Introducing the colt of Swallowtail Ranch


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Monday, April 30th, 2018 at 10:42 am EDT

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

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Sandhill crane babies are called "colts" and we're lucky enough to watch one growing up on our property. April 8th, 2018 Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield April 20th, 2018 Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Quick facts about Sandhill cranes:They mate for life.Most Sandhill cranes are migratory, but ours happen to be a non-migratory, sub-species that reside here year round.Colts can grow an inch a day!Colts stay with their parents for almost a year, so expect more pictures of this beautiful family.Males and females both take part in incubating the eggs and feeding the young ones.Dad will aggressively defend his family (even if the predator is your house windows).April 29th, 2018 Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield April 20th, 2018 Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield April 29th, 2018 Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Have a lovely week!Our back yard jungle Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield


Barred owl babies are too cute to be real (and their parents may be older than you)


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 7:14 am EDT

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

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The oldest Barred owl was recorded and banded in Minnesota. It was found dead in fishing gear at the age of 24 years and 1 month. There's a good chance that your local owl is older than you.Being a large bird of prey like the Barred owl is nice unless your neighbor is a Great Horned owl and then you may want to consider moving. Great Horned owls prey on Barred owl eggs, youngsters, and  sometimes an adult (...That is bonkers).Adult Barred owl watching out for the kiddos. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Males and females usually mate for life, but no one really knows which of the two pick the nesting site (I'm going to go with female here because it's what we do). Barred owls are usually found in mature forests and nest in large, dead trees. You can also build a nesting box if you live near a mature forest. Just do a quick Google image search to get some ideas and then you may also enjoy sharing your home with the most adorable babies on the planet.They're watching you. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Typical cavity nest site for Barred owls. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Learn more about Barred owls at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


A Mola kind of Monday


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Monday, March 19th, 2018 at 12:42 pm EDT

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

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The Molidae family is considered the world's largest bony fish and they're all a bit secretive. They enjoy eating jellyfish and basking on their side near the surface of the ocean, hence how they got the name "sunfish."Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) are giants of the sea. The largest known was  over 14 feet long and 5,000 pounds. NOAA researchers say that ocean sunfish are a rare treat to see and there's still a lot we just don't know about them. One rather large mystery is their longevity, we currently have no idea how long these fish live.Oh don't mind me, just basking in the sun to warm up after a day of diving for jellyfish. Photo Credit: Allan Hack Their cousin, the sharptail mola can live up to 105 years or longer and can grow to be over 4,000 pounds! That's a lot of jellyfish.Even more fun is another species of mola that was recently discovered in Indonesia, the hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and they too reach giant proportions. Still no word on longevity, but it's likely these giants enjoy a long lifespan.There's also the southern ocean sunfish and the slender sunfish, but tracking down longevity information is a challenge.Enjoy your Mola Monday!


The Florida sky just got a little more beautiful. Welcome back, Swallow-tailed Kites.


Written by: John Canfield and Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Monday, March 5th, 2018 at 7:15 pm EST

Written by: John Canfield and Clare-Anne Canfield

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This is one of my favorite times of the year . . . the Swallow-tailed Kites are finally making their way back to Florida from their winter home in South America.  If you're in Florida, take a look towards the sky the next time you are outside. You just may catch a glimpse of this magnificent bird.You can probably see why they are named 'Swallow-tailed Kite'. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield A pair of Kites. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield If you want to know more about these beautiful raptors, check out my entry welcoming them back last year. In the meantime, here are a few facts to get you familiar with these lovely birds.The birds arriving in the U.S. have just completed a roughly 5,000 mile migration from South America. These kites 'hunt on the wing', meaning they catch and eat their prey without landing.They often pair up with their mate within only a week or so of arriving back in the U.S. Males and females contribute to nest building, many times building in the top of the tallest tree on the edge of open woodlands or in a small stand of trees. They are the coolest raptor. Okay, that may not be a fact but . . . actually, yeah, it is a fact.Seeing this lovely bird perched was a treat since they are often spotted soaring in the wind. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield


Great Blue Herons are mighty hunters


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Tuesday, February 27th, 2018 at 7:58 pm EST

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

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Great blue herons like to hang out anywhere there is water, which may include backyard ponds and random places like roadside ditches. They enjoy hunting in freshwater and saltwater because I'm certain they have stomachs made from steel. If you see these birds you may think it is just hunting for fish and tadpoles, but it's likely eyeballing juvenile Godzilla because based on what I've seen herons will eat anything.Here's a short list and by no means a complete of the delicacies that Great blues enjoy:baby alligators (baby alligators are at high risk of all kinds of predators)snakes aquatic insectsfrogsfish the size of a puppy probably a puppy if small enough and in the wrong place at the wrong timesmall mammals (marsh bunny babies beware)other birdsanything in your goldfish pond that is alivebaby turtlescrayfishcrabsGreat blues will nest in trees or on the ground. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Once paired up a couple will remain monogamous until the next breeding season (perhaps not the fairy tale ending expected, but that's nature). These birds are protected by state and federal laws because there was time in our not-so-long ago history that people preferred bird feathers as an accessory for hats rather than just appreciating the feathers on the bird.There is a white form of the Great blue heron, which I'm still struggling with identifying since it looks like the White egret (so tips are welcome here).One of the many reasons that I love Florida. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield He's probably about to catch a small child. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield This is not a Great blue heron white morph. It's a White egret with the best Uber ever. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield


Snapshots of our local love birds - Happy Valentine's Day


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 at 7:15 am EST

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

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We hope everyone has a peaceful and beautiful day. They're gorgeous when they aren't attacking the garage windows Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Looking for lunch Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield  Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield Peaceful day Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield  Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield


Elephants Have Extra Protection Against Cancer


Written by: Neil Copes

Published on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 at 2:02 pm EST

Written by: Neil Copes

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A simple rule of math states that for multicellular organisms: more cells equals more chances for a cell to become cancerous. An organism with 200 cells has twice the number of cells that could become cancerous as an organism with 100 cells, etc. Based on this fact alone, large animals should have higher rates of cancer formation than smaller animals, and animals like elephants and whales should have significantly shorter lifespans than smaller animals like humans. Given that elephants live as long as humans, and blue whales live much longer, there must be something else going on here. In 2015, it was discovered that elephants have extra copies of the p53 tumor suppressor gene. Just recently, researchers at the University of Chicago found that elephants also have an extra copy of an anti-cancer gene called LIF (leukemia inhibitory factor). Now, if I can just figure out how to pull off a similar trick for myself!Photo credit: Clare-Anne Canfield


Watch out for holes in the ground, they may be burrows.


Written by: John Canfield

Published on Monday, February 12th, 2018 at 7:16 am EST

Written by: John Canfield

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If I told you there is an owl that spends most of its time on the ground and lives in a burrow, would you believe me? . . . Well, you should. Meet the burrowing owl:  These guys live in underground burrows that they dig themselves or hijack from another burrowing animal, such as a tortoise or prairie-dog. On top of that, they hunt during the day and spend most of their time on the ground, or on a low to the ground perch. I must admit, they are not what I usually think of when it comes to owls! Unfortunately, the population of these beautiful birds has declined significantly in the last 30 years, largely due to habitat loss and the decline of other burrowing animals. Fortunately, these birds will hijack just about any burrow that is of suitable size – and conservationists take advantage of this! In many areas, the use of man-made artificial burrows has really helped to stabilize populations of these lovely birds. See below . . . Burrowing owl near a man-made artificial burrow. Photo Credit: George Gentry USFWS  I will leave you with two fun facts: Cowboys used to refer to burrowing owls as “howdy birds” since they often could be seen sitting at the entrance of there burrow bobbing their head at the cowboys, as if to say “howdy” Females will often line the entrance of the burrow with animal manure. This draws in dung beetles and other bugs so she can catch a meal without even leaving the burrow while incubating the eggs. That is pretty crafty, if you ask me.  


The Everglades Mink - An enigma in the swamp


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 at 10:45 am EST

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

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You used to could find this subspecies from south Florida to Lake Okeechobee, but hunting, chemical runoff, and habitat destruction dwindled that range to southwest Florida. If you're lucky you may see them in freshwater swamps including Fakahatchee Strand, Big Cypress Swamp, and southern portions of the Everglades, but don't hold your breath because they're not an easy critter to catch a glimpse of. Like many species of mink, they can be quite aggressive and have the ability to take down larger prey, but they are also vulnerable to predators. Some very disturbing predators are the invasive pythons that are taking a toll on all wildlife in South Florida. Everglades mink are reclusive and tough to study, so even though they are classified as threatened and protected many people think that they should be listed as endangered. The truth is that there's just not much known about this species or their population size. For more information about work going into learning more about Everglades mink visit The Conservancy of Southwest Florida.


I told You I could Do This Myself: The worm that hasn't had sex in 18 million years


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published on Thursday, February 1st, 2018 at 7:39 am EST

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

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So, Diploscapter pachys, a tiny worm found in soil decided about 18 million years ago that sex was fun and all, but it was absolutely too much work and who can really argue that?  This little species of roundworm reproduces solely by cloning itself. A life of abstinence wasn't always how this worm would roll, you see there was a time that D. pachys reproduced sexually, but that was around 18 million years ago. Is this very important? Well, if you're like me then you learned that genetics is pretty darned important for survival. Sex allows species to mix up their genetics and hopefully make offspring that adapt well to their surroundings without accumulating an enormous amount of mutations that result in extinction.Researchers found that this worm can shuffle around their genes just enough to avoid going extinct and live a life of not dealing with the argument of who pays for the tequila this week. Cheers, you cheeky little bastards, you win the trophy for "I told you I can do this myself" and meaning it.Picture credit: Karin Kiontke and David Fitch