In Orlando iteself the Tibet-Butler Preserve was a little oasis of calm. A mixed habitat including long leaf pine and saw palmetto was a pleasure to stroll through on a cloudless day.
Even before we left the Preserve buildings this mantis-like bug proved to be an interesting if not beautiful find.
More insects were around in the trees, including this jumbo sized wasp-type creature - not quite the crow sized beast Kay described, but certainly a good 4 cms long
Strung between the trees was this fabulously marked spider - for a second I thought it was the head of some fearsome grasshopper or cricket, until I saw the tucked in legs. Still had a few doubts until I saw another on Merritt Island.
Birdlife in the main reserve was a bit shy, more heard than seen, but there were a few flowering plants including this one which had a scent remiscent of some orchids.
Regularly scattering the ubiquitous small lizards which roamed the boardwalks, eventually we came out into an area of open water.
I presume the dead looking trees were cypress in their winter garb. The colour helped to highlight the several ospreys that came in to feed, and in the water itself a disturbance revealed itself to be a turtle sneaking through the lily pads. When it went into clear water an almost unreal red veining of the shell and limbs became apparent, although the contrasting light above and below water defeated the cameras sensor!
Over at Cape Canavaral we planned to squeeze in a trip to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge before visiting the Kennedy Space Centre, but the wildlife got in the way, so Kennedy will have to wait!
Merritt Island has several nature trails and the Black Point Wildlife Drive - a seven mile long 'self-guided auto tour' - basically a drive through nature reserve.
The trails were short' but interesting enough. Within minutes Kay spotted a couple of woodpeckers, of which this Pileated woodpecker was the most amenable to posing. The picture doesn't portray its sheer size, as it piledrived small chunks of bark from the tree.
Crashing through the undergrowth we found another armadillo
The vegetation included wild oranges,
poison ivy (somehow I expected something a bit more spectacular)
as well as several epiphytes lodged in the trees - air plants,
and what I believe was called Cardinal Wild Pine
In a nearby pond was a largemouth bass
and then a kind local pointed us down a track to a small pond with a large alligator on (thankfully) the far side. We saw quite a few wild 'gators, but somehow this one felt the most wild.
Maybe it was the duckweed!
The Black Point Wildlife Drive was better than I expected, although one of my enduring memories was the American guy with the big lens SLR perched high on the back of his convertible, directing his wife in minute detail as to how she should position the car so he could get the best shot!
As well as a host more 'gators, which seemed to be the main attraction to most of the visitors, there was a good range of birds:
Male Roseate Spoonbill
and the less in-your-face coloured female
Green Backed Heron
and female Anhingas,
After Black Point we headed for the manatee viewpoint, but there were none there. Never mind - it had been a great day.
A flying trip down to the Florida Keys to swim with Dolphins - fantastic, but not wild! - led to encounters with pelicans
a softback turtle
this barracuda-type fish