Rhesus Macaques – Another Non-native

Florida does not have a native monkey species, but, we do have wild monkeys. We visit and hike Silver Springs frequently, but never saw the Rhesus until 2018. After that one sighting, which I photographed and was one of the first posts in this blog, we didn’t see any of them again until last week.

We hear a lot of stories about the origin of these monkeys, the Rhesus macaques, which live wild in Silver Springs Park near Ocala and the surrounding forest areas. Most agree that the original six were imported in the 1930s and released to add to the glass bottomed boat tourist attraction. Put on one of the small islands for the enjoyment of the tourists passing in boats, they instead swam to the main shore and took up residence in the forest. Some say that the filming of the Tarzan movies at Silver Springs spurred the original release, and it likely made good promotional material for the stories promoting the movie, but as the Rhesus never appeared in any of the movies the tourist attraction story is more likely.

These two, we think young males, sat on the railing of the Ross Allen Boardwalk where it crosses the Silver River, watching us approach. We continued to walk but slowed down, and wondered if we needed to turn around. They slowly rose to all fours, and gracefully sauntered along the railing away from us. We continued to walk, and they turned to right as we came to the loop. They walked further down, turned, sat down, and just watched us. We stood and observed them for a few minutes, then went to the left and walked the loop from that direction. By the time we reached the area we last saw them, they were hidden somewhere in the forest.

Signs are everywhere about the Rhesus, with warnings about approaching them or feeding them. They are wild, they have bitten people before who approached and tried to feed them, so like any other wild animal just enjoy them from a distance.

Backyard Wildlife

Karl watched this Brown Anole show up on the fence directly across from our kitchen window about the same time each day. He basked in the sun, and scurried around after minuscule insects which he promptly ate. Sometimes he disappeared after that, but on occasion he sat and displayed his dewflap prominently.

Perhaps better known as a Cuban Anole, this lizard did in fact originate in Cuba and migrated to Florida at some point in the 1800s. Finding Florida very much to their liking, the species moved right in and is now regarded as invasive, taking over the territory once dominated by the native Green Anole. We rarely see Green Anoles in our yard, but we see the Cuban Anoles all the time.

When we first moved to this house in the 1990s our young nephew looked forward to the annual family visit to chase after and catch them, and those memories later inspired his sister to write a children’s book called “The Lizard” which she self-published. The anoles easily slip into the screened pool area where the cat then engages in pursuit. They are part of our backyard wildlife and although invasive made their way into family memories.

Karl noticed one other thing as he photographed this particular anole. The displaying of the dewlap occurred when another anole showed up. The purpose of the display is generally to challenge a rival male, or impress a local female. Based on size and the white dorsal stripe, the anole below that sat near this male is definitely a female.

Summer Bird and Updates

We know summer is coming when we see our first Swallow-tailed kite soaring overhead, feasting on flying insects. We rarely see them sitting still, or up close, so imagine our surprise when we looked up while hiking and saw this beautiful bird. The layers of feathers came out so well with the sun shining at that angle.

Thank you to those of you who attended our first in-person photography presentation in 18 months a few weeks ago. For the first time ever we did not bring a second flash drive with a back-up, and naturally Murphy’s law struck. For the first time ever the presentation corrupted. When the application asked if it should try to recover the file and we pressed yes, it deleted the entire thing. That was also a first. We do not live close to the venue, so driving home to get a new one wasn’t happening. We used an older presentation from a couple of years before. No one left in spite of the change in topic and we stayed an extra half hour answering questions so even though it wasn’t the new presentation we planned it went forward. Note to ourselves: never walk out of the house again without two flash drives containing the presentation!

Summer Schedule and Class

We slow down on travel and outdoor activities in July and August. The west central Florida climate this time of year repeats a pattern of high humidity, temperatures in the 90s, and afternoon or even all day rain and thunderstorms. Stories and postings will be sporadic until we resume our regular schedule in September. We wish all of you the very best of summers!

Saturday, July 17, 2021 we are presenting a program titled “Practical Guide to Nature Photography” 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at Brooker Creek Preserve. This is a good starter if you are just getting into nature photography, or a nice refresher for those more experienced. It is our first program in a year and a half due to Covid. If you are in the area, check out www.brookercreekpreserve.org events calendar for details.

Behind the Fence

Several months ago a we worked with the owner of the land just behind our fence, which is part of a tidal creek, to have the invasive Brazilian Pepper trees removed. The clearing revealed to us for the first time the stand of black mangrove and red mangrove near and in the creek. A few days ago I happened to look out the back window and saw bundles of white in the trees. I looked again and realized that the flock of White Ibis I noted early standing in the creek decided to take refuge in the mangroves as the tide rose. I took my camera outside, and shot over the fence. They watched me, continuing to sit and preen without a care.

Appleton Museum of Art

Many years ago upon leaving a small art museum a friend commented that she loved small art museums because the size encouraged concentration on the exhibits and artwork rather than feeling a need to rush through to the next for fear of missing something. The Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala fits this perfectly. Just the right size, the well curated permanent collection and special exhibits pique interest and get the creative thoughts and ideas flowing without overwhelming.

The long driveway along with the large fountain and beautiful building start the visit. Inside the greeter takes your admission and provides a map. The galleries on the two floors wrap around a central garden area, which in the past featured exhibits of its own such as a bonsai exhibit many years ago. We headed immediately to Visions of Florida, which included photography, paintings, and mixed media including photography of Clyde Butcher (known as the Florida Ansel Adams). After that we strolled through two other special exhibits, both excellent, and parts of the permanent collection which we enjoyed on prior visits.

At one point we spoke to an employee who mentioned that a small special exhibit about the founder of the museum was located in the auditorium. We made our way there when we finished the galleries, and discovered that the founder of the museum also founded Appleton Electric, which we both knew from our early work in business. We never made the connection before.

This museum has become a favorite. We visit it whenever we take the RV to Ocala, and have scheduled trips around their special exhibits.

Baby Alligator at Brooker Creek

For several weeks people told us they saw some larger alligators hanging out near the main bridge over Brooker Creek at the Preserve. We spotted them once or twice. May brought a drought, and the waters of the creek, which are fed by rainwater and not by a lake or spring, began to dry up. Invasive salvinia, which looks like native duckweed but larger, covered most of the water.

A couple already on the bridge told us they saw a small alligator and pointed in the general direction. Once he moved, we spotted him. Once in the water, we saw only the eyes and snout, everything else covered with green.

Our summer is upon us. The temperatures rose in May, but thankfully the accompanying high humidity that signals summer held off until recently.

Water Snake at Brooker Creek Preserve

We stopped at Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs for a meeting. Naturally, we came early to walk around and enjoy the Preserve. At the wetland between the two buildings, a Florida Water Snake relaxed on a piece of wood.

I was struck by the brightness of the white and red bands. Perhaps a juvenile? The snake stayed and put up with us taking its photograph, just moving enough to reposition. Summer weather arrived in the last week or so. Though temperatures were in the 80s through most of May, the humidity remained low giving us a wonderful sprint. Just before June arrived, so did the humidity and thankfully some rain.

May: Flower Supermoon Eclipse

Naming of full moons started as long ago as ancient Rome. The names used today in conjunction with full moons, and published in the Farmer’s Almanac, primarily uses the names used by the Native Americans. In May 2021 the moon came closest to earth for this calendar year, which makes it a supermoon. The Farmer’s Almanac calls the May moon the Flower moon, also known as the Blossom moon. With a lunar eclipse also occurring the color changes to a reddish color, called a Blood moon.
I photographed the full moon first, as it rose.

The eclipse also took place in the morning when I normally run so I saw it start, came back from my run, and photographed a good portion of it. The total eclipse happened after it sank behind the tree line, so I missed that. Even so, I managed to capture parts of the eclipse including the reddish tinge.
This year many of our full moons occurred during very clear nights here on the coast in west central Florida, so I took a lot of photographs over several months. I think I finally found the lens/setting combination to get the photographs I wanted.

The start of the eclipse
The last photograph before it went below the treeline. My favorite, I love the clouds moving across the lit portion

Traveling: Going with the Flow

We planned this eight day RV trip for a couple of months. We decided to limit driving to 4 – 5 hours or 200 – 250 miles per day. Too often we hurry for no reason. We reached a city about 20 miles from our first destination when we hit a bump/pothole, heard something, and then an alarm sounded. We found a commercial parking area mercifully somewhat empty and parked. Karl inspected under the RV and discovered some damage. Unsure of what to do, we proceeded to the campground and checked in.

Six months ago we camped at this same park. A man arrived to see the people next door, and while he waited for them he and Karl talked. He owned a mobile RV repair business. He impressed Karl and Karl took a business card. Thankfully we still had it and called. He would be out the next day. Our stop here was one night, and going on to another park for the week, then back to this park for the weekend and from there home.

Florida state parks require reservations for camping. No walk-ins or campers in overflow areas, we think until all Covid restrictions lift. The parks are full this time of year, and as so many people bought campers over the past few years so reservations can be difficult. We managed to secure an additional night just in case.

Then we listened to the local news. Due to the hacking of an oil pipeline, many gas stations in the southeast were selling out of gasoline. We knew we had the fuel to get to our next destination, but not back home from there. We also knew that if we could not find gas, that park was already full for the weekend so we likely did not have the option of staying until things came back to normal. A fellow camper told us she heard from friends near our planned destination and they said that some gas stations already closed. Our experience finding gasoline when we evacuated for Hurricane Irma played into our decision. We JUST made it home that time, with no gasoline to be found anywhere along the six hour trip. We doubted things were that bad, but…

It took some doing, and moving around to different sites, but we managed to secure reservations where we were, cancelled the other park, and stayed here. The mobile RV technician repaired the damage, inspected the underside of the RV and for any additional damage, and charged a reasonable price. While initially disappointed, we enjoyed a different trip than we planned. We met some fellow travelers and exchanged stories and pleasantries, and spent some time making the inside of the RV better organized for living for us and the cat, and for traveling, and hiking places we saw along the way but never stopped before to check out. We plan to take our adventure to the other park again in the near future.