Saturday, February 21, 2009

Snoop Dogg Does the Owl Festival

UPDATE 2/23/09: Per Libby's request (from Neas Nuttiness), I am putting a disclaimer on this post that snake pictures do follow! If you do not like snakes, please be forewarned!

I've mentioned before on my other blog that we have adorable burrowing owls all over this area, and they are the official bird of Cape Coral. I pass by a number of them every morning on my way to work...
Burrowing Owl

...and today we all headed over to the Seventh Annual Burrowing Owl Festival.
Festival brochure

As we walked from the parking lot at the festival, we passed some nature paths, and decided that we would later have to take a little hike before we left.
Shaded path


We also spotted a lookout in the distance, and figured that the nature walks would take us to the lookout.
Lookout from distance

I also spotted an osprey flying around.

And on the path, I found that I liked the look of this dead tree.
Dead tree

Eventually we spotted the Kennel Corn vendor and the display tents. The first thing that we encountered in the festival grounds was Julius the Red-Tail Boa.
Red tail



I love snakes! I've said before that the rush of power that some people feel when they hold a gun in their hands is the feeling that I get when I hold a snake. They are wonderfully powerful and sleek animals! So of course I had to take this opportunity to hold Julius.
Me and Julius

Me and Julius

But it was warm out, and Julius got very active and hard to handle.
Me and Julius

Me and snake


Mom and Snake

(BTW, I'm not missing a tooth. I just happen to have a big space between two teeth that can make it appear that way. Guess it never mattered enough to me or my parents to do anything about it.)

Me and Julius

Next we ventured into the wildlife tent. First a guy from Manatee Park grabbed us and started teaching us all about the local manatees. They had a manatee skeleton on display, and Snoop wanted his photo taken with it.
Snoop and manatee skeleton

Did you know that, unlike human ribs, a manatees ribs are solid? There's no bone marrow in them. They act as lead weights to help the manatee sink to the bottom of the ocean or creek where they feed. The manatee also use the methane gas in their bodies to help them surface again for breaths, like a submarine uses ballast tanks to sink and surface.

There were also rat snakes in the tent...
Rat snakes

...and what I think was a black snake, although it was hard to see in its hiding place.
Black Snake

There was an owl presentation going on, but not for burrowing owls. This guy looked more like a Great Horned Owl.


They also had a booth with a young monitor lizard, to educate people on the invasive species.
Monitor lizard

They normally get 4-5 feet in length, and are often seen sunning themselves on the banks of canals.

But the cutest thing that we saw in this tent had to be the little Evening Bat.


Look at that face! This little guy was actually full grown.

While walking around the festival, we saw a couple of the greyhounds that were brought by the greyhound adoption group. A couple of the dogs were wearing "donation" blankets for collecting donations.
Greyhound and me

This poor greyhound had just been given up this morning by its adoptive family.

We went through the other display tents around. One of the vendors was with a pollination club, and they had lots of honey for sale. Snoop got his picture taken in front of the honey table.
Snoop and honey

They also educated us at the festival on recycling.
Recycling board

After exploring all of the tents, we decided to go on a nature hike. We decided to start out on the mulched path.

We stopped early on into our walk to check out the estuary.
Estuary birds

Nearby I spotted these purple flowers and an interesting...bee? It's body shape looked like a bee, but the coloring was more like a wasp.
Purple flowers

bee on flowers

We made it to the lookout...

That lookout sure felt unstable! Up on top, you could feel it shake back and forth as people climbed up and down the stairs. But the view was great! You could see out to the estuary that we had just stopped by....

...all the way out to the Gulf of Mexico...
Looking out at the Gulf

...the canal in the background...

...and Snoop wanted his picture taken looking out on the owl festival in the distance.
Snoop posing in front of festival

After we came down from the lookout, we walked over to the canal and watched some of the little fish near the bank. There were a few fish that looked sorta like fantail guppies. The males had fanned tails, they were only about an 1-1 1/2 inches long, and the females were very plain looking. I was fascinated with the courting behaviour of the males. I watched one male stick right by the side of his chosen female, and one point appearing to even raise a pectoral fin in display.

We continued on the walking path, and I spotted a couple of small game trails on the way.
Game trail

I also spotted lots of dung on the path. Being something of a naturalist, I always find this fascinating. It can be interesting determining what animal left this behind.
Seeds in droppings

I think that this was probably from a fox.
Close up of droppings

I've seen those seeds in what I believed to be fox droppings before. They seem to pass right through their system intact.

Anyhoo...we continued on and spotted things here and there. I wanted to try to figure out what plant this was that had these berries.

I think that this is Sea Grape, but I've never seen the leaves this large before.
Big leaves

And I love this palm...

We spent quite awhile just watching the birds do what birds do.
White birds 1

White birds 6

These egrets would fly around here and there, apparently trying to catch prey...
White bird flying and ducks 2

Birds 4

White bird flying 5

White bird flying 7

White bird flying 13

There was one bird that was evidently the dominant one, and he would occasionally chase off the other one.
Birds fighting and ducks 14

Birds fighting 8

At one point, a Woodstork came in for a landing...
Woodstork 15

Woodstork with others 16

There were also a group of young ducks diving for food. Up, down, up, down...
Birds 3

White bird and ducks 9

Finally their parents showed up, and the family joined up in a train.
White bird and ducks 10

Duck family 11

Bird and ducks 12

Here is a short video of a few moments watching the birds. It would be oh so peaceful if it weren't for the intercom and noise from the festival.

As we were leaving the birds, I spotted this sign up on a palm tree.
Sign on palm

We worked up a good appetite on our walk, and decided that it was time to get a bite to eat. So we headed back to the festival and got in line for food at Mixer's booth.
Lunch on billboard

Woodrow got the Johnson Brat and yummy onion rings, and Snoop and I shared a pulled pork sandwich and fries.

We ate our lunch in a pavilion next to a Native American vendor. I noticed that he had a cool spider on the back side of his tent.
Spider on bamboo

So that was our day at the festival. We really enjoyed ourselves. And now for a few things that Snoop learned today about burrowing owls that he didn't know before.

  • The owls typically dig their own burrows, but will use gopher tortoise or armadillo burrows.
  • Burrows extend four to eight feet underground.
  • Owls are "site specific", and use the same burrow year after year, unless the burrow is damaged or overgrown, or they are harassed, in which case they will often move to a nearby area to start a new nest.
  • Nesting typically occurs February-August, with most nests beginning in March.
  • Females lay anywhere from 2-8 white, almost round eggs. The eggs are incubated for 28 days.
  • By the time the young are three weeks of age, they are found outside the nest stretching their wings. By four weeks they are taking short flights. Although they are flying well by six weeks, they don't leave the burrow until July or August. The young usually move one to three miles from the nest of their birth.
  • Burrowing owls live on average three years.
  • You can attract an owl to your yard by starting a burrow for them. To do this, remove a one or two foot wide triangular plug of sod from the lawn. This exposes the sandy soil needed by the owls for burrowing. You might also start digging a burrow near the top of the triangle, placing a pile of loose sand outside the burrow entrance. Place a perch near the burrow to get the owl's attention. Try to select an open, treeless area in your lawn that will remain dry during heavy rains and will be away from heavy vehicle and foot traffic.

(These bits of info come from the Wildlife Foundation of Florida)

Very nice day! I look forward to doing the festival again next year.