Ringneck Snake

Florida Ringneck Snake. Photo by Bob Warrick,
CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Ringneck Snake

Last year, walking to the mailbox,

something black caught my eye.

It looked like a large earthworm.

“That worm will die on the hot

driveway!” I thought.

As I got closer, I could see

a red ring around its neck.

It was a tiny ringneck snake

warming itself in the sun.

I was glad I didn’t run over it!

This year, going to the mailbox.

I saw a tiny black snake with a

red ring around its neck.

It looked like…a friend.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia.

Florida Ring Snakes

Florida Ring Snakes are about 10-14 inches long, and are harmless to humans. They are so small that it is nearly impossible for them to bite you, but in the unlikely event that they do, their venom is too weak to harm you. Some people keep them as pets. Their coloring varies from gray to black, and the ring around their necks may be white, yellow, orange or red. Some of them don’t have any ring. Their underside may be a vivid yellow, orange, or coral. When they feel threatened, they curl the ends of their tails. Too small to prey on rodents or amphibians, they live on worms and insects.

This poem was written a few years ago for my Hanging Out with Wild Animals series, but I didn’t use it. Like all poems in that series, it was inspired by my real-life encounter with a Florida animal.

Update

For over a week now, I have been apartment hunting online for my son. His current rent has nearly doubled in the last two years, and he is looking for something affordable that will accept his dog, a pit bull. The search has been a challenge! Next week, Robert will be having his surgery. I am behind on my emails. Thank you for your patience. ❤

Wednesday, July 6, 2022. Robert found a successful treatment, and he is so much better that his surgery has been cancelled. The doctor said it could be rescheduled if symptoms return. Joe was approved for an apartment today. He will be moving to Louisiana where rents are more affordable.

Thank you for your support during this difficult period. It means a lot to me.

❤ ❤ ❤

Spider’s Psychedelic Masterpiece

This morning I was mesmerized by a spider web constructed very much like this one. Photo by Alexy Demidov from Pexels.

Spider’s Psychedelic Masterpiece

Suspended in space,

densely coiled gossamer disk,

buoyant in the breeze.

Pulsating neon colors

iridescent in sunshine.

In the morning sunshine, each damp strand of the spider’s web became a tiny prism, shimmering in the breeze. The colors of the web were vivid like those in this soap bubble. As the web dried, the colors slowly faded. I wish I could have captured the moment in a photo. Maybe one of the photographers out there has such a photo. I found only pastel-colored webs online.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

Go, Little Ladybugs, Go!

Photo of a ladybug by Adryan RA form Unsplash.

Go, Little Ladybugs, Go!

Welcome aboard!

Go, little ladybugs, go!

Please save

our poor little palm tree!

A mealybug feast awaits you…

Bon apetit!

Maybe you can

succeed where homemade

potions and “harmless” pesticides

have failed.

We’re fighting for survival here!

Somebody has to die,

but not the little palm tree, and not

the ladybugs, or us!

It’s a bug-eat-bug world, I guess!

Go, little ladybugs, go!

Our little palm tree before the mealybugs arrived.

Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia


Dear Fellow Bloggers,

I just purchased a new email with Word to use on some writing projects. I will share those projects on this post at some point in the future. For the moment, I am struggling with a learning curve and technical issues. I will try to be present on WordPress as much as possible!

All the best!

Cheryl Batavia ❤

Bat in the Afterglow

Photo by McKayla Crump from Unsplash.

Bat in the Afterglow

Last night, we stepped outside

into the gilded light of the sunset’s afterglow.

A bright crescent moon graced the twilight sky.

Beneath it shone the evening star.

Silhoutted against a sky of muted blue,

a bat flew toward the rosy horizon and back again,

looping in circles above the quiet street,

a moment of pure delight right outside our door!

Fruit bat in flight, Maldives. Photo by Ishan seefromthesky from Unsplash.

We’ve never seen a bat on our street before.

Maybe, little bat, you live near one of the canals.

I will be watching for you in the evenings.

A hearty welcome to our street!

Where do you sleep all day, little bat?

Hanging upside down under a dried palm frond?

Rocked to sleep in swaying Spanish moss?

Or do you live in a condo under a canal bridge?

Do you dream of flying, as I often do?

Pleasant dreams, little bat, wherever you are.

I hope to see you again on our street,

dining on mosquitos in the afterglow.

Roosting bat in Denmark. Photo by Nils Bouillard from Unsplash.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

Animals at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park & Poems about Some of the Animals

My daughters, Katey and Ellen in front of Pippa, the Hippo’s, cage. Pippa is the only exotic animal at Homosassa Wildlife State Park. The beloved sixty-one-year-old hippo was granted official Florida citizenship by the governor of Florida when the zoo transitioned to a wildlife park for Florida animals many years ago.

The majority of the animals at Homosassa Wildlife State Park are rescued animals that are unable to survive in the wild: manatees injured by boat propellers being rehabilitated in the manatee rescue center, animals who were hit by cars, birds unable to fly because of impaired vision or injuries to their wings, endangered squirrels and other rare animals raised illegally in captivity and confiscated from their owners.

The whooping cranes were from a program to reestablish these endangered birds in Florida. The female whooping crane has impaired vision and cannot fly. The male found her at Homosassa Wildlife State Park and joined her in her enclosure. He could fly away, but he stays. Whooping cranes mate for life, and this is a very touching pair!

The tropical bird enclosure, like most of the enclosures, is open at the top. It has a stream running through it and is shaded by lovely trees. I saw egrets, once hunted almost to extinction for their mating plumage, flying into and out of the enclosure. They are free to visit, or maybe they are choosing to live there.

The marine fish seen from the underwater observatory under the main spring migrate seasonally, as do the manatees in the Homosassa River near the hot springs. Public boat travel is restricted in this area to protect these migratory animals.

American flamingos, extinct in Florida for over 100 years, were discovered about ten years ago living in the Florida Everglades. No one knows for sure how they got there, but they probably came from Central or South America. We are thrilled to have them living in the wild in Florida once again. I don’t know if the flamingos in the tropical bird enclosure are rescues or are part of an effort to reintroduce them to their former range.

Alligators, hunted almost to extinction for their hides, are now protected and are once again plentiful in Florida. Programs now collect a few young alligators from their nests, raise them to a size where they can defend themselves from predators, and release them to ensure their continued success in the wild.

The black vultures, handsome lively birds, live at the park by choice, but they are a welcome clean-up crew. We saw them stealing what appeared to be fresh-cut grain from the hippo after they ate the insects from his back. We saw them visiting the black bear and perched in the trees.

The red wolves are endangered and are part of a captive breeding program to reintroduce them into Florida.

Florida Panthers, proud symbol of Florida, are endangered and seriously inbred. Panthers from Texas were brought in a few years ago to refresh the gene pool. Along Route 75, “Alligator Alley,” that runs from east to west through the Florida Everglades, high fences have recently been erected to protect panthers from traffic.

The aging dike at Lake Okeechobe has undergone extensive renovations this year. Nutrient-rich water released from the lake has caused red tides in the Gulf of Mexico and blue-green algae overgrowth in our rivers, sickening people, killing fish, dolphins, endangered manatees and endangered sea turtles. From now on, water will be released from the lake into bodies of water in much smaller amounts. The water from Lake Okeechobe will once again flow into the Florida Everglades as it was intended to do. I think Wildlife numbers will increase there due to this restoration.

I hesitated to provide detailed background information in this post. After all, I only spent half a day walking around the park and reading signs. That is the source of most of the information given about the park. I am not a biologist or expert on the environment, just a retired elementary school teacher and amateur poet who loves animals and cares about wildlife and the environment. I have done some research on wildlife to write my enviromnent-themed book series about Florida animals, Hanging Out with Wild Animals. You can read more about the books on my website.

It is tragic that so many animals have been injured and driven to extinction by human settlement and human activities, but the animals who live at Homosassa Wildlife State Park, though disabled, help to raise public awareness of wildlife and environmental issues. As the sign says, they are “ambassadors of wildlife.”


Animals at Homosassa Springs

Wildlife State Park

Endangered whooping crane. Photo by Amber Langeloni from Pixabay.

Love Birds

Male whooping crane joined

flightless female whooping crane

in her enclosure.

He could choose to fly away,

but he loves her, so he stays.

River otter. Photo by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay.

River Otters

You’ve got to be quick

to capture river otters

with your camera.

Appearing, disappearing

through plants on water’s surface.

Bald eagles. Photo by Jonathan Cooper from Unsplash.

Bald Eagle, National Bird

It’s been a long time

since these two injured eagles

soared Florida’s skies

American flag above ,

they watch as life passes by.

A school of snook viewed from the underwater observatory at the main spring of Homosassa State Wildlife Park. Photo by Ellen Maher.

Migrating Marine Fish

In the wintertime,

marine fish, like manatees,

migrate to hot springs.

Manatees and marine fish

thrive in seas and fresh water.

Florida bobcat. Photo by Meg Jerrard from Unsplash.

Bobcats & Florida Panthers

Florida bobcats

now coexist with humans

in suburbia.

Florida panthers, pride of

Florida, are endangered.

Flamingos in the tropical bird area. Photo by Ellen Maher.

Egret and roseate spoonbills. Photo by Kurt Anderson from Pexels.

Tropical Birds

Sparkling waters flow

through green paradise,

home of tropical birds.

Pink flamingos and spoonbills,

night herons, and sleeping swans.

Red wolf. Photo by Lucie Sa Vi from Unsplash.

Red Wolves

Endangered red wolves

roam a spacious enclosure,

delighting humans.

Procreation their purpose…

red wolf repopulation.

American alligator. Photo by Katey Batavia.

Alligators

Alligators live

in a pond that’s metal fenced…

Visitors are safe.

Prehistoric predators…

fearsome reptiles captivate.

Black vultures. Photo by Ellen Maher.

Black Vulture Family

Handsome black vultures

choose to live at the preserve…

welcome scavengers!

Perching on the hippo’s back,

they eat insects, then share his food.

Pippa, the hippo at Homosassa State Wildlife Park. Photo by Katey Batavia.

Pippa, the Hippopotamus,

Age Sixty-One

Grandfathered from days

when exotic animals

were in residence.

Citizen of Florida,

world’s oldest captive hippo.

American black bear. Photo by Katey Batavia.

Ambassadors

of Florida Wildlife

Most animals here

are unable to survive

living on their own.

Protected, they now serve

as ambassadors of wildlife.

Rare, endangered squirrel now unable to live in the wild because it was illegally raised in captivity. Photo by Ellen Maher.


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


For more information:

floridastateparks.org

Find a Park:

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Swimming with Manatees

Katey Batavia & Ellen Maher in their wetsuits and ready to board the pontoon boat.

Swimming with Manatees

During the summer, manatees

wander widely in warm seas.

Manatees throw fall and winter parties

in warm springs near seventy degrees.

Hundreds of manatees socialize in Kings Bay

near Three Sisters Springs on November days.

These marine mammals enjoy each other’s company.

They don’t compete for territory.

Vegetarians, they live on sea grass…

How peacefully, how gracefully their days pass!

Nursing calves swim beside their mothers.

They have no predators, no fear of others.

Though manatees bear the scars

of encounters with boat propellers,

they still seek humans as their playmates.

Snuggles and belly rubs are appreciated.

As I climbed down the boat ladder,

a manatee waited in the water.

A thousand pounds of curiosity

and sweet manatee eyes greeted me.

The moment we came face to face,

I knew there was hope for the human race.

At that moment it was clear to me

that people could learn from manatees.

How happy life would be

if we could live in harmony

with nature and our fellow creatures.

Manatees are charming teachers!

A friendly manatee. g7b148…-Suo02Vj
Ellen meets a manatee at Three Sisters Springs in Kings Bay, Crystal River, Florida. DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0196.JPG
A manatee asked Katey for a pat. Note the harmless algae growing on the manatee’s back. DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0250.JPG
Time for my belly rub, Katey! DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0156.JPG
Cheryl. Photo by Katey.

West Indian Manatees

West Indian Manatees are endangered marine mammals whose closest relatives are elephants. They require a minimum water temperature of sixty-eight degrees. Interestingly, they have no front teeth, only molars for chewing tough sea grass. They swim gracefully at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. At 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, they have no natural enemies, but many are injured by propellers of fast-moving boats. Boaters can protect manatees by observing posted speed limits in manatee areas.

Personnel at Kings Bay in Crystal River tag and monitor injured manatees. They are transported to a manatee rescue center in Homosassa Springs for rehabilitation if they are unable to recover on their own.

Florida has numerous hot springs where manatees spend the Fall and Winter months. Kings Bay has a constant year-round temperature of sixty-eight degrees and some manatees are year-round residents there. Other springs may be a little warmer, about seventy-two degrees.

When you swim with the manatees, you are instructed not to disturb resting manatees. As you would get to know a strange cat, you should let them approach you. Ellen had a manatee hug her arm. A manatee wanted Katey to pet it and give it a belly rub. One manatee swam up against me, and another manatee put its nose against my mask and gazed into my eyes. These are moments we will always remember!

Manatees have been called “sea cows” because they graze on sea grass and other aquatic plants. Very lonely mariners in the early days are said to have mistaken them for mermaids. There is another species of manatee in Africa.


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


For more information about swimming with manatees and boat tours, you can contact:

http://www.PlantationOnCrystalRiver.com

floridamanateeadventures.com

Little Creatures

Photo of a slug by Timothy Meinberg from Unsplash.

Little Creatures

A slug is a lowly creature

traversing diverse terrains.

A body of solid muscle,

he makes smooth and steady gains.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar. Photo by Lasclay from Unsplash.
Monarch butterfly. Photo by Gary Bendig from Unsplash.

Butterfly, a patient creature,

is chewing leaves as time crawls by.

Cocooned in sleep, she dreams and waits

for glory days when she will fly!

Honeybees on honeycomb. Red dot marks queen. Photo by Cool Calm Design from Unsplash.

Honeybees are social creatures.

Exchanging messages, they dance,

sharing locations of flowers…

Honey bees leave nothing to chance!

Photo of an ant by Peter F. Wolf from Unsplash.

Ants are industrious creatures…

Mighty for their minuscule size.

Co-operation builds communities…

Working together is so civilized!

Turtle and fireflies. Photo by Brittney from Unsplash.

Fireflies are delightful creatures,

illuminating the dark.

Unassuming in the daylight,

as nightlights, fireflies make their mark!


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

Swallow-Tailed Kites

Swallow-tailed Kite Wing Spread Gliding High in Sky

Swallow-Tailed Kites

Swallow-tailed kites,

silhouetted on blue sky,

shrill cries overhead.

Kites nest in the tall pine trees

along slow-flowing canals .


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


A flock of five loudly shrieking swallow-tailed kites flew by as I was sitting on the front porch one morning last week. Kites live in wetlands and along rivers and canals in the Southeastern US and Central and South America. They feed on lizards and other small reptiles. We live between two canals and there are vacant wooded lots with many pine trees across the street. I have seen individual kites there many times, but a flock of them flying by was a very exciting experience!

Ospreys, Two Poems

Osprey Hunting. Photo by Matthew Schwartz from Unsplash

Osprey, Death Angel

Osprey,

shrill death angel,

a sinister shadow

flying over fish in canals.

Is there premonition of death?

Does fear precede struggle,

death-flight to the

osprey’s nest?


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


Ospreys, Loving Parents

Ospreys,

shrill birds of prey,

build nests in high places.

Ospreys fish to feed hungry chicks.

Powerful wings carry them home,

fish grasped in strong talons.

Caring for chicks,

ospreys fish.


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

Osprey Bringing Fish to Nest. Photo by Richard Lee from Unsplash

Raccoon Party

Baby Raccoons, Photo by Public Domain Pictures from Pixabay

Raccoon Party

Footprints,

festive dark stains

in exquisite detail…

a raccoons-only patio

party!

Photo by Pete Nuji from Unsplash

Raccoons,

I need to know…

why were we excluded?

Not even invited to watch

the fun!

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten from Unsplash

Humans,

are you clueless?

Garbage cans tightly locked…

You don’t invite us to dinner…

Ever!

Baby Raccoon, Photo by ebo23 from Pixabay

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia