (it was a new location for me and I’ve learned to allow extra time because of this insane Florida traffic). Since I had some time to kill, I wandered behind the shopping plaza toward a little drainage in the hopes of spotting some interesting birds.

As I slipped through a break in the shrubs, I found myself in a forgotten orchard. Three large mango trees towered overhead and a spindly avocado was bearing fruit but they were all overshadowed by the flowering citrus trees.

Citrus blossoms are my all time favorite scent! I wasn’t alone in my appreciation for them, there were a number of pollinators busily flitting from bloom to bloom. As I stood there savoring the scent I tried to imagine the old home that once existed on that land.

The roar of traffic from the busy road nearby interrupted my daydreaming. I gathered a couple treats to take with me, some fragrant blossoms and a couple ripe citrus fruits. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to that little corner of disappearing Florida.

Passion Butterfly

I was pleasantly surprised to discover this Gulf Fritillary caterpillar (Dione vanillae) in my front yard last week. As their other common name denotes, they use passion vines (of the genus Passiflora) as their host plants.

I converted my front lawn into a pollinator garden last Spring and have added more plants over time. My sister brought me two passion vines when she visited back in October (cuttings from her vines in Tucson).

Thankfully, the vines survived the frost in January and they are now supporting the next generation of flutterbies (my preferred word for lepidoptera). I’m a happy girl!

End of an Era

This past weekend I bid adieu to my trusty companion of the last ten years. After traveling 164,000 miles across this country (through all of the lower 48 states excepting New York and the ones up in New England) the house battery in my 2012 Prius finally gave up.

After careful consideration, I decided not to spend the several thousand dollars to replace it. Instead, I purchased a new hybrid. I’m hoping my Kia Niro will be as reliable and long-lived.

And yes, for those of you who know me, she does already have sand in her. That’s life at the beach for ya…

Sea Greatest

I came upon this Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus) one sunny afternoon. It didn’t seem too concerned about my presence as the ablutions continued unabated for at least another ten minutes.

This is one of the largest tern species in my area. Easily differentiated from the similar Caspian Tern by the bright white forehead which is visible outside of breeding season.

The Latin binomial translates as sea greatest (though personally, it’d make more sense as great of the sea).

Back in the Day

Took advantage of the sunshine this past Monday and wandered through the Manatee Village Historical Park in downtown Bradenton. Thanks to the foresight of Manatee County back in the 1980s, this site preserves 14 historic buildings along a stretch of brick-paved Manatee Road.

Only the visitor center, which occupies the old Wiggins Store/Hotel Dixie Grande, is original to the site. All the others were relocated from various locations across the county.

According to their signage, the town of Bradenton owes its existence to a storm. In 1865, Captain John Fogarty’s fishing vessel was beset by wind so he turned up the Manatee River for protection. The natural harbor and thick woods enticed John to move his entire family from Key West.

The family claimed 132 acres and established the Fogarty Boat Works. Boats were in high demand at the time for two reasons; the consequences of the Civil War and waterways were Florida’s highways. The rest, as they say, is history…