Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Guana River

Before I write about Christmas, I have to fill you in on a little outing I took on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. I went to a nature preserve between Jacksonville and St. Augustine with a ridiculous mouthful of a name: The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. For simplicity's sake, I'm just calling it Guana River.

It's a beautiful preserve, and it gave me an opportunity to walk several miles of trails and see some wildlife. (My mom, ordinarily a wildlife enthusiast, decided not to go, and Dave is never a fan of hiking. So it was a solo excursion!)

I saw several armadillos, and they weren't shy at all. While I took pictures they snuffled around in the grass a few feet away. My biggest challenge was getting a picture showing their (absurdly tiny) head and eyes -- usually they're buried in grass up to about their ears.

I saw a dock covered in more pelicans than I have ever seen in one place. I counted 109 birds in that picture, both pelicans and cormorants, and I'm sure I missed some. (I went to Guana hoping to see roseate spoonbills, but alas, no such luck.)

This guy was lying in the path as I walked, and at first I thought it was a snake -- but it didn't look quite right. A little too short, a little too fat. Turns out it's a legless Florida glass lizard. Very strange!

Again, it didn't seem disturbed by my presence at all. I walked all around it taking photos and it never moved.

And finally, I saw this beautiful little downy woodpecker.

Christmas was blessedly low-key. Dave and I met up with my mom in the morning, accompanied her on her morning walk, and had lunch with her. Then we all gathered at my brother and sister-in-law's for Christmas dinner, which had a Cuban/Puerto Rican twist this year -- black beans and rice, tostones, pulled pork and mahi mahi. Dave and I gave it some transatlantic flair with a British Christmas pudding from Harrod's, which we doused in orange liqueur and set alight. We exchanged gifts, and Hoopla was played again -- not even at my suggestion! My younger niece seems to have taken to it!


  1. What amazing sights on your hike. Very Doctor Doolittlish the way everyone held still for you.

  2. I think you will find that there were 111 pelicans in the pelican picture taken at The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve of The Almighty Ruler of Ancient Mesopotamia Creator Of All Wonders. I have checked the photo several times and I think you will find that pelican number 43 (Paulette) is partly obscured by pelican 19 (Wayne) . Pelican 96 (Briony) is also largely hidden by the beaks of pelican numbers 6 (Nigel) and 78 (Winona). But of course, I might be wrong.

  3. Looks like you had a lovely Christmas. We sometimes get up to St. Augustine. I'm happy to know about this reserve. If you ever get down towards Orlando, you should do the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. I think of it as an alligator safari.

  4. sounds like a nice low key day with a big finish.

  5. Armadillos are so benign looking are they not? Like clockwork toys

  6. I somehow missed the fact that you and Dave went to Florida for Christmas. That's wonderful! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  7. Love this solo walk you took there. I couldn't quite count the pelicans and cormorants in the photo, but I am so glad Yorkshire Pudding straightened it all out. LOL. That was grand! Cool critters in every way.

  8. Fun armadillo facts from the Smithsonian channel yesterday.... They're really good swimmers, they can inflate their intestines with air so they float. Armadillos are deaf and have terrible eyesight, so they locate their food via scent. They can smell food 8 inches below the soil surface. Snapping turtles like to eat them. Great pictures, Florida is so beautiful.

  9. I can not unsee armadillo hand bags, so every time I see a photo I look for the handles . Great shot and another fab shot of the party on the dock! I am so glad you did not get bitten by some kind of wild thing!

  10. You got some great photos on that hike in the preserve with the very long name. I love the armadillo shot. I've only seen that animal once before crossing the road somewhere in east Texas. And, that lizard is indeed a strange creature.

  11. You seem to get your head out of the hoopla by going for a good walk.

  12. I think I would have liked that hike, it looked good.
    I love that YP thinks I look like a Pelican even if I am hidden by the beaks of Nigel and Winona, LOL

  13. When I first saw the title of this post I thought you had taken the family jet off to South America. But then I looked again and saw it wasn't Guyana. Wonderful shots on your tour of the nature preserve. I wonder how long before an unnamed occupant of the White House opens it up for oil drilling.

  14. Merry Christmas! We had Christmas pudding here too, except for us it was the addition of a Caribbean flair! No doubt it derives from our British colonial past, but whatever. We've claimed it as our own by now. The family gathering sounded just right.

  15. Love the armadillo photo! What a funny head and tiny eyes!

  16. A very productive walk! The name is a mouthful, though; you're right about that. I'd be afraid to walk alone in Florida in case a critter ate me :)

  17. Marty: I didn't think of it like that! Do I have some hidden skills?

    YP: Actually, I saw Paulette and Briony. I think I missed Sylvester, Lionel and Jasmine on top of the dock posts -- for a total of 112.

    Colette: I almost never go to St. Augustine -- and weirdly another commenter was asking me about this just a few days ago. But having driven through on my way to Guana River I think I should definitely make it a day trip the next time I'm in Jax. I used to go to a dance club near Lake Apopka, in my younger years!

    Ellen: Yes, Christmas itself was pretty low-key. I could not have been happier!

    John: They're so bizarre! You can't help marveling at evolution!

    Jennifer: Yes, we're in the Sunshine State! Hope you've had a good holiday too!

    Robin: The glass lizard was a special surprise. I don't recall ever seeing one before.

    Allison: I wondered about their eyesight -- when you look at them their eyes seem barely functional. Poor things!

    Linda Sue: They're much nicer as actual animals than handbags.

    Sharon: I don't think I've ever been so close to an armadillo. We used to get them in our yard in Land O' Lakes when I was growing up, but usually they'd run off when we came near.

    Red: Absolutely! Walking is my retreat.

    Briony: LOL! Take it as a compliment. Somehow. :)

    Catalyst: Apparently Guana, Tolomato and Matanzas are all the names of actual rivers in that area.

    37P: Interesting! I wonder if your Xmas pudding was like ours? Did you make it yourself? Did you keep it under the bed for months, as I'm told we're supposed to do with a proper British pudding? :)

    David: They are SUCH weird-looking animals. Kind of pathetic little things, honestly. You can't help but feel a bit sorry for them, although maybe they're perfectly happy.

    Jenny-O: Fortunately the risk of man- (or woman-) eating creatures in Florida has been greatly exaggerated. :)