Pinellas County, Florida, which includes the city of St Petersburg, is one of the most densely populated areas in the state. Just under one million people live within its 280 square miles of land area.
Despite this dense crush of people, asphalt and cement, however, Pinellas County has a network of city parks, wildlife refuges, and preserves which allow a surprising amount of wildlife to flourish, even within the city limits. These include Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Sawgrass Lake Wildlife Refuge, Weedon Island Preserve, and Brooker Creek Preserve.
Here are some photos I have taken of Pinellas County wildlife.
Two Bottle-Nosed Dolphins in Tampa Bay. It's not unusual to see dolphins out in the Bay, but they are very difficult to photograph since they only surface for a brief moment, can hold their breath up to eight minutes underwater, and can travel a long distance in any direction before coming up for air again.
Small marine fish. The mangrove roots shelter them from predators.
Fiddler crab. They live in burrows among the mangrove roots. The large claw marks this one as a male; they wave their claw in the air to intimidate other males.
A marine snail on a stalk of sea grass.
A blue crab feeding in shallow water.
Florida's most famous resident. An American alligator, an old adult about 11 feet long. Once endangered, Alligators can now be found in virtually any permanent body of water.
This gator, at about 4.5 feet long, is around four years old. He hasn't quite yet lost his juvenile yellow stripes.
Little Blue Heron
A group of White Ibis in a tree
White Ibis probing for food. This adolescent is changing into its adult pure-white plumage.
Blue Jay. Because they are so common, many of us forget just what a handsome-looking bird the Blue Jay is.
Osprey perched on a tree
Osprey eating a fish
Osprey nest on a roadside light pole. The female is perched atop the next pole down. Osprey mate for life, and use the same nest every year.
Anhinga prowling for fish
You can see here why the anhinga's alternate name is "snake bird"
Black Vulture in a tree
Geese. Toulouse Geese, I think. A non-native imported species established in a local park.
Laughing gulls. Also known as "sky rats".
Brown pelican. Once endangered by DDT poisoning, the Brown Pelican has now made a remarkable comeback, and is now common around Tampa Bay.
A pair of Wood Storks. The only stork species found in the US. It is common in Central and South America, but endangered in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Black-Hooded Parakeets. Native to South America, there is a free-living colony here in St Pete that was established by escaped pets. They are loud raucous birds that travel in flocks of 20-30.
Red-Eared Slider. Not native to Florida, it has been introduced and established here by people releasing their pet turtles.
A young Southern Toad
Bahamian Anole lizard. A male displaying his dewlap to mark his territory. Introduced into Florida back in the 50's, this non-native species is now crowding out the native Green Anole lizards.
Garden spider, Argiope species. One of the largest native spiders in Florida (the Golden Silk Orb Weaver, Nephila species, is a bit bigger). Despite their fearsome appearance, they are harmless. I often pick them off their webs and play with them.
A tiny Star-Belly Spider on her web.
Gray Squirrel. Since Florida squirrels don't need to hibernate in the winter, they are skinnier than northern squirrels. So your squirrels can probably beat up our squirrels.
A burrow under a tree, probably an armadillo.
Armadillo footprints in the mud.
Discarded Apple Snail shell. Probably eaten by a Kite, a bird that specializes in snails.
Large grasshopper, about three inches long, known here as a "lubber".
Ant Lion traps. Each of these cones in the sand contains a larva of the lacewing, which eats any ants that fall in.
Fire Ant mound. A bothersome and destructive invasive species.
Woodpecker hole. Abandoned woodpecker cavities are used by many birds as nesting sites.
Two fuzzy black caterpillars
These shallow bowl-shaped depressions in the bottom of a pond are Tilapia nests. Tilapia are fish that were introduced from Africa to farm-raise for food, and escaped into the wild.
A Tilapia in his nest. The nests are made by the males.
Small river fish
Water Hyacinth. Introduced as an ornamental plant, it escaped into the wild and often chokes rivers and ponds by overgrowing them completely.
Spanish Moss. It's not from Spain, and it's not a moss--it is related to the pineapple.
Tillandsia. The "air plants" have no roots, and get all their food and water through their leaves.
A Live Oak tree festooned with Spanish Moss
A stand of young Longleaf Pine.
Pine cones. Florida pine trees are fire-adapted--the pine cones only open and release their seeds when they are heated in a fire.
Banana trees. Bananas are native to Southeast Asia, but are now established in virtually all tropical areas.
Banyan tree. Introduced from India. The branches have aerial roots that dangle until they reach the ground to form a new trunk, so a large individual tree can look like an entire grove.
A wild species of Rhododendron
Strangler fig attaching itself to a tree trunk. It will wrap itself around the trunk, using it for support, and grow until it kills the tree.
Elephant Ear plant. The leaves can be over four feet long.
Prickly-pear Cactus. A remnant of the time when the water level was much lower and Florida was part of a huge desert that stretched all the way across the American south.
Red Mangrove. The prop roots create new shoreline by trapping sediment.
A baby mangrove tree, known as a "propagule". These fall into the water and float away with the root end down. When they wash ashore somewhere, the roots grow and form a new tree.
Black Mangrove. Mangroves are one of the few trees that are adapted to living in salt water.
Black Mangrove roots. Unlike the Red mangrove, the Black mangrove does not have "prop roots", but it does have "pneumatophores"--fingerlike root projections that poke above the mud and allow the roots to breathe at high tide, preventing the tree from drowning.