On the first of March a "Semi-SuperMoon" set over the lake in our local Wounded Wetlands. It was about 226,137 miles from Earth, while January's "Super Moon" was nearly 5,000 miles nearer. This was unfair to February, which had no full Moon at all, while January and March each hosted an extra (Blue) Moon. On average, this happens only in non-Leap Years, once about every 25 years-- and I missed celebrating my half birthday as well, for the 60th+ time!
Today's post begins and ends at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park.
Back in May, 2009 I took one of my favorite photos at Shark Valley. I was not sure of the identity of the fish which this Great Blue Heron had caught, but Internet friends identified it as a Jaguar Guapote, native to Nicaragua in Central America.
I learned from Wikipedia that it is a food fish "and is also found in the aquarium trade where it is variously known as: the jaguar cichlid, managuense cichlid or Managua cichlid, guapote tigre, Aztec cichlid, spotted guapote and jaguar guapote. It grows to 55–63 cm (22–25 in)."
I could not believe that the heron would be able to swallow it!
Hypostomus plecostomus, also known as Algae Eater or "Pleco," is a popular aquarium fish from South America which has been introduced into Florida waters. They are not venomous, though they do have sharp spines that could cause injury if they are handled carelessly. This was the second time I photographed a Great Blue Heron eating one at our back yard lake.
A drama played out in the same lake after I noticed that a Double-crested Cormorant had caught another large exotic Plecostomus. The 9-10 inch fish struggled vigorously in the bird's beak, its spiny fins fully extended. I do not know how long the fish had been in the cormorant's grasp, but I watched intently to see if the bird could succeed in swallowing it, or whether it might get stuck in its gullet or esophagus. I watched for about 7 minutes and took poor photos from some distance. The bird won!
Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with three Internet friends from New Jersey, my home State. Dave was flying into Miami and Kurt, who now resides in Central Florida, met him at the airport. We planned to meet at Shark Valley before noon, so I headed over earlier. Len, who had driven down from New Jersey, joined the three of us. Although we had not planned to spend much time there, it was so interesting that we stayed well into the afternoon. There were phenomenal photo opportunities:
...Black-crowned Night-Herons (this one appears to be performing a soft-shoe dance)...
...but the stars of the show were truly exotic. Florida is home to more than 300 species of exotic fishes. They resulted from intentional and accidental releases from such diverse sources as fish farms, pet trade breeding facilities, spilled shipments and of course, family pets which were freed when it was time to move or they grew too big or were too nasty for home aquariums.
Interestingly, one exotic species, the Pike Killifish was "of importance to medical science as research animals. It is interesting to note that the introduced population in south Florida stems from the release [in 1957] of pike killifish that were the subject of a medical research program whose funding had been terminated." REF: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Further, the FWCC itself released Butterfly Peacock in 1961 "to control other non-native fishes." It is now a very popular sport fish.
The waterways at Shark Valley were teeming with fish, some native but many were "immigrants." Exotic Walking Catfish and Brown Hoplo gulped air from the surface of a canal while herons and Anhingas took advantage of so many opportunities to capture them.
A Great Blue Heron speared a Walking Catfish:
After subduing it by repeatedly swinging it down against the ground,...
...the heron made several attempts to swallow it, head first,...
...and finally succeeded:
A female Anhinga captured a Hoplo. A type of catfish, it is robust and has exceedingly sharp spines under each fin. Yet, it somehow went down:
We did not leave Shark Valley until mid-afternoon, and I felt wiped out by the heat to the point that I feared heat exhaustion might set in. I drank plenty of water and rested in my air-conditioned car for several minutes. Although I felt fully recovered, I thought it best to part with the others, who were heading to Big Cypress Swamp and planned to look for snakes after dark. It was a great day but enough was enough!
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Linking to Misty's CAMERA CRITTERS,
Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,
Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy
Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James
Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni
Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi
Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart
Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue
Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh
Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display