Category Archives: Nature

Bee-autiful!

Honey Bee Swarm on a Maple Tree. Inset shows the position and size of the swarm in the tree.

On my two-mile walking route in my Kansas City suburban neighborhood, I’ve seen a lot of interesting sights, including a bobcat, foxes, deer, a stealth bomber overhead, local pilots flying their planes in formation, plenty of golfers on the golf course and children fishing in a small lake, where mallard ducks, herons, Canadian geese, turtles and muskrats have visited or made a home.

This week I was treated to a new sight — a huge swarm of honey bees.

I heard them before I saw them — a huge buzzing sound like something out of a science fiction movie. The bees were swarming around a maple tree, which you can see in the video above. Which reminds me of how beautiful are the changes in the seasons on this walk with so many flowers and colorful leaves appearing in succession throughout the year.

They had taken up temporary residence in a maple tree near a yard full of flowering shrubs, including masses of lilacs now in bloom. When I first moved to my current house fifteen years ago, honey bees were frequently seen in the Spring working the flowers of the crab apple trees that line the sidewalk on my street. But there were fewer each year. This year I didn’t see any on the crab apple flowers!

I returned the day after I took the video and saw all of the bees were quietly clustered on the tree. Only one or two were buzzing around. I read that this is normal behavior as the bees await their scouts returning with news of a new nest location in a tree hollow or other cavity, which could be up to a mile away. On the third day’s walk, the bees were gone with no sign they’d ever been there. A lone bee flew around as if to ask “Where did everyone go?”

Swarming is a honey bee colony’s way of reproduction. In the process of swarming, the original colony splits into two or more colonies. Honey Bees are non-aggressive when they swarm, since they have no hive to protect. They didn’t seem to notice me. In most climates, western honey bees (apis mellifera) swarm in the spring and early summer, when there is an abundance of blooming flowers from which to collect nectar and pollen. When these favorable conditions occur, the hive creates one to two dozen new queens. Just as the pupal stages of these “daughter queens” are nearly complete, the old queen and about half to two-thirds of the adult workers leave the colony in a swarm. Successful scouts will return to the swarm to report the location of suitable nesting sites to the other bees.

In the temporary location, the bees decide on the final nest site based on the level of excitement of the dances of the scout bees, which will lead the swarm to its new home. It’s unusual if a swarm clusters for more than three days at an intermediate stop.

In the old colony, the emerging daughter queens will fight one another until there is only one surviving queen.

One of my first blog posts here was about saving bees and their importance to pollination: Saving Bees.

“Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.” Pollinator Partnership.

What is Pollination?

Honeybee Visiting a Sunflower Photo Print

Honeybee visits a sunflower.

Click on the photo to see the full-size photo.

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Filed under Animals, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Kansas City, Natural History, Nature, Photography

The Bald Eagles of Money Bayou, Florida


In this short video, one of the Money Bayou bald eagles calls to its partner on the nest in another dead pine tree nearby.

Bald Eagle and Eaglet in a Nest in a Dead Tree in Florida.

A bald eagle pair living near Money Bayou, Florida, have become local celebrities. Residents in the area have observed the eagles for many years, including the very difficult time when Category 5 Hurricane Michael hit the area in October 2018 and destroyed the nest. The bald eagles returned to rebuild the nest.  People are often parked near their nest tree and nearby perching tree to watch and photograph them. The pair raised at least one eaglet in 2020.

My family and I enjoyed watching the bald eagles, too, during a visit to Money Bayou in February in 2020. We first saw one of the bald eagles flying over Money Bayou Beach and then perching on a tree overlooking the bayou and the beach beyond.  Eventually, I saw the nest.  I didn’t learn about the bald eagles’ celebrity until I saw the book about “Jack” and “Elizabeth” and their eaglet “Miracle” in the Indian Pass General Store.

A bald eagle does a little beach combing on Money Bayou Beach, Florida.

The story of the bald eagle pair is chronicled in this book The Bald Eagles of Money Bayou: An Almost True Story by Valerie Seyforth Clayton. You can read about the book here: “Chronicling a love of eagles as life lesson.” The book contains a lot of great photographs of the eagles.

The bald eagles in Florida’s Gulf County area fly to Tennessee in the summer, according to Sophia, a biologist at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve,  which is not far from Money Bayou. There are also bald eagle nests in the Buffer Preserve.

Bald Eagle Pair at Money Bayou, Florida Photo Print

Bald Eagle Pair at Money Bayou, Florida

 

 

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Bull Moose at Dawn in Rocky Mountain National Park

A bull moose stands in Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, at dawn.

A bull moose stands in Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain Park at dawn in late September 2019. The moose seems to be posing for the many photographers who lined the lake. I was lucky to be one of them, thanks to my friend Lynn who drove me there. She also took some great photographs.

Moose (Alces alces) are the largest members of the deer family. On average, an adult moose stands between five and seven feet high at the shoulder. Large males can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds while females are roughly three-quarters of this size.

National Park Service: About Moose in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Where to see moose in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

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Shark Attack

A shark chased a fish to the beach at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

I was standing at the edge of the surf on the beach at Cape Canaveral, Florida, looking for dolphins to photograph, when I heard thrashing sounds in the surf on the beach about ten feet away. It was a shark, about five-feet-long, attacking a fish. It was a ferocious struggle. Too close for comfort. Another reason why I never swim in the ocean!

I don’t know what kind of shark it was.  I’m guessing that it was a tiger shark, because of the shape of the head and because it was so aggressive. But I’m not a shark expert.

Here’s a list of sharks you might find off the coast of Cape Canaveral and nearby Cocoa Beach, Florida.  Seven Florida Shark Species.

A fishing site describes the seven shark species: Descriptions of Seven Florida Shark Species. 

About the Tiger Shark.

Click on this photo to see more details:

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The Turtle Hospital, Marathon, Florida

The Turtle Hospital is housed in the former Hidden Harbor Motel in Marathon, Florida. The Turtle Hospital opened its doors 1986 with four main goals: 1) rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, 2) educate the public through outreach programs and visit local schools, 3) conduct and assist with research aiding to sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and 4) work toward environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.

I love turtles, so I was glad to see The Turtle Hospital exists to help sea turtles in distress. My husband and I visited The Turtle Hospital while visiting Marathon in the Florida Keys.

The Turtle Hospital, 2396 Overseas Highway, was the first state-certified veterinary hospital in the world for sea turtles. Among the threats to sea turtles are monofiliment entanglement, rope and net entanglement, boat hits, oils spills and tar, intestinal impaction from eating debris, such as cigarette filters (which look similar to shrimp) and plastic bags, coastal development that can damge nests and disorients adults and hatchlings from artificial light, and fibropapilloma tumors that result from a virus. Also, turtles also can suffer from extreme cold when they don’t migrate to warmer waters soon enough.

The Turtle Hospital, which is housed in the former Hidden Harbor Motel complex, is funded entirely by donations and tickets sales to visitors, who take a tour. The motel owner Richie Moretti founded The Turtle Hospital. After a hurricane ruined the motel, Moretti decided to dedicate the motel entirely to turtle rescue.

Five species of sea turtles are found in the waters of the Florida Keys: Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii).

This Kemp’s Ridley turtle is recuperating in a tank in The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. Every year Kemp’s Ridley turtles are found cold stunned on New England beaches. Volunteers will look for these cold stunned turtles on the beach and transport them to the New England Aquarium, according to The Turtle Hospital. Once they determine that they are stabilized and ready for transport, they get shipped south. They do not fly commercial, they get volunteer pilots from “Turtles Fly Too!”

 

Green Turtles

Green Turtles that have been hurt in accidents, been damaged from net entanglements, have ingested foreign materials or suffer from diseases are taken care of at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.

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Elk Photo Shoot

Here are three of the seven bull elk that lounged and grazed in a neighborhood where friends and I stayed in Estes Park, Colorado.

My husband and I visited several U.S. National Parks in the last year and a half, and we didn’t see one large mammal — even in Yellowstone National Park, where you can always see bison.  I’d seen plenty of elk, moose and bison a few years earlier, but I had entered an animal drought. I was determined to see some elk on our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in early November 2018.  We stayed just outside of the park in the town of Estes Park.   I was very eager to shoot a few elk with my new camera.

We’d visited RMNP in August, and I only saw a large ground squirrel in the park.  During that visit, we’d hoped to see bighorn sheep at Sheep Lakes, where we’d seen a herd in a visit a few years ago, but the ranger report this year indicated that the sheep hadn’t visited in a week.  We waited for two hours, anyway, before giving up.

This “I Saw an Elk in the Rocky Mountains” hand towel was a gift from friends who knew how excited I was to finally see some elk.

We were returning from our second no-elk trip from RMNP, when friends texted me that there were seven bull elk lounging right outside our condominium building! My friends seen one or two elk before, but the elk had always eluded me. On our way to the condo, we saw a large herd of elk — females led by a big bull elk. They were so magnificent.  There were elk all over the town of Estes Park!  We went from visual famine, to visual feast.

The elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, in the world, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in North America and Northeast Asia.

This bull elk groomed himself after rubbing his antlers against a tree near a condominium parking lot in Estes Park, Colorado, in early November. The rutting season was over, and this guy missed out on romance, but he’s keeping himself in shape and looking good. Maybe next year he’ll find success. In the meantime, he’s hanging out with his other male friends.

In early November, the rutting season was over, but these two bull elk decided to spar a little. They apparently didn’t attract any lady elk this year, but it doesn’t hurt to practice for next year’s mating season.

In Estes Park, Colorado, elk graze in neighborhood yards and freely travel the streets and highways. In the lower right photo, a bull elk bugles to his herd of females to follow him.

A herd of female elk, plus one bull elk, rest on a traffic island in Estes Park, Colorado. I took this photo through the car window, so it’s not that great, but it does give you an idea of how much the elk feel at home in the town.

 

Bull Elk Bugling, Estes Park, Colorado Photo Print

Bull Elk Bugling, Estes Park, Colorado

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Florida Panther Crossing

Florida panthers must navigate traffic, maneuver around walls and traverse ever growing human populations in the Florida panther’s habitat in south Florida. Here are panther crossing signs warning drivers in Naples, Florida, to watch for panthers.

I would have loved to have seen a Florida panther in the wild while in Florida this past winter, although it’s best that they remain away from people.

Florida Panther crossing signs show the perilous route that Florida panthers must take to traverse their territory. They must cross busy streets flanked by walls and navigate through the ever growing construction of homes in South Florida.  There are wildlife refuges for panthers to live in, but their actual territory is much larger, and even in refuges they can be hit by cars. The panther currently occupies only 5 percent of its former range.

Florida panthers are the larger of Florida’s two native cat species (panthers and bobcats). The Florida panther is an endangered population of the cougar (Puma concolor) that lives in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and mixed swamp forests of South Florida in the United States, according to Wikipedia.

Panthers are listed as an Endangered Species under the Endangered Species Act.  There are approximately 120-230 adult panthers in the population, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  There has been some progress in increasing the panther population since the 1970s and 1980s, when it was estimated only 20 to 30 panthers remained in Florida.

As the human population of Florida continues to grow, panthers will find it harder to find a place to live.  Twenty-one million people currently live in Florida; 16 million lived in Florida in 2000. It is one of the fastest growing states and is the third most populous. People are attracted to Florida because of its climate and long coastline, and I can’t blame them.  I enjoyed a month there this year.  Along with Hawaii, Florida is one of only two states that has a tropical climate, and is the only continental U.S. state with a tropical climate. It is also the only continental U.S. state with a coral reef named the Florida Reef.  Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, approximately 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers).

In 1982, the Florida panther was chosen as the Florida state animal.

Florida Panther Population Update.

About the Florida Panther.

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