Friday, April 06, 2007

Ecotourism - Sabal Palm Sanctuary

We rarely get to play tourists in our area. Okay, let me rephrase that, I rarely get to play tourist. I never manage to have the chance to take a day off. Anyway ...

I had the day off for Good Friday and it was too cool for the beach today so Mr. Gaia suggested a trip to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. Mother in law tells us that step-brother recently sent them a newsletter from their waldorf school talking about birding being the activity "progressive families" are pursuing these days. I'm assuming this is a work in progress, since I know very few kids who are capable of being quiet and still enough to see many birds. But, we're a family that figures kids won't learn without practice.

The Sanctuary is gorgeous. Sabal Palms are related to palmetto palms (found in Florida) but in the US are only native to the Rio Grande Valley and grow excrutiatingly slowly. It takes a sabal 12 years before it has even grown enough to have a trunk.

My only disappointment in the sanctuary was the large number of non-native plants. I understand that it isn't their mission to remain native only, but there were so many non-native plants that it was fairly distracting.

But, oh my was it gorgeous. I saw a green jay carrying straw for its nest. We heard and then saw a long-billed thrasher hiding in the tree top. It has a beautiful song and it is very loud. The kids never managed to see the birds (well, other than kiskadees, which are show-offs and can't manage to stay hidden no matter what), but sharp-eyed Hyperion managed to spot and point out several striped lizards (probably this) and lots of ants. He managed to spot a damselfly which was patient enough to let us examine it carefully. We also saw several dragonflies (my favorites).

Mr. Gaia got quite a few good pictures of a tepeguahe just sending out new leaves and flower buds. He also got some nice shots of the damselfly Hyperion and I examined and a butterfly that was willing to pose for a good long while. And the coolest wasp lookalike I've ever seen - it had the best colors and really did look like a wasp until you looked and realized it didn't have a "wasp waist".

I'd recommend this as a site to visit, but I warn you, you need insect repellant - the mosquitoes are quite thick.

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