Tuesday, December 25, 2012

All I want for Christmas is a Florida Black Bear

Here is a Florida Black Bear that visited us for Christmas this year. I'm not sure, but he might be the bear that found our empty garbage cans earlier this week and he came back to check on them. This time, I wised up and made sure the cans were put away properly in the garage. Nothing makes me madder on the news than to see people leave their trash out and then call wildlife control because there is a bear "threatening" them.










Friday, December 21, 2012

Who... or what, exactly, is Squirt in Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus

"Just exactly WHAT is Squirt?"

That is the most asked question I get from young readers of Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus. That is usually followed by "I want him."

They know he only makes a single noise (Squeak!) They know he voraciously eats any food that he crawls over. He has a particular fondness for candy and snacks.

Many have tried to draw him:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



I love this version



Well, for the first time on the internet, here is the real Squirt:



Squirt is an echinoid. This picture is exactly what he and the thousands of other echinoids in Olivia Brophie look like. He is a kind of sea urchin, related to the sea biscuits and sand dollars.

If you read the book carefully, you know Squirt's mouth is on his bottom. Here is a picture of Squirt's mouth:



Now, for the best part. You can find your very own Squirt in Florida! You just have to be a bit adventerous. Fossilized echinoids can be found in springs and spring runs in Florida. You need a snorkel and mask. You need some patience as you scan the river bottoms for echinoids. Some days you might not find anything. Some days, you might also find other fossils such as shark's teeth, alligator teeth, armadillo scales, and manatee teeth.  I have a big collection of fossils I've found in Florida springs. One day, I'll post them so you can see. But Squirt is my favorite. That is why I made him into a character in Olivia Brophie.

Fossils exist in Florida because the entire state is built upon a huge platform of limestone. Limestone grows on the ocean floor, the result of countless shells and creatures who died in the past and were pressed together by pressure. Some of the shells weren't crushed. Teeth were too strong to be crushed too, that's why you can find lots of sharks teeth in Florida.

And yes, Squirt will be in Book #2. In fact, he travels farther than any echinoid in the history of the world in Book #2.  He even saves Olivia!

Here he is on a copy of the book so you can see how big he is:




Thursday, December 20, 2012

Florida Black Bear

It's that time of year again. The black bears in the Florida scrub are investigating every interesting sight and smell as they continue fattening up for some winter lethargy.


Today, this little feller took a swim in the goldfish pond.


 
 
Investigated the trash bin that I hadn't put away yet. Please make sure you put your garbage away if you live in bear country...
 
 


And finally gave up when he only found two empty soda cans.

Check out these blog posts for more Florida black bears in my yard!

florida-black-bear-in-scrub

lightning-forest-chapter-twenty-two

florida-black-bear

florida black bear



Long-legged Fly

Long-legged fly on a hibiscus leaf

Everyone has seen these tiny flies scooting and zipping around on top of large leaves. They are quite beautiful up close and they come in all sorts of colors. They are also predators, looking for even smaller creatures to eat. I find their interactions to be really fun to watch if you can follow their quick movements with your eyes.

I didn't take this picture, but it shows you some of the color variation in long-legged flies