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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Randell Research Center

February 6th, 2013 · 1 Comment

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During our January visit to Southwest Florida for nature, hiking, photography, and birding, Sharon and I relied heavily on the guide to the Great Florida Birding Trail. We explored the 23 sites within about an hour and one-half of our base on Pine Island, some of them multiple times. But we also went to 20 other places were I took photographs that I saved, and I took the most photographs that I saved at one of those other places, the Randell Research Center.

We visited this facility of the Florida Museum of Natural History almost every afternoon because its grounds are so beautiful and the wildlife so plentiful. It was also only 6 minutes from the condo that we had rented. The center is a site of archaeological significance, since it was a Calusa Indian village for more than 1,500 years with enormous shell mounds still overlooking the waters of Pine Island Sound.

The Grounds of the Randell Research Center Just Before Sunset

The Grounds of the Randell Research Center Just Before Sunset

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Several ponds and creeks attracted birds to the grounds of the center. Every evening White Ibis returned to the appropriately name Ibis Pond to roost.

Many White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) Roost at the Ibis Pond Every Evening

Many White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) Roost at the Ibis Pond Every Evening

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They also roosted in the trees there.

Stacked Ibis

Stacked Ibis

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They regularly fly in during the last half hour before sunset.

Coming Home to Roost

Coming Home to Roost

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Several Osprey are also at home at the center. About 99 percent of what they eat is fish, which are plentiful there. Unlike us, Osprey prefer their fish raw.

A Big Dinner for an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

A Big Dinner for an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

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But the bird that we kept our eyes and ears open for the most was a woodpecker. Not just any woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker is very large, in fact our largest one, except for the probably extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Since I had never seen a Pileated Woodpecker before, this sighting thrilled me.

I didn’t even know what pileated meant, so I looked it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which told me that it means “having a crest covering the pileum.” Unfortunately, that didn’t help me because I didn’t know what pileum is. Eventually, I discovered that it’s the top of a bird’s head.

The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) Has a Red Pileum

The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) Has a Red Pileum

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We also saw other creatures, big and small. This little lizard is one one of my favorites because, like most woodpeckers, it is partly red.

This Anole Lizard Inflates its Dewlap

This Anole Lizard Inflates its Dewlap

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Alligators are much larger creatures and just as interesting.

Alligator Eyes

Alligator Eyes

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But unlike conspicuous lizards, alligators are masters of disguise. Somehow, Sharon spotted this alligator from across one of the ponds. Eventually, I could see it, but I never could make out its eyes until I walked over to the alligator’s side of the pond. Even then, I couldn’t spot its eyes until I came within about 10 feet.

The alligator held still for many minutes, and just before my close presence interested it, the alligator moved quickly — fortunately away from me — and I was able to take this shot of its eyes. The visible portion of its body is out of the frame to the left, and even the eyes look more like some wood in the water.

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Posted in: Florida

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bob Fenton // Feb 7, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    It is interesting looking for things – I found the Anhinga in the picture. I will not get that close to any alligator. I have seen too many in some areas of the world and crocodiles also/

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