|photo courtesy of Tom Pitchford and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.|
by Kaki Flynn
Managing Editor, Jacksonville Magazine
Cover Story - Hidden Jacksonville
I sought out some of the more off-the-beaten-path places in the River City. Everything from nature parks to funky restaurants. Join me for a boat ride to an island free of people near the Cumberland Sound, eat at some of the tucked-away restaurants, and learn more about the often ignored waterways that border Northeast Florida.
RIGHT WHALES COME TO CALVE
Up to 200 of the estimated 350 right whales that exist worldwide migrate down the coast of Florida every year, passing by Cumberland Island, Ga. and heading on to Amelia Island and Jacksonville. Considering the number of whales that come through - with many the size of a school bus - it is surprising how hard the whales are to spot.
"The majority of the whales are pregnant females that swim here from the Northeastern United States and Canada to calve," says Tom Pitchford, a wildlife biologist in charge of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Right Whale Project.
The right whales mostly travel through our waters from mid-November to mid-April, but can start showing up as early as October. "This is the only place in the world we know these whales calve," adds Pitchford. "Most that come through are pregnant females, while the other females and males stay behind. Some males and juveniles also come down, but we don’t know why."
|Right whale and baby. Photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.|
The right whales can come as close as 100 yards off shore, making them visible to people standing on the beach, but Pitchford says that most people miss seeing them because they just aren't flashy swimmers.
He says that viewers may be more likely to see a humpback whale, another endangered species that passes through our waters.
Pitchford says people are more likely to see the Cessna Skymaster’s used for those trips than the whales.The odd-looking white aircraft with bright orange stripes and propellers in the front and back fly up and down the coast between 9 AM and 4PM during the season.
Daisy May, the Possum
The possum’s name is Daisy May, and she came to MOSH (1025 Museum Cir., 396-674) two years ago after her mom was hit and killed by a car.
Daisy May was just three weeks old and still in her mother’s pouch with her four brothers and sisters, who were killed in the accident.
Daisy May was taken to Hayley Wynn, a naturalist at MOSH, who took care of Daisy until she was four months old. Wynn then brought her to MOSH’s Florida Naturalist’s Center, a science exhibit where all of the museum’s live animals reside.
She lives in a tree house in a glass enclosure she shares with two gopher tortoises named Emmette, 76 years old, and Gooder, 22 years old.
Show up on Saturdays at 2:30 PM for Marsupial Madness, and you can pet and play with Daisy May, or watch her eat watermelon, her favorite food.
“People think possums are mean because they hiss and show their teeth,” says Wynn, “but they are really pretty friendly, misunderstood animals.”