Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Serpent in the Garden

I (S) was cutting flowers from the butterfly garden yesterday when I heard a loud rustling noise. I thought it was a neighborhood cat. They get in there all the time. I looked but did not see it. So I began to think of other mammals---squirrels, rabbits, raccoons--all of which are in our yard in the daylight. I still saw nothing ---and then I did. It was a snake. A big, dark one. I could see the head with its triangular shape. Both banded water snakes and moccasins have that same general shape and coloring.


I whistled for B and he came out. Of course, by then the snake had gone up in the red tip hedge--think row of trees. In that deep shade, neither B nor the neighbor could tell what kind of snake it was. The two of them herded the snake through the hedge down the length of our front yard  and into a net near the street.


The neighbor was pretty sure it was a banded water snake. We have had them to get in our little goldfish pond by the door before. I requested that they not release it across the cul-de-sac where the swamp is, thinking it would come right back. So it was put in a large Rubbermaid tub (with lid!) and driven to another swamp down the road a bit and released there.



Soooo.... the sons passed through town last night and we showed them the pictures still on the camera. This past week, they had been taking a class at the Jones Center in Newton, GA where they met a herpetologist. They forwarded the pictures to him for ID-ing and here is what he wrote:

Yep, what you got there is a pretty cottonmouth aka "water moccasin." ID characteristics are the vertical eye pupil, the arrow shaped head and the keeled scale (there is a pinch type looking thing going down the scale). Venomous and pretty common in Florida, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti.

Thanks, Kevin, for the ID.

So we went back and looked at the picture a little more closely and sure enough in the lower right hand corner, you can see those keeled scales.


No more sandals in the garden now!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tarzan Country

Had family in this weekend and since Saturday morning was so clear and beautiful, we decided to take a little boat ride: the jungle cruise at Wakulla Springs State Park, in Wakulla County. We had a picnic and then boarded the boat.


It turned out to be a really fun experience.

We no sooner were on board when a 6 foot alligator came up really close behind us while we were still at the dock. The clear water allows for nice pictures.



If you look carefully on this one below, you can see it had a damselfly over its right eye.


It swam in really close between our boat and the next and a boat driver, smacked the boat side to scare it off and it gave a good splash as it turned about.



The boat driver finally had to herd it away from the swimming area with a boat.

Once we headed down river, there were many more alligators and lots of birds and turtles and a couple of deer to keep our eyes and cameras occupied.

Baby wood ducks and duck weed: Good camou and major cuteness.


Little blue heron:


Little blue heron still changing from its white phase:


A female anhinga drying her feathers in the sun:


A moorhen:


A yellow-bellied slider:


We saw several nests and osprey and a few snakes and lots of alligators.



I called this Tarzan Country because the original Tarzan movies were filmed here.

Wakulla is a very large spring producing millions of gallons of water. It is very popular with the locals as a chilly swimming hole. Divers were emerging from having explored the caves that connect through the Florida aquifer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Backyard Bandits and Bunnies

Back in the day, when times were tough

Man went to the woods to get some grub.

Now they're looking for us to feed them.

What's up with that?

These critters were seen in our yard this weekend in broad daylight.



What's up, Doc?

Could it be that they are foraging early to escape the mosquitoes, that themselves are eatin' size?

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Pair of Power Pole Perchers on Paynes Prairie

Back at Payne's Prairie the following morning, there were two bald eagles perched on the top of the power line pole.







"Which way did he go, George; which way did he go?"


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Day is Done

Made a little trip to Gainesville for the surgery of a family member. We are thankful it went very well and in fact was the best case scenario. While the patient slept, we explored Gainesville a little. One evening, we went out on U.S. 441 to the observation platform on Payne's Prairie. There was a rather large rabbit down in the marsh below us. He was not impressed with our presence and went about his business of foraging for soup and salad, only to go home and hear, "Honey, wipe that duck weed off your mustache."


As the sun began to set and  birds took to their roosts, I took a series of shots through the power lines.








It was a peaceful and beautiful evening with just enough breeze to keep the bugs away.  It was really good stress relief.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Don't Blink


We call this Neomarica gracilis, the Walking Iris, for its wandering habit of propagation.  Some refer to it as the Apostles Iris, because it usually has 12-13 leaves before it blooms. It is native to southern Mexico to Brazil but is grown in many places around the world, because it can be quite happy in a pot. In Florida, it needs part shade and ours bloom well in fairly dense shade. The blooms come in spring and are only open part of the day, and we think, but aren't positive, that they are single day blooms. As you can see, without careful observation, you could miss the bloom altogether----and that would be a shame.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

When Iris Eyes Are Smiling


I think this is a stunning flower! The plant has been growing in our yard for several years now and is blooming for the first time. It must have gotten enough rain this year. It is called an African Iris or a Butterfly Iris but is not really an iris at all but one of its close relatives. It is one of several species of the genus, Dietes. This one is Dietes bicolor. They are African natives: so "they" got that part right. This bloom is about 4 inches across and will last for only one day, but there are other buds to open.  I think it looks rather like a little dog face.