Monday, October 31, 2011

Spirit of the Sand – The Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata)

In mid-dark hours under a starlit sky
Porcelain apparitions flirt at edge of sight
Spirits of the dead that poke and pry
Rotten flesh-eating ghosts that haunt the night

Fallen sea stars crash to shore
An aquatic wish, a wish no more
Scallops and whelks ground into sand
A coastal cemetery where gulf grazes land

Midnight monsters rise from sandy grave
A four foot burrow and a daytime shade
“Fast of foot” Ocypode glides
Seeking beach line bounty of nightly tides

Scavengers of sorrow sift skeletal remains
Washed ashore by unforgiving waves
Bones and shells now picked clean
Are left on beach as tombstone memory

Coquina Clams and Mole Crabs beware
Dead or undead the ghouls won’t care
They hunt and feed and disappear
Underground to their shell cave lair

As sun arcs high up overhead
Predators hunt the haunted sand
Few ghosts emerge in fear as well
That they’d be rendered down to shell

Yet large stalked eyes help to see
While four paired legs aid well to flee
And one large claw is meant to scare
It’s hard to catch one unaware

But do not fear
The beast of the coast
After all
It’s just a ghost.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tame Deer - the White-tailed Deer

Animal identification can often be quite tricky. Differentiating a Yellow-crested Olive-sided Warbler from a Olive-cheeked Yellow-rumped Warbler can be nearly impossible without a 4-D 300 meter spotting scope, cannon-fired mist net and your own University of Cornell-trained Ornithologist. The larger animals on the other hand should be easily identified. Bears. Moose. Dolphin. How about the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)?

White-tails are the most wide-ranging members of the deer family in North America and can be found in Canada, most of the United States, Central America and Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador. Here in Florida they tend to weigh in on the leaner side. Males average 125 lbs and females a bit less than 100 lbs. Key Deer, a subspecies of the white-tail is even smaller with males maxing out at 80 lbs.

Deer are noted as being crepuscular, meaning they are active at dawn and dusk but I often see them in the Everglades and similar habitat during the daylight. My thinking is that the main predator of deer in south Florida is the Florida Panther which is a nocturnal hunter and with few other species to be concerned with, the deer forage in the daylight.

The deer in the top photo were spotted in the Picayune Strand State Forest, east of Naples, FL. They seemed to smell me before they heard me, and heard me before they saw me. As I carefully approached they raised their white tails and began to trot away. This serves as a guide for the fawn to follow as they flee. It also attracts predators and when the deer stops and the tail is dropped, the predator has now lost the white tail it was chasing.

The deer in the bottom photo was clearly aware of my presence. I proceeded no further. Eight tines in a rack of antlers trumps a 300mm zoom lens. The buck eventually sauntered off.

And as for the deer in the central frame? They were tame and quite possibly the ugliest White-tail Deer I have ever seen.