Holiday Gatherings at the Myakka River State Park

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Holiday Gatherings

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

originally posted November 2016

When Larry and I went to Myakka River State Park on Sunday, we never saw so many family get-togethers in the park.  Gatherings were everywhere as hamburgers and hot-dogs were grilled, picnic feasts were being overindugled, games were played and conversations were enjoyed.  Even the Myakka alligators had gathered their friends and families together along the banks of our favorite path.  It was quite remarkable to see so many alligators lining the banks of the river but since Thanksgiving is coming, perhaps they were there to give thanks for the bounty that the river affords.

Everywhere we went along the trail, the alligators provided credence to what the blessings of family and friends and holiday get-togethers are all about.  We first encountered two alligators, away from everyone else, enjoying some alone-time while they planned their future together or celebrated a joyous moment or just reveled in the fact that they had each other to get them through a lifetime of whatever is to be....

We saw that typical teen-ager biding his time as he awaited the moment when he could slip away and not be noticed....

Grandma and Grandpa were there reflecting on how much life had changed along the river and how it was so much better in the good old days....At least it looked like Grandma was reminiscing....Grandpa looked like he was trying to doze off if Grandma would just quit bending his ear.

Then there were a few who had eaten too much and were now hoping everyone would just leave them alone so they could just take a nap.

While others were going back for "seconds" because their plates had not been big enough to hold all the delectable goodies that they still wished to sample.

Finally we saw one of the younger children who was fast asleep dreaming of THAT NEXT BIG EVENT that follows Thanksgiving...dreaming of whether THE BIG GUY will drop down to visit all of the good little boys and girls who live along the Myakka River and leave them treasures that will delight them and provide fond memories of what it was like to be that child and to have received one of those very special gifts.

HOPE THE ONE SPECIAL GIFT THAT WE ALL RECEIVE IS THE GIFT TO SEE WHAT IS RIGHT IN OUR LIVES AND HOW BLESSED WE ARE TO LIVE IN THIS NATION.   HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY!!

by Nancy Dobias

The Power Behind a Smile

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The Power Behind a Smile

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

The other day when I went to Myakka River State Park, I happened upon some roseate spoonbills deep in discussion as to how one of their kind might assume the PLACE OF HONOR among their wildlife neighbors. Rosalia, in particular, was fed up with having to take second billing to the many alligators languishing along the muddy banks or slowly patrolling the waters of the Myakka.

"No one will find a more photogenic model than me!" she proclaimed.  Back and forth, back and forth she strutted.  "Surely someone will notice my beautiful pink and white combo," she thought.  "Certainly I am more appealing than those dull colors on Gerta Gator!" Rosalia lamented.

"Why don't we go over to the muddier waters?" suggested Phil.  "That's where the tourists go when they're looking for Gerta Gator!  What's more, the deeper contrast of our colors against the darker background will certainly work in your favor.   When we show up, Rosalia, I just know YOU will upstage her!" 

What a duo this pair was!  As soon as they arrived, they immediately began vigorously thrusting their spoon-shaped bills into the mud,  Mud was being flung everywhere, but they seemed to be achieving the effect that they wanted.  Rosalia's pink and white combo were looking REALLY good!

"I never realized it would take so much work to be noticed," Rosalia complained.  "Look at that man with the camera over there!  Why isn't he looking at ME?  What does Gerta Gator have that I don't have?" she whined.

"Perhaps it's her teeth," suggested Phil.  "She DOES have magnificent teeth... I bet if you had teeth just like her, YOU would be the star you were destined to be!" insisted Phil.  "Look at those teeth!  You're just a few teeth away from stardom!!  If you would get some dental implants, you could upstage that alligator TODAY!" proclaimed Phil.

As I listened to the duo debate how best to attract the cameras away from the very toothy appeal of Gerta Gator, I couldn't help but wonder why it was so important for Rosalia to be front and center, why couldn't she just be happy as she was. 

Rosalia was already quite attractive.  Did she really need teeth to upstage Gerta?   I tried to picture Rosalia with her dream teeth but a "new and improved" image was definitely escaping me.

Too bad I have no idea what Rosalia finally decided.  It was time for me to bid adieu to this unusual duo.  Who knows...maybe after I left, more visitors stopped to take notice of her lovely pink and white combo and she finally had the cameras pointing at HER!  If you see Rosalia before I do, take some pictures.  I would love to know what she finally decided.

The "Wild" Life at Myakka

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The "Wild" Life at Myakka

guest post by Nancy Dobias

When I went to Myakka River State Park the other day, I was interested in seeing how the trails along the Myakka River fared after having experienced the high winds of Hurricane Irma.  The beginning sections of the trails looked in great shape.

But further along, there was debris littering the paths.  At one point I encountered a downed tree overhanging the path as well as a few wet areas that could be easily circumnavigated.

The denizens of the Myakka were out in full force, some with welcoming "smiles." 

And the Vulture Brigade continued its fastidious clean-up of the park.  Upper management was even on scene to scrutinize its efforts.

Even though the park is not back to 100% yet, it didn't stop families from enjoying a picnic along the river or individuals from enjoying a game of Peck and Seek.

A few yearlings had ventured out of the deep woods to graze among the trees lining the Myakka Lake.

While a baby-sitter was hired to provide aerial surveillance to ensure their safety.

It's good the yearlings had someone above to warn them of potential problems.  I'm always amazed at how well the birds take on this responsibility.  When I was wondering along one of the trails earlier, I stumbled upon an alligator enjoying a moment's respite out of the river.  The limpkins were gracious enough to screech out my potential "threat" and forewarn their slumbering friend.

Yes, the park is once more returning to normalcy.  Even those who pitch a tent or tow their homes along with them will find many wonderful adventures awaiting.

If you look closely, you may even see a choir practicing its own rendition of a "partridge" in a pear tree.

Too bad they didn't have some festive garland to help with that image.

You Won't Rot Your Teeth on Meadow Sweet

Guest post by Nancy Dobias

If you're ready to venture away from the Myakka River and its wildlife, another face to Myakka River State Park involves the many trails that meander through the 37,000 acres.   Although it's generally a hard sell to get me away from the river, the sunny cooler temps made it a good time to finally check out whatever lay beyond the MEADOW SWEET PASTURE entrance gate....

It's too bad that we didn't stop at the main entrance to get a trail map.  Although the many hikers/bikers who use this trail may know where they were going, we didn't.  Trails went in all directions and I was glad Larry was there to give me some orientation as to where we might be.  Generally I just follow my camera and on this trail it naturally pulled me towards all the beautiful colors and textures ....

I was delighted when we occasionally saw water on either side of the trail.   "Maybe an alligator might be bedding down in these grasses," I thought.  

It was also neat to come across one of those Florida park benches and an informational bulletin board that gives a pictorial "history" of the land which Bertha Palmer used to own.  I can't imagine how wealthy she must have been to have owned the land from I-75 to the Gulf.  That would have been one magnificent piece of property!  It was nice to see the old pictures...

...and to read the November 15, 1917 farm invoice and learn how much people were earning....

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Learning experiences can be found everywhere in the park.  One oddity that provoked our curiosity involved a PVC pipe inserted into the side of some  grasses.  "What on earth is that for??" we asked.  Later, after we returned home and consulted the trail map (that we should have taken with us), we found the answer.  The pipe marks the presence of an invasive grass called CogonGrass and it's marked so that it can be sprayed and hopefully eradicated.  If you're like us and don't know what Cogon Grass is, here's a great informational and educational site that might help you to understand why the U.S. doesn't want this grass.  Perhaps it will also help you to identify it.  

USDA

Here's something I could use your help in identifying.  When we were walking down the trail, we encountered this little guy....  He had come out of the grasses and was hoping to cross the trail inconspiculously but when he sensed our being near him, he froze and didn't continue his journey.  The snake was not threatening but I found him intriguing because his body was too round, too "rotund" for his length.  A thicker snake to me is a possible poisonous one.  I kept trying to get a close-up of his head to see if it had a triangular shape but the grasses interfered with my getting a good picture.  A book we consulted later suggested that the snake might be a pygmy rattlesnake.  He wasn't all that long--less than a foot.   If that's what he is, he must be a baby.  We couldn't see any rattle on his tail, but their rattles are small and the dead grass on the trail was acting like a camoflauge agent.   

Our neighbor suggested a site that he found useful in the identification of Florida snakes.  If you'd like to check it out too, the site is:

http://floridabackyardsnakes.com/

Whatever the snake was, he too turned out to be a "learning" experience for us.  I know snakes live in the wild but they generally make themselves scarse and we don't tend to see them when we're out and about.  If this was a pygmy rattlesnake, then he's the first one we've seen!

That wasn't the only "first" that we encountered.  To see this "first," we had to leave the trail and venture through the woods.  Because I had seen some pretty grasses on the other side of the woods,  I wanted to know if this was a picture opportunity.  As we got closer to the grasses, I was hesitant to keep going since the grasses were too high to afford a good picture.  Larry figured we could still check it out so on we went.  It was then that we caught site of what I first thought was a coyote who had missed too many dinners.  Wrong!   Wrong!  Wrong!

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Wild Boars!  Who would have thought??!!!  I have no idea why I first thought I was seeing a thin coyote....

Yes, the Myakka River State Park has lots to experience, lots to learn, and lots to enjoy.  If you'd like to check out this trail, it's along the main road in the park and it'll be right before you get to the Y that takes you to either the birdwalk or to the restaurant/gift shop area.  Maps are available at the entrance to the park.