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Posts from the ‘The Natural World’ Category

An Earth Day Note of Gratitude

Since I’ve had my little blog, I’ve been blessed with requests from biologists, scientists, park rangers, national wildlife organizations, and artists to use my photos — my tiny glimpses into the continually threatened natural Florida. I always learn so much from them all, and am incredibly grateful to have met them.

In honor of Earth Day, I want to give an enormous THANKS to all of those who work so incredibly hard, often in dubious and/or dangerous situations, for our beautiful blue sphere — the hands-on scientists and rangers working directly with the wildlife and lands, caring for the welfare of so many threatened and endangered critters and ecosystems. An equal shout of gratitude to the writers, artists, and outspoken voices of our wonderful world!

Most recently, I met Everglades biologist John Kellam, and he kindly shared his amazing research on the endangered Florida panther. To say that this is a special and rare glimpse into the lives of these magnificent and elusive animals is an understatement! I hope you enjoy John’s images and descriptive text as much as I did — and another thanks to him for sharing his work for, and obvious love of, these endangered creatures.

From John: I am a biologist; Since 2006, I have been a member of the National Park Service Florida panther capture, research, and monitoring team, and the lead biologist of the first successful home range and habitat use study of the Big Cypress fox squirrel (a Florida State listed Threatened species) in natural habitats (

Florida Panther Kitten  (Copyright  John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Florida Panther Kitten (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

More from John: The kitten in the photos is 1 of 3 kittens located in female Florida panther #162’s den on August 15, 2014 in the interior of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Florida Panther Kitten,  Copyright  John Kellam, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Florida Panther Kitten (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

When a female panther is denning and her kittens are @ 14 days old (based on radio-telemetry data), we wait until she leaves the den (typically to go hunting), then we locate the den and process the kitten away from the den site. Our medical work-up of kittens involves collecting biopsy, hair, and ectoparasite samples, inserting subcutaneous microchips (PIT-tags), obtaining body mass/measurement data, and administering oral medications. Once we have processed the kittens, we place them back in the den.

When kittens are handled at dens, we gain valuable reproduction information on litter size, gender, weight, genetics, and overall health of kittens. In addition, kittens with microchips provide us information on movements and survival if handled again as an adult.

Florida Panther Kittens at Den (Copyright  John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Florida Panther Kittens at Den (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Here’s much love and good wishes to a promising future for these amazing animals — Happy Earth Day!

Preserving our Future: World Wetlands Day 2015

World Wetlands Day PosterA million HELLOS to the blogging community!

And happy early World Wetlands DayIt’s hard not to be passionate about the celebration of such an event, since all of what you see here — the unique landscapes and its wonderful critters — are dependent on wetland ecosystems. Officially February 2, World Wetlands Day is an international celebration of the planet’s marshes, swamps, and bogs. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997, and since then government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and citizens all over the world have aimed to raise public awareness of the critical value and intrinsic benefits of wetland ecosystems.

World Wetlands Day 2015 LogoDespite the growing awareness of this unique ecosystem, there are sobering threats facing the survival of our wetlands:

    • A 2011 federal study estimated the U.S. lost 62,300 acres of wetlands between 2004-2009 — a loss rate 140% higher than from 1998-2004
    • Wetland habitat has now been cut within the contiguous U.S. to 110 million acres…. And those surviving wetlands face dangers like hypoxia due to water pollution and invasive species. Pythons and melaleuca in the Everglades (among a host of other destructive non-native species), and nutria in New Orleans continue to ravage the structure of this ecosystem
    • Wetlands are extremely sensitive, and are counted as one of the most vulnerable ecosystems subject to climate change
    • Wetlands residents have suffered terribly due to increased habitat loss

      Preserving the future of the wetlands of our world: Mother and baby Great Blue Heron in the Florida wetlands

      Preserving the future of the wetlands of our world: Mother and baby Great Blue Heron in the Florida wetlands

From the Ramsar website:


They purify and replenish our water, and provide the fish and rice that feed billions. Wetlands act as a natural sponge against flooding and drought, and protect our coastlines. They burst with biodiversity, and are a vital means of storing carbon. Unfortunately, these benefits are not widely known. Often viewed as wasteland, 64% of our wetlands have disappeared since 1900.

Help us turn the tide on the loss and degradation of our wetlands. Join us for World Wetlands Day 2015 – and beyond! Here’s how you can get involved: #WorldWetlandsDay #WetlandsForOurFuture


There’s much that can be done to restore and protect this vital habitat — check out your local resources, visit your neighboring natural areas, and above else, LOVE YOUR WETLANDS and their amazing inhabitants!

For more information and wonderful educational and marketing materials, visit World Wetlands Day 2015, and on Facebook: RamsarConventionOnWetlands

The lush Florida wetlands — a treasure to conserve

The lush Florida wetlands — a treasure to conserve

The Day the Sun Stood Still

A wee bit late of June 21, the formal date of the summer solstice — celebrated throughout human history as an astronomical turning point, when daylight reigns supreme. The word solstice is derived from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stand still), because it appears as though the sun actually stops during the solstice. For a few days after the solstice, the sun rises and sets at its northernmost point on the horizon, before slowly migrating southward again for the next six months.

From the midsummer festivals with bonfires and feasts, to the festival of St. John the Baptist, to Kupala Night and more, may your days of worshiping the sun be filled with blessings!

PAn with Dragonfly

The harbinger of good times: Pan with a companion dragonfly

Hit the Trails — It’s National Trails Day!

June 1, 2013 is National Trails Day!

Since 1993, the first Saturday of every June has been designated to inspire the general public and hiking enthusiasts alike to discover and celebrate America’s expansive trail network — comprising over 200,000 miles of trails. You can participate in a local hike, dog walk, cycle, horseback ride, help in a trail maintenance project, kayak, birdwatch, and so much more. It’s easy to forget how much work goes into trails’ planning, development, and upkeep: National Trails Day thanks the countless volunteers and partners for their support and grueling work.

Trails of the Yamato Scrub Natural Area, Florida

Heading into the lovely trails of the Yamato Scrub Natural Area

Organized by the American Hiking Society, National Trails Day also introduces many people — those who may not otherwise normally visit parks — to all of their benefits. The day further highlights trails that people didn’t even know existed. This was actually the genesis of Serenity Spell; after hearing how so many locals were unaware of the magnificent parks and natural areas in this area (see the much-needed-updating Natural Areas and State & National Parks dropdowns, above — or the Categories section to the right), I was inspired to investigate more on my own. In today’s world, it’s critical to get outdoors and into nature. Hiking, even simple walks, gets the heart pumping, the muscles relaxed and stretched, and is an excellent way to improve overall health and mental alignment. It’s also cheap!

Click here to find an event near you for a National Trails Day event. Celebrate nature and promote our country’s parks and trails!

Oak Trees of the Florida Trail, Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Florida

Oak Trees sheltering the Florida Trail, Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Equestrian Trail, Bluefield Natural Area, Florida

Equestrian trail signage in the Bluefield Natural Area

Pines in the Atlantic Ridge State Park, Florida

Pines along the trail in the Atlantic Ridge State Park

Happy Anniversary, Earth!

UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. —The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

Happy Earth Day, to this one and only, beautiful but non-disposable blue sphere of ours! This year’s theme is climate change: the faces of climate change and its impact on the planet.

Click here for a quick read on the Top 10 Ways to Make Every Day Earth Day — from using less water, to cutting back on printing, to curbing the bottled-water addiction. Incredibly easy tips for the average human! And if you’re up for a more intense viewing on the subject of climate change, here’s a TEDtalks clip featuring Allan Savory: “How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change.” It’s long, but completely fascinating.

The Faces of Climate Change: Earth Day 2013

The Faces of Climate Change: Earth Day 2013, Courtesy of the Earth Day Network

It’s National Park Week!

National Park Week 2013

National Park Week 2013, Courtesy of the National Park Service

National Park Week is April 20-28, 2013 — So walk, meander, run, bike, or trail-ride your way to your nearest one! Admission to every national park is FREE Monday through Friday.

Love your national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests — numbering more than 2,000 — and continue to support them by your mere presence (especially now). And above all else, bask in the beauty of these wondrous spaces!

Great Blue Heron in Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A Great blue heron rests in the Everglades of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Boardwalk, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Heading into the dappled cypress swamp along the boardwalk in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Cypress Swamp of the Big Cypress National Preserve

The cypress swamp in winter of the Big Cypress National Preserve

The remaining entrance fee-free dates for 2013 are:

  • August 25 (National Park Service Birthday, or Pre-FeyGirl Birthday)
  • September 28 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 9-11 (Veterans Day weekend)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

There’s so much color in the depths of South Florida, but this little one’s not native to the area. It’s native to a region where I was raised (roundabout, anyways). When I think of COLOR, my brain always returns to the petite endangered Gouldian Finch — also known as the Rainbow Finch, appropriately.

This spectacularly-colored little bird is native to Australia, where their numbers have decreased dramatically throughout the 20th century due to habitat loss. They remain an endangered species in their natural habitat, with less than 2,500 remaining. While attempts at their reintroduction have proved unsuccessful, thankfully these lovely finches are the subject of a conservation program in Australia. There are currently plans to recover and conserve their natural habitats, with management guidelines in place to educate landholders about land management, promoting the recovery program, and Gouldian Finch conservation. They’re also popular birds in captivity and among breeders, which keeps their general populations higher.

Gouldian Finch (Rainbow Finch), Butterfly World, Florida

Gouldian (Rainbow) Finch posing at his sanctuary in Butterfly World

In 1992, the species was classified as endangered in the wild. That same year, Catwoman stuffed a poor Gouldian into her mouth in Batman Returns — some say, to raise awareness for their plight.

Here’s to wishing all the best for this beautiful and bright little bird!


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