Friday, January 9, 2015

Wildlife of Southern Florida

You may not have appreciated the picture of the grasshopper in my last posting.  Unfortunately I have another gross animal for show and tell.  This past week John and I visited the Calusa Nature Center, at which place there are various birds, amphibians, reptiles and alligators in captivity.  We  attended a talk where one of the center's employees brought out a Burmese python and a cane toad.
I will admit that he is rather ugly.  The toad has become an invasive species of Florida.  He was brought in from South America to eradicate pests which were munching on sugar cane.  Unfortunately he has poisonous glands above each shoulder, any creature trying to bite down on him will die.  Unfortunately this toad has a voracious appetite and is a prolific breeder.  Time for something pretty, right?
At the nature center is a butterfly house where we saw Florida's state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing.  We saw a lot of this butterfly even outside of the house while hiking the trails of the center. 
On Wednesday we took a tour on the wild side at Babcock Wilderness.  It was a 90 minute bus ride through prairies, pine flatwoods and swamp land.  The different ecosystems are part of a 90,000 acre ranch on which cracker cattle are raised.  Some of them are descendents of the cattle which the Spanish brought over.  The ranch is  a sod farm, and it also produces honey from saw palmetto.  We did see a fair amount of wildlife on our ride, course it did help that our driver threw out corn at some of our stops!  We saw wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, cattle egrets, blue and green herons, wood storks,  and even a flock of glossy ibis ( a first for John and I).  Pictured below is a limpkin, another wading bird native mainly to Florida.
We have had only rare sightings of this bird since we have been in Florida.  He gets his name from the fact that he seems to walk with a limp. Part of our tour allowed us to hike on a boardwalk over a swamp and there we saw the empty shells of the snail which limpkin eat.  Our guide informed us that the limpkin likes the African snail, another invasive species here in Florida.  Another bird we were happy to see is the snowy egret.  We have seen a lot of the great egret, not so much of the snowy.
We saw alligators lying around in the wetlands of the ranch, however our driver does keep a young one with her in a box on the back of the bus which she brought our for us to see.  This one is three years old and like most alligators is fairly docile until they reach about eight years of age.

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