Our Blog
Read the Latest News

#NotesFromTheRiver - The Tiny Terror


Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake
(Sistrurus miliarius barbouri)

Last week, I told you all about the largest venomous snake in the United States, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Today, I'd like to tell you about his "dotty little cousin," the dusky pygmy rattlesnake. If diamonds are the hallmark of last week's big boy, polka dots are the hallmark of this week's little guy. And yes, he's a pretty small snake, averaging about 15" to 22" in length, though once in a great while, you might see one a bit larger. I never have, but YOU might. Who knows? I've heard there are a few out there. But being under 18" on average, these guys aren't as long as a full-grown eastern garter snake, which can get up to 28" or longer.

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - Rattlesnakes on Parade: Watch Your Step!


A Seriously Annoyed Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
(Crotalus adamanteus)

A change of pace from birds today, with a post about one of the last two dangerous snakes found in central Florida. The last two species, that is, not the actual last TWO. I've done previous posts on the eastern coral snake and the water moccasin, and today, I want to talk about the Big Guy--the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Next week, I'll deal with the Little Guy, the dusky pygmy rattlesnake. In the panhandle area, you can find timber rattlesnakes (a/k/a canebrake rattlesnakes) and copperheads, but we don't have them here. However, of the two we have left to talk about, one holds the distinction of being the largest rattlesnake the United States, and the other is the one with the most bites attributed to it. Since they are both snakes you want to avoid cornering or stepping on, I'd like to show you how to recognize them. You'll want to give them a plenty of space if you spot them in the wild, and call for a professional to remove them if you spot them in your yard or (gasp) house. So without further ado, let's get started on the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Continue reading

Alert the Media! Enterprise Heritage Center & Museum Extends Doug's Photo Exhibit An Additional Two Weeks!

Great news, everyone, especially if you haven't yet had a chance to check out Doug Little's fantastic photography exhibit at the Enterprise Heritage Center & Museum. This popular exhibit has been held over for an additional two weeks, so you still have time to stop by the museum, located at 360 Main Street in Enterprise, and see for yourself just how stunning Doug's photos are. The exhibit is free, but this wonderful little museum gratefully accepts donations.

To whet your appetite, here are a few of the kinds of things you'll see (and be able to purchase) on display through the 15th. Doug also has his notecards and calendars available for purchase as well.

Continue reading

Wonderful Volusia County Beacon Article featuring St. Johns River Eco Tours

Absolutely fantastic article in the Beacon this week. This is what St. Johns River Eco Tours is all about, folks, and why it's the best two hours you can spend in central Florida. I hope you'll check out this wonderful article, after you've perused a few photos here, and then I hope you'll immediately book a tour on the Naiad and see for yourself. Doug, along with the very able Captain Dooley will enlighten you on all things pertaining to the river and its wildlife, and will make you laugh along the way. And that doesn't even take into consideration the many stunning photo ops you'll have.

Continue reading

#WednesdayWonders - The Photography of #DougLittle


West Indian Manatee (Trichechus inunguis)

In honor of wildlife photographer extraordinaire Doug Little's one-man exhibit at Enterprise Heritage Center & Museum this month, I thought maybe you guys would enjoy a #WednesdayWonders post featuring some of my personal favorite photos of his. Yes, you read right. Doug's photography will be on display at the museum throughout the entire month of April, so I hope those of you in the area will stop by to view--and possibly purchase--some of Doug's most beautiful work. He has greeting cards and calendars on sale, as well, I believe.

Continue reading

Another LBJ For Ya!


Aggressive Much?
(Yes, Where Protecting the Nest is Concerned)

This week's post, though shorter than usual, continues our exploration of central Florida's most common LBJs. (In case you haven't yet read last week's post, LBJ is a highly technical birding term for hard-to-identify species. The literal translation is "Little Brown Jobs," and is widely used among frustrated birders everywhere.) My time today is somewhat limited, as I'm getting ready for company next week, and have the usual 6,000 things to do before they arrive, but I'll do my best to give you some pointers on another common LBJ, so you'll soon be able to call them by their correct names. Maybe. (They ARE difficult, remember.)

Continue reading

Three Common LBJs (Little Brown Jobs)


Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

As promised, this week's post veers slightly away from the shoreline of the St. Johns and into the backyards of local residents, focusing on those frustrating sightings that often can't be called anything other than "a couple more of those little brown jobs." Each of today's examples is a bird seen--but not always identified--frequently in our area, either year-round, or during migration. I'll do my best to give you some clear examples of what they look like, but I can't promise it will always be a help, unless you get a really clear view of said LBJ, or can make the identification based on habitat or activity. So, without further ado, here's my selection for this week.

Continue reading

To Paraphrase Neil Sedaka - Catching Up is Hard To Do

Yo! *standing on a box, waving madly* Remember me? Marcia? I'm the Official St. Johns River Eco Tours Blogger. Yeah, the one who hasn't been blogging for months and months. But remember way, way back--before September 10, 2017? Before the Wicked Witch of the South (Hurricane Irma) threw a tree at us, smashed our garage and cars to smithereens, and brought a hoard of contractors, roofers, stonemasons, electricians, plumbers, drywall hangers, framers, and painters down on our heads? I used to come around weekly in those long ago days, and regale you (to the best of my abilities) with images and what I hope was witty commentary on all things related to central Florida wildlife and habitats. Any of this ring a bell? I hope so, because what I wanted to tell you is--I'm back!

Continue reading

Yo! Pop Quiz!

I thought my time would be mostly my own as the last few bits and pieces of reconstructing our hurricane damage fell into place. I thought WRONG. Oh, so wrong! This last week of inspections and touch-ups and details has been insane, resulting in my not being able to post at all last week, and in really curtailing my activities this week. However, I decided I would touch base with you guys, and figured a brief, little quiz might be fun. With that in mind, pencils sharp everyone. No talking. Eyes on your own paper. And remember, neatness counts!

Continue reading

The Fairest of Them All - My Top Ten

When you see a gorgeous bird or a beautiful flower, do you find yourself thinking, "That's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen?" I do. So often, in fact, that I realized I MIGHT be exaggerating. Yes, me. The Queen of Hyperbole might be overstating things somewhat. A wee bit. Maybe. So, I asked myself to reconsider and come up with the Ten Most Beautiful Things Often Spotted Along the St. Johns River. Well, MY top ten, anyway. And here, in no particular order, are my winners for your consideration.

Continue reading

Presentations, Photography, and Information, Oh, My!


DeBary Hall Historic Site

The house is full of workmen again today, so my time is limited, but I just had to find a few minutes to share some exciting Coming Attractions with you. *Trumpet Fanfare Here*

Ahem. I'm very happy to announce that on Saturday, January 13, at 2:00 PM, Doug Little, owner of St. Johns River Eco Tours and wildlife photographer extraordinaire, will be joining me at DeBary Hall to help me kick off a new series of programs I'll be presenting at the Hall throughout 2018. Saturday's program (and the entire series) will feature many of Doug's fantastic photographs, in addition to lots of interesting facts about each species being discussed.

Continue reading

Why I'm Happy to Bid Adieu to 2017 - #HurricaneIrma


Neighbor's Tree On Our House

Some of you may remember that the last time I posted was September 6, as we were getting ready for Hurricane Irma. If not, here I am, jiggling your memory. On September 10, well before the last of the hurricane swept through Sanford, a series of tornados touched down hither and yon in our area. One of them snapped our neighbor's tree off at the base, and slammed it down on top of (and completely through) our garage! It brought down the roof, the attic flooring, the garage ceiling, rafters, and many a heavy box from the attic--and dumped it all on top of our new Honda, at which point life as we knew it came to a long halt.

Continue reading

#HurricaneIrma - No Post Today

Like most Florida residents, I am battening the hatches, preparing for the possibility that Hurricane Irma will be wreaking havoc with our state in the next few days. Latest projections show it hitting south Florida by 2:00am Monday morning, with several possible paths after that, one of which comes straight through central Florida, where I live. I'm hoping it wobbles farther east and heads out to the Atlantic to die a miserable death ALONE, away from all of us. But we have to be prepared, just in case.

This is the second most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, and certainly could prove to be catastrophic.  The storm surge and wind damage are the two things to worry about with this one, rather than the terrible flooding of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

I'll be back as soon as Irma blows over (see what I did there?), and hopefully, this one will NOT turn out to be as bad as some are predicting. This is one case where I hope the educated guesses are wrong, but I don't want to bet my life on that. So, back to removing all the flower pots and other items in my yard that could turn into lethal projectiles in heavy winds. (And BTW, they are predicting tropical storm force wind and rain in my area as early as Friday, so getting things put away or tied down is important.)

Please stay safe, all of you who might be in harm's way. ALWAYS err on the side of caution when storms like this are approaching! See you soon!!

 


I live right about where the "L" in "FL" is, well within the dreaded Cone of Uncertainty.

 

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - The Fairest of Them All


Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

 

The life of a writer is busier than most would imagine, especially when a book is being edited and wrapped up for publication. I love every minute of what I do, but sometimes it does get in the way of other fun things I enjoy, like sharing facts and pictures of what is surely the most beautiful of all our native ducks, the wood duck. (This is my humble apology for taking so long to get back to you, and I hope you'll forgive me for my absence, when you see what I've got for you today.) 

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - That Old Coot!



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

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - Ducks That Whistle?


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).

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - That's Just Ducky!


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.)

 

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - Whacky Wednesday (on Thursday!)

(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.

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - Florida Panther Part 2


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.

Continue reading

#NotesFromTheRiver - Florida Panther Part 1



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.

Continue reading