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The time is nigh! My new website launches on April 1st!! I would LOVE for you to follow me from big ole WordPress to inkfromthequill.com! The name isn't changing but the site is improving ten-fold. If you want to be notified when I post a new blog entry or video of my birding adventures, please click the link below and sign up.

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Oh and while you're here you might as well look at today's friendly protagonist and her somewhat hidden, ne'er-to-be-trusted antagonist.

Waterbirds of the Everglades

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)* Year-round resident of the Everglades * Eats mainly fish but will also take amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans and insects * Nest is a platform of sticks and leaves * Lays 3-5 eggs, incubates them for ~25 days, chicks fledge at 6 weeks old * Not globally threatened

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Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) * Year-round resident of the Everglades * Opportunistic feeder that will eat almost any creature that crosses its path, including other birds * Nest made of sticks, reeds and kelp * Lays 3-5 eggs, incubates them for ~23 days, chicks fledge at 6.5 weeks old * Not globally threatened

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Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) * Breeds in the Everglades * Eats aquatic invertebrates * Nests on the ground among grasses; nest often contains seashell fragments * Lays 4 eggs, incubates them for ~24 days, chicks fledge on the same day that they hatch * Not globally threatened

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Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) * Winter visitor to the Everglades * Eats insects, mostly beetles and flies * Nests in a shallow scrape over stony, sparsely vegetated ground * Lays 4 eggs, incubates them for ~26 days, chicks fledge at 1 month old * Not globally threatened

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Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) * Winter visitor to the Everglades * Eats cranefly larvae, beetles, snails and spiders * Nests in a scrape at the base of a tree; lines nest with dry grass, decayed leaves, spruce needles, moss and twigs * Lays 4 eggs, incubates them for ~23 days, chicks fledge at a little over 3 weeks old * Not globally threatened

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Gators from an airboat

20160503-dscn3349 There's nothing like a big snowstorm to make you glad you're not cold-blooded. Or perhaps, sad. Because if you were cold-blooded, you'd have to live somewhere warm. I think I could struggle through life on a tropical island right about now. Brr!

Take a look at these absolute beauties I spotted from an airboat in the Everglades. And don't forget to click on the pictures to view a larger version!

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Swamp Bandits

The title should actually read: Swamp Bandits: A story about one woman shaking her clenched fist at a raccoon and smiling at the same time.

Swamp Bandits: One woman's bittersweet tale about a thieving masked criminal and how she constantly tried to overcome saying "awww" as he stole pounds of expensive horse grain from her barn.

Swamp Bandits: Skunk imposters that actually turned out to be raccoons, 47% of the time. There were also a lot of skunks, turns out.

Maybe you're new here. I'm from Colorado. I grew up on a farm. What kind of farm? Well, I suppose technically it was a grass hay farm. But we kept a charcuterie plate of many farm animals. A heavy dose of turkeys, rabbits, and miniature donkeys and a more conservative offering of pigs, sheep, horses, goats, chickens, dogs, and cats. Conservative perhaps, on a farmer's scale. Which is to say, we had five dogs and the barn cats went in waves of wild free love movements which caused surprising shifts in their population.

I live in Canada now. It's relaxing here. I have one unkillable house plant and a four-toed hedgehog. There are very few daily farm tragedies here ("Mom, the goats are out again, and they're eating the freshly planted trees..."). And in Newfoundland, almost zero Swamp Bandits.

I recently traveled to the Everglades on a birding adventure where I once again encountered an old foe.

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These raccoons live in the mangroves. Generally, they survive off of opportunity. They eat what they can get. And in this case, the airboat captains feed them various treats to get them to perform for tourists. They're untrained, of course. But I'm certain that all raccoons are secretly comedians with an understanding of universal hijinks choreography.

These are airboats. They are loud and fast and fun. For one time. And then you've pretty much experienced it and you're ok to take it or leave it.

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These airboat tours run under the guise that you will mostly be seeing gators. But I counted one gator on the whole of the outing and roughly 15 raccoons. So you tell me what the tour is really for.

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Raccoons live all over North America (and are introduced in parts of Europe and Asia) and thus, people from basically everywhere can contribute a story about a barn criminal or a hulking raccoon they mistook as their own black lab.

I had many run-ins with raccoons on the farm. Especially with The Corporal, a giant raccoon that turned out to be a very pregnant mama who birthed three or four bushy baby masked criminals in our irrigation ditch among the hay. I looked at them all huddled together, eyes wide with wonder and gave them a lifetime pardon in the first three seconds of observation. I'm a terrible disciplinarian.

More Everglades raccoons.

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We tried to jail the criminals, my dad specifically. He set live traps for them in smart yet seemingly random locations about our acres.

The main targets of these live traps were chicken-eating foxes or grain-thieving raccoons but apparently had Skunk Cottage written all over them for the unfortunate number of Striped Skunks that found themselves trapped and sprayed to express their frustration or gratitude or whatever.

Of course, some people swear by these little devils as pets. They're not soft (coarse, actually) and they'd steal the corn-on-the-cob right off your dinner plate but I suppose they are quite lovable in their own way.

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After being reintroduced to my old nemesis, I've decided to wave my white flag in submission of their cuteness. You win Swamp Bandit. For now.

If you'd like to see a few seconds of video wherein these Everglades raccoons scurry around begging for crackers, check out my last post: 50th BLOG!!

And stick around for more birds and reptiles to come this weekend!

Rivers of Grass on Marsh Trail

20160504-DSCN3400 20160504-DSCN3399 It's not necessarily a sixth sense, more like an enhanced combination of the standard five senses. I'm talking about the ability to find birds and other wildlife quickly. It takes practice. And if you would like to be completely overwhelmed, try your hand at the Florida Everglades. The photographs above are from an observation tower on Marsh Trail of the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Look at the second picture closely (if you click on it, it'll enlarge in a new window). Herons, egrets and alligators are apparent right away. But I can tell you that there is a Black-necked Stilt and a sandpiper right in the mix as well. Only a combination of relaxing and watching for some time will help you see all the hidden creatures in the Everglades.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be showing you different parts of the glades. I'm very excited to say that there will be a great number of birds, reptiles, and perhaps some mammals as well.

Here's a tiny taste for what's to come.

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Check in Sunday for ibises of Marsh Trail. It's incredible that so many creatures live near just a tiny mile-long trail.