"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Assorted Wildlife...Otters, the Kmart Ospreys and the Wailing Limpkins

We went out cycling this morning and to my complete astonishment saw an otter basking on the shores of Lake Rowena near the Orlando Museum of Art. An otter, here in the middle of this big city, only yards from 6 lanes of traffic, unbelievable. It slipped into the lake and swam away too fast for me to photograph.
The otters here are river otters. This is one of many great photos taken by Jessie Dickson of the otters at Viera Wetlands here in Florida.. go and see more all together in one album page here.



This adorable pup is from the Tampa Bay Aquarium where they breed and rescue river otters. more here



Even after a year here I am completely enchanted by the huge variety of wildlife I find in this very urban environment, helped enormously by Orlando's many lakes, over 2000 in about a twenty mile radius. If I go to the lake here I will see ospreys, ducks, anhingas, moorhens, coots, various herons, terns, grackles, egrets big and small, and platoons of strutting ibis. We live next door to a dreary concrete Mall but the ospreys have a nest on one of the big floodlights in the Kmart car park. It is not advisable to park underneath this light unless you want your car covered with twigs, droppings or bits of rotting fish, tidy housekeepers they are not.





We have a chattering belted kingfisher which every night flies around the apartments. It's big and very noisy. I see the alligators, turtles and snakes at Leu. Out in the suburbs, where we first stayed, there was a bobcat trotting along a forested scrubland trail at dusk, as well as huge sandhill cranes who barely move as you pass. There are the ever present circling turkey buzzards, hawks, big serious owls and the ponderous wood storks. There are colourful woodpeckers, we saw one of the big red crested pileated woodpeckers today, brilliant red cardinals and sweet little mocking birds. Frogs, toads and more. All this and I am not even looking for wildlife.
A few weeks ago we went to Myakka wildlife reserve and saw, as a well as a bald eagle reliving an osprey of its catch,and the obligatory alligators, the strange little Limpkin. Aramus guarauna. My less than perfect photo does at least show how well camouflaged it is.



It is so called because of its awkward gait and is also known as the Crying bird because of its distinctive call, a piecing wild sounding scream or wail which it makes especially at night. The noise was so disturbing that the early Florida pioneers "mistook the call of the Limpkin for the haunting wails of tortured souls in the night time swamps". It has also described as,"a hoarse rattling cry like the gasp of person being strangled, like "little boys lost in the swamps forever;" or " an unearthly shriek" with the "quality of unutterable sadness." Many tales and legends arose from this eerie sound and in parts of the Amazon they believe that a crescendo of limpkin calls foretells that rising river levels have reached their height.
Its eldritch shriek has also been immortalised in the soundtracks of old Tarzan movies and more recently in Harry Potter. Cornell's Macaulay Library provided the voice of the Winged Hippogriff, read more here and listen to a great recording of its call made in Florida in 1956 here. I understand it is very annoying to have Limpkins nearby if you are a light sleeper.

Audubon's Limpkin is wonderfully evocative...I still think he is the best by far.



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This is the Pencil & Leaf sloth of sloth, signifying a day off drawing.

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