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.
(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.