Hanging Out with Stingrays

Naples, Florida Pier, Photo by Bailey Rapp from Unsplash

Hanging Out with Stingrays

I was visiting the pelicans on Naples Pier;

the sun was bright, and the water was clear,

I saw a school of stingrays far below,

swimming in The Gulf of Mexico.

Stingrays are flat fish with “wings”

and long, skinny tails with barbs that sting.

Swimming in schools, they stir up sand

to find their dinner of oysters and clams.

Stingray, Photo by Fernando Jorge from Unsplash

I wanted to join the rays…what a fun thing to do!

“Don’t step on them, and they won’t sting you,”

a nearby fisherman advised.

“Shuffle your feet and they’ll move aside.”

I shuffled my feet, and I stayed with the rays

’till the sun was setting at the end of the day.

Hanging out with stingrays was a lot of fun…

I was tired and sunburned, but I didn’t get stung.

Stingray Swimming, Photo by Jakob Owens from Unsplash

I learned that serious injury from stingrays is rare,

but incidents sometimes do occur.

Although I won’t overreact if I encounter a stingray,

I won’t wade with schools of rays like I did that day.

Stingrays in touch tanks have their barbs removed.

Some stingray encounters are sting-free too.

Stingrays enjoy being petted and like to play.

I’d hang out with stingrays at aquariums any day!

Reprinted from Hanging Out with Wild Animals III

Environmentally-themed book series for ages eight to twelve

Copyright© 2019 by Cheryl Batavia

How I Won the Great Snail Race of Miami-Dade County

Photo by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

How I Won the Great Snail Race of Miami-Dade County

(with sincere apologies to Mark Twain)

In the middle of a snail population explosion,

inspired by Mark Twain’s short story,

“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of

Calaveras County,” we planned a snail race.

We thought snail races would be more fun

than frog races…longer to cheer,

longer to observe snail behavior,

and longer to shoot a snail video.

Calaveras County frogs get only three jumps…

Snails take their own sweet time

Photo by Tanika from Unsplash

Keesha’s strategy to win the race

was to choose the largest snail.

Seth just wanted to shoot a snail video

and win an award at the county fair.

Jo planned to lure her snail with lettuce.

Photo by Lajos Moricz from Pixabay

Clarence thought his snail would win

if he cheered louder than anybody else.

Clarence didn’t know snails can’t hear.

My strategy was to learn a lot about snails.

I did research. I drew a diagram and

labeled the shell, the foot, and the eye stalks.

I studied hard so I could pick the best snail;

I was sure my snail, Speedy, would win!

On the day of the snail race, we drew

two concentric circles on the tile floor.

Keesha had chosen a gigantic snail.

Jo had her lettuce ready.

We all put our snails in the center circle.

The first snail to leave the outer circle

would win the race. “Go, Speedy!” I whispered.

Photo by Nika Akin from Pexels

Seth had just started videoing the race

when Clarence began to cheer.

Even though snails don’t have ears

and can’t hear, they feel

sound wave vibrations

with their lower tentacles…

All the snails retreated into their shells!

“Shhh!” we told Clarence.

Speedy came out of his shell first.

Keesha’s giant snail had decided

never to come out again!

Jo’s snail was moving very slowly

away from the lettuce, leaving a slime trail

as it crawled into the outer circle.

Photo by Gene Pensiero from Unsplash

Speedy certainly was fast, but he

couldn’t seem to move in a straight line;

he careened aimlessly around the outer circle,

leaving little silvery squiggles behind him.

Jo’s snail was about to cross the finish line.

Clarence couldn’t keep still any longer

and began cheering again for his snail.

Jo’s snail stopped immediately, just inside

the outer circle, and pulled into its shell.

Speedy was so smart, he finally wandered

outside the circle and won the race.

If you don’t believe me, you can watch

Seth’s video at the county fair.

Photo by cablemarder from Pixabay

After the race, we released the snails

far away from vegetable gardens.

Keesha’s giant snail finally came out of its shell.

Clarence apologized for making noise.

We washed the snail slime off our hands

and enjoyed an ice cream party

to celebrate Speedy’s big win.

Maybe someday, I’ll write a story,

“Speedy, the Celebrated Racing Snail

of Miami-Dade County!”

Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia

Inspired by a snail race in a sixth grade science class I taught in Miami. I am considering adding illustrations and developing this into a book for young readers, ages eight to twelve.

Peaceful Manatee

Manatee Cow and Calf, Crystal River, Florida, photo by Janos, Adobe Stock Photos

Peaceful Manatee

Peaceful manatee

grazing in Crystal River,

suckling your calf.

Friendly manatee,

Red Tide and boat propellers

are lurking dangers.

Playful manatee,

wintering in the hot springs,

hanging out with friends.

Manatee in Crystal River, Florida, photo by Janos from Adobe Stock Photos

Threatened manatee

swimming in warm Gulf waters…

Keep away from harm!

Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia

West Indian Manatees, distant relatives of elephants, are found in the Southeastern United States. Antillian Manatees live in Central and South America. Another species is the African Manatee.

“Fraidy” Old Lady

WATER, poured acrylic on canvas, by Cheryl Batavia

MINNOWS IN THE SURF, poured acrylic on canvas, by Cheryl Batavia

“Fraidy” Old Lady

A “fraidy” old lady at the Pompano shore

was afraid to wade, but not anymore!

Her ankles tickled when the little fish nibbled.

Their bite was so light, the old lady giggled,

“Why didn’t I try this before?”

Reprinted from Hanging Out with Wild Animals III,

an environmentally-themed book series for readers eight to twelve

Copyright 2019© by Cheryl Batavia

This limerick tells a true tale about an old lady…me. The fish bit hard enough that it almost hurt, but not quite! My sister treated me to a fish pedicure when I visited her. It was a very similar experience!

Everglades Style

Egret Family, photo by homecare119 from Pixabay

Everglades Style

The style-conscious woman of long ago

wore Everglades fashions from head to toe:

egret feathers decorating her stylish hat,

alligator purse and alligator shoes to match.

Her taste in fashion was very fine,

but Everglades wildlife began to decline.

Egrets and alligators faced extinction,

and laws were passed for their protection.

Alligator on a Golf Course, photo by skeeze at pixabay

No longer endangered, these species survive.

Habitat protection allows them to thrive.

With continued protection and conservation,

wildlife will delight future generations.

Reprinted from Hanging Out with Wild Animals II

an environmentally themed book series for readers eight to twelve

Copyright© 2018 by Cheryl Batavia

Cicada, Cicada!

Adult Cicada, photo by Dan Keck, Pixabay

Cicada, Cicada!

For seventeen years,

You’ve been asleep.

Now, what kind of

schedule is that to keep?

Cicada, cicada,

you’ve slept too long!

Come out of your shell

and sing your song!

You’re sure to enjoy

the warm summer night.

Come out, Cicada…

Enjoy your first flight!

Empty Cicada Shell, photo by Yukie Chen from Pixabay

Many types of cicadas live in eastern North America. They are harmless herbivores. Eggs, laid in the bark of a tree, hatch into nymphs that burrow into the ground. They stay buried from one to 17 years, depending on the species. The entire group emerge from their shells at the same time, find mates, and lay their eggs. Only the males have a mating “song” made by vibrating a membrane on their abdomen. Their “chorus” adds music to the summer nights.

Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia

Skunk, Tough Guy

Photo of Skunk by Bryan Padron from Unsplash

Skunk, Tough Guy

The skunk is the tough guy

of the American woods.

Black and white fur is a

warning well-understood.

A skunk can spray about ten feet.

You can smell it for miles

driving down the street.

Intimidated by his stinky spray,

when he stomps and hisses,

even bears back away!

Skunks at Their Den, photo by Bryan Padron from Unsplash

Except great horned owls,

skunks have little to fear.

Skunks eat ‘most anything

and live ‘most anywhere.

Insects, salamanders, moles

…their diet varies;

for desert, skunks love

sweet, juicy berries.

Immune to snake venom,

They eat rattlesnake meat.

With fur to protect them,

bees and wasps are a treat.

Spotted Skunk, photo by Bryan Padron from Unsplash

If you ever crowd a skunk,

don’t be surprised

if this tough guy sprays you,

and you’re ostracized.

Soap and tomato juice

won’t make ammends;

you’ll be kept at a distance

by all of your friends.

You’ll have time for your

smart phone, TV, and tunes.

No need to worry…

You’ll smell better soon!

Reprinted from Hanging Out with Wild Animals III

an environmentally-themed book series for ages eight to twelve

Copyright© 2019 by Cheryl Batavia

White Pelican Island

White Pelican Island in the Gasparilla Sound near Boca Grande, photo by Cheryl Batavia

White Pelican Island

Everywhere in Florida

you see brown pelicans…

They are frequently-observed,

year-round residents .

The more reclusive white pelicans

appear in fall and winter

at White Pelican Island and other

secluded Florida locations!

Photo of Brown Pelicans from Adobe Stock

During the winter season,

white pelicans migrate from

Louisiana to their second home,

White Pelican Island

in the Gasparilla Sound.

White Pelicans on Sanibel Island, photo by Diane Gainforth from Pixabay

Why do white pelicans migrate to

Florida, brown pelican territority?

Maybe, like human”snowbirds,”

they just like the warmer weather!

Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia

Caterpillar in a Hurry/ Butterflies & Flowers

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar by icon0.com from Pexels

Caterpillar in a Hurry

While munching his vegetables,

While munching his vegetables,

is a caterpillar in a hurry

to be a butterfly?

Is he in a rush to drink

nectar from flowers

and give grown-up life a try?

Maybe he just wants to open

his brand new wings…and fly!

Monarch Butterflies on Milkweed

Butterflies & Flowers

What’s more beautiful,

butterflies or the flowers

that give them nectar?

Reprinted from Hanging Out with Wild Animals,

environmentally-themed book series for ages eight to twelve

Copyright© 2019 by Cheryl Batavia