Floridian Wildlife 3

Gainesville is a relatively bike-friendly city. James and I travel by bike whenever we need to get somewhere that is sort of far away/not on a bus route. Being nature enthusiasts, our rides generally take a few minutes longer than what we originally anticipated because we almost always make a handful of pit stops to gaze at the wildlife, from tiny anoles, to swooping hawks, to baby alligators hanging out in small ponds.

A couple of months back, we made a 45 minute ride to the North part of Payne’s Prairie, a wildlife reserve brimming with alligators, bison, fishing birds, and more alligators. Unfortunately the destination trail, the La Chua trail, was partially closed off, as the riverbank had spilled over parts of the walking trail and alligators were just casually hanging out in the area where there would’ve been heavy foot traffic. We were disappointed, but sort of secretly pleased that our feet were saved from alligator bites?

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Sleepy alligators, La Chua Trail, Payne’s Prairie Reserve

Regardless, there were still some big, fat, leathery looking alligators taking their afternoon nap along the banks of the areas that were still open, and I got to snap a few closeup photos before my courage escaped me!

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Sleeping alligator, resting a meter away from the walkway, where there are no barriers between you and these giant things. Welcome to Florida!

We didn’t see bison or wild horses during this trip, so we shall return in late Spring no doubt, to try our luck again.

Chomp!

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Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Gainesville proper has a handful of touristy attractions within walking/biking distance for those who don’t own a car, but who still try to make a point of visiting touristy sites and seeing touristy things; cue us, because apparently it is uncommon for people to bike 35 minutes to visit a shopping mall (hey, that’s totally a legitimate tourist site! There was a JCPenney there and I’d never been to one before).

A little pond, just outside the entrance of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

A little pond with its dragon protector, just outside the entrance of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Funky berries! Tasty? Unsure.

Wicked old vines

Wicked old vines

One of these touristy attractions is the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, which is about a 30 minute bike ride from the center of UF campus. The grounds were beautiful, and while well-kept, they weren’t overly fastidious with having everything trimmed and in its place, so it was like a little preserved woodland sanctuary with a whole lot of life.

Giant Elephant Ear plants!

Giant Elephant Ear plants!

Giant Victoria water lilies

Giant Victoria water lilies!

Giant bamboo! The gardens houses the largest public collection of bamboo in the state of Florida

Giant bamboo! The bamboo garden is host to the largest public collection of bamboo in the state of Florida

IMPORTANT NOTE: Take insect repellent with you. The mosquitoes were big and relentless, and they seemed to revel in some weird, twisted joy when it came to buzzing around our ears.

There are both paved and un-paved paths for you to follow

There are both paved and un-paved paths for you to follow, and often you will come across cute little archways like this (beware of giant spiders though)

A MASSIVE (not exaggerating) Golden Orb Spider having lunch; looked like honey bee was on the menu

A MASSIVE (not exaggerating) Golden Orb Spider having lunch. Looked like honey bee was on the menu

You can walk the entire garden grounds in about 2 hours.

This includes time taken to stalk the local wildlife (lizards, fish, turtles, spiders, birds), and also time taken to touch ALL the mimosa pudica plants in sight at the Children’s Garden (the sign at the garden said that it was “for children, or those who are childlike at heart”, obviously we fitted both descriptions so we had every right to be there! Never mind the fact that the gardens are always open to the general public…).

Little gnome and his String of Pearls succulent, at the Children's Garden

Little gnome and his String of Pearls succulent, at the Children’s Garden

Recent flooding, we couldn't get to the far walkway to admire the giant lilies...

Recent flooding; access denied…

In the time that we were at the gardens, we saw only maybe 5 other people wandering around. Maybe because it was the first football game of the season? Or maybe the rain deterred potential visitors, but the gardens were pleasantly quiet on that day.

Our favourite, the rock garden! Filled with cacti and succulents

Our favourite, the rock garden! Filled with cacti and succulents

Bryophyllum daigremontianum (aka Mother of Thousands, Alligator plant, or Mexican hat plant) - curiously propagates by growing babies on the edges of its main leaves. WARNING! TOXIC AND CAN BE FATAL IF INGESTED BY INFANTS OR SMALL PETS.

Bryophyllum daigremontianum aka Mother of thousands, Devil’s backbone, Alligator plant, or Mexican hat plant (…Mexican hat? What?) succulent – curiously propagates by growing babies on the edges of its main leaves. WARNING! TOXIC AND CAN BE FATAL IF INGESTED BY INFANTS OR SMALL PETS.

Brown anole, these little guys are everywhere! This one's shedding its skin

Brown anole, these little guys are everywhere! If you look closely, you can see that this one was in the process of shedding the skin from its head

Pretty pink vine flowers, they almost look like sweet pea flowers?

Pretty pink vine flowers, they almost look like sweet pea flowers?

Much like the botanical gardens in Wellington, Kanapaha holds events all year round, so we will be sure to come back for them, especially for the plant sales. WOOHOO plant sales!

In time, we will have our very own botanical garden on our balcony and in our living area!


Floridian Wildlife 2

Yesterday, for the first time in the history of Apartment number 34 (since we moved in), a squirrel graced us with its presence (WHEEE!!!), and ate the Squirrel Cake offerings on our balcony (WHEEEEEE!!)!

A special visitor

A special visitor

It ate a lot of Squirrel Cake, and left a mess of sunflower seed husks and half-eaten corn kernels, and even a poop present on our balcony railing! How considerate!

So cute and small with her little baby ears

So cute and small with her little baby ears

We discovered that her favourite ingredient from the Squirrel Cake were peanuts; she would work the peanuts loose first, then the sunflower seeds, and then finally the corn kernels.

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Ohm nom nom nom, making a right mess on our balcony

We think she’s a girl because she had super sticky-out nipples along her tummy – so because of that, and also because she’s a bit rotund, we’ve named her Fatty Nips (what? too crass?).

Our new friend!

Our new friend Fatty Nips 🙂

We hope she comes back soon 🙂 We’ll have a bag of peanuts ready for her next visit!