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This post will be short on words, long on pictures. We saw a bunch of animals while in the park which is as expected. With only a 200mm lens I didn’t have the reach to even get a shot at many of them (I’m looking at you, wolf) and many that I did get from extreme distance don’t make for compelling photos (mama and baby bighorns, several bears, etc.). Others I got so many excellent shots that it’s hard to whittle them down. I captured so many of the coyote that virtually walked right up to me that it is truly difficult to choose. I should always have such problems.

This elk was just hanging out to welcome me on my first morning walk into the park. Yellowstone NP 6/17/19

And this elk stopped by for dinner. Taken from the front seat of the RV. Gardiner, MT 6/21/19

Mama and baby Griz. I could have used a longer lens since this was about as close as this city boy was going to get. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Fun fact: both male and female bison have horns. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Fun fact #2: the baby bison are called “Red Dogs”. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Getting side eye from a bison was a new experience. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

This was NOT taken with a long lens. I thought I was going to get up close and personal with this coyote. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Looking for lunch. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

At least for us they weren’t. They were $18 for the two of us, and totally worth it.

We went camping up near Gainesville a few weeks ago to celebrate what we thought was the breaking of the long Florida summer. We were … mistaken. It was hot and humid with mosquitoes threatening to carry us away. This is not exactly an inducement to go hiking in what can accurately be described as swampland, so we hit the internet to see what else we could do under more comfortable circumstances. And by “comfortable” I mean “air-conditioned.” Gainesville, for those of you who don’t know, is the college town for the University of Florida. We discovered that it has both a Natural History and Art Museum on the campus (next door to each other, in fact) so we decided to get all cultural and check them out. Patti also read that the Natural History Museum had a butterfly garden that had received rave reviews so we put that on the list. Turns out both museums have free entry, but the butterfly garden cost $10 per person, $9 for Florida residents. We coughed up the $18, went through the airlock doors (to prevent the butterflies from escaping) and HOLY COW!

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

As soon as we walked in, we saw the photo to the right: a woman taking a selfie had a butterfly land on her screen. They were landing on kids, cameras, plants, railings, everywhere. There were thousands of them and they were beautiful. The actual walk through the garden isn’t very long, but we found ourselves just loitering about watching them, and watching the kids watching them. It was totally worth the price and an extremely enjoyable experience. It was also a LOT better than sweltering in the October Florida heat.

PS: I’m writing this on November 1st and we’re still waiting for things to cool off. <sigh>

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, 10/10/15

DCF 1.0

On a spring night in 2002, Patti drove from our house across the causeway to an appointment. When she turned off the car, she heard a strange sound coming from the engine compartment. It wasn’t a meowing, more a weird squawk. When she popped the hood, she discovered a 5- or 6-week-old kitten had hitched a ride on top of a brace under the hood. That’s how Nikkie (or Nicky, or Nikky, or whatever) came into our lives.

We named her after the William Powell character in the Thin Man movies. Her “sister,” adopted shortly after Nikki adopted us, was named Nora after the wife in the same movies. From the very beginning she was a bit on the odd side, which is saying something if you know anything about our feline partners. She was extremely shy. We have many longtime friends who have never laid eyes on her except for perhaps a quick flash as she ran to her safe spot under the guest bed. We had a cleaning lady for a couple of years who only glimpsed her now and again. When we would hit the road, sometimes for many weeks, the cat sitters would only see her if they knew where to look. She would come out into the common areas if people were staying the night, but only reluctantly. We were her humans and that was enough for her.

Nikki and Nora tolerated each other and were friendly enough, but not close. They seemed to divide the feline chores about the house. Nora is our huntress, tracking and killing the many lizards on the back porch (which she then eats, sometimes followed by a nice puke). Nora also tracks and locates spiders for me to remove, much to Patti’s disgust, and one time presented us with the still-twitching front half of a black snake that somehow got into the house. Nikki showed little interest in the hunt, but she was our protector. When one of the neighborhood cats presented themselves at our bedroom sliding door, she would attack. She never seemed to learn that there was glass in the way, but she got an ‘A’ for effort.

She was a picky eater, so when we changed their food a couple of months ago for something more suited to older cats she only picked at it at initially and started losing weight. Since she was a solid cat we didn’t pay much attention, but she kept on losing until we finally became concerned. We scheduled an appointment for after our return from a trip to Annapolis, but when we got home she was weak so we took her to the animal emergency room. I won’t go into the experiences of the next two weeks. All I’ll say is that we had a very sick cat. Very sick.

Last Friday, September 4, we put Nikki to sleep. While it was totally the right decision (both the vet and the vet tech agreed that it was time), it was obviously a difficult one. Although Patti and I had discussed this moment and were “prepared,” we really weren’t. An important part of our family is no longer here and we have a hole in our universe that is completely disproportionate to her physical presence. The three of us are (very) slowly coming to grips with our new family dynamic. We’ll get there.

But our “special snowflake” still has her claws embedded in our hearts and always will.

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"Gonzo", Eastern Screech Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

“Gonzo” Eastern Screech Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

"Owliver", Great Horned Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

“Owliver” Great Horned Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

"Bella", American Kestrel, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

“Bella” American Kestrel, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

A few weeks ago we went camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness (camping being a relative term at Disney). Now, camping anywhere in Florida in July is not something we normally do, but we had family coming in from Baltimore that had rented a cabin there for the week and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time with them. On one of the days we were there we joined them for a day at Animal Kingdom. Patti and I had been there once before many years ago and I knew that this was a target rich environment for photography. So I threw the long lens onto the Canon and off we went.

Our expectations were met. It was hot, as July Florida is, it was crowded, as Disney any time is, and I got plenty of good photos of various critters. I read somewhere on the Internet of a photographer that never tires of Animal Kingdom because the animals are always different. I would certainly agree with that, but at $90 a pop I won’t be making a regular habit of shooting there. Still, we had a great time wandering the park with our family and getting the chance to experience a bit of Disney with a 12 year old boy. 

(Happy now, Bill?)

Note the second cat in the background. Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Note the second cat in the background.
Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Yes, he's making a rude gesture. Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Yes, he’s making a rude gesture.
Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

This guy is resting on the back of another hippo. There was a whole bunch of them piled together.
Animal Kingdom, 7/21/1

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13

Animal Kingdom, 7/21/13