limpkins

Only in Florida

Only in Florida

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

When you think you have heard everything, there is always one more story that blows your mind.  This past weekend Larry was at a NEST meeting and while there he talked with a man about the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The man grew up in the area and was quite familiar with this park.  He recalled being at the park one time when the weather had turned cooler and the alligators were acting rather dormant.  In fact, they were so lethargic, that some tourists thought an alligator they encountered was FAKE.  When he saw the tourists, they were attempting to take pictures with the supposed "fake" alligator.  He told them to get away from the animal, that it was dangerous what they were doing.  The tourists ignored him and continued posing with the alligator, leaning their elbows on the alligator.  As far as they were concerned, the alligator was not moving; therefore, it was fake.  He again told them that this is Florida.  This is the swamp.  Florida doesn't need fake alligators.  This alligator is REAL.  They continued to ignore his warnings.  He walked away shaking his head.  He did not want to be there when that alligator warmed up.

Today I went to Myakka River State Park to see how the alligators were doing, whether they were hanging out on the banks of the river or whether the river was still too flooded for that to happen.  The river is starting to recede and since it was a humid day, the alligators were taking advantage of every dry area they could find.  Basking in the sun was high on their list of priorities.

Although they're generally on the other side of the river, one had even found his special place on my side of the river.  Naturally a limpkin forewarned him that I was coming and I guess that is why he was not startled when I came upon him.   (I appreciated the warning too!)

A few still hadn't found their perfect spots and were still cruising the river waiting for one to magically appear. I did see a cluster of four or five up around the bend on the other side of the river, but in trying to get a better picture of them, I ended up spooking them and scared all but two back into the river.  Too bad that Spanish moss interfered with my shot.  When I tried to get a better shot, even these two wanted nothing to do with me and they too entered the water.

Because I had screwed up their day in the sun, I figured I should just leave them alone and wait for a warmer day.  Then they might not mind an unexpected dip in the river.

Expect the Unexpected

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Expect the Unexpected

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Expect the unexpected would be a great slogan for Myakka River State Park.  You just never know what you might see or NOT see.  In fact it took two men to point out something that was "hiding" in plain sight...an alligator in camo!  This guy was so well camouflaged that I NEVER would have seen him had these men not first called my attention to the alligator disguised as a clump of moss hanging out right below where we were talking.  They estimated he was about 5 foot in length.  When I asked if they were worried about our being too close to him, they assured me that we just had to be ready to run fast...faster than the other guy!  (I think I was the "other guy....")

I also didn't expect to see a "decorated" tree at Myakka but that's what I saw when the proverbial "partridge in a pear tree" became instead a congregation of wood storks.  In the tree or on the ground, they seemed to have found a wonderful secluded respite for their migration.

Those among them who didn't need a rest were instead entertaining the masses with their gymnastic and balancing routines.

The dare-devils were out in full force too.  Nonchalantly a group of ibis couldn't be bothered to fly over the alligator.  Instead they took their dining excursion to the extreme.

Maybe the birds think they are too fast to be caught.  Even a tricolored heron had no problem wandering around in the alligator-infested waters of the Myakka....

Of course it did give him an opportunity to chat up a nearby Limpkin.

The black necked stilts had been too stand-offish and another little guy was just too shy.

Limpkins are always good for conversation.

Too bad the more social vultures were not closer to where the heron was hanging out.  No doubt they would have been engaging conversationalists.  I'm sure many are talking about how pretty the park is.

The brightly-colored emerald-green grass must have drawn the birds to the park in droves.  Hanging out in the fields or trees.

Or hanging out along the river, they were all there.... When will you be there???

Mums and Pumpkins and Homecoming Games

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Mums and Pumpkins and Homecoming Games

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

I know that football season is well underway and that mums are in the greenhouses, but it sure seems like spring when I go to Myakka River State Park. Yellow-dotted purple flowers seem to be everywhere. They frame the flooded fields and anchor the river.

No wonder it's difficult to tell the seasons in southwest Florida.  The colors shout SPRINGTIME!  Even the river adds to the confusion. Where I was from in Ohio, Spring generally signaled winter thaw and the Ohio River would be in overdrive trying to send the excess water downstream and over its banks wherever it flowed.   

This is not the case with the Myakka River. I have found it unpredictable what to expect with the Myakka. It seemed like a dry week but yet when I went out to the park, the river was past flood stage and the trails, woods, and picnic areas were swamped.  Obviously it had been raining somewhere.

The river reading was 7.8 and the Myakka had far exceeded her boundaries on either side of the bridge.

 At 8 feet, the main road of the park floods.  Although the Myakka hadn't lay claim to the main park road, it was evident that heavy rains would have been the proverbial last straw.

The alligators didn't seem to be out and about but the birds were in full force taking advantage of their new smorgasbord.

Fortunately the limpkins weren't wearing any bonnets.  If that had happened, then I know that would have been the last straw for me!

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I guess I'm going to need a new mental picture of what fall "looks like" in Florida.

Field Trips and Rainy Days

Guest post by Nancy Dobias

You never know what delightful memory will be dredged up when you go to Myakka River State Park.  For me it involved all those chaperoned field trips of long ago.

I first noticed two limpkins carefully surveying the grounds to make sure all the little ones under their charge had not wandered too far away from where the school bus was to pick them up for the return trip back home.   After all, they were responsible for getting this highly-charged group rounded up and back on the bus with no missteps in between.

Naturally the principal was off to the side assessing how well they were managing this task.

Herding the little ones into a tight group, the next order of the day was roll-call.  One by one they began to shout out their last names...."Franklin, O'Hara, Thomas, Lincoln...."

Once all were accounted for, one by one they paraded up the slope to join their teachers at the top of the road.

"This has to be a 1st or 2nd grade group," I thought.  "They are far too orderly to be any other grade." I guessed.  "If they were Junior High, I know they would still be talking down below," I thought.  As soon as the group got to the top of the road, their teachers once more made sure all had arrived safely before they proceeded further.  Naturally there were a few stragglers but that gave the lead teacher a chance to make sure the road was safe for the little ones to cross.

I checked to see if the principal was still watching the orderly progress of the students but I noticed he was annoyed that the stragglers did not arrive with the rest.  He looked as though he was ready to come charging over to chew them out.

Fortunately for the slow-pokes, they weren't that far behind.  As soon as the last one arrived, out onto the wet road the group went.  Forming a tight cluster, they quietly and methodically followed their teachers to the other side of the road.

I could see one of the teachers must have gotten a question by one of her little charges as they were making their way across the road, but she did what all teachers do, she stopped, politely listened, then answered and afterwards safely brought her group to join her colleague at the school bus pick-up zone on the other side of the road.

I'm sure it was a long tiring day for the teachers.  The rain was coming down in buckets but they still had to intergrate the activities of the group with what they were learning in the classroom as well as to assume the responsibility of all those young lives.  To the kids it was another story.  They were out of class, with their friends, allowed to talk quietly, run (if no one was looking) and best of all, nobody cared if they ate a bug or two.  Life sure is good!!