Cornfield Meet

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Florida 2009: Critters EveryFreakingWhere

A week in Orlando, and I’ve got bunches and bunches of stuff to catch up on and write about because we had such a fantastic time staying with Jim and visiting Jenn’s family and enjoying our former stomping grounds that I didn’t feel like doing the blogging and photo and video work while I was there.

I’m starting out with Animals of Our Vacation. Central Florida’s got a whole different set of creatures than we’re used to here in Ohio, and which, I have to admit, is one of the few things I actually miss about living there. And my daughter’s a big animal enthusiast – not just the cuddly stuff, either: She’ll fill the DVR with those emergency vet shows that are packed to the rafters with injuries and surgeries and not even bat an eye. Using medical tape, a laptop and a ballpoint pen, she once hooked up one of her stuffed bears to an IV and vital signs monitor. She’s really gotten into it over the last year, which made this trip’s sightings all the more fun.

The day we arrived, just outside Jim’s door we spotted a red-headed skink that looked almost exactly like this one. Living in Orlando, you get used to seeing about four dozen lizards on a slow day, but in the six years I was there, not one of these ever crossed my path.

Later that day, over at my brother-in-law’s house, we saw a color-changing green anole on the sliding glass door, so we went outside for a closer look. He hopped onto various legs, arms, and shoulders (Jim shot some photos which I’ll post soon) while going from brown to bright green.

We spent most of Wednesday, April 8 at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and started things off with a nice view of a nesting osprey up on a platform near the visitor center, then saw what I’m pretty sure was a soft-shelled turtle just below us:

Walking the path that loops from the visitor center through the woods and along the water, we came across this nine-banded armadillo snouting his way through the underbrush. My daughter Kelsey got a great close-up of its face and ears:

So we walk further, and there’s a short spur that leads to a platform at the water’s edge. My father-in-law has his binoculars out and is scanning the far reeds for alligators.

And then I see this one silently gliding in Right. Next. To. Us.

Now, I’d seen alligators out and about before: Several while canoeing years ago with my brother-in-law (and yeah, it’s more than a little unnerving catching a glimpse of a foot-wide gator submerging itself beneath your suddenly-flimsy-feeling canoe), and others from a distance, floating in ponds. Jim and Kelsey and I had even seen a little three- or four-footer sunning itself on a bank near his house just two days before this.

But this one was different: I’d never been this close to one in its natural habitat and it was magnificent and chill-inducing, from the slow propelling sweeps of its tail to the muscle and power hidden in its utter stillness. We watched its nostrils move with each breath. Here it is heading away a few moments later:

That was clearly the high point, safarily speaking, of the week.

We did spend Friday at Ormond Beach and saw about three or four dolphins a few dozen yards out, which is always neat, and my daughter and niece found this purple and orange starfish in a tidal pool:

Wish granted.

April 13, 2009 - Posted by | geek, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , ,


  1. Just think….maybe once…the whole world was full of these kinds of creatures.

    Also, what must it be like in Australia. I really wanted to go there at one point but reading about all the dangerous critters there make me super nervous. Did I tell you my Grand Canyon/Nature story?

    Comment by ivan | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Congrats on the Geek Dad post!

    Comment by ivan | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thanks – and no, I’ve never heard the Grand Canyon story: Prep it for the podcast!

    Comment by jrbooth | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  4. […] So here are the before-and-after images of the anole I mentioned in my “critters” post: […]

    Pingback by Florida revisited (again) « Cornfield Meet | April 18, 2009 | Reply

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