The great Floridian nature adventure

March 8, 2017

I’m finally nearly finished with my post-vacation catch-up process. Earlier in March, N and I took a week off to visit Florida on a vacation with a heavy eco-tourist bent. We spent two days in various bits of the southeastern Everglades, and also visited parks and other natural sites in Key Largo and the Fort Lauderdale area.

I’m not very well-traveled, so for me, this was a visit to an entirely new environment. Frankly, a not-insignificant amount of my conception of South Florida came from the old Dave Barry humor books I read as a kid, and also from CSI: Miami. I’d never seen a palm tree or an alligator out living in the world before, and even now, neither of those things feels quite real to me.

March 7, 2017

I can now confirm that Florida is pretty enchanting. I’m a big fan of the small lizards running around everywhere, the air plants and Spanish moss, and the birds that inhabit the wetlands. Having a blast of warm weather in the midst of a New England winter certainly didn’t hurt.

My only big complaint was, of course, the mosquitoes. I feel like such a wimpy tourist saying that, but it’s true. Even though it was winter and quite dry, on certain trails, they resisted every attempt at repellent. I cannot imagine what they’re like in the summer.

As it turns out, I’m more allergic to mosquito bites than I had thought, so I would up sporting a rather startling level of hives. Mosquitoes may be intellectually interesting and have their place in the ecosystem, but also, I hate them. (Though I don’t react to poison ivy, so I suppose it balances out.)

March 5, 2017

I took a lot of pictures, or at least a lot for me—about 5,500 altogether—and it’s taken me a while to review and edit all of them and upload them to my Flickr account. That project is finally finished, though, and you can find all my photos in my Florida Adventures album.  Many aren’t particularly great photos, namely some very blurry lizards and birds, but I was more concerned with trying to keep as broad a record as possible of what I encountered.

At the moment, I’m trying to identify and learn more about some of the flora and fauna I photographed in Florida. Most of them are species I’m not familiar with, so it’s a challenge, but it’s really enjoyable to try and better understand a place so different from the place I live.

March 10, 2017

So that’s where I am right now. Of course, posts about South Florida creatures and habitats will be interspersed with posts about spring coming to the Boston-area woods, which is the other big thing going on right now. Snow and rain have prevented me from getting much hiking in recently, but


A spider outing

February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017


Last week was absurdly warm for February in the Boston area, so obviously, I was outside. With a substantial layer of old snow still coating most of the trails and deep slushy puddles in places, it was a bit of a slog out there, but fortunately, the waterproofing on my hiking shoes held up and I was able to enjoy myself.

I was really excited to see evidence of spiders out enjoying the warmth—I miss my little invertebrates during the winter. For the first time in months, there were threads of spider silk catching the light from all sorts of surfaces. I also encountered this little fellow sitting out in the sun, and he graciously kept still for a few minutes.

This looks like it might be a jumping spider, but I don’t know what kind—its markings and coloration are different from those of the jumping spiders I usually see. I’m currently browsing BugGuide, hoping to come across something similar. As always, ID suggestions are more than welcome.

Edited to add: I’m thinking maybe the Dimorphic Jumper, Maevia inclemens.



A male mallard at Bellevue Pond, Middlesex Fells, MA, February 23, 2017.

I love watching them dabble with their little curly tails and bright orange feet. I also love that dabbling is seriously the term for what they’re doing. And look at those sleek feathers shedding water!

Bellevue Pond was entirely dried up last summer during the drought, when I visited it for the first time—it was just a plain of cracked mud and tall grass. It’s so encouraging to see it full of water now, and to see the waterfowl enjoying it. I also got to witness a very exciting goose fight (pictures to come).

Nature questions I need to look up

What is that one bird that I always hear in the woods? You know, that one, with the really clear two-note descending whistle. I wish I knew how to transliterate it. Whatever it is, its range includes Ohio as well as Massachusetts, and that’s about all I know. (Wait, no, I also know that I enjoy whistling back to it, like my dad taught me.)

Is there any way to tell coyote tracks apart from domestic dog tracks in the same size range? I’m fascinated by coyotes, along with other animals who have adapted to more urban lifestyles, but they’re so secretive! The place I go hiking allows dogs, so I don’t know whose prints are whose.

How DO you tell an alligator from a crocodile from a caiman? This is probably something I once learned from a kids’ nature show and subsequently forgot. I’m going to the Everglades next week, so this one I need to look up soon. (Florida is mostly home to alligators, but one area where I’ll be hiking is known to have some crocodiles, and I’ve also heard there are invasive caimans out there.)

What happens in nature the year(s) after a drought? By which I mean: how will last summer’s drought in Massachusetts affect things for this upcoming summer, like plant growth and insect activity? I really hope there are more bugs around this year.