Saturday morning Creature Feature


So, one thing I miss here in Florida in the wintertime is the zoo. Lincoln Park Zoo and the Monday docents- you  know how I love that scene. I understand from the weekly e-mail docent newsletter that it’s slow at LPZ right now, between the cold and wind and also, the docents are all on a forced hiatus while we get the office space there spiffed up. Plus the gibbons are getting their space spiffed up as well, so really, I don’t think I’m missing much action except the birth of Pumpkin’s second little boy. She’s a Francois’ Langur, an endangered primate, and the babies are always born bright orange and look a lot like Ron Howard as Opie. Very cute.


Down here in St. Petersburg I was desperate to lay hands on critters so I’ve been volunteering at the Boyd Hills Nature Preserve on Lake Maggiore. This is one sweet place, with the best nature trails, birds and animals and a wonderful smart group of rangers and volunteers. Every one there knows so much (and I know so little) about native Florida and they are all willing to share that knowledge, so this is a great experience for me. I’ve been helping out in the raptor rehab area (I think the official title is Avian Education Specialist) and also doing a small routine on Saturday mornings where I bring out some native species or other to share with the public. We call it Saturday morning Creature Feature, modeled on Animal of the Hour at Lincoln Park. 

kingsnake(this active Eastern kingsnake-Lampropeltis getula-is slightly more of a handful than the 9 inch Kenyan sand boa we use in the education program at LPZ. Rumor has it that sand boa has been sleeping for the past two and a half years.)



                     (Here I am fastening the short leash into his jesses.)

This morning I took Stretch, one of the little Eastern Screech Owls, out of the aviary and over to the education center.  Stretch is hopelessly cute and very cooperative on the glove so he’s a great program animal. He and Wheezer, the little rufous female, both have vision issues from running into things in their youth so they can’t drive at night and live in the really nice quarters provided for them at Boyd Hills. (Maybe that’s why I feel so attached to them- we have that vision thing in common.) Wheezer, along with some of the other raptors, is responding to the call of nature and she’s busy shredding up her twine perch for a nest so I left her busy in her box where she was. Last week Free Spirit, the bald eagle, laid three eggs and the red-shoulders are acting a bit rammy, too. Not that I want anyone in Chicago to feel badly, but the weather is positively spring-like today, 65 and sunny.


There was a nature camp going on in one of the classrooms so I stopped in to talk with them about predators and prey, Stretch’s wonderful camouflage colors and the nature of bird bones and feathers. Stretch kindly dropped a pellet, much to their delight, so I left that with them to dissect.


         (I’m not sure which I like more- his ear tufts or his lovely green eyes…)

Now I’m back on the porch and the nature show continues. Part of the large oak in the front yard- the one where the Hannibals nest each year and again this year- is dead, so a pair of pileated woodpeckers(Dryocopus pileatus) is nesting in the snag. However, someone else is trying out their very fine hole this afternoon and it’s making them crazy. Their ruckus is causing Mrs. Hannibal, who just rejoined Hannibal last week, to dive at them and Sophie is making weird cat sounds and twitching at the whole scene. I’ll post some pictures of all that tomorrow but at the moment, the warm sunshine is making a nap irresistible.

18 responses to “Saturday morning Creature Feature

  1. That owl is precious! Can you pet him while you are holding him? Or is he skittish? The snake is beautiful, but I’d be skittish around him.

    I took a nap in the sun on my deck chaise this afternoon; it was 68* and gorgeous! Storm and I enjoyed our time in the sun.

  2. Hi Judy- I don’t really “pet” him but he’s not that skittish. I can turn him around on the glove with a nudge on his tail or have him show his wings but, in general, I give him his space. Since all of these raptors are pretty responsive to certain conditions, the goal is to keep them “positively operantly conditioned” so they remain happy program animals for education purposes. So no, much as I would like to hug and kiss him, he just sits there and I admire his good looks and owlish personality. 🙂

  3. You hang out with the coolest critters. I’d love to see your pics of the Hannibals, and the pileateds too. What a great neighborhood.

  4. I loved this post. Great animals and how wonderful of you to volunteer.

    Oh, I’m pulling for the Pileateds to keep their spot.

  5. What a great blog you have!We didn’t know that Boyd Hills had that until now.And it’s so close to us.Thanks for the information.

  6. Oh, did I pick a good day to revisit your blog!
    Screech owls! (Stretch and Weezer are just about the best names I have heard for SO’s!)

  7. Boyd Hill. I have found memories of that special place. We went there often when I was a child. We lived just a few miles from it. As a little girl, I loved this slide that was inside a huge shoe resembling the one the Old Woman who lived in a shoe lived in. I think my mom has a picture of me in it. I will have to see if I can find it. When I moved to Girl Scouts from Brownies, there was a bridge that we crossed over as a symbol of that momentous occasion. I remember feeling very sad about the aweful cages where the animals lived though so was glad when I heard that it was being revamped a while back. I’m so glad you are volunteering there. Do you go every Saturday?

  8. 2 posts in a row? I’m loving it. Perhaps I will follow your fine example.

  9. You are one lucky lady, Vicki. And it looks like you’re having a great time.

    Guess what? 40 degrees yesterday in A2! I can see grass out back for the first time in months.

  10. Go You!!
    That kingsnake is gorgeous. I want one.

    Thank you for being a shining example of what a snowbird can be!

  11. Such beautiful critters! Love that you get to bring precious little owlies to kids so they can see how wonderful they are. What a great experience!

  12. I adore pileateds. They were one of my favorites to watch at our old place. Elusive and more difficult to get photos of than most of the birds in the area, but try I did! Wish I’d had my current camera back then!

  13. I love this post too. That heron sculpture looks like he stuck his wing in a light socket…
    I took a raptor handling class one time and guess who’s glove was too big and lost hold of their red tailed hawk…luckily he just jumped around on the ground. But I loved the class.

    We are getting lots of woodpeckers to our suet feeders here in our new yard and I am having a hard time remembering which is which. The pileated I know since he is so big.

    You look great by the way.

  14. The snake totally squicks me out (very technical term, squick); but the Francois’ Langur have invoked an urge to knit tiny baby things. I don’t suppose primates need booties though.

  15. I agree with FC. We need more snowbirds like you…maybe a few Floridians too. I told my friends at school once that I was thinking about getting a snake for my classroom. Their response…Beverly, if you do, we will never come in your room again.

    My children had for a pre-school teacher the daughter of Ross Allen. He was the head herpetologist at Silver Springs for a long time, and then he came to Sarasota and worked at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This pre-school teacher had all sorts of reptiles in her classroom.

    Right now I’m watching the Westminster Dog Show. I love those dogs.

  16. Oh, I’m feeling your pain on the computer front.

    And lucky kids! Those owls are wonderful–as is their handler.

    And I so don’t want to talk to you about the weather. Ahem.

  17. The pileated woodpeckers are busy here as well. We had two very, very tall dead pine trees that both broke off and fell… at the same time during a recent wind event and they are loving it!

  18. That picture on top is a sculpture, right? Can’t be a real bird.

    One of my real hopes in life is to be able to hear a barred owl in the wild some time. I think their call is so cool.

    Aren’t you proud of me for flying? First time in 27 years by my best guess. And it only took two Xanax and a sleeping pill (for the flight over anyway). OK, the same for the flight back too. But I still think that’s progress.

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