A Visit to Lion Country Safari

Jambo! (Welcome!)

Today the whim takes me to a different hobby… photography (and my love of critters). Since most of you are in the dead of winter right now, I thought you might enjoy a hot safari adventure to get your blood flowing… so let’s go on a trip through Lion Country Safari, just west of West Palm Beach, Florida. It’s a drive-thru 300 acre preserve with over 1000 animals, plus a walk-thru amusement park, too. (If you only have time for a quick laugh today, then scroll on down to the last few pics.)

It has changed a lot since we first went through in the early 70s. Back then the lions roamed freely with the cars and would lick the bugs off your headlights. It’s still a “cageless zoo” but you can only see the king of the jungle through the fence. They also used to let you hold the lion cubs to get you picture taken. One of my treasured pics! (It was up on the blog briefly during one of the Cat Lovers Hops a few years back.) It’s still an amazing place to be able to get as close as one currently can to some of these majestic creatures without having them in small, sad cages. So, grab a cuppa your favorite beverage and enjoy some pictures and facts about these amazing creatures!

The Greater Rheas (Rhea americana) in the first section were in an amorous mood. I love this one dancing on one leg!! (In the background are some Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), the only species of pelicans that dive into water to catch their prey. It’s fun to watch them over at the beach! Most of the ones here are rescues with wing injuries and can no longer fly.) Rheas are the fourth largest of all birds growing up to 4 ft tall and 50 lbs. Males build the nest, incubate the eggs and raise the young! They are flightless, but can run up to 30 mph. Here’s a short video clip of some of their ‘moves’ (just click on the white arrow in the middle of the picture below):

The South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris) reminded me of my time down there. They weigh up to 650 lbs. The tapir’s closest relatives are the horse and the rhino.

Their short ‘double-barreled’ trunk cracks me up, so I just had to include this out-of-focus pic that shows it better:

This waterbuck ( Kobus ellipsiprymnus),  with his heart shaped nose and target-like pattern on his rump (not seen in this pic), seems unimpressed by the impala (Aepyceros melampus – one of the most agile of the antelope species) ladies grazing by.

A side view of the waterbuck’s horns:

Curving the opposite way are the scimitar-horned oryx’s (Oryx dammah) horns. Sadly, this beautiful animal is extinct in the wild since around 1990:

The greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) male has some amazing horns – they curl around 2.5 times and average 4′ long, but can grow to 6′! How do they move thru their densely wooded habitat without getting tangled up? By tilting their chins up so their horns lay flat against their back. They are the second largest antelope, weighing up to 690 lbs. Both males and females have a spinal crest, but only the males have horns and a beard.

I love the ‘got milk?’ mustaches and peach-colored ears of the female kudus!

The world’s largest living bird, the ostrich (Struthio camelus), grows up to 8′ tall and some 350 lbs. They are also flightless. The males are black, the females gray. This female has taken an interest in the SUV in front of us!

Don’t know if she was going for her reflection, a bug, or our handsome driver! Maybe she just wanted text her kids to get their heads out of the sand. I think she gets a kick out of people watching! Now we know why they require you to keep your windows shut!

A small herd of wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus – also known as gnu) compared to the herds of millions in the wild! They are a member of the antelope family.

The eland (Taurotragus oryx) is the largest of the African antelopes. Bulls can weigh up to 1 ton and be 6′ tall. Their straight screw-like horns can grow to 3′ long. A flap of skin called a dewlap hangs down the front of the neck and has a tuft of hair on the end of it.

The Asiatic water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) can weigh up to 1.5 tons and has a life expectancy of 25 years. This one gave me a raspberry for taking his picture on his way to take a bath! lol!  (See the cypress knees below his head?! They’re so interesting!)

About half way through the 4 mile drive are the park’s namesakes: the African lions (Panthera leo) that are now kept fenced off from the cars. (I couldn’t help but wonder what happens when the hurricanes come and blow down the fences…. every mammal for himself!!) Males can weigh up to 500 lbs, 4′ high at the shoulder and up to 8′ long – they are the largest of the African carnivores. Gestation is 100 days and they have 1-6 cubs per litter. A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away. They were snoozing on our fist trip through, but up and about the second time thru,I just didn’t get a good pic.

The blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is one of the smallest members of the antelope family at 3′ tall. This native of India gets its name from the dark color of the mature male (buck). The ringed horns twist three or four times are about three feet long.

I found it interesting that the white lower coat makes them look extra slender at a glance… Wish I could find clothes like that!!

Ankole-Watusi (Bos taurus) is a breed of cattle with large horns that may span 10′!  Blood circulating through the horns is cooled, then returned to the body, which helps them to tolerate extreme temperatures. Newborn calves weigh 30-50 lbs, but grow up to weigh 900-1600 lbs. At night the herd sleeps together with the calves in the center and the adults facing outward with their horns as a protection against intruders – the ultimate in portable fences! This breed is often referred to as ‘cattle of the kings’ as those with largest and longest horns belonged to the African tribal kings. Here they come with a scimitar-horned oryx laying down in front of the pic and and Impala (Aepyceros melampus) standing behind him.

Looking out the window of the SUV, we were glad they were more interested in eating some grain that attacking the car… bet they could do some real damage if they wanted!!

Impressive! They are associated with several tribes, including the Tutsi. BTW… doing the Watusi dance has nothing to do with the cattle. The dance was named after the Watusi (now Tutsi) people of Africa, whose traditions included spectacular dances.💃

I’m thinking this next guy look more like a water buffalo than a watusi, but I’m not sure. He’s got an amazing personal towel rack, tho! 😂

The endangered southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simun) weighs up to 2.5 tons and lives up to 40 years. Unlike their cousins, the black rhino, they are reasonably docile. They get their name from the Afrikaans word “wyde” meaning wide or square lipped. They are actually stone gray in color. Rhino horns aren’t bony, but are made of keratin… a protein also found in human hair and fingernails.

Grant’s zebras (Equus bruchelli bohmi) are a member of the horse family. Not as fast as a race horse, but easily have more stamina. Zebra stripes are like fingerprints – they are unique to each individual. Which made me laugh, wondering: how much stripe-print dust do the zebra police use to find the guilty party?!! 🤣🤣

No, I don’t have a fascination with zebra butts.. I included this pic as I thought it was interesting: see the one on the left? He has tan stripes in between the black and white!

After driving through the park, you can take a picnic lunch into the Safari World amusement park or get something at their restaurant. There are lots of rides and water activities, but there are also lots more critters to see in this section of the park…

The sarus crane (Antigone antigone) is the tallest of the flying birds and can stand up to 5’11”:

The East African crowned crane (Balearica regulorum gibbericeps) looks very regal, indeed! I wonder if the queen’s guard got their uniform ideas from it?:

The beautiful flamingos (Phoenicopterus) get their color from their food source.

Hmmm… next card I make with flamingos, I’ll have to deside if I want a green or a blue background for them… I like them both!

Of course there are reptiles in the park. Since I move about the pace of a giant tortoise most of the time, I had fun watching this guy mosey along in his pretty shell. The great thing about these guys… it’s easy to get an action shot that isn’t blurry! Lol!

Swanderful reflection!

They have a couple of aviaries for feeding the Budgies and Lories. I love those AMAZING colors on this lory!! 

And they have several types of macaws, including one who loves to dance to music! This blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna) sports more great colors I’d love to use on a card!!

My favorite part of the amusement park was the giraffe feeding pavilion. You get up eye-to-eye with these beautiful creatures! The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is the tallest land mammal with a height of up to 17′ and it’s long prehensile tongue can extend its reach by 15 inches.

And, for $3 they’ll give you a few romaine lettuce leaves to feed them. Yep, I want a perch like this in my Paradise dream home (sans fence, of course!)!!

Now here’s the question of the day: How DO mother giraffe’s know when they’ve liked that dirty spot off their kid’s neck?!! 😄

Lets close this trip with a Humor Gallery… These critters just had so much character and made me laugh, so I just HAD to share them with you!!

How DOES this East African crowned crane sit like that?!! I wish I had a mini keyboard to put under his feet!  😄 😄

“Did I get any grain on my cute little heart-shaped nose? Really?! Well, you’ve got spinach between your teeth!’:

‘I would smile wider, but my laugh lines might show!’ Forget Clark bars, this one’s a Snicker! (If you get it, we’re DEFINITELY showing our age! Hahaha!😉)

The singing kudu… what do you suppose he’s singing?!

“In the jungle, the might jungle, the lion sleeps toniiiiiight!

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh….

Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling, the lion sleeps confined.

Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling — unless there’s a hurricane!

AyeEEEEEE!!! —

We-run-away! We-run-away We-run-away! We-run-away!”  — The Joke’ns 🤣🤣

I hope you enjoyed your trip! If you didn’t know it was in Florida, you might think you’d just been to Africa. One small tip: if you plan to visit. We regularly get coupons in the mail for $8 off per person…. if you know someone who lives down here, let them know if you’re planning on visiting so they can save their coupon for you! : )

I have a few craft projects waiting to be posted, so I hope to be back soon to share them with you. Meanwhile, stay warm y’all. Spring isn’t far away!!

~D.Ann

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Butterfly World Part 2 – Birds & Flowers

Hello again! I’m happy to be back and that you could stop by, too!

After a long break to try to let my wrist heal (perforated ligament and tendon inflammation), I’m slowly starting back. I’ll start with the rest of the pics from butterfly world. If you missed the first post featuring the butterflies, you can find it HERE. There are plenty of birds and flowers in the park, too! For those of us who are paper crafters, there’s loads of color inspiration! So go grab a cuppa something good, put on some classical music like they have playing throughout the park, and just enjoy the pics…

The skyflower aka blue trumpet vine (Thunbergia grandiflora)

These ground orchids (Epidendrum radican) are so cute!

This one is a jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) – I love hose shades of green!!

I must try a card the color combo in these orchids… brown, pink and pale yellow!

This vine is an Acanthaceae (Thunbergia mysorensis).

A bottlebrush bush (try saying that 5 times fast. lol!) aka Callistemon.

There is a huge variety of passion flower (Passiflora) vines. I don’t know how many of the 550 species they have, but it’s a lot!

They remind me of dancing ladies! And they go from these giant ones as big as your hand to the tiny ones, smaller than a thumbnail:

I love finding ‘faces’ in the bougainvillea flowers! : )

The aviaries are filled with canaries, finches, honeycreepers and more… most flitting around too fast for the lens to catch, but a few are otherwise occupied, like this cute parakeet couple and the peeping Tom. : )

The vibrant colors of the Macaws never cease to amaze me.

There is a Lorikeet encounter where you can feed them or just enjoy the amazing bright colors and shrill songs of these lovely parrots. (you can click on the arrow in the middle of the picture below to watch the short video.)

Lastly, one of my favorites… this gorgeous little shimmering hummingbird just sat there sticking his tongue out at us as if giving raspberry and saying, “Nyah, nyah I’m the most beautiful bird around and I know it!” (click on the arrow in the middle of the pic for the short video to play.)

That’s just a few highlights from this wonderful little park. And I didn’t even get the the museum. I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour!

I hope to start catching up now. I have several spring garden posts that I HOPE to get posted before next spring, but you know I roll in slow motion, so it may be a while. I seem to have a few cards backlogged, too. So there is more to come, Thanks for your patience! Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long.

-D.Ann

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Butterfly World Part 1 – Butterflies

Hello, everyone! As you might have already guessed, today’s post is going to be full of butterflies. There will be plenty of amazing colors to inspire your next papercrafting project!

We recently went to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida – the largest butterfly house in the world with 3 acres of butterfly and bird aviaries, botanical gardens and a working butterfly farm and research center.

It was a cool day and we arrived first thing in the morning, so most of the 20,000+ butterflies (up to 50 species) were still lazing about posing for picture after picture rather than rushing about all a flutter to fill their tummies with nectar.

How many snoozing butterflies can you find?!

Choosing pics for this post was tough! Take these lovely Tree Nymphs (aka Paper Kites (Idea leuconoe))…

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How can you choose just one pose?!!

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The gorgeous green Malachites (Siproeta stelenes) were also showing off for the camera:20180330_091717_wm

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There’s also a huge difference depending on which way the light hits their wings!

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This Julia Heliconian (Dryas iulia) is another case in point.

As the sun warms things up, everyone flutters about their business. You can see some of those amazing blue Morphos flitting by in this video…

Here’s one I caught recharging her batteries – love that gorgeous iridescent blue!

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The under side of the wings have large eye spots that startle predators. Their wingspans measure 5-8 inches.

This one has a piece of his wing missing so the iridescent blue of the opposite wing shines through. I love the water droplets beading up from the fine mist sprinkers nearby!

The Owl (Caligo) butterflies have huge eye spots. The outer wings are a duller blue than the Morphos. With a wingspan of up to nearly 8 inches, the species is the largest butterfly in the Americas.

A Rusty Tipped Page (Siproeta epaphus) and a Tiger Longwing (Heliconius hecale).

 

There are oodles of variations of Piano Keys (Heliconius melpomene):

  

 

Check out the amazing female Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion) butterfly with a wingspan of about 6 inches:

As is often the case in nature, she is greatly surpassed by gorgeous colors of the male Cairns Birdwing:

I MUST do a card in those amazing colors some day!!

Let’s close with a trip to the nursery and check out the newly emerged butterflies still clinging to their chrysalises…

It’s interesting to see the chrysalises with the Malachites still inside are green, but once they’re out, they’re white.

I hope you’v enjoyed seeing these flowers with wings! I’ll be back soon with part 2 – birds and flowers. Thanks for taking the time to enjoy these wonders of creation with me!

~D.Ann

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Flower pics and Sandhill Cranes

I’m finally back and I’m glad you’ve stopped back by, too!

I’m going to start this post with a visit to northern Florida last November. I didn’t get to post the videos of the Sandhill Cranes. They’re such nifty birds, although the locals might complain about them tearing up their yards as they look for food. It was fun to watch a couple sing and dance together. (It is said that the female makes two calls for every one the male makes… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that! Ha!)

(You can click on the white arrow in the middle of the pictures to go to the videos. Turn up the volume for this first one.)

I guess, after a while, they must get sore throats and just dance…

Zooming ahead 3 and a half months later, we see the results of their fooling around…

It’s so fun to see wildlife wandering the streets of quiet neighborhoods! If you stand still and don’t bother them, they might even get within a feet of you… but remember they are WILDlife!! I love that their red faces look like hearts when you look at them straight on…

Next are some of the many nifty plants at my aunt’s house. First up is the Turk’s Cap Cactus aka Melon Cactus. It gets loads of those nifty pink fruits (right now there’s only one on the left side).

Atop the brown woolly ‘cap’ the flowers burst forth swathed in white wool…

The Kaffir Lily (Clivia miniata) is a member of the Amaryllis family…

And with a great sense of humor, her ‘Shrek’s Ears’ (Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’) – a type of jade plant – are planted next to ‘Donkey’s Tail’ (aka burro’s tail – Sedum morganianum)! lol!

Jatropha (aka nettlespurge or physic nut) blooms…

It’s amazing how a heavy dew changes everything… even some ‘weeds’ in the yard…

My favorite is this dew drop laden Periwinkle…

For those of you who are getting another round of cold weather, hopefully this will tide you over until your spring flowers start blooming like crazy real soon.

Thanks for stopping by today to enjoy these lovely creations with me!

~D.Ann

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A Quick Trip to Sanibel Island, Florida

Hello everyone! Last week we had a wonderful surprise… some friends who have a timeshare over at Sanibel Island, FL, had their plans change at the last minute and, rather than let it sit empty the rest of the week, offered to let us to stay there a couple of days. Sanibel is one of our favorite spots to relax! So, despite our current health issues, we headed over for a mini vacation. Since many of you are stuck in the cold and snow, I thought you might want to turn up the heat, fix yourselves a warm cuppa and enjoy a brief break in the warm sun for a change. Here we go….

One would think being on the west coast of Florida means sunsets on the water, but we were on the south side of the island and actually had gorgeous SUNRISES.

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In the distance we can see Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs and, maybe a bit of Naples.

It’s fun to watch the skillful cast net fishermen. (If you want to watch, press the play button (the white arrow).):

To see the sunset, we have to go to some of the northern beaches, like here at Blind Pass Beach, which is just before crossing over to Captiva:

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If you watch carefully, you can often see dolphins playing in the gulf waters. Here’s a very short video. Press the ‘play’ button (the white arrow).

(Hint: look in the distance toward the left) To my cat loving friends: There are lots of cat’s paw shells on Sanibel and I usually find the most PAIRS (they’re bivalves) here at Blind Pass. Just sayin’. >^.^<

There’s plenty to do on the island. #1 for me is shelling. It’s addictive and no matter how many shells one has, there’s always one more pretty one that HAS to go home.

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Here are some of the shells you might find. And, yes, one of the rangers at the NWR said there ARE seahorses in the water.

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Of course you have to watch out for the live ones… it’s illegal to take them home!

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This guy looked like he was hoarding his own stash of shells, so I left him alone.

Tip: try finding a single tide day where low tide is just before dawn. The tide is stronger and brings in more shells and if you can get out just before dawn, you’ll be treated to nice shells AND a pretty sunrise.

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You can also do the regular things, like sit in the sun – or shade – and read…

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… or make sand castles or something out of the ordinary like an iguana…

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… or a seahorse.

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Another fun thing to do is drive through the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge – I recommend doing this at low tide as all kinds of birds tend to come in then to feed. As of this writing, the fee is $5 per car and you can drive through as many times as you wish. (If you have the lifetime Senior Pass to the National Parks, you get in free.)

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Here’s a short video of the pelicans coming in… Press the ‘play’ button (the white arrow):

There are white pelicans, spoonbills, sandpipers, egrets, ibis and others. The ranger is talking about the anhinga (commonly known as snake birds) that are often see with their wings spread out. Be sure and look up often as you drive through the park and the island… there are numerous osprey nests and there is even a bald eagle in the area.

Near sunset in the park, you can see flocks and flocks of birds coming in to roost. Watch for the mullets who seem to be jumping for joy! lol!

At the visitors center, they have something fun for the artsy-craftsy folk (Well, I THINK it’s for US, tho there were a lot of KIDS there. hahaha). They have a table with raised etchings of various forms of wildlife and plants in the area and a pile of crayons and blank paper so you can make rubbings. I put several together on a page….

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I may have to try that with some of my embossing folders! : )

As you drive through the park, be sure to stop at the mangrove overlook. As you walk through you will see what look like brown ‘knots’ on the mangrove trees. Look closer!

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They’re crawling with crabs! You may also see what look like strings of pearls – those are actually spider egg sacks. The guide said each one may have some 50,000 inside. Yikes! I think they’re basilica orb weavers. When you get out to the water be sure to look down… you may spot some of those seahorses!

Traveler’s tip: be sure to spray yourself with insect repellent before getting out of your car in the park or going to the beach to protect yourself from no-see-ums… those tiny biting midges or sand fleas are so small and fast you won’t know they’re biting until it’s too late.

Ok, lets leave the creepy critters behind and take a look at some of the pretty and unusual plants on the island:

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This one’s called a Necklace Pod (Sophora tomentosa).

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Well, it’s about time for me to cast off. (See what I did there?!) Wink-wink!

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I hope you enjoyed your little trip to Sanibel Island! I’ll be back soon with some pictures from the Naples Botanical Garden to help you hold on until your spring flowers arrive!

Thanks for stopping by!

~D.Ann

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A Visit to McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Florida

It’s been a while since I’ve taken you on a garden tour. A couple of weeks ago we had a lovely stroll through the McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach, Florida and I thought those of you stuck with gray skies and snow might enjoy some flowers to lift your spirits.

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It’s a beautiful park with Monet-esque scenery. There are lots of canals with oodles of water lilies, including the lotus flowers and Victoria Regis Waterlilies. Here are just a few:

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They often have art exhibits scattered throughout the grounds. Right now, they’re exhibiting Nature Connects, Art with Lego Bricks by sculpture artist Sean Kenney. Here are a couple of my favs:

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This one took 60,549 Lego bricks to build. Fun Fact: A Monarch butterfly can travel some 265 miles per day!

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This one took 31,565 Lego pieces to build and measures 64″x32″x77″.

Of course, there are tons of other plants and flowers at the garden. One of my favorites is the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree…

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Here are some more beautiful flowers at the garden:

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I always find it amazing when you look closely at flowers and often find little flowers withing the flower! I hope you enjoyed your tour!!

Traveler’s tip: If you like visiting botanical gardens and know you will visit more than two a year, you might want to check out becoming a member of the American Horticultural Society as your membership not only benefits them, but they have a reciprocal program that gets you into many gardens across the US free of charge. A win-win… just sayin’. : )

Sending you all plenty of sunshine and warm wishes for a lovely day!

~D.Ann

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Skidaway Island State Park, Georgia

Back again! Figure I’d take advantage now that I’m on a roll. : )

Our next stop was Skidaway Island State Park, Georgia.

20150623_181938aWYou can hike out to the marshy deltas of one of the rivers that leads on out to the Atlantic.

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There are gazillions of crabs out here… dozens per square yard…

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and yes, some of them DO climb up trees…

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You can see one climbing on up this tree in this video: