Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Last week I was frolicking in Orlando, Florida, with my hubby to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary. Yay!  We spent most of our time at the Disney parks, but also took a day for some local nature. We drove out to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville. 

A boardwalk trail behind Merritt Island's Visitor Center.

We saw nature as well as the last foreseeable space shuttle at Canaveral.
At one point we drove down Canaveral's tiny, dusty Bio Lab Road in search of birds, Victor driving while I served as wildlife lookout. He isn't as fascinated with birds and bugs as I am, but had mentioned that he'd really like to see an alligator. So when we finally spotted one I was both relieved and excited.  The alligator was resting near a little streamlet along my side of the road.

The first alligator of the trip.

I had a hard time getting my camera to zoom properly on the alligator.  I thought the autofocus was just being persnickety, but when I downloaded the pictures I discovered the real cause: there were several large spiders a few feet from the car, between me and the alligator! The camera kept trying to focus on them, not the more distant reptile.  This photo reminds me of those old picture games I loved when I was a kid, finding various objects camouflaged in a sketch. How many predators can you count here?

From spiders to alligators, there's a predator in Florida for any size!

I count five predators in all, with a possible sixth just creeping in at the top of the spiders' web. These Golden-silk Spiders were each about one inch long including their legs-- pretty small for their species, so I'd guess they're pretty young. We also saw full-grown and honestly gargantuan females on the wildlife refuge.  The females measured about three or four inches long including the legs, with swollen bodies at least one inch long.  Males were barely one-third to one-half that large, and hung near the edge of the females' webs.  Check out this romantic pair:

Yikes! Those are some monstrous hairy-kneed legs.

Although late June/early July is supposedly one of the worst times for wildlife watching in Florida, what with the heat,  voracious mosquitoes, and a relatively low number of bird species in residence, we still had a great and very productive time.  I'll post more about the trip later this week, then resume my usual Maryland-area explorations.

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