Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12/25 Last Day at Myakka

I went on a last bike ride today and took some photos.  I love the roadway down to the lake because it is so typical of the scenery around here:

Saw some folks looking into the trees down by the lake with binoculars.  There wer these two adult bald eagles sitting at the very top.

In spite of today being Christmas Day, the park was very crowded.  There are only a handful of empty spots in the three campgrounds, and there were a lot of people who had just driven in for the day.  It seems strange to go to a park for Christmas, but a lot of people have this time off and are here from out of town.  Some others were local and said they had come for a walk and to see birds.

One of the reasons I wanted to get out today was to check on the resurrection fern.  As I posted a few days ago, these plants dry up in dry weather, but  as soon as it rains, they perk up and "resurrect" themselves.  We had a heavy rain four days ago and a lighter rain yesterday.  I found this tree down by the lake, and indeed, the resurrection fern was green and looked alive:
I rode down farther to a bird walk, or a boardwalk, that went over the marshy end of the lake.  Here is what I saw.  Here is the boardwalk and a picture of me resting from the longest part of my bike ride:
And here were a pair of deer:
And finally some white pelicans and a couple of great blue herons across the lake.  There were some ducks and terns nearer, but it was impossible to identify them because of the grasses hiding them.

12/23 Marie Selby Botanical Gardens - Sarasota FL

After my beach walk, I headed here.  This is highlighted as a top attaction to Sarasota, and I really enjoyed my two hours here.  Parking is tight, but I was able to park in the bus parking area, which was adequate, although I had to back out instead of making the tight turn at the end of the parking lot.  (I did check to make sure it was OK for me to park there, as I always do, although someone would have a rough time towing my motorhome away!)

According to the website, the mission of the gardens are as follows:  "Seven greenhouses are the heart of the botanical research and plant identification programs for which Selby Gardens is recognized around the world. The Gardens’ mission is to provide an oasis of inspiration and tranquility, while furthering the understanding and appreciation of plants, especially epiphytes. Selby Gardens is perhaps best known for its living collection of more than 6,000 orchids, but it is also an established authority on other epiphytes including bromeliads, gesneriads, and other plants."

Obviously, I did not take photos of all of the orchids, but here are a few:

This one was in the orchid area, but it sure looks strange:

Here are some of the interesting carnivorous plants in the greenhouse:

And some of the views of the outside gardens:

And here is a very beautifully landscaped fish pond, right after a gentleman had to fish his camera out from among the fish!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12/23 Siesta Key Beach near Sarasota

After doing the last of my Christmas shopping in Sarasota, I decided to head west and try to find a beach.  I knew there had to be one, just not where. 

What I found is Siesta Key Beach, along the Gulf, just west of Sarasota.  I was even able to park in the nearby public parking lot.  The beach is very soft white sand that reminds me a lot of the sand at White Sands, New Mexico, although they are entirely different.  White Sands is pure gypsum, like the wallboard in most houses.  This beach is supposed to be 99% quartz.  It is very similar to the sand at Mykka, so I wonder if they are related.  Need to do some more research.

In any case, this is a very wide beach with sand hard-packed enough that you could ride a bike on much of it when the tide is out, as it was this day.  The water is crystal clear and there was a lot of very shallow area for wading. 

I found a small flock of mixed birds that were trying to rest on the sand in spite of being harrassed occasionally.  I took photos and then went back home and identified them, as followed:

This one is a black skimmer:

And this is an Elegant Tern.  This is the same bird in both photos: just fluffed up in the second.

And here is one I can't identify.  Any suggestions? It has a black beak and black feet.  Might be a common tern. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12/20 The Canopy at Myakka

I rode my bike down to the canopy walkway and tower.  It was constructed about 7 years ago with donations and gives you a wonderful opportunity to see stuff as it would be seen as a bird or animal that lives in the canopy.

First, most of the trees in this area are either Live Oaks or Sabal Palms.  Where the land is slightly higher, you will also find pine trees, but those are not as common.  You will most likely first notice that the trees are covered with hanging Spanish Moss.  As I learned this week, this is neither Spanish or moss.  It is an air plant which, contrary to common belief, is native to the United States and does not kill the trees on which it lives.  There is nothing so indicative of the South as live oak trees hung with Spanish Moss. 

My campsite is (or was until I moved) under a live oak tree, hanging with Spanish moss:

Here are two views of the canopy walk.  It is not very long, but it enables you to get really close to large branches near the tops of trees.

One of the most interesting thing about the trees in this area are the number of plants living on them.  This photo shows four different species living on one branch.  The humidity is very high here, making it easy for such plants to survive during even the dry times. 

·         The white arrow points to a white lichen.
·         The pink arrow points to a pink lichen.
·         The blue arrow points to a mass of dried up resurrection fern.
·         The blue arrow is a Cardinal air plant that will have a red flower later in the year.

Here is another photo of plants living on tree branches.  Notice how tightly together they are packed.  This results in a lot of biomass in a very small area.

The resurrection fern looks pretty unimpressive in the dry times of year, but as soon as it rains, it looks like this photo I found on the internet.

It took me quite a while to learn the names of desert plants while I was in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, and now I have a whole new environmental area to learn.  I did buy the Audabon book that contains plants, animals, birds, and even fish, so I have some studying to do!

12/19 Animals of Myakka

This place is full of animals--from birds to reptiles like alligators, all are easily visible from the roads and nature trails.  I have seen several alligators each day just out driving or riding my bike.  And as I posted earlier, there are hundreds and hundreds of turkey and black vultures who spend their winters here.  Down by the lake, you can look up in the sky on any day and see a hundred or so circling.  There are so many that they shoot off special fireworks to keep them from roosting above the campgrounds, where they are known to eat any available black rubber, including windshield wipers and window trim. 

First, here are some of the birds.  The first is a great blue heron.

Next are some wood storks:

And a closeup of a vulture:

And a couple of alligators:

A big turtle:

And some deer and a couple of racoons nearby in a tree:

And while I could not get pictures of wild pigs, here is some of the damage they have done.  Very large areas of the undergrowth look as if someone has come in and rototilled it.  They are supposed to have 2,500 pigs in this park, and do trap quite a few each year, but they multiply very quickly.

One funny thing is that I have so far been in two campsites in this park.  One had a tiny green tree frog living under the cover of the electrical hookup post and scurried to hide everytime I peeked inside.  My new campsite has some other kind of frog, but this one was brown, doing the same hiding trick every time I plug in or unplug.  Lots of very tiny salamanders of some sorts always scampering away, also.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12/18 Myakka State Park, FL

This is a very nice place, at least during the week when it is quieter.  It is a very large park (55 square miles) with a variety of environments:  swampy areas, a large lake, wooded areas full of live oaks hanging with moss, and sandy pine hammocks.  The road in follows the wet grasslands and the wooded area:

At the lake, there are airboat and tram tours, plus a restaurant and places to just watch the wildlife.

Here is a not-too-friendly alligator sunning itself on the bank, and a sky full of vultures, plus some on the ground.

 There are signs warning you of the vultures damaging cars.  Apparently, they like to tear apart windshield wipers and anything else made of black rubber, including the seals around windows.  They shoot off fireworks from a gun contraptions into the trees near the campgrounds to prevent them roosting there and munching on RVs.
I took a tram tour and saw deer, raccoons, more alligators, and this turtle.  You can see how varied this park is in terms of environment.