A few weeks ago I snapped this photo of our neighborhood rabbit, Peter Cottontail. He is an Eastern Cottontail rabbit and lives in the lush landscaping of my next-door neighbor’s front yard. I thought he was the only rabbit in my little part of our neighborhood which I realize is rather naive as they are known to breed like, well, rabbits. This weekend we met what I assume is one of his offspring in quite an unexpected way!
Early on Sunday morning my husband noticed ripples across the top of our pool, which was odd as the pump was off. It’s not uncommon for a small frog to get into the pool and make it’s way to the skimmer, and we rescue a few a year. Ready to scoop out the first frog of the season, my husband took the top off of the skimmer and found something furry instead. As it turns out, a small bunny had gnawed it’s way through our screened enclosure and ended up in the pool. We think he was in search of water since it’s dry season here and hasn’t rained for weeks, but who knows for sure.
We have no idea how long he was in the pool, but had thankfully made his way to the little floating flap in the skimmer and was perched on top, keeping his face out of the water. After scooping him out of the pool we realized he had hurt one of his front paws and called the best vet hospital in town for assistance. The fine folks at Blue Pearl Veterinary Services do some pretty amazing things, including working with a wildlife rehab organization that was delighted to help our little swimmer recoup from his big adventure.
As an avid bird watcher, my back yard is filled with bird feeders. There are all kinds of visitors including several Northern Cardinal families, a pair of Tufted Titmice, many Blue Jays and a couple of Mourning Doves. In addition to all of these feathered visitors are the squirrels that seem to spend their days plotting and scheming to steal all of the specially selected birdseed right out of those feeders.
Rather than fighting a loosing battle, I decided that if I fed the squirrels something they liked better than my birdseed, perhaps they’d leave the feeders alone. This plan appears to be working, thus my weekly visit to the local pet food store for “squirrel food” that goes in a special feeder just for them on the fence. To be honest, watching all of the neighborhood squirrels fight over who gets the last peanut of the day is more entertaining than you might think, and I’ve grown attached to those furry little thieves.
Like many photographers, I have a trip to Africa to photograph the amazing animals found there on my bucket list. The chance to see lions, leopards, zebras and elephants in their natural environment would really be the trip of a lifetime. There are still many exciting and beautiful places in the US that have on my list to visit, so my dream trip to Africa will have to wait a few years! In the meantime, I do have the bug to see some animals a little bigger than Peter Cottontail that lives in the neighbor’s front yard.
One option is the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park which offers opportunities to see animals and birds native to Florida like this bobcat. A truly wonderful opportunity to see endangered native species up close, this park is on the top of my list for a weekend in the near future!
With Easter Sunday just around the corner, it seemed fitting to share a photo of a bunny today. The Eastern Cottontail is one of the most common rabbits in North America, and this one lives in my next-door neighbor’s front yard amidst their lush landscaping. Known as “Peter Cottontail” around our house, we see him often around dusk venturing out for some dinner.
Rabbits have long been a symbol of fertility and abundance due to thier ability to breed large litters often, especially in early spring. In ancient times, rabbits were the favorite animal of the Germanic goddess of spring, Eastre, symbolizing renewal and fertility in the spring. The exact history is a little vague, but the tradition of a rabbit delivering brightly colored eggs to children on Easter Sunday is thought to have began in Germany in the 1500′s. The tradition was introduced in the United States in the 1800′s by German settlers in Pennsylvania Dutch country. As the tradition spread across the country, the modern day Easter Bunny was born.
I hope you each have a wonderful weekend and a very happy Easter!
River Otters are quite possibly some of the most entertaining animals to watch. On a recent visit to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, I thoroughly enjoyed watching a pair of otters swim laps in their habitat. Perfectly equipped for aquatic life, river otters have dense water-repellent fur and a streamlined build allowing them to reach roughly 5 mph when swimming. Back and forth, criss crossing each other’s paths, the otters seemed to really be enjoying themselves, and showed us all a thing or two about how to quickly do a flip turn. While this pair was enjoying the freshwater springs from the Homosassa River, river otters can live in both freshwater and saltwater habitats. As long as there is an abundant food supply and easy access to water nearby, they seem adapt well to an array of aquatic environments.
Striped hermit crabs are one of the more common hermit crabs seen along the beaches of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in the Southeast. Most often I’ve run in to them when I thought I’d found a perfect shell to add to my collection, only to find it was already occupied. While they are aquatic crabs, striped hermit crabs are quite hardy and can survive on shore for several days. Just like their distant cousins the shrimp and lobster, these crustaceans have ten legs. Only their first three pairs of legs extend their shells, while the other two pairs have the important job inside of holding on to the shell. This striped hermit crab was residing in a crown conch shell when it was photographed at Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin, FL.
Although my family has lived in the Tampa Bay area for several years now, we are still discovering new places to visit. It took a couple of years, but we finally stumbled across the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo, and it’s become a favorite place to visit. The gardens give an excellent opportunity to view native Florida plants and learn a little bit more about some exotic tropical plants that thrive in the area. The gardens feature several retention ponds as well as the beautiful McKay Creek. The water attracts all kinds of wildlife and is especially pretty when the water lilies are in bloom. I took this photo because I loved the contrast of the purple of the lilies against the green lily pads. It wasn’t until I got to see it enlarged on my computer screen that I noticed the the frog on one of the lily pads in the foreground, and that made me like it that much more!
American Alligators are found in the Southeast United States, with the highest numbers in Florida and Louisiana. They are usually found in wetland areas with fresh water, but have been known to venture into brackish water. Alligators play an important role in the marshes by creating “gator holes” large enough to wallow in. These gator holes retain water through dry season which is vital to nearby fish, birds, amphibians and many other animals. While areas like the Everglades are perfect habitats for alligators, it is not uncommon to see them sunning themselves along the banks of neighborhood retention ponds, especially in the winter months when the water is cooler. In fact, this year I noticed that there is a new alligator taking up residence in the retention pond in my own neighborhood! This alligator was photographed at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Over the holidays, I visited the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park for the first time. About 75 miles north of the Tampa Bay area, the park gives wonderful opportunities to see native Florida wildlife up close. Many of the current park inhabitants are either endangered or are unable to survive in the wild due to injuries. One of the big draws during the winter are the Manatees that congregate in the warm water from the Homosassa Springs. Another big draw at the park is a hippopotamus named “Lu”.
The park has a varied history dating back to the 1920′s when the deep freshwater springs that form the Homosassa River were a tourist attraction. Over the next forty years, the park changed ownership several times. With another set of new owners in the 1960′s, it became an exotic animal park with a range of animals from lions to spider monkeys. In the late 1980′s, the park was purchased by the State of Florida Park Service and the decision was made to remove all non-native plants and animals so that the park would reflect the “Real Florida”. Lucifer the Hippopotamus, or “Lu” as he’s known around the area, was actually a movie star and had lived at the park between movies since1964. He had gained quite a local following and after hearing that he would be transfered to another location, hundreds of local school children wrote to the Governor to ask that Lu be allowed to stay. Governor Lawton Chiles granted Lu honorary Florida citizenship so that he may stay the rest of his days at his home in the park. Lu celebrated his 51st birthday this January with a party thrown especially for him at the park.
As 2010 comes to a close, I took a look back at some of my favorite photos from this year. The highlight of the year by far was the trip my husband and I took in the spring to California. In a week we drove from Napa to Los Angeles, and I would have loved to have had more time. The scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway was simply stunning, so it’s no surprise that several of my favorites are from that trip. It was hard to narrow it down to only ten, and there isn’t really any rhyme or reason for why these photos are my favorites. There is something about each one that I love, so I hope you enjoy them all and have a wonderful 2011!
Although the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin is one of the most common of the dolphin species, it’s always fun to see one. Last weekend on outing into the Gulf with my family, we had the good fortune to see a pod of several dolphin near our boat. After stopping for a few minutes to get a better look at them as they were feeding, I realized that it was the first time I had actually heard a dolphin. Because I usually see dolphin from the shore, the soundtrack is usually a seagull or two and the sound of the waves hitting beach in the background. On this afternoon, as each dolphin in the group surfaced there was the unmistakable sound of them breathing through their blowholes making it a real treat. This photo was taken about 15 miles off shore of Clearwater Beach, FL.
Zebras are synonymous with Africa. This is a Grévy’s Zebra, the largest of the three species of zebra, and is found wild in Kenya and Ethiopia. As compared to other types of zebras, the Grévy’s Zebra is taller, has longer ears and has narrower stripes. This species was named after the French president Jules Grévy, who was given one of the zebras as a gift in the 1880′s. While I wish this photo had been taken on an exotic safari, it was in fact taken in Tampa, FL. On this afternoon, I was able to catch this zebra having a little fun trying to scratch an itch.
While this photo may not suggest it, Greenhouse Frogs are in fact tiny. This one is only about the size of a quarter and had taken a dip in the pool before posing for this photo. Greenhouse frogs are one of the most common frogs in Florida and live anywhere that is warm and humid, as the name ‘greenhouse’ suggests. Fully grown they are about an inch long and are easily recognized by their chirpy song-like calls. This particular frog and it’s family lives under a plant on my patio and sing most humid nights, or when the plants are freshly watered.
This Loggerhead turtle was photographed at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping rehabilitate injured sea turtles. While the goal is to rehabilitate all of the turtles needing care, some become life long residents at the hospital if their injuries are too severe. These permanent residents are ambassadors to help educate the public about dangers to sea turtles. This particular turtle was a patient receiving treatment that would later be released back into the wild.
Meet Tripod, a Green Anole Lizard that has lived on my pool deck for the last four years. If you couldn’t tell immediately from the picture, he’s missing his left front leg, hence the name. With only three legs he’s managed to make it through several tropical storms over the years and the coldest winter on record for decades.