Friday, May 25, 2012

Florida Adventure, Part 1: Disney World Animals

For the first several days of our recent trip to Florida, we were living in Disney World, land of enchantment! With so many people, and such a carefully-maintained environment, I wasn't sure how many wild creatures I would see there, but I kept my camera at the ready just in case. As it turned out, there was quite a bit to see, even aside from the normal (and generally awesome) attractions!

It wasn't just the fantastical architecture and perky employees that made Disney feel like a world apart, it was the animals, too. The common wild birds in the park, especially, were pretty different from what I'm used to seeing in urban areas in the north. There were House Sparrows, yes, but we saw no pigeons or starlings, and instead there were Common Grackles all over the place. And there were no gulls, but rather White Ibises and Great Egrets wandering the pathways and cleaning up dropped food.

And it wasn't just birds that were different. There were Brown Anoles (Anolis sagrei) everywhere:

We figured out that basically every tree had one of these lizards guarding it -- often a male like the one in the picture above, flashing his brilliant dewlap and doing push-ups to intimidate onlookers, but we saw plenty of smaller, plainer females as well. And the lizards weren't just guarding trees. Other, less natural structures served as guard posts for these little reptiles, too:

Brown Anoles are actually non-native (they're from the Caribbean), and are quite invasive. They certainly have colonized Disney World extremely well. Despite their invader status, however, they were fun to watch, and more than a little pretty, with lots of variation in their overall brown patterns. Some of the smaller individuals had striking stripes down the middles of their backs:

And of course the males' displays were stunning (which is the whole point, I believe):

OK, little guy, I'll stay away from your patch of sidewalk, don't worry!

A few of the creatures wandering Disney's grounds seemed remarkably (coincidentally?) suitable for the park's warm-and-fluffy atmosphere. How appropriate, to see a mother Mallard (or possibly a hybrid or domesticated breed of the species) and her fuzzy ducklings paddling around a small pool in the Magic Kingdom:

(You little puffball!)

And almost too perfect to be true, a dainty Eastern Cottontail browsing through a garden outside an English cottage in Epcot's World Showcase:

This rabbit had absolutely no fear, not even of the pre-teenaged girls pointing and squee-ing at it from a few feet away. Apparently it trusted the fence surrounding its little flower-filled haven to keep the dangers away, and it let us watch it quite close up:

What a lovely place for such a lovely creature! And, mmmm, but don't those blue flowers look tasty:

(Nom, nom.)

So Disney World really does have something for everyone! I had a great time doing the more normal things in the park, of course, but it was a nice bonus to get to see some cool wild creatures as well.

Coming up: Some sights from the final days of our trip, in which we traveled outside of Disney World and things got even wilder!