Hello folks who wonder if saltine crackers are for the elderly, just as boba is for teens,

Should you trust strangers?

That is the question, we struggle to answer all our lives. For some, trust is something that has to be earnt and one cannot trust strangers at first no matter the promise the stranger is making. And then there are some who think it would be a lost opportunity not to trust strangers if there is a pot of gold on the other end. I consider myself one of the people in the latter camp, which is why I jumped on the opportunity and sent $250 worth of gift cards to a stranger in Nigeria who claimed that the Nigerian Prince died suddenly and listed me as the heir to the $15 million dollar fortune. The $250 gift card is for the bank transaction fee I am told. Not bad considering the big payout, won't you agree?

Anyways, while I wait for the $15 million dollars to arrive in my bank account so I can belittle all the people I am currently friends with, let me tell you of another incident that involved me trusting a stranger who promised me a great outcome if I followed him.

During my trip to Central Florida, while I was hiking on a wilderness trail surrounded by floodplain swamps, I saw a bunch of shapes in the swamps that resembled alligators from a distance, it was only when I resorted to using the zoom on my camera did I find out what it was.

So, I continue to lift logs to check for ant colonies and other critters lurking out of plain sight. That is when a random passerby walks past and asks me what I was doing. "That's none of your business" is what I could have responded with and stroked my ego. But instead, I explained that I was looking for fascinating wildlife that might be inconspicuous. To which he said he has something interesting to show if I would follow him.

After walking for a few hundred feet, he goes off the trail towards the swamp explaining to me that he hikes on this trail frequently and has been observing an American alligator who laid some eggs a few months ago and now he has been observing the babies.

As soon as we approach the water, I see the mother alligator 8 feet away from me and her babies swimming in front of her. "I don't think she will jump out of the water, since she is protecting her babies," he says. "If you say so" I respond. At this point the only thing coming between the alligator mother and myself is this guy's word. And who knows if he will push me from behind towards the Alligator mom and make a viral TikTok video.
This is what I saw in front of my eyes.

As I became more comfortable in the presence of the mom, I was able to take a closer look at the juvenile alligators.

Later in the day, I was ambushed by a family of wild boars who darted across the trail. So I politely asked it to smile for the camera, alas this juvenile was more interested in scratching its itch rather than pay attention to any hiker on the trail.

On another hike, I came across this tiny Hentz Striped Scorpion which was hiding under a tree log. 

So I flipped this one over and took a closer look at its pectines. Pectines are sensory organs found on all scorpions and used for detecting chemical cues in the environment to locate mates but also for gathering information about their environment by providing a tactile sensation.
Observe the comb-like structure on the underside of this scorpion.

Next, we will look at a jumping spider that caught my attention. But before that, I highly recommend brushing up on jumping spider eye basics by reading this post first. Let me guess, you are in a hurry and don't have time to read it. That is exactly what everyone who leaves their shopping carts in the middle of the parking lots say as well.
Anyways, who am I to judge?
Jumping spiders are one of the spiders with the best vision (among spiders) that they use to stalk and pounce on their targets. So, when I ran into this Magnolia Green Jumper, I had to check how they manipulate their eyes to gauge the distance it needs to jump.

What would you call this bird when you look at it the first time?

Well, it looks like a heron. It is blue. But the name "Great Blue Heron" is already taken.
How about "Little Blue Heron" And you would be correct because that is what this species is called.

Despite being "little", this little blue heron is no slouch, it will rely on its patience till it comes within striking distance of its prey before going for the kill. Here is one who scooped up a distracted dragonfly who was watching the latest TikTok challenge.

One of the more disturbing things I got to witness during my time in Florida apart from people riding motorcycles without helmets was hundreds of thousands of dead snails on the edge of Lake Monroe.

This is what the scene looked like.

The victims in this scene are banded mystery snails who typically live in shallow water that were washed ashore when Hurricane Ian displaced them and they never figured out a way to get back into the water once the storm had passed. One thing that gave me peace was at least they were able to comfort each other in their final moments.  

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