Winter Respite

2015 winter cars in snow

This winter hasn’t been nearly as tough as the previous few, but David and I decided to take a break and visit our friends Marsha and Greg in northern Florida.  Our first attempt to get away failed due to freezing rain and several flight cancellations.  But finally, on February 29th we boarded our plane and landed in Tampa along with many other desperate Canadians and their screaming toddlers. Poor babies, and thank goodness for ear plugs!

Orysia-green-lizard 2016

For 7 glorious days; no boots, no gloves, heavy coats or hats. I was sorry I didn’t pack my visor to keep the sun off my face, however.  We weren’t in a particularly tourist-heavy area so I couldn’t find a visor and had to settle for a vented ball cap – Lucky Rooster Bourbon Whiskey, no less, even though a search through local liquor stores did not result in finding this particular bourbon.  On our last day I was very glad to wear my rooster cap as we cycled about 20 miles on a warm sunny day along Gainesville bike paths leading to Payne’s Prairie wildlife park.  They don’t require helmets there, but as we were on all bike paths and I was safely contained on a low-to-the-ground recumbent tricycle, I was not worried.  The trike was a treat – such a smooth, comfortable, almost effortless ride along relatively flat country. A taste of what’s to come, methinks, once I’ve really lost my balance.  I chose this bike because it was available to rent…..and the alternative was an uncomfortable regular hybrid bike with a hard seat my tush isn’t used to, being a recumbent rider back home.

But I’ve skipped ahead.  Our first day of adventure was a 7 mile canoe ride along the Santa Fe River.  I paddled in the bow, Greg sat in the stern and David was the official photographer in the middle of what turned out to be a leaky canoe.  Part way down we beached and took a break, emptied the water out of our canoe, and carried on with David and I switching places. We saw a LOT of turtles, variations on Juliette, the Cooter we have at home in our indoor turtle pond. She would have been so content in that lazy river. But alas, transporting turtles across international borders can be a bit dicey, even though she is originally from the south.  We also spotted a couple of alligators sunning themselves on the banks, and one with only eyes and back visible in the water.

2016 FL ali-eyes

I loved seeing all the exotic-to-me wildlife, like colourful skinks, anoles and an armadillo in the forest during our various hikes through state parks.  One morning we joined a local Audubon birding group and learned to tell turkey and black vultures apart. In this wetland area we saw ibis, teal and wood ducks, various herons, egrets, storks and pelicans, warblers, blue birds and many other species we don’t see in PEI. And of course the Great Blue Heron who does spend summers here. Our timing was perfect for missing the biting insect season. Mornings were still rather cool though the afternoons were gloriously warm without being too hot.

2016 FL bluebird

A bluebird male perched on his family home.

An osprey perched and then hunting, in flight above the water of the wetlands.

A brown snake disguised as a branch at Manatee Springs, and two anoles on a log on the property of the friends we were visiting.  At the top I’m holding a tiny green anole, scooped up by Marsha, a self-taught, expert herpetologist.

Marsha and I pose with Komut, her 13-year-old male, and standing alone is Zinde, a 7-year-old bitch.  Both Akbash Dogs are related to the two we have at home.

2016 FL mastodon in museum

At the University of Florida, Gainesville, we visited their indoor butterfly garden, but not before gawking at the mastodon skeleton.  Yikes!

I hear we’re due for a snowstorm the first days of ‘official’ spring next week, so I’m glad I’ll have all these warm memories and photos to focus on until real spring arrives on PEI, sometime in the next few months…..

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