Winter Neighbors

SnowBirds Discover that Florida can be a Wild Experience!

The other morning Mr. Wonderful and I were sipping coffee and reading the NYTimes (him, the Financial Section; me, the crossword) at the kitchen table. Suddenly, right outside our window, we had an unexpected visitor. There stood a Florida bobcat who looked in, contemplated us for a second or two and then padded on. 

Later that day the handsome tawny cat was photographed in the backyard of my friend Cynthia’s house, less than a mile away — still inside the wrought-iron fences of our gated community. This is his home too!

 Welcome to the wild side of Florida.

Back when the Dead Sea was still alive, as it were, saber-toothed tigers, giant sloths, shaggy cave bears and herds of other humongous creatures roamed around what are today’s lush green Florida fairways and ocean-front lawns. Most of them are now in the Brontosaurus Boneyard in the sky but variations of their ancestors remain. Spotting or photographing them spices up the everyday chatter of golf, tennis, mahjong and bridge players here in the Sunshine State. 


Take this adorable alligator ,photographed by my friend Ken Janes, on the 15th fairway of our River Ridge course.  He and his brethren swim in the ponds, lurk in the rushes, bask on sunny slopes and — get this — occasionally amble up driveways, including ours. Everybody’s got an alligator sighting story. It’s not serendipity that one of the major cross-state roads is named Alligator Alley.


One day recently I was walking the two-mile-circle and spotted a group of men attempting to catch one of our larger alligators. This 8-foot-long creature bivouacked too frequently near the men’s 16th tee and apparently took too many Mulligans. The brave trapper stood holding a very long stick which had a wire slip noose on the end to lasso the gator. Once landed, the trapper jumped on top of the critter and duct-taped his mouth shut before hauling him away.

From almost any window in my house, at any time of day, I spot exotic birds, like the pulchritudinously-challenged wood storks who become positively magnificent when they soar over a pond, or the exhibitionist anhingas who spread their wings and fan their feathers for hours on end.

 A personal favorite is the sandhill crane. The surest sign of spring here is when Mr. and Mrs. Sandhill parade around the complex followed by their two fuzzy chicks.

My friend Ken, who spends half his day, I think, roaming through the copses and thickets around Florida, recently captured some “everyday wildlife” on his Canon 7D. 

Here’s a Snowy Egret on a very windy day.

And here’s a playful river otter.

These are not rare sightings.  It’s a wild world down here. And I haven’t even STARTED talking about those legless slithering creatures that also consider Florida home. That would take a much much longer blog.