Friday, October 21, 2011

AIRIE Residency: Update #2

American Alligator Under Water; Anhinga Trail; Everglades National Park; October 2011

This update is associated with my 2-week-long Artists In Residence In the Everglades (AIRIE) writing and art residency.

Notes From Days 4 & 5:
- The sun came out on Day 5! Southern Florida is beautiful now...bright, but not too hot because of a merciful breeze from the Gulf of Mexico.

- The birding continues to be tremendous. In addition to the "firsts" I mentioned in my previous update, I've now added an immature Northern parula, a group of blue-grey gnatcatchers, whose aerial acrobatics delighted me for a long while, and countless palm warblers. While Northern mockingbirds are by no means new to me, I did have an opportunity to watch a young mockingbird hunt an anole, kill and eat it, then meticulously clean his bill on a branch. Watching birds hunt, it's hard to understand why it took biologists so long to elucidate the relationship between dinosaurs, reptiles, and our feathered friends.

Great Egret; Anhinga Trail; Everglades National Park; October 2011

- Speaking of reptiles, my 5th day in the Everglades was made notable by 3 turtles. A juvenile common snapping turtle, an adult of the same species, and a Florida softshell turtle were all crossing the park's main road at different locations. I moved the juvenile snapper off the road, but elected to leave the adult to its own pace, hoping that its large size would compel drivers to slow down. Having watched a snapper peel the flesh off my father's index finger, I was reluctant to face the challenge of moving the testy reptile without assistance. The softshell turtle, however, didn't need my help. It lumbered with determination, and I simply escorted it across the road.

Florida Softshell Turtle; Main Road; Everglades National Park; October 2011

- Thinking about roads, though, I was disappointed that two passing vehicles failed to slow, blowing by me -- and the softshell turtle -- at 50 miles per hour (the speed limit on the main road is 55 mph). One wonders why folks come to a national park if they only intend to race across it. Some death toll is inevitable. I generally drive well under the speed limit (35-40 mph) and strive to be alert for flying critters; still, I've killed countless insects (most especially butterflies that seem to suddenly materialize in front of the car's grill) and very nearly knocked off two palm warblers that jumped from the shoulder.

- Tomorrow, I head to Florida Bay to look for American crocodiles.

Common Snapping Turtle; Main Road; Everglades National Park; October 2011

Photo credits: all photos, Hungry Hyaena (Christopher Reiger), 2011

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