Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March is Reading Month: CONTEST GOES WILD!

March is Reading Month! To celebrate I am giving away to one lucky winner a copy of the Manatees Gentle Giants in Peril by Mary Unterbrink (the very same book shown in my last Florida blog) and a signed copy of Holly Wild:  Bamboozled on Beaver Island (Book 1)!  *See details below!

Why? To celebrate March as a month of reading, a month of learning, a month of entertaining--and reading! Also, to celebrate the editing process, beginning today, of Holly Wild:  Let Sleeping Bear Dunes Lie (Book 2). Aw heck, it's to celebrate knowledge...(and the fact that I bought a repeat copy of the Manatee book) as well as to celebrate that sharing is fun!

Why give away that Manatee book that I read in my tent in a storm in Florida? Let me tell you. It was the very first Earth Day many years ago when I, Lori Eiden (Taylor), was in 5th grade in North Sashabaw Elementary in Clarkston, MI (ummm over 40 years ago) that I heard of the Roseate Spoonbill and Endangered Species. Both sounded so far away and unknown to me.

Since then I have researched, reported and read about many endangered species, used guide books, read magazines and children's books about wildlife and gone out fully-equipped with knowledge (sometimes!--see alligator photo from last blog post) to meet them on their own turf. I do this to learn, connect, and share this experience with others. A mighty fine job indeed!
"Rosie the Spoonbill" in bottom right corner.
My trip to Florida, my new love of manatees and my continuing desire to educate, entertain and spread the "word" on endangered species has inspired me once again. That and my new souvenir Ron Jon tshirt that reads: "We All Live Under the Same Sun". According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Report there are "118 Florida Animal and Plant species listed (based on published historic range and population) ", out of which there are 53 endangered animals. Here is my list of the ones I've been lucky enough to see on recent Floridian vacations (most of which were found alive and well in State Parks and wildlife preserves--I'm sure there will be a Celebrate Parks Month giveaway in the future):
Drawings, sketches and illustrations help TELL the story!
  • American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis) Status: Species of special concern (state listing); threatened species (federal listing, due to its similarity in appearance to the endangered Florida crocodile).
  • Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja) Status: Species of special concern (state listing)
  • Florida Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pratensis) Status: Threatened species (state listing)
  • West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)  "Also called Sea Cow" Status: Endangered species (federal and state listing)
  • Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) Status: Endangered species (federal and state listing)
  • Southern Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocphalus leucocephalus) Status: Threatened species (federal and state listing)
  • Caracara, Audubon's crested FL pop. (Polyborus plancus audubonii)
  • Florida Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
*DETAILS:  So how does this all tie in to the contest? The contest! Prizes! Books! Stuff! I will draw the name of one lucky poster to this blog out of my backpack on March 31--at midnight, to make it even cooler and spookier--and announce the winner immediately on this blog! 

You start by posting a blog comment on this page or answer the following question, then sign your name and city/state where you reside.

WHO or WHAT inspired you to read, write or draw
about the world around you?

Starting today, March 1st, tell your kids, your friends, your teachers, your librarians, your scout leaders, your family to post here to win. It's just that easy and even more exciting!

I will send the winner the aforementioned books with signed copies of my Florida trip sketches and whatever else I can think of to throw in the package. (Batteries, dead things and Florida manatees are not included.)
My NookColor sketch of Me and the Manatees (Feb. 20, 2012)
Whether paperback, hardcover, sketchbook or ebook...
Keep reading, writing, drawing and READING!

(More Florida endangered species info here: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/education/splash/endangered_species.html )

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WILD Time in Florida!

The first time I went to Florida I think I brought home two bags of shells, bits of dead things, sand and over 300 pictures and never touched my sketchbooks. This time, my third time, I came home with two notebooks of sketches, 120 carefully chosen photo subjects and four specially selected shells.

Oyster shells make a fine paint
palette and water bowl. Here is a quick
tiny "dummy" book to keep a first
hand manatee experience fresh!
On this trip, Lisa and I once again took our kayaks and Marie traded in her kayak for a 12' canoe so we could haul gear to camp on Orange Island. What a wild time it was and it is always hard to come back home after a great trip. So here is "WHAT I DID ON MY WILD WINTER VACATION!" Hope you enjoy!

First stop, Blue Springs State Park. There we got to meet the good, the mad and the ugly. And this gator was not happy with me. "No pictures, please!" Kids don't try this at home.
Lesson Learned! Beware of alert gators--they move super fast! This fella was
about 12' feet away, if that, when he made a WILD dash for me in my kayak.
Marie reenacts a tense moment and points to where we had landed unbeknownst to another
gator who was resting--near us, maybe 9-10' feet away. CAUTION:  Look before you land your vessel.



On to something LARGER yet SAFER! Manatees! The first time I ever saw manatees--from shore-- they looked like inert blimps of suspended blubber--kinda like my new sleeping bag. Ehnh! But this time, we Bear Track girls were right out there in the thick of things in our kayaks, in the water, all up close and personal like. This day, the manatees were putting on a super performance as we sit mere feet away on the other side the flaoting safety-zone fence that keeps boaters out.

Across from us, people lined the shore to get a glimpse of the lovable aquatic mammals. How can you not love these big lugs? These sea cows of rolling, tumbling love waved, danced and came up out of the water for a bow. Tails, heads, and fins complete with finger nails! splashed and waved. I was tickled to hear a small boy from shore yell, "Hi, manatee!" as he waved back at one of the big beaties. 

The fence kept boats out, but manatees could come and go as they pleased. And they did! What a thrill and what squealing we did as a few 9-10 footers drifted up to inspect our crafts. Passing near us and under us and blowing out air. YOW! They were as curious of us as we were of them.

But my most favorite moment was when one manatee came up to the edge of my kayak and looked at me. Our eyes locked. (Lisa posted my FB comment that "you haven't lived until you've had a manatee look you in the eye.") Well, all I can say is that moment was incredible. To see those nostrils and those eyes look up inches below the water moved me. My first thought was, "What are you thinking right now?" These giant beings scarred from boat props, abused from pollution of fishing line, plastic bottles, bags and more and can still approach humans with such gentleness and curiosity is absolutely mind blowing. I would like to think that that little boy who yelled to the manatee would be as moved as I was and go on to tell people about awesome, amazing manatees and how to protect them.

Peek a boo! I see you!

That day was hard to beat. It left us feeling fabulous. But next we headed to the Canaveral National Seashore to kayak and camp on Orange Island. Site H1 (I thought the sign was welcoming us!) looked like it came straight right out of "Gilligan's Island". We were practicing with our brand new backcountry camping gear. 
Tent site on Orange Island. Brand spanking new Big Agnes tent. I
think I repostioned and reset the ties at least four times--before the
big storm hit that night.

We set up tents, had a few moments to explore the island, gather firewood and headed out again into the water for a quick boat trip. But with an impending storm and dark horizon we headed back to zip into tents early with a cold dinner (granola bars, jerky and bagel) ready for wind and rain to last all night.
Snake-like, tree-climbing cactus
Horse-shoe crab!

Indian Breadroot



So I sketched, painted and researched manatees in
my tent during the storm. Big Agnes kept me, my
 sketchbooks, clothes and sleeping bag dry all night.
Thanks Big Agnes! 

After seafood feasts, birdwatching and more, another WILD FLORIDA VACATION comes to a close. In the van, I painted memories using my oyster shell bowls that were picked up on the beach and watched the scenery go from June green to February browns. Until next time!