We had a good paddle today on the Ocklawaha River, from Ray Wayside to Gores Landing, approximately 10.5 miles as the kayak paddles. It was overcast, threatening rain all day, but we didn’t get a drop. We saw more gators than we ever have before on this stretch, perhaps because of the weather. Mostly young ones in the 4-6 foot range with 1 little guy, about 3 feet, still with yellow stripes on his tail.
We also ran across a mass of Lubber grasshoppers on some lily leaves. There must have been about 200 of them chowing down, all about 1 inch in body length. The black ones we recognized right away as young Lubbers. The khaki colored ones it turns out are simply an older morph or instar. The adult Lubber is about 3 inches long, tan with red stripes, and is a common garden pest in Florida, descending like the biblical locusts and devouring everything in reach. The Lubber’s only natural predator is the Loggerhead Shrike, a cool little bird that decapitates them and then impales their carcasses on thorns or barbed-wire fences so the sun can bake out the toxins before mealtime.
We also watched some Limpkins for a while. It gets its name because it seems to limp along while probing the mud for food. The Florida peninsula is about as far north as you will see Limpkin. Limpkins are cool because they live almost exclusively on apple snails. Both the native apple snails (Pomacea paludosa) and the 3 invasive species. The Limpkin’s bill has evolved for foraging on apple snails. The closed bill has a gap just in front of the tip so the bill acts like tweezers to pull the snail from its shell. The tip is curved slightly to the right so it can be slipped into the right-handed chamber of the snail.
A few other bird seen – Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, and a Great Horned Owl. And loads of dragon and damselflies.
We also one Rhesus monkey – mother with tiny baby – who disappeared into the trees before anyone could even raise their camera.