Maine, Pt. 2

Jul 30, 2009 by Janine |
We stayed a couple of nights in Auburn. Our hotel was right on the river, in the midst of some historic buildings and some old textile mills that were over a hundred years old. Sadly, someone thought it would be fun to set one on fire a couple of weeks ago, so this was the view from the hotel:

Some close ups of the falls. It was nice to hear the rushing water from my room.

The demolition crews worked quickly to clean up the charred remains of the mill, and by the second day this was all that remained:

On the other side of the river was the city of Lewiston. We drove around after dinner and saw plenty of interesting buildings, including several churches.

Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Some more random shots taken from the car:

On our last day in Maine, we got out early to see Portland on our way to the airport. It was a really cool city and I wish we had more time there to explore.

It was an amazing trip and I can't wait to go back. Beautiful scenery, tons of wildlife, down-to-earth people, and great food. And yes, I had lobster!

Unfortunately the journey home was marred by an unpleasant experience at the airport in Washington DC, where I was supposed to catch a connecting flight and be home in time for dinner. In short, it involved airline and flight crew incompetence, weather delays, and arriving home at 1:30 AM the following morning. Will never fly US Airways again, as long as I have a choice in the matter.


Jul 25, 2009 by Janine |
Last week I went to Maine for work stuff. It was my first time visiting the state, and the farthest north in the U.S. I have ever been. At one point we were 15 miles from the Canadian border! I took pictures as often as I could, usually from a moving vehicle, but I am getting accustomed to that method of photography.

We arrived Monday to sunshine and temperatures in the 70's, a welcome relief from the 90+ we have been having in Florida. Some shots as we drove north from the airport, through the mountains:

A sign of things to come

We stopped at one point to enjoy a scenic overlook and saw this tangle of garter snakes forming a "breeding ball." I have never seen this behavior before so it was a treat for me.

Shots of the river:

After a delicious salmon dinner, we went driving up and down on very dark winding mountain roads in search of foraging moose. I am used to doing this type of thing at home, but normally my eyes are on the road looking for snakes, turtles, or other smaller animals. I saw several mice and chipmunks run across the road. So it was pretty shocking when a large moose walked out in front of us:

I couldn't believe it! I was so amazed. Further along the road we saw this mother and baby munching on new shoots at the roadside.

Stay tuned for some more Maine shots from the southern part of the state.

More random stuff

Jul 16, 2009 by Janine |
There is a small population of Red Headed Agamas that lives in the Redlands, south of Miami. They are believed to have descended from individuals who escaped from or were released by local reptile dealers. On the way down to Everglades NP we stopped by their hangout, an old rock wall outside of an elementary school.

Male standing guard over his territory:

This rock is too hot for his toes.

The latest news on the Folke Peterson Wildlife Center is that they will be closing the wildlife hospital tomorrow, by which time all of the patients will be relocated to other centers. However the county donated some money to keep the educational program running, so the education animals will stay. I said my goodbyes to the babies last weekend and still hope that something can be done. There is talk of merging with another wildlife center so we will see what happens.

Feeding time for the blue jays:

Everglades Reptiles

Jul 10, 2009 by Janine |
Visiting the Everglades in July consists of temperatures in the high 90's, near 100% humidity, and extremely high levels of mosquito activity. And also the best chance to see a panther, at least in our experience. Although we didn't see a panther during this visit, we did see plenty of reptiles, including a few new snake species, which was a treat.

We raced thunderstorms from Miami to Flamingo. Luckily the storms headed off in another direction and we were left with clear skies.

When we arrived at the marina, I was amazed to see several White Crowned Pigeons flying around, apparently roosting in the large Ficus trees nearby. I have never seen more than one at one time, so to see a literal flock of them was amazing.

Exploring the marina, we encountered both an alligator and a crocodile, an unusual occurrence. Alligators typically prefer fresh water, while crocodiles prefer brackish or salt. It is not common to see an alligator in salt water, although they can tolerate it for short periods of time.

This alligator swam into the marina. You can see in the background the exposed flats where Flamingos have been seen in the past. There were plenty of pelicans, cormorants, and herons out there, perhaps doing some evening fishing.

The crocodile, who had been basking on the bank in the mangroves, then decided to go for a swim. Whether it was investigating the arrival of the alligator, or attracted by the sounds of jumping fish, we are not quite sure.

The setting sun made for some interesting lighting.

We ate sandwiches while waiting for the sun to set, plagued by mosquitoes and deer flies. Finally, once it was dark, we set off in search of snakes. We had not even left Flamingo yet when we spotted this garter snake.

A little ways down the road, we found this Mangrove Salt Marsh snake, a new species for us.

Next, another water snake of some kind. I was not sure of the species, since none of the pictures in my books or on the web that I could find showed the red banding and eye color. Any snake experts out there feel free to chime in.

Brown water snake

One of the few non-reptilian sightings of the evening, a Chuck-Will's Widow. I was pleased to see it as it used to be quite common to hear their calls (which sound like their name). I have not heard them the past few years so it was nice to see one.

So even though we didn't see a panther, it was a great trip, and I can't wait to go back.

Folke Peterson babies

Jul 06, 2009 by Janine |
Fed the babies yesterday morning and thought I'd take some pictures, on the off chance that a millionaire will read my blog and decide to fork out some cash to save the center. So far my efforts to win the lottery have been unsuccessful!

Blue Jay

Northern mockingbird

Loggerhead shrike, looking like a jailbird with the cage in the background

It has been amazing watching this baby nighthawk grow up. He is almost big enough to be released.

In other news, I had a 3 day weekend because of Independence day, so I showed my patriotism by enjoying our national parks and wildlife refuges. Got loads of photos to sort through and had a great time, despite the inhumane heat and bugs. Will be posting soon!

Stormy weather, Snail Kites

Jul 03, 2009 by Janine |
Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the more reliable places to see Snail Kite here in South Florida. We decided to brave the dodgy weather last weekend and hike out along the Marsh Trail to see if we could find any. The clouds gathered ominously as we arrived but I was hopeful the storm would move off, so away we went.

We were greeted by this Rough Green Snake. Its been a while since I have seen one.

We continued walking and spotted this male Snail Kite from a distance. He was unperturbed by people walking by so I got to approach closely to photograph him.

There were thousands of Lubber Grasshoppers about, many of them mating pairs that would continue walking along like nothing was going on.

This one was munching on some fresh tasty pickerelweed blossoms.

See exciting chewing action.

As we continued, this young Snail Kite flew up and perched on a willow branch.

About the same time, the wind started picking up and the clouds began to darken and swirl threateningly. The young kite started making a racket as another kite approached carrying a snail.

Here's a video of said racket, followed by a good scratch.

At this point the thunder and lightning started up so I decided we had better get moving back to the truck. We suspect there are at least two pairs of kites, since the first male we saw was sitting in the same spot as we were leaving. We got to the truck just as the rain started to fall, ending our exciting day of wildlife watching.