Good Water Ripples vol 1 issue 2

Good Water Ripples

Volume I Issue 2                                            April, 2011

From the President’s Desk

I think spring is my favorite season of the year, especially in Central Texas.  The trees come out from their winter dormancy with beautiful new green leaves.  The wildflower display progresses from the early primroses and verbena through the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and Indian blanket and finishing with the summer sunflowers, there is always something to see and appreciate during the spring bloom.  I enjoy watching the nesting birds around my house with their territorial calls, nest construction, chick feeding and the eventual fledgling’s first flights.

This spring I’m very grateful to meet our chapter’s 2011 Training Class members as their enthusiasm, their eagerness to get involved, and their friendly faces insure the future growth and development of our chapter. Our chapter business meetings are going to be short during the training class months, but I encourage everyone to attend the meetings that coincide with the class to meet and get acquainted with our newest members. Let’s make them feel right at home!

Walt Henderson and I attended the New Chapter Training at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area at the end of March.  We are bringing back some good ideas to help keep our chapter growing and prospering.

Did You Know

by Winnie Bowen

1. That many people confuse granite and marble, especially now that these products are popular in kitchen and bathroom use.

Granite comes from igneous rock and

Marble comes from metamorphic rock.

2. A worker honey bee can fly at speeds of up to 15 mph?

3.A queen honey bee stores a lifetime supply of sperm.

4. Butterflies have chemical and taste receptors in their feet and smell with their antennae.

Species of the Month

SIDEOATS GRAMA—Bouteloua curtipendula

The State Grass of Texas, this bunchgrass grows in a wide variety of clays, sands and loams. It is well liked by cattle and wildlife.  A perennial, it blooms as early as May with blue green foliage and bright purple flowers, and produces small oat-like seed on the side of the stalk from June thru November which turns tan in the fall. It works well in a wildflower garden with other grasses such a little bluestem.

Good Water Master Naturalist Wonderings

Bahamas Trip to Swim with Dolphins by Winnie Bowen

My granddaughter’s H S grad present was a trip to the Bahamas to swim with  dolphins in the wild. I figured that she’d have her fill of water activities on the island so I scheduled a day on each end of the trip in Ft Lauderdale. Going we stayed in Cypress Creek,  north of town so we could spend the afternoon at Butterfly World.

Butterfly World, Ft. Lauderdale Forida
The largest butterfly farm in the world, located in Tradewinds Park, opened in1988. The facility houses 3000 butterflies in 81 species, and has nurtured and birthed over a million butterflies since it’s inception. You start out by the laboratory where you see several species of caterpillars, each in it’s on clear plastic gallon-size container eating its special diet. It was fun to search for them and to see how different they are.

The landscaped grounds are gorgeous with many different tropical plants, beautiful flowers and many new tree varieties. We walked through many anti-escape doors which are doors on each side of a small entryway, often with strong fans blowing and frequently added heavy plastic strips to keep the birds and butterflies in their own habitat.  Often signs were posted on the door saying, please don’t be polite and hold the door open. Butterflies were everywhere in all sizes and all colors. There were birds from several different countries.

Excluding the cafe and gift shop there are 11 different areas/aviaries, a short tunnel in the rain forest that is frequently misty, and a pond with a swinging bridge. Different species e.g.: tropical, rain forest etc are in different areas. Except for a few flowers most were unfamiliar. It was quickly obvious that I haven’t seen many of their 81 butterfly species! The birds are from many different countries.  One area was full of sturdy posts where passion vines climb. The facility is doing a lot of cross-pollinating and experimenting with passionflowers and displayed 100 different ones in huge clay pots beside each post. I only recognized the most common passionvine! The Dutchman Pipe vines fascinated me. The one tree that took a lot of my interest was the jaboticaba tree. This tree, a native from Brazil and related to the guavaberry, has white and yellow flowers on its trunk that turn into large marble-size purple fruit. The tree produces better when planted in groups rather than singularly. The fruit hung in an elongated chain on the trunk. It was weird, but fascinating.

Near the end we made a visit to the lorikeets where we were able to feed them nectar and let them climb all over us. Jessica was thrilled and I enjoyed taking pictures of her It was a fun end to a most worthwhile and exciting visit.

SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS AND STING RAYS, Bahamas

One of the reasons Jessica picked The Bahamas was because she wanted to swim with dolphins in the wild. I made sure this was booked for our second day.

It was a 25 minute boat ride to a private island where the dolphin sanctuary was located. On arrival a safety and dolphin briefing was mandatory with the emphasis on safety. On the floating dock the trainers informed us how they train the dolphins. The sanctuary maintains a pod of 28 animals. We swam with two females which they said are easier to train. Life jackets were mandatory for everyone getting in the water. Mine was a bit too big and although the straps were tight it wanted to float up around my ears.

In the water we were instructed to form a straight line about 20-feet away from the dock.

The dolphins swam by so we could stroke and pet them being careful to stay away from their heads.

After that we worked in pairs. We all received a dolphin kiss. For a hug we were instructed to open our arms wide and let the dolphin come to us. Once the dolphin put his dorsal fins around us we could gently hug her back.

At one point the dolphin brought each of us food which we took and submerged to prevent the persistent sea gulls from snatching it form our hand. When the dolphin returned we fed him. It was remarkable how gentle they were.

To dance we gently tapped the water with our hands which was their signal. The dolphins approached, stood on his flukes so we could take his dorsal fins and dance.

For the ride we were instructed to float on our stomachs and flex our feet downward. The dolphins approached, nosed up to the fleet feet and swam like crazy across the lagoon to a white flag mounted on the far rocks. They swam so fast that you were propelled out of the water from your thighs up. Even though my glasses were strapped to my head I decided this was a bit more activity than I wanted to indulge in, so I let Jessica take a second turn.

What a fun afternoon. We were both a bit disappointed that we couldn’t freely swim around the lagoon with the dolphins. The water was warm, turquoise green and very clear. It was a bit different than when I swam with Peta, a wild dolphin in Belize.

The afternoon was pricy which as a tourist one expects, but I did object to having  over an hour to shop in the small gift shop as there was nothing else to do. We could have better used that hour back in Nassau.

Jessica being pushed by the n ride dolphins

It was about a half hour catamaran ride to Blackbeard Island to swim with the sting rays. Sandals Resorts own half of this island but the other half is the ray sanctuary. This lagoon contained some flat rocks and when you stepped off you suddenly sank another 6-8 inches.

There were many rays and some of them were huge. For safety reasons the barbs had been removed. They swam all around often brushing my legs. When it came time to feed and hold them I got out of the water to take pictures of Jessica. I did not trust my footing in the water with a camera.

Rays generally are gentle creatures. 

ARDASTRA GARDENS AND ZOO

The dolphins and rays were Jessica’s choices, the Gardens and zoo mine. We spent a delightful morning on a warm sunny day. The jitney (small local bus) let us off leaving us a 10 minute walk to the entrance. The big attraction here is the flamingo parade which takes place three times a day. We were aiming for the 10 AM show.

The brain child of Hedley Vivian Edwards (a Jamaican horticulturalist) opened to the public in 1937.  Edwards wanted to create a luscious garden in the heart of Nassau which was not an easy task as the area in those days was more of a marshland than a lush garden. The name Ardastra comes from the Latin, Ardua astrum, literally meaning “Striving for the stars”.

In 1982 Norman Solomon, a Bahamian, bought the gardens and added a zoo. The area covers five acres. The zoo is a rescue and nature center. Winding pathways weave around lovely tropical grounds. Little hidden treasures, like an inviting bench, wait periodically around bends in the pathways.

We walked part of the gardens before show time.  Seeing a pair of black swans I read on an information board, “A male swan is called a cob, a female a pen and a baby a cygnet.”

A caracal (small cat named for a Turkish word meaning black ears) was pacing in his enclosure.. The serval  (African wild cat) has the longest legs and largest ears in proportion to his body of any other animal. I had to come home and Google these two animals to learn more.

After visiting with the meerkats it was time to make it to the arena. Flamingos were over hunted for meat in the 1940s and 50s, but their numbers have recovered. They are shy by nature, but the birds at the zoo are familiar to people. There were 25-30 in the parade and they ranged in age from six months to 41 years.  The average lifespan in the wild is four years.

There are six species of flamingos and they have an average wing span of five feet. The largest part of their mouth is on the bottom as they are bottom feeders.  A female lays one egg a year and both male and female incubate and then care for the baby. They have web feet and can fly up to 40 miles at 25 miles per hour!   The birds respond to commands of march, right, turn and stop.

After the parade we saw several species of iguana. The green iguana is a common pet but when it gets big it is often abandoned by its owners and it often becomes a threat to native wildlife.  The capybaras were dry and eating from a bowl. The only other capybara I’ve ever seen was in Montreal, Canada and he was wet and stayed near the water. This semi-aquatic rodent is the largest of all rodents and has incisors 6” inches long! You don’t want to get bit! They can dive and can stay under water for five minutes.

There were several macaws in the gardens. They can live 50-100 years and often outlive their owners. They are beautiful birds. We spent a fair amount of time watching Sheba and Sasha, a pair of jaguar sisters. One was cross eyed and they are permanent residents of the zoo. They were beautiful animals.

When we were finished at Ardastra we walked back to catch the jitney for lunch down town.

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