A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wild Florida

September is hot in north Florida, but at least there's the promise of cooler weather around the corner. Today's high was a mere 87 °F and last night the temp actually dipped below 70! Soon, it will be hiking weather and one of my favorite spots in Gainesville is Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park
SWP borders Paynes Prairie. In the 1930s ranchers drained part of the expansive Prairie to expand grazing areas. Along with the  dehydration of more than 1,300 acres of prairie wetlands, the Alachua Sink filled with an excess of nitrogen and was eventually put on a list of impaired bodies of water. In 2009, the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration Project began as a way to reduce pollution to the Alachua Sink by restoring the prairie's natural sheetflow and creating a wetland habitat. The final goal was to create an environmentally friendly park, filled with plants and animals.

I think they succeeded.

On the day I visited, this fine specimen of Alligator mississippiensis was taking in some rays--isn't he beautiful?

Are you lookin' at me?
There is much to admire in the alligator.
Females are devoted mothers. She remains near the nest, protecting her unborn throughout the 65-day incubation period. Prior to hatching, the baby gators make high-pitched noises from inside their eggs, causing Mom to start digging them out of the nest and carrying them down to the water in her jaws.

Did you know that gators have two kinds of walk?   They have a “high walk” and a “low walk.” The low walk is sprawling, while in the high walk the alligator lifts its belly off the ground. This little guy below is high-stepping it across the road.
So why does the gator the road?
Alligator courtship resembles middle-school romances. During the spring breeding season, males bellow to attract females. Other rituals include head-slapping, snout and back rubbing, and blowing bubbles.
Can I get an amen from the congregation?

Did you know that a group of alligators is called a congregation? 

The park is also a paradise for birds. If hope is the thing with feathers, than SWP is a very hopeful place.

On my last visit, one of the first birds I sighted was the noble osprey. These raptors mate for life, returning to the same nest over the generations. In a mating pair's first season, the nest is relatively small, but in time, a nest might be large enough for a person to sit in. SWP is home to several nesting pairs.
"I think he'll be to Rome as is the osprey to the fish,
who takes it by sovereignty of nature
"  Shakespeare


I'm not sure what kind of ducks these are, but they're an orderly sort.
At last, I've got all my ducks in a row!

The shadow of the anhinga.

The graceful anhinga is easily identified by its habit of stretching its wings to dry.

It's sometimes called the snake bird for its habit of swimming with its long head and neck sticking out, as you see here.

There's definitely a reptilian vibe going on, don't you think? If  you squint, there's a definite resemblance to Nessie of Loch Ness!
Along with the sights, the park is a symphony of bird song. This limpet has a piercing cry that's hard to forget. 

After eating, the wood stork likes to stand around, as if in deep contemplation, which is why it's sometimes called a preacher bird. 

I fish,therefore I am.

Somewhat ungainly on land, in the air, the wood stork soars and glides, riding the thermal air currents as a surfer rides the big waves at Banzai Pipeline.

I hope you enjoyed this look at a small piece of wild Florida that's been reclaimed through science and planning. Jules Reynard wrote: 

On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it. 

Sweetwater Wetlands Park is my piece of heaven here in Gainesville.

What's yours?



Anne Marie Becker said...

Wow, what a beautiful and inspiring place to walk! I had no idea about the two kinds of alligator walks. ;) Thank you for sharing a bit of your beautiful corner of the world. :D

Rita said...

Daryl haven't been there in years. It is the most wonderful place. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Maureen A. Miller said...

Beautiful pictures, Daryl! My brother went to UF. I used to see alligators on the campus. My nieces were so used to their father saying, "Go Gators!" that when the football games would come on, they'd yell, "Daddy, Daddy, the Gogators are on!" :)

jean harrington said...

Daryl, I haven't been to Sweetlands Park, but to Gainesville many times. Love the town. The university isits crown jewel, no?

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