No, no, no! That's NOT the kind of coot I meant!
Now, THIS is more like it!
American Coot (Fulica americana)
Photo by Doug Little
Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Everybody knows ducks quack. Right? Well . . . yeah, sure. But not ALL ducks. Some ducks whistle, believe it or not, and since one of them, the black-bellied whistling duck, is a favorite of mine, that's the one we'll be talking about--and listening to--today.
Black-bellied whistling ducks were called Black-bellied TREE ducks back in the Dark Ages when I first started birding. The name made sense to me, because you so often saw this large, long-legged duck perched in trees, especially along tall, dead limbs that afforded the duck a great view in all directions. I'm not sure if that's why they liked those so much, but that's where they were often spotted. But some time ago, their "official" common name (which is an oxymoron, by the way, since common names are not official, and are often different from place to place) got changed to Black-bellied whistling duck. Unlike many of the other seemingly arbitrary name changes in ornithology, this one actually makes sense. As mentioned above, this bird whistles instead of quacking. If you can't imagine such a thing, go HERE to check it our for yourself. (But come right back. We have lots more to learn about this guy).
Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Photo by Doug Little
Today, I'm starting a new series of posts on guess what? Yep. Ducks. Well, ducks and duck-like birds of the St. Johns River area. I was going to put this all in one post, and then I realized there were far too many good things to cram it all into one post. So, instead, I'm going to divide this up by species. In the next three to four weeks, I will be sharing photos and information on some of the most beautiful and interesting birds to make the St. Johns River basin home for part, if not all of, each year. I hope you will enjoy learning more about the following:
Black-bellied Tree Ducks, Now Known as Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
(There was a reason for the name, you see.)
(NOTE: Thought I'd scheduled this to go live yesterday, but apparently not. Since it didn't. Eeep.
So here it is today. Enjoy!)
New Feature Just For Laughs.
After all, one can never have too many of those, right?
Does anyone else miss Gary Larson's Far Side cartoons as much as I do?
If so, this is your lucky day. I've chosen these as a sampling of how much
fun Larson had with wild animals, and I hope you'll get as big a laugh
from them as I did, starting with one that has a bit of significance
for me. (Hint: Check back through past posts.)
Now, without further ado, I give you Gary Larson's somewhat twisted
view of wildlife and nature.
Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi)
In last week's #NotesFromTheRiver post, I introduced the stunningly beautiful and rare Florida panther, a subspecies of the western Cougar or Puma. The Florida panther prefers life in the forests and swamps of southern Florida, and is considered an endangered species. Sightings are rare, and unforgettable. Take it from me. I saw one over 30 years ago, and the image is still burned into my brain.
Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi )
Despite what you might think, or any rumors floating around central Florida you may have heard, I have not actually dropped off the planet. I hate to admit it, but I was slammed by another bad cold, which morphed its way into bronchitis, and knocked me on what some would call my "not inconsiderable backside." (Of course, they wouldn't call it that in my presence, if they know what's good for them. But. I digress.)
Needless to say, a lot of things have dropped by the wayside as I languished pale and pitiful . . . okay, as I sneezed and coughed, and moaned and groaned, and otherwise made a nuisance of myself. Ooops. Digressing again. Sorry. Back to the issue at hand, which is my abject apology for missing the last couple of weeks' #NotesFromTheRiver posts. I will do my best to make it up to you, in the weeks ahead, where, presumably, I will be hale and hearty and gloriously healthy once again!
Since I'm still convalescing here, I thought I'd make it easier on myself my first week back by breaking the panther post into two parts. This week, a brief overview of the Florida panther, the most glorious creature to reside in the state of Florida. (Our state animal, by the way.) While the Florida panther has been listed for many years as a distinct subspecies of the western cougar, recent genetic research could possibly change that.
Photo by Doug Little
Someone mentioned to me recently that bears gave them the heebie-jeebies, and were far more frightening than most snakes. As a person who isn't overly afraid of either, but respects both, I thought a post on our southern subspecies of black bear might be interesting. Hey, maybe my friend who shall go nameless (Mae) will suddenly realize she's not afraid of them at all. Nah. Probably not. But at least she might understand more about them, and that usually helps with negative feelings. So with that thought in mind, this post is dedicated to Mae, and I hope she enjoys it!
Florida Black Bear
(Ursus americanus floridanus)
Great-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)
Running a day late (and always a dollar short) on this week's #NotesFromTheRiver, and I apologize, but now and then, Real Life gets in the way of my fun stuff. And posting here is always fun. Thought today, I'd do a short, but hopefully interesting, post about a pair of twits that make the St. Johns River Basin home for part of each year.
NOTE: The term "twit" refers to various smallish passerine birds, often of non-descript coloration. Yes, it also refers to some people I know, but we are going to go with the scientific, ornithological definition of the term. Okay, that's not true. It's actually the just the silly definition often used by birders, along with expressions like LBJ, or "Little Brown Job." We birders have a weird sense of humor. It's what keeps us sane while we wander up and down wooded paths, peering into dense foliage, and trying to identify tiny birds that refuse to hold still.)
After such a long, involved post last week, I thought I'd give your brains (and mine!) a rest today, and share some of Doug's gorgeous photos. Enjoy!
a/k/a Swamp Mallow , Red Mallow, Scarlet Hibiscus, and Scarlet Rosemallow
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) on the Wing
Leucistic American Alligator
World's Rarest Reptile?
Finally! The post I've been most eager to share with you! Today, we are going to talk about white alligators, and the fact that they are not all the same. Oh, no. There are two quite different forms of white American alligators. Albino and leucistic. Both are very, very rare, indeed, but by far the most rare alligator (and probably the most rare reptile) in the world is the leucistic form of the American alligator, just like the one pictured above. What makes albino and leucistic alligators different from each other? So glad you asked, because that's what I'm going to endeavor to explain today. As I say, the alligator at the top of this page is a leucistic American alligator. The picture below is an albino American alligator.
Albino American Alligator
New Hatchling Awaits Arrival of Two Siblings
Which is correct? "Let's eat gator," or "Let's eat, Gator?" Actually, in this particular case, the answer is both. Along the St. Johns, it's an eat or be eaten world, for sure, and that holds true for Florida's apex predator, the American alligator. From the moment they hatch to their very last breaths, alligators are always chomping or being chomped, and today, we are going to take a look at their very dramatic life cycle.
Courtship for Florida alligators begins in early April, with mating usually occurring in May or June. From mid-August through September, the yellow and black striped babies starting hatching, thus beginning their perilous journey to adulthood. Like most baby animals, they are ridiculously cute at this stage. See?
(He's smiling at you. Smile back!)
A Lily Pad Makes a Good Resting Spot for This Striped Cutie
The Ol' Swimmin' Hole, Florida Style
Hi, Everyone! Yep, I'm back with the next post in my series about alligators. Figured we'd have a few laughs this week . . . or gasps, depending on your point of view. Here are a couple of "Only In Florida" photos. Yes, I know American alligators range much farther north/northwest than Florida, but something tells me, most, if not all of these pictures were taken down here. Enjoy!
You'd probably expect to see alligators like this when you visit the Sunshine State.
Hello, Friends! I'm happy to report that I'm officially allowed to do a wee bit of work each day, as I progress (slower than a turtle in a mud puddle) toward full recovery. Believe me when I say I wouldn't wish this bug on anyone. Okay, maybe there IS that one guy . . . he knows who he is . . . but other than HIM, nobody else. It's been weeks since I've been able to do more than cough, blow my nose, and moan and groan. (Might as well go for broke when you're that miserable, I always say.) But the good news is, I can spend a few short periods of time at my computer again, so I wanted to touch base with you folks, before you forget all about #NotesFromTheRiver.
On my last real post, I focused on the differences between the American alligator and the American crocodile. Starting next week, I'll be giving you a lot more information on alligators, since they are the reptile most associated with Florida, and very, very common in the St. Johns River Basin area. Along with some excellent photography (much of which will be pictures Doug Little has taken from on board the Naiad), I will be talking about the following:
Just want to let everyone know that I returned from my Charleston trip sick, and my uninvited “bug” is lingering much longer than I had hoped. While I am vastly improved over last week, I’m most definitely not back at 100% and my doctor keeps telling me rest is what I need most right now.
Apparently this is one mean, miserable cold/flu/bronchitis/pneumonia/vicious thingie, and shaking it takes a long time. With that in mind, I’m going to try to behave in a way that will make my doctor proud of me, and stay in bed (or at least bundled up in the comfy chair) for a few more days.
Please don't give up, though. #NotesFromTheRiver will resume weekly posts just as soon as I'm able to handle them, I promise, hopefully by next week! Thanks so much for your patience.
Okay, I've really gone to Charleston to celebrate my grandson's 4th birthday, but it was too long to fit in the post header! I'll be back Monday night, and will continue my series of posts on alligators on Wednesday. Until then, here's a wonderful photo to whet your appetite, taken by Doug Little. I'm calling it The Odd Couple. Enjoy!
See you next week!
NOTE: April 14 - I'm home, but managed to catch the world's worst cold/flu. Children's birthday parties are hazardous to your health! I promise I'll be back, as soon as I can remain vertical for longer than ten minutes. Thanks for being patient!
Gator Eats Croc!
Today, I'm starting the first of several posts on the American alligator, or Alligator mississippiensis. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing some fantastic photos and some interesting information that might be brand new to many of you. But the very first thing on my agenda is this: Alligators and Crocodiles are not the same animal. Nope. And I know there is some confusion about this, because I live in a state filled with alligators, and visited by tourists from many other countries who frequently refer to them as crocs. Even folks who realize gators and crocs are two different reptiles, often don't know how to tell them apart. Therefore, I thought explaining how to do so would be a good place to kick off this series. The animal above, by the way, is an alligator, not to be confused with a crocodile. The shoe above is a Croc, also not to be confused with a crocodile. Now let's get down to some comparisons that might actually help you distinguish between these two large predators.
The Difference is Mostly in the Head
As you can tell from the above photo, the alligator on the left has a broadly rounded, duck-bill shaped nose. The crocodile on the right has a narrow, much more sharply pointed nose. For me, this has always been a dead give away (pardon the phrasing.) There are other scientific differences, and different configurations of teeth, but my motto in identifying almost anything is to look for the easiest to spot clue. I think the head shape is the one. But what if you aren't standing directly over the reptile in question, able to get a view like this? Good news. They aren't the same color, and they have different profiles, too.
Florida Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin
(Agkistrodon piscivorous conanti)
When I was a kid, I once saw a movie (yes, movies did exist way back then!) set in a swampy area that was meant to be Florida, as only Hollywood could depict it. There was a dramatic scene wherein characters were trying to wade through waist-deep black water, and they were attacked--yes, attacked--by several water moccasins at once, and much shouting and snake biting and flinging away of serpents went on. I have no clue what the movie was, who starred in it, or anything else. I can, however, still picture that utterly ridiculous scene, which I knew to be utterly ridiculous even at that point in my life.
When It's a Calico Heron, That's When!
Last week, I posted about the differences between little blue herons and tricolored herons, but the post didn't go into nearly enough detail on either of these two wonderful birds. For one thing, I never even mentioned the basic statistics on size, wingspan, nesting habits, and range of either bird. Today, I'm going to rectify that with more information on the Little Blue Heron. And yep, that's one above, even though last week's post showed little blues looking like this:
Adult Little Blue Heron
TriColored Heron and Little Blue Heron
(All Photos by Doug Little)
When I first began birding, lo those many years ago (50, but who's counting), tricolored herons were called Louisiana herons. I don't know why that was changed, but since the common names for many birds change as often as the weather, I have my theory. Don't tell them I said this, but I firmly believe ornithologists don't have enough to do, so every few years, they go through their bird lists and randomly select species to rename. And to be fair, it does keep us birders on our toes. So, the charmingly named Louisiana heron became the (possibly) more accurately named, tricolored heron, for better or for worse. I love them no matter what they're called.