"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, March 18, 2013

Orlando Wetlands Wildlife

Geez, I'm really sorry that you got this post in its unfinished state. I must have accidentally clicked on Publish instead of Close when I went to bed last night. Here it is again with all the missing parts filled in. 

Rick spent most of today sitting in the GMC dealer in Orlando getting various things on the truck taken care of. Let's just say it turned out to be a much longer visit than he expected and leave it at that. : (

So Kona and I were on our own. After my tai chi class, I took my bike to a shop in Titusville for a tune-up. It had gathered a lot of dirt and grime on the chains and gears because of all the riding I'm doing on the nature trail here, which is mostly sand and dust. It is actually a dirt bike, so this is its specialty, but I just don't know how to keep it clean enough not to get all squeaky. After that we visited the causeway out to Merritt Island to a place where I have seen people letting their dogs swim. Unfortunately, when Kona waded out, it was only up to her knees. She played anyway, but it wasn't a great swim.

So here I am back at the RV, with the day to myself. Kona is wiped out from her "swim" and sleeping. It's kind of nice and quiet. 

Yesterday I took a walk in the Orlando Wetlands Park, just ten miles west of here in Christmas, FL.  It is a 1,650 acre nature preserve park created by the City of Orlando as method of disposing of its "clean" waste water.  Because most of this part of Florida was wetlands before the extensive canals and ranching changed it drastically, it becomes wetlands again pretty readily. This method of water treatment and disposal is being experimented with in other parts of the country where similar wetlands are being created or recreated, and wildlife seems to thrive in them.  Santee Lakes in California, a place we stayed and enjoyed the abundance of seasonal ducks and other birds, was one of the first to try turning water treatment into a multi-use park, very successfully.   

Pretty, huh? The wetlands here are very large, but there is no driving around them, so they require a long walk or bike ride on the trails. The 2.5 mile birding trail, shown below, is the one I took. I'd like to go back on my bike and take one of the longer trails some time.

Of course there were the ubiquitous vultures, both turkey and black types.  (There are more vultures in Florida than anywhere else we've been.)  This one was doing something a little unusual. It was auditioning for a part as an American eagle - for the USA motifs.  Fat chance, buddy.  

There are bald eagles here too. I'm always surprised to see bald eagles down here. I still associate them with the Pacific Northwest. But there are plenty of fish and habitat down here too, so why not?

There was a lovely pair of sandhill cranes.

Tucked away under some bushes I spotted what I'm pretty sure is a juvenile black-crowned night heron.  He was too far a way to get a very good picture.

The star of this Orlando Wetlands is the purple gallinule. (Not to be confused with the common moorhen, which is a little bigger, and plain old black.) In this picture you can really see the flashy coloring of his feathers and beak.

Here you can see him stepping out on his wild legs and feet. You can just see one of his really big yellow feet sticking out of the water in the above picture too. They're big like that so he can walk on top of the lily pads.

Right between the road and the water there were two little raccoon kittens out getting food without their mother. They were about half adult size. Maybe they were out on Spring Break too, like all the other adolescents visiting Florida this month.

On my back to the parking lot I passed a gaggle of children screeching about something, and as I got closer I saw what it was.

A mass of hundreds of eastern lubber grasshoppers must have just been hatching out. They were about 1/2 in long and on the move.  

OK, that's my cue, I better be on the move too.  I've been sitting long enough to grow Spanish Moss.


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