Always Something New to Learn

February 25, 2019

I just love the patterns on the back of this little
Cuban Anole

Yesterday morning, Mel and I woke up early trying to get a jump start on a predictably hot day. Earlier is better when the expected high is 84 degrees!

Unfortunately, the nature preserve we were looking for was either non-existent or our GPS had a virus because it took us down one dead end after another—and eventually our cool morning start became a late morning steam bath.

Ultimately, we chose a different preserve for our walk and it turned out to be a delightful destination ( Emerson Point Preserve in Palmetto, Florida). We ended up enjoying both our walk and the detailed historical information that was posted along the trail.

“Emerson Point Preserve is situated on the West end of Snead island on the North shore of the Manatee river with Terra Ceia Bay to the north. It offers a network of hiking and kayak trails to experience a wide variety of coastal Florida wildlife and habitats. Ancient and historic remains of its inhabitants are accessible and well interpreted to give a sense of what life in Manatee County was like prior to and during its settlement.”

After exploring Emerson Point for a couple of hours, Mel and I took a lunch break followed by a coffee break before searching for one more place to walk while we were still in the area. Our second excursion needed to be relatively short, though, since we had two old dogs at home who both wore watches and would chastise us profusely if we arrived later than expected.

This Osprey was perched so close to the trail
that we barely had to crop our pictures!
(Mel’s shot)

We chose Neal Preserve, in nearby Bradenton. It was a small but interesting park, with well-maintained trails and good signage along the way that described the various plants that we were seeing and told about the historical significance of that particular area.

“Neal Preserve is a very historically significant site. As you walk, imagine the active Native American culture that once existed here. Your route will move past reconstructed burial mounds through an area inhabited from 3000 BC to 1400 AD.”

These little squirrels are everywhere in Florida and always seem to be expecting a handout!

There are so many wonderful preserves like this in Florida that it’s hard not to explore them all. It would have been nice if we could have visited one more preserve yesterday, but the dogs were anxiously waiting our return so we’d have to save it for another day.

Peek a boo!
Great White Egret hunting in the reeds.
White Ibises in flight
Laughing Gull

As it turns out, though, I hadn’t gotten quite enough exploring for the day, so I dropped Mel off to tend to the dogs and headed over to a nearby park where I had taken pictures several times before.  I’m glad I did. Shortly after I arrived, I got a wonderful sequence of pictures of a cormorant trying to swallow a fish that was so ginormous that I didn’t see how he could possibly do it. But, he did–after a very, very long struggle. Yikes!

When Mel saw my pictures, he immediately identified the fish as a ‘plecostomus’. A what-a-mus?? A ‘plecostomus’, or ‘pleco’ for short, or ‘hypostomus plecostomus’ to be exact; otherwise known as a ‘sucker fish’ and is commonly used in aquariums to clean things up! The plecostomus is not native to Florida and is considered an invasive species– because somebody somewhere let some of these little suckers loose into the local waters and now, as often is the case,  we have a big, big problem.

“Sucker mouth catfishes are very popular in the aquarium trade due to their hardiness and longevity. As a result, this group of species has joined the ranks of the many species introduced via the aquarium trade pathway with significant impacts.

As they forage, they disrupt the food chain, reduce food availability for native species, out-compete native herbivores, and incidentally consume the eggs of other fishes. Their foraging activity also uproots native plants, altering aquatic plant communities.

In addition, the spiny dorsal fins of these fish also pose a mortal danger to en-dangered, fish-eating birds. The cumulative effects of these impacts have the potential to negatively affect invaded systems. Furthermore, these large fish damage fishing gear, posing an economic threat.”

Fascinating information, I thought–and just one of the many reasons why I can’t stop taking pictures. There’s always something new to learn.

The Muscovy ducklings at Crescent Lake are growing up!

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