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Lyss

St. Johns River Cruise

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I went on a local river cruise with my photography club over the weekend. I know it's not the 3 hour 2 week vacations that many have planned, but we did get to see the beautiful central Florida scenery that is along the St. John's River in DeLand, FL. Not much in the way of mammals and reptiles, but we did get to do a lot of birding and a lot of just enjoying the scenic cypress forests. We took a tour through Blue Heron River Cruises just outside of DeLand and spend two hours on the river learning about different plants and the animals that we saw. Our captain was very knowledgeable about the area and knew that us photographers wanted the best shots we could get and did his best to get us as close as the animals would allow. Only saw a couple alligators, but saw many birds including Limpkins, Wood Storks, and a Swallow-tailed Kite which had just arrived from South America according to our captain. I plan to go again in fall when they see manatees and the season brings new things to see. I know it's not an exotic safari, but I can't wait to share the photos from my local safari of my little corner of Florida.

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~ @Lyss

 

It sounds like great fun!

 

“limpkins”?

 

Whatever that might be, I've never heard of it.

 

Thanks for posting this. Now I'd better search for a “limpkin”.

 

Tom K.

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Sounds like a great trip! :)

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~ @Lyss

 

Thanks to your mention above, I finally found more about limpkins.

 

Where I live most international search engines aren't available. I asked an overseas friend for assistance.

 

After the information arrived I read iut with interest.

 

I'm glad that you saw them.

 

Tom K.

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Posted (edited)

I can finally get my trip up for you guys to enjoy. As I stated before this tour is in central Florida the company used was called Blue Heron River Tours and it went for about two hours. While we didn't see a lot in terms of mammals and large reptiles; our captain was able to fill us in on the history of the area and provide a few facts about the birds and plants that we did encounter.

 

So with no more waiting, I present my trip down the St. John's River. I will provide a bit of information to go with the photos.

 

First let me introduce you to the river.

 

The St. John's River is the only river in America that flows north and empties within the United States. The Hudson which also flows north empties into the ocean in Canada. Every year bass fishers from all over the world come to the river for competitive bass fishing. It is also a water heritage site meaning that any land that does not have a dwelling on it cannot be built on.. if it already has a dwelling any expansion can only be done on the original parcel. The part of the river we floated down was situated next to the Ocala National Forest, which turns into the Weika Forest Reserve which was also bordered by the Hontoon Island National Park. Hontoon Island was home to a tribe of Native Americans that did not welcome strangers and would dispose of them with out thought. In the area of the Hontoon Island they found two totems and are the only totems known outside of the Pacific Northwest.  Many of the waterways which the tour normally would navigate were changed after Tropical Storm Matthew last October.

 

St. John's River

A Day on the St Johns River.jpg

 

Many trees were damaged from Tropical Storm Matthew, but as long as they are in water they will most likely survive.

A Falling Cyprus.jpg

 

Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.)

Bald Cyprus.jpg

 

Root system of the Cypress they are called knees which help the tree breath in water. I learned on the tour that the Cypress is part of the same family as the Redwoods in California. When settlers first came to Florida there were trees that could of rivaled their Redwood cousins. Not in height but in girth some reaching almost 25 ft in width.

Cypress Knees.jpg

 

 

Edited by Lyss
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Posted (edited)

The bird life was wonderful. I don't get to go out and bird for hours at a time most days so it was a special treat for me to get to relax and appreciate the abundance of birds that call Florida home. We did get to see a few turtles and a lone alligator. Our captain told us that mammal life is plentiful sightings include deer, boar, Florida panthers, black bear, and many others including manatees. Alligators are more common in winter when it's not as hot out and they don't need to stay cool during the warmer months.

 

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in Breeding plummage. They are just reaching the end of their season. The males grow the beards.

59409a65a496e_GreatBlueHeronMale.thumb.jpg.d6fba9249a3e7252ba59a5cba239e5f6.jpg

 

Yellow-Slider Turtles

59409a381d3f7_Yellow-SliderTurtles.thumb.jpg.3f7bc0c6fea8b0e1c6a8d0a913e844d0.jpg

 

Great Blue Heron

59409a415f7c5_AWadingGreatBlueHeron.thumb.jpg.876e638155567af9a4a08f76870a5c5d.jpg

 

Osprey family (Pandion haliaetus) These birds are Semi-monogamous meaning if the female doesn't think the male is doing his job in providing and protecting during breeding season she will find a different partner. Breeding season is between March, April and May. 

59409a7daccc9_MaleandFemaleOsprey.thumb.jpg.308622806d01bf49f190e9f1c59aa71b.jpg

 

Osprey

59409a808d5f2_PrepareforTakeoff.thumb.jpg.1f6a54de35e4724dd11f025d6b6aa1b7.jpg

 

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) State bird of Florida.

59409a8e6be11_SandhillCrane.thumb.jpg.ac4c2ca5350d7775e6a85891413f70de.jpg

 

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

59409a568ae9b_BreedingPlumageLittleBlueHeron.thumb.jpg.bd49ce5381fed4d3002c02a502156ab5.jpg

 

Little Blue Heron with it's 1st Spring plummage. They go through a calico phase after their first year to go from complete white to blue.

59409a5b77204_CalicoPhaseLittleBlueHeron.thumb.jpg.7ecefe7245cabef5bda88e0bc3001d5d.jpg

 

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) Birders come from all over the world to see Limpkins in Florida. They were quite abundant on our trip. They specialize in Apple Snails and when the population went down so did Limpkin numbers.

59409a73613a9_LimpkininLongGrass.thumb.jpg.d62cf40a090d0d882200c4d15ff0968b.jpg

 

Limpkin

Limpkin.thumb.jpg.1febf50d1c49462690c7a817235dc155.jpg

 

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

59409a6c56c1c_GreatEgret.thumb.jpg.6f7c794aa814405b59458788236aba34.jpg

 

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) One of the only nesting spots for the Wood Stork in this part of Florida. Seen all year around and are the only storks to nest in the United States.

59409a3c41c32_YoungWoodstorks.thumb.jpg.d5eed1271c763020e7be2d14c15fb6ce.jpg

 

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica)

59409a8654613_PurpleGallinule_.thumb.jpg.033da310aeeb365927211b00afcf61cb.jpg

 

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) Just arrived from Brazil.59409a9818ee6_Swallow-tailedKite.thumb.jpg.4c5b9b7612c7d8edf52662801e947878.jpg

 

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

5940a4d126987_DoubleCrestedCormorant.thumb.jpg.2f71e51c8eb456e3642c0216d4b88cfe.jpg

 

Female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) Males are all black. These birds have no oils in their feathers so must dry out after each dive. They are not related to cormorants.

5940a4d7137b6_FemaleAnhinga.thumb.jpg.11e72e1a3847789e773e6feb1246e46a.jpg

 

Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus)

59409a50141c0_BlackVultures.thumb.jpg.0902442c85f8583831d3face76ad4e50.jpg

 

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

59409a94b67be_SnowyEgretPose.thumb.jpg.0810a04467d52d83a4d37b928001405e.jpg

 

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

5940996ebeec0_MozzingAlligator.thumb.jpg.6a92e84b6746f9b6f6246dfdd315d353.jpg

 

Yellow-eared Sliders

59409a48935ab_BaskingTurtles.thumb.jpg.20f01eaea26734852cce21cb7c66695f.jpg

 

 

I will upload the plants on a later date. Enjoy.

Feeding.jpg

Edited by Lyss
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~ @Lyss

 

Thank you for the very nice collection of images.

 

I never realized that there was a north flowing river like the St John's.

 

At last! Limpkin images. I'm certain that it's my first time to see them.

 

The calico phase of the Little Blue Heron is interesting.

 

I like the mossy shell of one of the Yellow-eared Sliders.

 

It looks like it was a great trip. Thanks again for sharing these images.

 

Tom K.

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@TomKellie Thank you I really loved it. I hadn't seen a calico phase before then it was really striking.

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Posted (edited)

Okay on to the plants. I don't remember all the details. Goals for next  time take a notebook. I'll post the photos of the plants I have if I know the name I'll post them and if I have any information on them it will be included.

 

Plants of Florida

 

Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is an invasive species. Introduced by a woman who went to Brazil and thought it was pretty so brought it back to the states. At times it gets so overgrown it will clog the rivers.

594156e2cb7ce_WaterHyacinth.thumb.jpg.418a39ddaceae82015ed6dd8c18a5ae1.jpg

 

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.) Like I mentioned it is in the same family as the Redwoods. They don't get as big and because they weren't protected early on the biggest specimens are not around anymore. The cypress is still logged on the St. John River.

594156e75e7ee_AFallingCyprus.thumb.jpg.376e6b726e50e3914b1998db935e7d52.jpg

 

A species of Arrowhead I believe he mentioned it was a Broadleaf Arrowhead (Sagitaria latifolia Wild.) Edibile. Native tribes used to use the leaves to roast corn like we do with tinfoil.

Arrowhead.thumb.jpg.f90daab4eb873611e97f6dda4a51586e.jpg

 

Scarlett Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) 

594156f4170aa_BloomingHibiscus.thumb.jpg.8c604fcb2758c2140edbd9e08c05401b.jpg

 

American Dodder (Cuscuta americana L.) I am not 100% as to which type of Dodder this is as it wasn't flowering. This is a parasitic plant.

5941570e42540_ParasiticPlant.thumb.jpg.b5327c7c978d2bc8f8a682cd3888d51e.jpg

 

Lily pads

Lilypads.thumb.jpg.81c765f21dd85d3c24afc916cc5b29da.jpg

 

Cattails (Typha demingensis Pers.) All parts of the plant are edible at different parts of the year. Settlers used to trade cattle for cattail flour as it was the same as wheat but cost less.

Cattails.thumb.jpg.38ead49dbdb468a040904ed7804f4d0a.jpg

 

Moonflower also called Tropical White Morning-Glory (Ipomoea alba L.) Blooms at night pollinated by moths.

Moonflower.thumb.jpg.fd3f510323e081285d6cebfc02b3205a.jpg

 

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata L.) and a bee.

59415712c6510_PickerelweedandBee.thumb.jpg.aa84d2f2b6387842d3950779ef97d98f.jpg

 

Whorled Marshpennywort (Hydrocotyle verticillata Thunb.) and a Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica) the Pennywort is part of the dollar weed family.

594157178481f_PurpleGallinuleinPennywort.thumb.jpg.f60a142fd5bce8122ac686bcbfa93dcb.jpg

 

Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides (L.)) Giant Reed (Arundo donax) and a Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) Spanish Moss was accidentally introduced to the South as the seeds that were transported were not properly dried before shipping. When they reached the humidity of Florida the seeds germinated as a result of being able to get water and nutrients from the air they were able to escape the wooden crates that held them. Spanish moss was used for stuffing of pillows and mattresses.

59415c85716cf_Black-BelliedWhistlingDuck.thumb.jpg.2ad8013bcc56041a6ca7bf004fd4e24b.jpg

 

Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans)

59415720a7e5e_TrumpetCreeper.thumb.jpg.fa99d213be786430f73a3900f685ea31.jpg

 

Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis michauxiana) Probably my favorite new plant. This plant will turn brown and shrivel up when there is no water around and once it receives enough rain it unfurls and becomes a lush green that covers the trees and other plants.

59415d68737ed_ResurrectionFern.thumb.jpg.f4dfed1d3bcfa2555629022060a825e8.jpg

 

We also saw Mistletoe but I couldn't pick it out to photograph. Mistletoe is also a parasitic plant which will grow on a branch on a tree and will take the nutrients it needs until the limb falls off.

 

That's it for my trip. I'll probably add more photos later on that are just scenic, but I am ready for another. It's sometimes the wildlife in our backyards that gets taken for granted. I'm glad I did this because I knew little to nothing of Florida flora and fauna. I hope to take more of these homeland excursions more often.

 

Dodder.jpg

Scarlet Hibiscus.jpg

Edited by Lyss
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Let's just remember not to set font size too small or some members might have problems reading it: likewise the colour.

 

Matt

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9 minutes ago, Lyss said:

Okay on to the plants. I don't remember all the details. Goals for next  time take a notebook. I'll post the photos of the plants I have if I know the name I'll post them and if I have any information on them it will be included.

That's it for my trip. I'll probably add more photos later on that are just scenic, but I am ready for another. It's sometimes the wildlife in our backyards that gets taken for granted. I'm glad I did this because I knew little to nothing of Florida flora and fauna. I hope to take more of these homeland excursions more often.

 

~ @Lyss

 

You've made my evening by your generous assortment of Florida plants.

 

I can't thank you enough for taking time to explain about each plant species.

 

When there are surprise ‘guests’ in your photos, it's delightful — the bee, the gallinule and the whistling duck.

 

Your homeland excursion is inspirational. I've greatly enjoyed this trip report.

 

One appreciates what's different, especially when it's as thoughtfully prepared as these posts.

 

Tom K.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Tom Kellie said:

 

~ @Lyss

 

You've made my evening by your generous assortment of Florida plants.

 

I can't thank you enough for taking time to explain about each plant species.

 

When there are surprise ‘guests’ in your photos, it's delightful — the bee, the gallinule and the whistling duck.

 

Your homeland excursion is inspirational. I've greatly enjoyed this trip report.

 

One appreciates what's different, especially when it's as thoughtfully prepared as these posts.

 

Tom K.

@Tom Kellie Thank you I'm glad you liked it. :) Next time I go hopefully there will be a few more mammals to see. The bee in the one photo is the sole reason I wanted it. I didn't know what was on the flowers and I wanted to see if my camera would reach it and be able to focus. So happy that it did. As i don't think anyone else in the group got a photo like it.

Edited by Lyss
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