Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sucking the Life Out of the Blood Lily

B  discovered my prized blood lily (Scadoxus multiflorus) being devoured by a large snail.



It had its foot wrapped around some of the slender flowers.


Blood lilies are highly toxic. Africans in some places use this plant to make poison arrows. Apparently, this snail is unaware of this practice. However, B removed it after I took these pictures.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trout Pond Hike

We hiked a new trail for us today. It is in the Apalachicola National Forest with one trailhead being at Trout Pond. The trail is named the G, F & A, for the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama Railroad. Part of the trail follows the old rail bed. Here is a link to a map of the 2.4 mile trail.

We walked it both ways today with friends. We got a late start and it was hot. I was expecting more shade than there was. The yellow flies were only bad around the water, which was a blessing.

We saw a number of interesting critters along the way, including a cow ant (wasp) and another dead insect with extremely long antennae. Neither of these shots turned out.

But this fence lizard had wonderful texture and posed for us on the paved trail. I have read that fire ants have taken their toll on Eastern fence lizards. There is some documentation that some version of evolution on fast-forward is helping these critters survive by learning to twitch their bodies when under attack, which shakes off some ants. Also, their hind legs are getting longer to aid in twitching and running away from fire ants.


We took our time and spent two hours on the five miles. We only saw seven other people on the trail.

When we returned, we had a picnic and then walked down to Trout Pond. We were thinking it has an interesting name, as there are not trout in our waters. Though large mouth bass are sometimes called green trout, they are not in the same family as trout, but sunfish.

The pond was alive with turtles and we saw a few fish. There were several species of birds that were singing.

This month, I have been teaching my kindergartners about swamp things. I taught them about Claude Monet and his passion for painting water lilies and reflections on his pond in his garden at Giverny in France. They each created their own water lily picture with pastels on dark blue paper. I am always so impressed with their products and their enthusiasm.




I think Monet would have liked setting up his easel at Trout Pond.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Walk on the Wild Side

Last night, we left our box turtle watching to go on our walk. A bit down our block, we watched a raccoon run across the neighbors’ yard and disappear into their backyard. We continued on to the next block and saw a mother raccoon staring at us. We stopped and then saw four young ones and another adult raccoon. Do the math: that makes SIX raccoons in this one yard! The four little ones were in a tree. One of the adults turned and ran; and then the others followed suit.

Just another family out for some exercise on a pleasant evening.

For the past three days, I have seen raccoons out in the daytime in or near our neighborhood. I have been told that those out in the daytime are usually mothers feeding young.

Further along on this same walk, we watched a red-shouldered hawk pounce on something in a yard, but seemed to come up empty.

Dragonflies were out by the dozen. As we approached home, the fireflies were starting to twinkle, too.

Some neighbors were talking in the road about a half mile from our house. One man had killed a three-foot moccasin in his back yard this week. So it may be another snake year at out house, too.

This evening we saw a fox trotting down the road.

I love where we live. I love seeing so much wildlife, even if six raccoons is a bit much!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hide and Seek Turtle

I was almost home from school this evening, when I slammed on the brakes to keep from running over a box turtle that was crossing the road toward our property. I got out to find out where it was in relation to my tires. It had gone back into the grass. I drove on in the driveway and got my camera and B, and we found it moving right along in the opposite direction from the road.


After supper and after I had done some homework, we went outside and B spotted it again. This time it was walking right up our front walk. By the time I got the camera, it was on the porch. (That is the airline for the goldfish pond.)


It skirted the pond.



And followed the house wall where it sat for quite a while.

Later we found it in the purple heart near the garage door.


When we returned from our walk, we could not find it. I’ll check under the tires before I leave in the morning.

Regular readers may remember that this spring, I took a young box turtle to school for a week, before letting it go across the cul-de-sac where the swamp is. This box turtle is much larger than that one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tongue Twisters

On our field trip last week, a little girl brought me her sweater to hold. I said, “What do I look like? A clothes hanger?” So later she brought it to me again, and said, “Here, hose clanger!”

Yeah, teaching phonemic awareness has its challenges.

So a mother overheard this and shared that her young children have struggled with the word “popcorn.” She said, “I can’t tell you how many times we have gone to the movies and my kids have started up with, ‘We want cock-porn! We want cock-porn!’” She said it is not the kind of thing you want to make a big deal of because you don’t want them to think it is funny and continue to say it. On the other hand, you want everyone around you to know that it is POPCORN that they really want.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Before the Raindrops Disturbed the Water’s Surface





Sitting on a dock over Lake Jackson, we listened to the frogs in the aquatic weeds. We watched the moorhens walk on water and stalk snacks. There were several different kinds of small fish swimming in the clear water beneath us. It was bliss.

We sat until I feared for my camera (that I had tucked in my shirt as the raindrops became more numerous).  We reluctantly returned to the truck.

I know that I will be back soon with the kayak.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

First Moccasin of the Summer

This young moccasin was sunning in the middle of a road near Lake Jackson on the north side of Tallahassee this Sunday afternoon. It is okay with us that we do not live anywhere near Lake Jackson. We have enough moccasins of our own!


It was only about 14 inches long and never moved as I photographed it. (Though I had B watching the snake while I fiddled with the camera!) 100_7349

If we zoom way in, (below) you can just see the yellow tip of the tail that is characteristic of young moccasins. This is the first time I have ever seen it.


Here you can see the broad stripe down its cheek that is a sure sign of a moccasin.



In the shot below, you can see that triangular head.


As snakes go, it was a purty snake.

When we returned minutes later, there was no sign of the snake.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Ole Warbler and the Shoe

Prothonotary Warblers are cavity nesters. The males, like this one, build several nests and then sing to attract a female who finishes one of the nests. 


B’s work boots live just inside the garage when they are not working. This Prothonotary Warbler seems to be considering the merit of this as a nest site. He disappeared in first one boot and then the other, before following his nose in search of a less odiferous location than sweaty work boots.

As many snakes and skinks as we have, this was probably not a good idea, anyway.

Just one more reason to dump your boots before you put your foot in.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Youngsters at Wakulla Springs

Well, the rain held off and we had a great final field trip to Wakulla Springs to ride the Jungle Cruise. Only a few of the kids had ever been on the boat ride.

I took this picture last year, the last time I was there. Today was very overcast.


We had an excellent tour guide/boat driver. Along the 30 minute ride, we counted 25 alligators! We had a great time, despite the fact that the kids were hungry, having missed their regular 10:34 lunchtime, or as I say, “brunchtime”. By 11 o’clock their tummies were screaming and they let me know, one at a time, until I had my answer ready, “I know. We will eat as soon as we get off the boat.” “I know. We will eat as soon as we get off the boat.” “I know. We will eat as soon as we get off the boat.”


It was nesting time on the river, so kindergartners were not the only youngsters out.

Wood ducks were plentiful as can be seen in this picture of poor quality. There were six fuzzy ducklings with both parents.


Here are two more.


The anhingas had youngsters. That is dad in the black suit. His kids are in the matching tan outfits. The egrets are nesting next door.



The yellow-crowned night heron youngsters were in their nest waiting for their lunch, too. They look a little more patient. Perhaps they had had a snack.


Note to self: next time bring the animal crackers to tame the tummy growlers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Serious Century Sentries

Walking around the block as frequently as we do gives us the chance to notice small and not so small changes in our neighborhood.

A house on the next street has a pair of large century plants flanking the driveway.


Look at the interesting patterns on these leaves.




But what drew me to take this series of pictures was this little shoot coming from the parent:


Doggone, if it isn’t cracking right through the asphalt!


It is either one tough little plant or we have pretty lousy asphalt.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cat--- Not Dog


We are studying about swamp things in kindergarten. On Thursday, weather permitting, we will take a field trip to Wakulla Springs and ride the Jungle Cruise.

Last week, I was reading a book about pond life, which has many of the same characteristics. I pointed out the picture of a cattail. When I asked if anyone knew what that was, one little girl never hesitated before she shouted out, “It’s a corndog!”

Well, it looks like a corndog! And it is a compound word like corndog. It begins with the letter c like corndog. But it has a different pet in its name: cat---not dog.

Clip art from

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Slime Mold Sculpture

Wednesday morning, B called me outside just as I was getting ready to leave for school. Here is what he called to show me: a slime mold growing on the wood chips left from where we had a tree taken down and the stump ground.


There were two of them. B noticed up where the white pieces are that the ground was wet there, creating the effect of a shadow.

The best we can tell, we have something called Fuligo Septica, a slime mold commonly found on wood chips, with the unfortunate common name of “dog vomit.”

Twenty-four hours later it looked like this:


Turn your head sideways to the right and look at it. Don’t you see Statler or is it Waldorf?

What?? You don’t remember them??? Those were the two geezers who sat in the box seats and complained about how bad the show was on the Muppets. I love those guys!---though I don’t know which was which. OK,  so the left side of his face is a little melted. What do you want from a slime mold?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mother’s Day Paddle

Late Saturday afternoon we headed down to Wacissa with two tasks in mind: to collect some freshwater specimens to put in an aquarium in my kindergarten class, and give me a chance to improve my kayak skills while B fished on the bank. Well, we only drove through the parking lot and kept on going. It was wall-to-wall locals, in party mode. Not our scene.

So we agreed to go back early Sunday morning when we were certain it would be calmer. When we arrived at about 7:30, there were only 2 empty boat trailers in the lot. We had it to ourselves. B had surprised me by loading the old Grumman and showed that he was more than able to manage the big canoe by himself, even when the wind picked up.


As you can see, it was foggy and the fog hung around until we left three hours later. So it stayed cool and comfortable, with or without the breeze. it was some of the most pleasant, peaceful time I have had lately.

B enjoyed fishing. I am happy to report that I was MUCH improved in my kayak skills over the first time I took it out the weekend before.

I was glad my binoculars are waterproof. No, I didn’t tip, but I didn’t stay dry either. One day I will figure out how to keep my camera dry and take it along.

Before we left, folks were starting to arrive. We were able to net some tiny fish and freshwater shrimp and snails before we left so we had accomplished our tasks.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crazy About Coreopsis

In October of 2007, B went to the Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Georgia and brought home bags and bags of give-away stuff. In there for me was a package of coreopsis seed. I planted it in the spring out in front where there is a slope and a very shallow open ditch.  It did well and when the heads went to seed, I flung them around.


They started coming up in the early spring this year and have grown and grown. I took some young plants to a friend as a gift and took one to my school garden. B moved a couple to the backyard and the rest we left alone.

As you can see, they are happy.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Mission’s Military Muster

Mission San Luis, here in Tallahassee, had a day of special activities and we went with friends to take it in.


There were visiting historical interpreters from the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, some of whom performed military drills. The cannon was fired.


Muskets were fired.

The first was new to me, called a hand gun. It came early in gun development.



Then came the matchlock.


And then the flintlock.


Here seven flintlocks were fired and two misfired, which supposedly is not a bad record.


The two men nearest kept their stance to the count of ten, in case it was a slow burn from the pan down to the charge.


Outside the fort, we walked through the living history exhibits and talked with the volunteer interpreters.


Their lunch prepared outdoors smelled heavenly. It smelled like Spanish bean soup.



It was a very warm day, but enjoyable.