Tag Archives: Wildlife

Adventure Park Time

Get Ready to Explore!

Beautiful Birds

Big Cats

You cannot see me!

Going On A Safari

Hippo Time

Modern Day Dinosaurs

Monkey Business

Roo’s Relaxing and Resting

Oh So Funny to Watch! The lazing about and those facial expressions – ha!

She has a joey on board.

(Photos by RSheridan)

Have You Got Your Adventure On Lately? Love to Hear, Please Share.


Taking a Walk

On the Wild Side

Lettuce Lake Regional Park is a 240-acre Hillsborough County-run park just outside the city limits of Tampa, Florida. Located along the Hillsborough River. More than half of the park lies in the natural floodplain of the Hillsborough River. There is a hardwood swamp forest, hardwood hammocks and pine flatwoods. It provides a natural storage reservoir for floodwater and improves water quality.

A park in its natural state that is untouched and truly offers an experience of natural Florida. I recommend visiting the interpretive center for exhibits on the local vegetation and the birdlife and wildlife that call the park home. The BEST feature of the park is the 3,500 foot boardwalk! There is an observation tower too.

(Photos by RSheridan)

Have You Taken a Walk On the Wild Side Lately? Love to Hear, Please Share.


In Sawgrass Lake Park

Bird Life






Fauna & Flora





Wild Life

(Photos by RSheridan)

Happy Adventuring!!!


At Sawgrass Lake

Enjoying the Lake View . . . ahhh . . .



Mama Gator and Her Babies


Look at that tail!

Gator Babies – oh so cute!


I finally saw an armadillo in the wild. Just use your ears to hear all that rustling about and rooting for food.


Natural Beauty


Colorful Catepillar


Fierce Bird

Looking right at you!


Get my good side. (Photos by RSheridan)

Here’s to Walking On The Wild Side!

Wandering with the Wild

Hitting the Boardwalk


The Birds that is! Hello! Spring Migration of Florida Birds!

I am more bird curious than a birdwatcher. 

Many birds pass through Florida during the seasonal migrations. April is the month when birds reverse their route. The Keys and South Florida are the first safe place to land after all that flapping their way from either Cuba or the Yucatan. Some are putting on their best breeding plumage to shake a tail feather to attract a mate to create offspring.

White Pelicans

White pelicans are not completely white. Their wings are white and black. At times groups of pelicans will work together to herd fish into the shallows for easy feeding.

Watching these birds soar and then land was such a graceful experience to see. Then watching them work together to feed was another great experience to see.

A ballet of birds!

A Great Blue Heron in the Mix

I love Great Blue Herons and how majestic they look. Sometimes I do a double-check to make sure it is a real Great Blue Heron instead of a statute. They stand so motionless.

They are all stealth when it comes to feeding. Then they strike – got it!

Beautiful sight to see in action or in flight!

One Brown Pelican with a Flock of White Pelicans

Now the Brown Pelican feeds by plunge-diving from high up to use the force of the impact to stun small fish before scooping them up.

I love watching them glide over the water.

Coming in for a Landing . . . You can see the white and black wings.

A Spoonbill

In Action . . .

Saying Hello! to the Feathered Friends.


Hiding in the Mangroves.

A Masked Bandit

Another raccoon out in broad daylight.

(Photos by RSheridan)

Here’s To Walking On The Wild Side! Enjoy!

Watching the Wild

At Sawgrass Lake Park

This is the place to walk on the Wild Side and see the Florida Natives! Saw Plenty of Bird Species and oh so much MORE!

Finally a Limpkin Sighting Again!


There were plenty of Ibis to Spot!

One . . .

One, Two, Three . . .

One, Two, Three, Four and Five . . .



Look at the Pompadour!



A Sunbathing Gator

Warm on Top, Staying Cool Underneath

A Unique Sighting – A Raccoon Out in Broad Daylight

Mama Gator and Her Babies

Fauna & Flora

(Photos by RSheridan)

Happy Exploring! What Have You Spotted Lately? Love to Hear, Please Share!

What Can You Spot?

At Sawgrass Lake Park

There is a lot of blending with the natural surroundings going on and it keeps you on constant lookout! You know there is always something worth looking at when a crowd forms in a particular spot along the boardwalk! 





(Photos by RSheridan)

What Have You Been Exploring? Love to Hear, Please Share! Happy Exploring!!!

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

The Refuge

Is part of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Complex along with the

  • Pine Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Caloosahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
  • Matlacha Pass National Wildlife Refuge
  • Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge

1 Wildlife Drive in Sanibel, Florida

The entire complex is approx. 8,000 acres. The majority of the lands in these refuges are nesting and roosting islands. The Refuge is located on the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. “The refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States.”

“Jay Norwood Darling was instrumental in the effort to block the sale of a parcel of environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island. At Darling’s urging, President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945.”

Wildlife and Habitat

Teeming With Life! “The refuge contains some of the most nutritionally rich habitat for thousands of species of plants and animals in an intricate food web.”

ALL Animals in the Refuge are WILD!

  • Respect the animals. Can potentially cause harm.
  • To be safe, do not interact with or feed the wildlife (avoid dangerous situations).
  • Keep your distance. If you approach and the animals change their behavior then you are too close.

  • Birds – over 245 different species of birds that call the refuge home, especially its spectacular migratory bird populations. The “Big 5”:  American White Pelican, Mangrove Cuckoo, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, and Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Wading Birds to Seabirds to Shorebirds to Raptors to Song Birds to Waterfowl to Marsh Birds
  • Mammals – Manatee to Bobcat to River Otter to Raccoon to Marsh Rabbitt to Sanibel Island Rice Rat.
  • Reptiles – Crocodilians to Lizards to Snakes to Turtles and Tortoises. Reptiles are great at camouflage and can be very sneaky too.
  • Amphibians – Frogs to Toads.
  • Fish – Seagrass beds and mangrove forests serve as shelter, nursery and feeding areas. Mullet to Red Drum (Redfish) to Sheepshead to Snook to Spotted Seatrout (Speckled Trout) to Tarpon.
  • Invertebrates – Arachnids to Butterflies to Crustaceans to Mollusks.
  • Endangered Species – protect endangered and threatened species. Loggerhead Sea Turtle to Smalltooth Sawfish to West Indian Manatee to Wood Stork.
  • Habitats – the refuge is located within an estuary. Freshwater Marsh to Mangrove Forests and Swamps to Open Water to Seagrass Beds to Tidal Flats and Mudflats to Tropical Hardwood Hammock.
  • Invasive and Non-Native Species – a plant or animal that is not native to an ecosystem (likely to cause harmful effects to the environment or even humans)

The Seasons

January to March

  • Adult Spoonbills leave the Refuge to head to nesting grounds in March.
  • Alligators can be seen basking in the sun on cold mornings.
  • One of the best times of the year for birding, especially migratory birds.
  • Osprey nesting peaks in March.

April to June

  • Adult Spoonbills return slowly in June.
  • Male alligators may be heard bellowing to attract a mate. Female alligators begin to lay eggs in June.
  • Manatees can be seen mating at area beaches in April and May.
  • Sea turtles nest on Sanibel beaches from May to October.
  • Wading bird nesting peaks in April.
  • Yellow Crowned Night Herons nest near the exit of Wildlife Drive from April to June.

July to September

  • Alligators present and often visible at dawn and dusk.
  • Early migrant birds arrive in August.
  • Sea turtle hatchlings start to emerge from the nests in August.

October to December

  • Annual Christmas Bird Count takes place.
  • Birding improves during December.
  • Migratory birds arrive in more numbers.
  • Shorebird migration in October.

Visitor and Education Center

Check Out the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Website!

Open Monday – Sunday. Jan. 1 – Apr. 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. May 1 – Dec. 31 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is FREE.

Holiday Closures:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day


  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • President’s Day

Wildlife Drive

Closed on ALL Fridays (Wildlife can have the refuge to themselves)! Open ALL Holidays unless the Holiday falls on a Friday.


  • $5 per vehicle
  • $1 per pedestrian
  • $1 per bicycle


  • January – 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • February – 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • March – 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • April – 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • May – 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • June – 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • July – 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • August – 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • September – 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • October – 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • November – 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • December – 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Drove through five miles of mangrove tree forests and tidal flats. Saw the island’s native vegetation, but the wildlife was elusive.

(Photos by RSheridan)

Here’s to Exploring the Natural (at times WILD) Side!!!

Swamp Trekking






(Photos by RSheridan)

Happy Trails!!!

Lake Okeechobee

aka “Florida’s Inland Sea”,

“The Lake” or “The Big O”

The name Okeechobee comes the Hitchiti words oki (water) and chubi (big).

The largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida! 730 square miles with an average depth of only 9 feet. At its capacity the lake holds 1 trillion gallons of water! 

There is something about being out on a big body of water versus standing on the shoreline! The airboat tour was 2 hours and the 1st hour was in the fog and the 2nd hour with the sun slowly peeking through the mist. It made for an interesting composition of photos!

Not that deep!

Lake Okeechobee sits in a shallow geological trough that also underlies the Kissimmee River Valley and the Everglades. The lake is the headwaters of the Everglades. The Kissimmee River provides more than 60% of the water flowing into the lake.

The 100 foot dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. Used by hikers and bicyclists.

Interesting Fact:  Lake Okeechobee is featured in the first episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show.

Florida Airboat Charters

Chartered an airboat from Florida Airboat Charters to get out on Lake Okeechobee. Our Captain and guide was Jason, a TWS Certified Wildlife Biologist, Coast Guard Licensed Captain, experienced airboat operator, and state certified airboat instructor. He has worked extensively with alligators and knows his lakes and marshes in Central and South Florida. In Very Good Hands!

Florida Airboat Charters offers a custom airboating experience tailored to your wants and needs. Exploring. Wildlife (Gators) and Bird Watching. Ride On!

Highly recommend taking an airboat tour on Lake Okeechobee! A learning opportunity, an experience and oh so much FUN!

The Giant Toad

aka Bufo Marinus or Bufo Toad. Also known as a Marine Toad or Cane Toad.

Jason talked about the Bufo toads. The largest of the frogs and toads found in Florida. DO NOT Touch!

The toad’s call is a low-pitched trill and a chorus sounds like an idling diesel engine.

This toad is not native to the U.S. Released in the U.S. in the sugar cane fields to help control white grubs. Then accidentally released from a pet dealer at the Miami airport in 1955 (about 100 toads released). There were subsequent releases by pet dealers in the 1960’s. These toads will eat all types of native frogs and toads. These toads breed year round too!

Here is the Word of CAUTION!!!

When this non-native species is threatened or handled it secretes a highly toxic milky substance from its large glands at the back of its head, behind the ears. This secretion can burn your eyes, may irritate your skin and can even kill cats and dogs if they ingest the secretion.

Cities Around Lake Okeechobee

There are 5 Counties around Lake Okeechobee.

  • Okeechobee
  • Glades
  • Hendry
  • Martin
  • Palm Beach

All five counties meet at one point near the center of the lake!


Okeechobee is known as the ‘Speckled Perch Capital of the World’. Lake Okeechobee is a natural resource for the fishing industry and is a sportman’s paradise, including several nationally sanctioned bass tournaments.

Interesting as well as Scary Fact:  The Lake Okeechobee area was the site of the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, the first recorded Category 5 Hurricane in the North Atlantic. One of the deadliest hurricanes ever to strike the United States. Two years before that was the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. Both hurricanes dramatically altered the landscape of the area.

Moore Haven

A city in Glades County on the Southwest shoreline of Lake Okeechobee.

The city was named after James A. Moore, its founder. In its early days, Moore Haven was often called “Little Chicago” due to being a boom town.


A city in and the county seat of Hendry County. The city began as a settlement on the Caloosahatchee River around the time of Hamilton Disston’s efforts to drain the Everglades in the hope of promoting growth in the area. The settlement laid on the western edge of Captain Francis A. Hendry’s large Monroe County’s land. Populated with cattle drovers and trappers. In 1909, Captain Hendry subdivided his land to be sold. the majority land holding stake was bought by E.E. Goodno, which increased the size of LaBelle almost twenty times its original size. In 1925, the Florida Legislature chartered the City of LaBelle, which replaced the Town of LaBelle.

LaBelle hosts the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival, which is held in honor of the Florida state tree during the last full weekend of February. The festival includes a 5K walk/run, beauty pageant and rodeo.


A city in Hendry County near Lake Okeechobee.

Clewiston is known for it sport fishing, particularly of largemouth bass. This area was once used as a fishing camp by the Seminole Indians. The first permanent settlement began in 1920 and was incorporated as a city in 1925.

Large sugar plantations were established around Lake Okeechobee. The US Sugar Corporation remained the dominant manufacturer in Clewiston, which became known as “America’s Sweetest Town”. There was plenty of sugar cane to see driving around in this area!

By the 1950’s and the 1960’s the cultivation of citrus and vegetables as well as raising cattle were important to the economy.



Lake Okeechobee is at capacity right now with all the rain and the vegetation was full! It was hard to tell at times if I was on water or a big, grassy field! 


These gators know how to camouflage really well, especially among the full vegetation! Plus it has been warm, so prefer to be in the water swimming about!

Lily & Lotus

A favorite area of mine!

Snail Kites & Snails

My 1st time seeing a Snail Kite! I was not able to captured the Snail Kite with the snail in its talons though – move so fast as well as pretty much without sound!

Snail Eggs (finally know what this is!)


I am so not a fan of the eight-legged! I had to suck it up though while going through hundreds of webs while sitting on the airboat. Those webs are quite sticky too. I would have lost it if I ended up with a full face of spider though!

Then Jason had to ask, “How many spiders do you think are out here?”. Too many in my opinion looking at all the webs surrounding me. Plus 1 Spider is more than enough for me!

(Photos by RSheridan)

 Happy Exploring!!!

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