Sunday, February 24, 2013

Florida (the post with a bunch of animals)

So... catching up isn't really working out for me. I'll skip a few things and instead share some photos of the good times we had visiting Jon's parents in Florida.

One of our first outings was to go to the Brevard County Zoo. This was Henry's first zoo experience and I so excited for him-- it was ridiculous.

We got to the zoo just after Henry had fallen asleep in the car, so he was out of it at first, but was so happy once we got through the gate and made it to the petting zoo. He loved that he got to pet a goat and check out the llamas, armadillo, and sheep.

This goat made Henry giggle.
He loved this giant fish tank full of big fish.
We then walked over to the giraffe area-- where you can feed them carrots from a platform. Henry was very intrigued by the giraffe, but she didn't make him laugh.

The birds were a mixed bag. The cockatiels were delightful. They are super social, were totally okay sharing their treats with their neighbors, and would just nuzzle up against people. They were really happy to eat, but also put up with just hanging out on your hand for a while.
Can't you just feel his joy in this moment?

I don't know what this little guy was, but he was pretty neat, too.

But the lorikeets? They were stink-pots. This is me feeding one before I learned of their true nature. Now I regret I ever gave them anything.
Devil bird.
 Here is a list of behaviors to prove my beliefs about lorikeets: they don't share, they squawk crazy loud, and they nip. And one of the buggers nipped Henry, really hard. Poor little guy was so freaked out that he burst out crying and Jon couldn't leave because he had like three lorikeets perched on him, so I swooped in and carried Henry back to the safety of the cockatiels. Thankfully Henry was still okay with them-- so at least I know he won't end up with ornithophobia. Maybe just a fear of lorikeets specifically. And I'd get that.

Here, kitty, kitty.

Prettiest vulture I ever did see.

 And, our total touristy photo:
Jon and Henry as sea turtles.
So, Henry's first zoo experience was a hit. Besides the above pictured, he loved seeing the small primates and the parrots along the trails. He just loves, loves animals. He just lights up and smiles and giggles. It is the sweetest thing. That zoo is pretty awesome, too. It isn't the biggest I've been to, but they have zip-lines (that go over treetops and the alligator lake), a canoe tour, and an up-close-and-personal with the rhinos.

Merritt Island. We went here a couple of times-- for a short walk around some place that we stumbled upon, and then to see the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We were surprised by what we loved and by what we didn't.

A walk around the visitor center.
My love and I walking on our own for a bit.

Jon and his folks
Jon and I did a five mile hike on our own while Jon's folks hung out with Henry. We weren't super impressed with it. If we were big-time bird watchers, maybe. There were a lot of those people out on that trail. The trail sounded awesome on paper, and we thought Jon would get a lot of good photos out of it, but for us it was just a big windy loop with a bunch of the same kind of marshland and a few interesting birds. We saw many more birds from the car and elsewhere. Although, Jon tells me that I nearly stepped on a giant snake when Jon's folks called to tell us that Henry was awake and needed me. Momma's got priorities, right? I then walk/jogged 1/2 mile in flip-flops and earned myself a prize blister. Not my brightest, shiniest moment.


Prints on marshland mud

Yeah, yeah... more marshland...

Alligator in the wild. Pretty cool.
 We then went on to talk a shorter hike through some hammocks. We saw more live oak and palm trees growing side by side. Oh, and heaps and heaps of epiphytes. And, interestingly, I learned that it was in that area of Florida that the original wild oranges were grown, and the descendents of those first trees lived in that area, too.

Spanish Moss!

This place was magical.
Jon and I decided we were in love with the hammocks out there and decided to seek more out. It was so neat walking around totally enveloped by this mix of trees and plants. Oh, and the light filtering through... it was heavenly.

A surprisingly awesome place: Jungle Adventures Nature Park. Jon's mom found it in some of her literature, but then we drove over to where it is located (Christmas, Florida), and the outside didn't look very promising. There was a very kitschy giant alligator and very few cars in the parking lot. But we figured we had made the drive, and it was something to do outdoors, so we went. And we absolutely loved it.

Bears to greet you.
First, we took the boat tour where we learned that the state tree of Florida (the Cabbage Palmetto) is, in fact, not a tree. We also learned that alligators eat one another or parts of one another. Another tidbit-- parts of the original Tarzan movie were filmed there, and the actor playing Tarzan was too scared to swim across an alligator-infested waterway there. So the owner of the place did it. Bravery? Stupidity? Mental illness? I'm not sure, but the guy didn't get eaten, so I guess that worked out for him.

Oh yes, our tour guide said that if you can see a line of teeth on the outside of their mouths, those are crocodiles. And they house a handful of those as well. She also told us that there is a certain lichen that only grows in clean-air environments that is bright pink. I had been wondering what that was. I was happy to learn that it was a good thing.

Lots and lots of alligators there. Sometimes they do an alligator feeding, but they were being fat and lazy and just sunning themselves for the most part. Except when one sloshed and crawled right over another one and they both got all snappy for a moment. That was a bit too much excitement for me. (We were standing five feet away from them.)
No zoom here, folks. Photo taken through a chain-link fence.

They also have a petting-zoo, of sorts. After some time of walking around on our own, we got to hear a presentation on various animals that the place takes in. They have branched out from alligators and have taken in emu, foxes, deer, hybrid wolves, and a few others. Near the end of the presentation, they brought over some of the animals so that we could touch/hold them.

Everybody loves a baby alligator.

Tarantula--so soft and snuggly.

This is the only one that gave me pause. But I did it!
The scorpion isn't deadly, but its sting hurts about as much as a bee sting, which is no tickle. Luckily, this guy was an adult, and they stay that as they get older, their stingers don't pierce as easily. Whew. Too bad he still looked terrifying. (Can you see the fear in my eyes?)

Sweet little ball python.

At the end of our tour, we got to visit their "Indian Village" where Little Bear took over as our tour guide and told us a little about the native people of Florida and about the Seminole Indians specifically. I was totally fascinated. We learned that they lived in chickee huts. (Open structures with grass roofs and lofts.) Little Bear explained that the women and children slept upstairs in the loft area (for comfort and safety) while the men slept in hammocks lashed to the poles below so that they could rush to action if needed. One of my favorite moments was when Jon's mom innocently asked, "So if the men sleep downstairs in the hammocks and the women sleep upstairs, where do the little Seminole come from?" 

Another favorite moment was when Little Bear asked where everyone was from and when I said "Texas" his response was, "Well, then they must lie, not everything's bigger there." To which I replied, "I'm concentrated." He looked at me funny and then laughed and said, "Ok, I get it. For a second there I though you said you were constipated and that didn't make any sense." Yep, Little Bear was an awesome tour guide.

Little Bear and his "pet" cougar.
Oh, and as we were leaving, we saw them taking the wolves out for a walk. We were informed that they alternately walk the wolves and the cougars and panthers every night. How awesome would that job be?

This peacock walked us to our car.

 That's all for tonight, folks.