Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wildlife Friday

Approaching home after errands, I saw this:

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It had first been on the road. From a distance it looked like plant matter, and then I wondered if I were seeing a squirrel, and then I was all Holy moly, it's a gopher tortoise! Hey, get off the road, sweetie! Don't get squished!

I passed it, drove on a bit farther, parked on the grass by a retention pond, grabbed my camera, and headed back toward the tortoise. When it saw me coming it toddled off the road and onto a neighbor's yard...

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... where I got down on my knees, rump in the air, and leaned forward with my camera on zoom.

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Gopherus polyphemus. This species is now threatened in Florida and several other states, according to the University of Florida. "Scientists believe that gopher tortoises deserve protection, since they play an important role in many Florida ecosystems. They dig deep burrows that are also used by other animals like indigo snakes, foxes, and burrowing owls. The tortoises also graze on low-growing plants and help spread their seeds."

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It toddled farther into the yard. Watching it from grass height as I took this video, I couldn't help thinking of a baby in a diaper. This individual seemed slightly smaller than the 12" size stated in my National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida.

This is probably the fourth time I've seen a gopher tortoise since we moved here. It's the second time I've taken a video of one (better quality than my first video, taken six years ago from farther away).

The skies opened up a few minutes later. When we get sudden downpours here, it's as though the weather gods have aimed a pressure washer at the place.

After the rain, I spotted a cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) in the retention pond near home.

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The photos don't show it, but this is a female in breeding coloration (buff spots on her head, front, and back). She was on the opposite side of the pond from me, so I took this at full zoom.

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"The Cattle Egret is native to Africa and Asia, and only reached the Americas in the late 19th century," according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is now "one of the most abundant of the North American herons."

I was in the middle of taking this video when a couple of white ibises (Eudocimus albus) flew in to join her.

At a shade over 12 minutes, this is one of my longer videos. Gradually, I made my way closer and closer to the birds.

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The white ibis (Eudocimus albus, Family Threskiornithidae) "is frequently seen on lawns looking for large insects as well as probing for prey along the shoreline," says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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I wasn't far from the water at this point, on my knees. This is probably the closest I've ever gotten to ibises.

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This is a fast-draining retention pond. Even following that torrential rain, I was kneeling in some pretty dry mud.

The banks of the pond were covered in these pretty daisies:

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This was my view climbing out:

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Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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Blogger robert's sister said...

Wonderful pictures! I learned so much and loved doing so. :-) Thanks for watching out for that tortoise!

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10:41 PM  

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