Friday, July 3, 2015

The Real Florida: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Salt Marsh
Another worthy escape from fantasy Florida, is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. "Refuge" says it all. Wildlife needs refuge from relentless development. As usual, there is never enough time, so this early spring tour is confined to the Black Point Wildlife drive, a seven mile loop through salt marsh.

If you stop for a photo. The cars behind you line up waiting..

I brake for butterflies..Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
on Tall Thistle(?)

One good Fritillary deserves another..

These last shots taken on foot.
There are parking areas and trails..
The flower is Alba bidens.

A blind along the trail, from which a Roseate Spoonbill was seen. It did not pose..

There were fields of White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba).
Clouds of Tropical Whites (Appias drusilla) enjoyed the bounty.

A beautiful Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The ubiquitous Zebra butterfly (Heliconius charitonius). 
Also on Alba bidens.

So many beautiful butterflies..What more could one ask for? Why beautiful birds of course!!

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula).
"Egret" comes from the French 'aigrette'.

Perhaps I can catch dinner?
'Aigrettes' are the breeding plume feathers'
so many birds were killed to obtain.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
All Egrets are herons, but not all Herons are Egrets.

Tricolor Heron (Egretta tricolor)

                                                  Herons come in so many colors!

Green Heron (butorides virescens)
Enjoying the evening.

It is getting late, all hail the lowering sun!

A pair of Boat Tailed Grackles have an evening snack.
(Quiscalus major)

Mom collects nesting materials. It is early Spring.

Time to head home...
                       If we kill off the wild, we are killing a part of our souls ~ Jane Goddall

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Real Florida: Blue Springs State Park


Those dark forms are manatees. Excuse please, this is an iPOD picture..
Yes, it is still least that's what it said on a sign outside Blue Springs State Park, in Orange City Florida. Spanish Moss (not a moss, but a lichen) , palmettos, cypress forests, alligators, manatees, not malls. Abundant bird life, not indistinguishable subdivisions. The real world beyond Disney World.

Blue Springs State Park is a dedicated Manatee Refuge
and winter home to a growing number of West Indian Manatees


Gar hang out there too.
So do alligators.

And non-native Tilapia. This is a male, fanning out a nest space.

Blue Spring is the largest spring on the St. John's River. St. John's River cruises are offered..or you can launch your own canoe or kayak. These pictures are from the cruise boat.
Early spring on the St. Johns.

Great Blue Heron..of course!

A super sighting of an American Bittern!

Mistletoe in the trees. A hemiparasite.

A baby alligator..
Mom not far away..

The obligatory Anhinga drying it's wings.
Poor birds do not have waterproofed feathers.

A young Cypress forest.
The original was cut down for it's high-quality wood.
White Ibises in the trees.

A juvenile.

What are you looking at?
Osprey, beautiful "Fish Hawk"

We are enjoying the sun..

Spanish Moss and Spadderdock.
Tick, tock, time to head to the dock,
back to the other Florida..
Florida Springs will not protect themselves; those who know and love them must protect them~ Jim Stenvenson, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda: The White Nile

An evening Nile "cruise" in an open excursion boat, encountered a thunderstorm.
The mysterious Nile!  Its source a mystery for 2.000 years. Herodotus (c.484-425BC), the Ancient Greek "Father of History", was probably the first to compile theories of the river's origins. He even made an expedition to Africa to determine the origin for himself, navigating as far as the modern Aswn in Egypt. He decided that the source was unknowable, due to the land of "Wild Beasts". 
Who? Me? The famous Nile Crocodile.
The monumental trials of later explorers, with swamps, diseases, animals, natives and Arab slave traders, proved him not far from wrong. Herodotus dismissed the theory that the origin of the Nile was snowmelt, arguing that the persistent heat of the equatorial regions precluded such an explanation. However, that explanation was closest to the truth.

The Hippos knew...

A trader named Diogenes, traveling west from the African coast around 50 CE, reported his discovery of a great lake and snowy mountains in the African interior. Historians suspect that these were the present day Lake Nyassa or Victoria and the Ruwenzori Mountains. From Diogenes account, the snowy mountains feeding the lakes and hence the Nile, were entered into Ptolemy's (the great second century Alexandrian geographer and cartographer)  grand Geograpica as the fabled  "Mountains of the Moon"

I may look like I'm from the moon, but I'm not! Saddle Billed Stork.
(Ephippiorhynchus senegalis)

The elusive Shoebill Stork. I am not from the moon either!

There are only an estimated 300 left in the wild.
These are two different individuals.
(Balaniceps rex)

Thus was the scant knowledge of the source of the Nile, for another 1500 yrs, until , in the 19th century it became an obsession.

The Richard Burton and John Speke expedition, 1856, also approached the Nile from the west coast of Africa, via Zanzibar. They "discovered" Lake Tanganyka together, but on a side expedition without Burton, Speke "discovered" Lake Victoria and Ripon Falls. He surmised that the river emanating from the falls was the Nile, and thus, that Lake victoria was the source of the Nile.

Hmm, let me think..could it be?
Olive Baboon (Papio anubis).

It was only a surmise, with no proof, and Burton had other theories. This lead to an extended debate in the Royal Geographic Society, which was to be settled by a public debate between Burton ans Speke. Directly before this could occur, Speke accidently (?) shot himself while hunting.

Does the Snake  Eagle know?
(I am unsure of the species)

Was the African Fish Hawk watching? ( Halieetus vocifer)

David Livingstone failed to find the source in 1866. It was left to Henry Morton Stanley in his remarkable "Walk Across Africa" to prove Speke right. By 1877, the mystery of the White Nile was solved. Even now however, the answer is more complex, including the snows of the Ruwenzori mountains and Lake Albert.

And thus the mystery was cleared, and modern day exploitation could begin.

There is still much beauty left!

There are Pied Kingfishers everywhere (Ceryle rudis).

His elegant cousin, the Giant Kingfisher ( Megaceryle maximus).

Another flashy relative, the Woodland Kingfisher (Halycon senegalensis).

Bird break! A Defassa Waterbuck.

Red Throated Bee Eater (Merops Bulocki) 

These Bee Eaters live in cavities
 in the cliffs above the river.

Little Bee Eater  (Merops pusillus)

Black Headed Weaver on Papyrus.
Papyrus swamps were the bane of many explorers.

With its nest.Why it is called a weaver bird.
(Ploceous melanocephalus)

They were everywhere, here with Cattle Egrets (Bulbucus ibis).

African Darter, drying its wings.
Anhingas do not have waterproof feathers.

Also called a "Snake Bird" (Anhinga rufus)

Another bird break!
Colobus Monkey  (Colobus guereza) in a Sausage Tree.
They eat the "sausages".

Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)
A Black Crake (Amauronis flavirosta),
wanders among the invasive Water Hyacinth

Fishermen on Lake Albert. The Congo in the background.

The Nile flows into Lake Albert, Sir Samuel Baker and his wife Francine "discovered" the lake on a treacherous journey, 1864.  But the source of the Nile eluded them.  Murchison Falls precluded further navigation. Sir Baker named Murchison Falls after Roderick Murchison, president of the Royal Geographic Society at that time. 

The Great White Pelicans laughed (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

Murchison Falls, for which the Park is named.
 The falls break the Nile between Lake Victoria and Lake Albert, 

not far from Lake Albert.

The elephant remembers what it was like
before the Nile source was "discovered"

My excellent and knowlegable guide.

The sun sets over the Nile.
We need freedom to roam across land owned by no one, but protected by all, whose unchanging horizon is the same that bounded the world of our millenial ancestors~ E.O. Wilson.