The Bald Eagle has been the national emblem of the United States of America since 1782! Their not really bald, but their white head and brown bodies make it seem like they are. Bald Eagles are one of the largest birds in the world. Their wingspan is an amazing 7 foot wide, they weigh between 7-15 pounds and stand around 28-38 inches tall! Living near water, bald eagles eat fish, ducks, snakes, turtles, rabbits and, yes, dead animals. They use their great sense of sight and strong claws, also known as talons, to grab and kill their prey. Bald eagles attack their prey by diving down on them at an angle and can reach speeds of up to 100 mph when diving. At around 4-5 years of age, the Eagle begins to choose a mate. Once they have found a mate, its for life. If one dies, they will choose another mate. They make their homes in large trees near water (both fresh and salt), bald eagles build huge nests, called eyries, out of sticks, moss and leaves. Generally, their nests are at least 2 ft deep and 5 ft across but can be bigger. These nests have been known to weigh up to 2000 lbs. So don’t think you can just find one and take it home. A mating pair has up to three eggs a year, though it is not likely that all three will survive. Both parents take turns keeping the eggs warm. Yes, dad does his part also. While one is warming the eggs, the other searches for food or more nesting materials. It only takes a little over a month and the eggs hatch. Bald eagles are not born with their beautiful brown and white look. When baby eaglets hatch, their entire bodies are covered with...
Only a century ago the southern third of Florida was all wet wilderness. Believe it or not, Lake Okeechobee was nearly twice the size it is today, with nothing but endless swamp and sawgrass. The Everglades is more than 1,508,538 acres in size! So, lets start at the beginning…The Headwaters of the Florida Everglades. It starts way up in the Orlando area, right there with Mickey Mouse. There is over 80,000 acres of water flowing through more than 20 lakes called the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Lake Kissimmee, Lake Tohopekaliga (known also as “Lake Toho”), East Lake Tohopekaliga (“East Lake”-yes, we have 2), Lake Marion, Lake Cypress, Lake Gentry, and Lake Jackson (my personal favorite) just to name a few. Lake Kissimmee offers almost 35,000 acres, while the comparatively tiny Lake Jackson is 1,500 acres surrounded by a conservation reserve park. But in the end, all this water flows into Lake Okeechobee to round out the Everglades. Now that we have discussed how massive the Everglades is, what is it good for? The Ecosystem! The area’s lakes, marshes and swamps are all critical parts of a delicate ecosystem sustaining a host of wildlife, Flora and Fauna. Airboat Tours are one of the best ways to see everything out in the Everglades, they can get into locations that you can’t walk or take a regular boat to. There is so much you can do out exploring the Everglades…fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and yes…swimming! Just be mindful of your surroundings and remember, respect the wildlife.
Lets dive into something a little bit different. I’m always looking for something to learn about that’s out of the ordinary, and I think I found some interesting information about the wonderful world of wildlife. ** The bumps on alligators are called Scutes, they are hard bone that protect them. They are covered with them, from head to tail. ** Elephants are the only animal that can’t jump, the bones in elephant legs are all pointed downwards, which means they don’t have the “spring” required to push off the ground. ** A sloth takes 2 weeks to digest their food. ** Octopuses have 3 hearts, Two of the hearts work exclusively to move blood to the...
Some people do not know what a Sandhill Crane is. Well, they are very large, tall birds with a long neck, long legs, and very broad wings. They weigh between 6-14 pounds and stand between 3-5 feet tall. Their bodies are grey, the forehead and top of the heads are covered with reddish skin and face, chin, upper throat, and nape are white to pale gray, and their legs and toes are black. The male and female look a lot alike, except males are bigger. They mate for life, but if one show die, they do find another mate. They female chooses their partners based on dancing displays. The male birds stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air. They then build their nests from the dominant vegetation, such as cattails, bulrushes, or grasse, using dried plant materials early in the season and adding green materials later on. The female lays 1-3 eggs, it takes around 30 day to hatch, but sadly, most of the time only 1 baby makes it to fledging. I personally think they look like baby chickens with long legs when the are born. They eat a variety of animals, including frogs, small animals, insects and snakes, along with grains. Adults will often feed the little ones earthworms and grubs. Mated pairs and their babies stay together all through the winter, until the 9 to 10 month old babies finally separate from their parents the following spring. They spend their winter in Florida, Texas, Utah, Mexico and California. The Florida sandhill crane is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and can not be hunted. So, the next time your in Florida, look for these amazing birds.
Is there a difference between alligators and crocodiles…..YES, but if your out swimming, they will both look the same! Let look at some of the main differences between the two. Alligators have a rounded snout, almost a U shape, while crocodiles have a V shape. So when their mouths are closed, you can see upper and lower teeth from a crocodile, but only the upper teeth of an alligator. Both the alligator and crocodile have a hinged jaw, but crocodiles have a second joint to help distribute the pressure throughout the entire jaw, so it doesn’t twist or lose grip during their powerful bite. Rather than chewing, both the alligator and crocodile clamp down onto their prey with their powerful jaws, they then roll their bodies while clamped on to tear of bite-sized lumps of flesh. While the muscles generating the downward force are very strong, you can actually hold their mouth shut with your hand. Which we do not advise trying. Some of the more interesting differences are, Alligators are smaller, darker in color, faster on land and in the water and, believe it, less aggressive. So, crocodiles seem to be bigger, slower, lighter and meaner…. Now alligators prefer fresh water, and crocodiles prefer salty water, so it doesn’t look likely to run into both of them at the same location, but stranger things have happened. Alligators are only found in parts of the US and China, while crocodiles can be found across the world.
The History of Kissimmee goes all the way back to 1883. Originally, the area was known as Allendale, named after JH Allen, a Confederate major who operated a cargo steamboat on the Kissimmee River. It was later renamed Kissimmee after the Native American name ‘Cacema’, which means long water. Thanks to a large drainage operation and the use of the Kissimmee River for boat transportation, the area grew quickly. The Kissimmee shipyard was to keep up with the demand for large steamships. At the same time, the South Florida railroad extended to Kissimmee, and the area grew quickly. But there were a few unfortunate events that happen, including The Panic of 1893, freezes in 1894 and 1895 and the relocation of the steamship operations, left them depending mostly on cattle ranching. Kissimmee still has amazing historical areas for people to enjoy. The Osceola County Courthouse, dated back to 1890, is the oldest and still in use court house in the state. Pioneer Village at Shingle creek has an 1898 “Cracker House,” a 1900 general store, pioneer artifacts, blacksmith shop, sugar cane mill and an eight-acre pristine nature preserve under 100-year-old trees. Every April, cowboys, horses and cattle take over downtown Kissimmee as a cattle drive makes its way to the rodeo arena. There are many stores and restaurants on Main St in our Historical district, so stop by and enjoy the day.
There is so much information about alligators, but not much about baby alligators, also known as Hatchlings. Breeding season for alligators is May and June. They start building nest in late June and July. The nest can be 7 to 10 wide and 2 to 3 ft tall. They lay between 35-50 eggs, some upto 90, and cover them up. There is a 65 day incubation time frame until the little guys start to hatch out with a little eye tooth at the tip of their mouth. It later falls off. They will also start “chirping” for moms help to get out, where she will dip up the dirt on top of them and sometimes she will pick them up in her mouth to get them into the water. The depth and temperature determine the sex of the hatchlings. Female gators is below 82.4 degrees and male gators are 91.4 degrees or above. If the eggs are in the middle, 87.8 degrees or so, they will be a mix of both male and female. Believe it or not, alligator eggs are soft, not hard like chicken eggs. Hatchling are tiny when born, only between 6 and 7 inches long, so they stay very close to mom. A female alligator will only mate once a year but can have up to 3 years worth of babies (called a “pod”) around her, but only concern is for her new offspring. She is only there for protection though, she doesn’t provide their food. When the Hatchlings get to about 4 years old, they venture out on their own. Alligators reproduce or multiply when they mature. This takes place when they are about 7 to 12 years old.
If you have some time, you need to take a trip out to Makinson Island. I had the pleasure of spending some time out there recently and was just amazed at the surroundings. The huge oak trees, picnic area, nice restrooms, walking trails, gazebo and even campsites. This 132 acre island is located in Lake Tohopekaliga, pronounced “toe-hoe-pea-kah-lie-gah”, and you have to find your own way out there, but it’s worth the trip. Some of the local history of the island includes Emathla, a 19th-century Seminole chief who made it his home, and his son Coacoochee, one of the great chiefs in Florida history and born on the island in 1807. Its location at the mouth of Shingle Creek, which flows south from Orlando. Dense growth protects the shoreline and there is a small dock and beach to put your boat. Makinson Island was purchased by the state back in 1999 but wasn’t turned over to Osceola County until 2001, where is was opened up to the public. At one time a lot of exotic animals were brought to the island, most were removed but there are still a few longhorn sheep, goats, hogs and wild deer left. There is also plenty of birds of all typed that have make this island home. The family that the island was named after also owns a hardware store in downtown Kissimmee called Makinson Hardware, be sure to stop in and say hello to Elaine and John Makinson.
There is an amazing event going on for the month of September! Orlando restaurants are having a Magical Dining Experience where you get a 3 course meal for only $35.00. There are over 100 restaurants participating and its sponsored my American Express. The BEST part of enjoying a fabulous dinner is that through Visit Orlando, $1 per meal will benefit Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. This is a good time to try something new! For a list of the restaurants visit www.visitorlando.com/magicaldining
Some of you might be wondering how the airboat days are going. I know, its been awhile. For starters, we have a wonderful office now here at our departure location, and we enjoy decorating it up for the different seasons. The county park we are in has picnic table, playground, racquetball and tennis courts and even a dog park. We have hats, t-shirts, sunglasses, gator heads and so much more. We also made a new little squirrel friend that seems you enjoy hanging out on our front porch. Now with our boats…We have 2 airboats that are Coast Guard Certified to take 8 people. No more splitting up on your airboat adventure. Even if you have a larger party, we make sure you have a great time. We want you to enjoy your time and tour without having to share the boat with 15 other people. Our captains will have you laughing and excited the whole tour. Come check out our mobile website and see some amazing pictures our captains and guests have sent to us.