My Photos Published in April 2012 Issue of Mexico Desconocido!

I’m happy to share that the magazine Mexico Desconocido — which roughly translates as “Mexico Undiscovered” — published three of my photos in their upcoming April issue. I haven’t seen the full magazine yet, but it looks like my photos ran as part of a larger article on “paraisos rusticos” (rustic paradises). The photos are from our trip to Oaxaca in 2008. We spent a couple of days  in the capital city, then made the twisty, stomach-content-churning drive up over the Sierra Madre mountains and down the rugged, spectacular coastline, staying at the isolated eco-resort of Bahia de la Luna. That’s Brendan there kayaking (and this is the second time I’ve had a photo published of my husband kayaking. The other one was in the Westchester (NY) Journal-News, and he was holding a paddle on a little island in Connecticut’s Housatonic River.)

Here’s pagina 35, sent to me by Graphics Editor David Paniagua, who found my Flickr set of photos. Now, if I can just GO BACK. 🙂

I was excited to see this post from wildlife photographer Jon-Mark Davey about the Wood Stork beginning to recover from near extinction. Not only is this a fantastic prehistoric looking bird — Jim Henson must have been inspired by them when he worked on Dark Crystal — but also they also have cool alternate names like “Wood Ibis” and “Colorado Turkey.” As Jon-Mark says, I hope these not-so-wittle bwirdies “find peace and abundance” as the resettle in Florida.

South Florida Wildlife Photographer

Wood Stork -- Tree Walkers
It’s always great when a bird species on the brink of extinction, headed that way anyway, returns to flourish. One such species is the Wood Stork, (Mycteria americana) also commonly known as Flinthead, Wood Ibis, Wood Pelican or Colorado Turkey. Wood Storks are found along the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and Central and Southern Florida. Wood Storks were listed as an “endangered species” since 1984 due to the severe drop in population in the 1900’s. I can’t tell you the exact date (1998-1999) but I remember a news report from Orlando about the killing of huge numbers of wood storks, pelicans, and great blue herons when they ate fish from Lake Apopka tainted with OCP, a rather nasty pesticide left by the agriculture industry. Personally, I believe that event was the demise of the main flocks historically seen in South Florida during certain times…

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Wild Gopher Tortoise Sightings: The Absolutest Cutest Moments of My Recent Vacation

The oft-sandy gopher tortoise.

Last week we made our triumphant return to Little Gasparilla Island, which we visited last year and basically fell in love with. This island, located on the Gulf of Mexico about two hours south of Tampa, is car- and business-free. As a result, nature thrives. My handwritten list (because I’m that dorky) of wild animal sightings includes manatees, osprey, snakes, armadillos, starfish, stingrays, herons eating mullets, lizards…well, you get the idea.

Last year, though, we didn’t see one of the prized species — the gopher tortoise. Large and land-dwelling, the gopher tortoise, I was told, could allegedly be seen lumbering around the island, emerging from its vast burrow during the heat of the day, and gingerly crossing the sandy paths that are considered “roads” on the island. I kept my eyes peeled but no tortoises. Sadness.

This year, though: wow! Every day I saw numerous tortoises, ranging from small (about the size of of a volleyball) to large (about the size of a mid-sized watermelon). And I often sighted dark, black sleek snakes nearby. Turns out this is not coincidental: The large burrow of the gopher tortoise is renowned for housing not just the tortoise itself, but numerous other species, especially the indigo snake. This makes it a keystone species  — meaning that its existence is enormously helpful to many other creatures.

The gopher tortoise is the Florida state tortoise, and a protected endangered species. I feel honored to have spent my vacation amid such cute, special reptiles. Who, notably, are not shy and let me film them with my iPhone:

Face-Off: Big Mullet Versus Great Blue Heron

This frequent surfacing makes them vulnerable to all sorts of predators. Cue scary music!

Docks make such handy heron hunting grounds.

Oh noes! I looked away for one second and turned back to see this mullet crossing the sweet rainbow bridge, where he will soon join his fallen brethren in mullet heaven, located down the tunnel of heron.

The heron can only claim victory if he can fend off this prancy-pants double-crested cormorant from stealing his lunch. (Heron won, but of course he had to duck his head behind the piling when he swallowed the mullet, forbidding me from getting photographic evidence.) If you enlarge this photo, you can see everything in vivid, bloody detail...

I Spy an Osprey, AKA the Mighty (and Monogamous) Sea Hawk

Here on Florida’s Little Gasparilla Island, if you hear a terrifying shrieking from high above, and notice a quick shadow move over you, relax – it’s not the aliens invading. It’s just the omnipresent osprey. Wait a minute, and it will likely swoop down and land near you, to rest on a tree branch so it can rip apart its latest catch. It could care less if you photograph it, too:

I watched this osprey use its powerful jaws to pull apart its meal, located somewhere in its talons, hidden by the branch (presumably it was a fish, for that's all they basically eat). While a fearless fish hunter, this bird-of-prey is downright conservative in its sexual mores, preferring to mate for life.

Mid-Vacation Impractical Daydream: Florida Should Be Returned to Wild

I have absolutely nothing against Floridians–I get why they live here. The place is amazing. Wildlife is everywhere. It just blows my mind. And so, why not give it back? Do we really need to be in and on this peninsula?

Maybe it should become just a place we visit, not a place we live.

Sorry, I’ve got one day of vacation left, and I’ve been so immersed in and enamored by the wildlife of Southern Central Florida that I am caught up envisioning what it could be, if boats didn’t strike manatees, if the glow of night lights didn’t disorient sea turtle hatchlings, if monofilament fishing line didn’t strangle birds. If we left Florida, it wouldn’t take long for it to go really wild. So let’s leave and make the whole state a nature reserve.

Something to share with our kids, and their kids…and so on.

A girl can dream, no? Here’s what I saw on my first day in Florida, while the husband bought groceries and I walked the dog around a small pond by the grocery store.

Peer closely along the shoreline of this person's front yard. You can click this photo to embiggen.

This is gator country, front yard or not. I took this photo from a GROCERY STORE PARKING LOT. The lighter stripes on this 5-footer indicates it's still a baby. A baby!

This oddly shaped waterbird, called an anhinga, was to the left of the gator, fishing. Let's see it really stretch that neck...

That beak looks perfect for spearing fish. Or fending off baby gators.