Gator In The Grass, Part 2: Orlando Wetlands Park

Hi again. We’re back at the Wetlands this week because it’s just that awesome of a place. Above is one of Florida’s most ubiquitous citizens, the great blue heron. Here are a couple of more I saw on this morning hike:

Really workin’ it for the camera
I call it “Heron Atop a Cypress.” (Trust me, it’s a metaphor).

Aren’t they beautiful, graceful birds? They make for a very serene image, and I’m always happy to see them.

And oh look, here’s one brutally murdering a catfish:


The moral of the story? Don’t ever let your guard down in the wetlands.

Moving on now from the most vicious of creatures to the most gentle, here are 2 of my colleagues out for a leisurely swim. Note how blunt their snouts are. They would never be able to stab a poor catfish to death. Nor would they want to! Believe me, our 74 to 80 teeth are MOSTLY just for show. Think of them as our version of ‘bling.’

“Gotta go, I just saw my ex!”

Pictured above is a snowy egret walking on water (probably trying to get away from one of those brutish herons). This is also how they fish, skimming along the surface and dipping their bill under as they go. You might say they’re the original “fly fishers” (har har).

“Gotta go, I just saw seven of my ex’s!”

A gator on the move. Did you know that the length of an alligator can be estimated by determining (in inches) the distance from the center of the skull (between the eyes) to the tip of the nose? So 6 inches would = a 6 foot alligator. For my European readers, that’s about 74 metres. (Hmm…I may have forgotten to carry the 1).

Here’s a gorgeous limpkin. Their bills are specially made for eating their favorite snack, apple snails. They also have a very unique call, which you can listen to here. It always sounds somewhat plaintive to me. Maybe what they’re saying is “dude, apple snails taste REALLY bad.”

I believe this is a female red-winged blackbird — also a very common sight at the wetlands. Only the males have the trademark stark red wings. (How typically chauvinistic that they foist the name on their entire species. Know what I mean, members of mankind?)

Purple thistle. It doesn’t look very friendly, does it? As a matter of fact, its scientific name is Cirsium horridulum, which translates very roughly to “lotsa spikes here, don’t touch.” But the striking flowers of this plant are a haven for bugs looking for nectar.

If you call him “Woody” I’ll break your face.

The distinctive pileated woodpecker. This is a male; you can tell by the red “mustache” behind the beak, which the females lack. The males can also be distinguished by the fact that they NEVER stop and ask for directions.

Check out this cute little bee. That plant it’s on is called matchweed, because of the way the stalk and tip of the flower resemble a match. It’s very striking, wouldn’t you say? (Har har again).

The last picture for today is an anhinga coming in for a landing. It’s not the best picture in the world, but I like the way the bird’s wings are mirroring the tree branches below it.

“Flight four two-niner, you are cleared for landing.”

That’s all from the wetlands for today. See you next time!

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