Saturday, January 31, 2009

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary continues to be one of our favorite places. Yesterday was damp and overcast. We were on the boardwalk shortly after the 7 a.m. opening.

The White Ibis were also enjoying the boardwalk. We watched a small colony for some time before moving on.

They are so interesting with their long red bills constantly probing looking for insects and small fish. My sister calls them the "Sewing Machine Birds" because their heads go up and down like the sewing machine needle.

We often see small herons nearby hoping the ibis will scare up some food for them too.

This is a Yellow-crowned Night Heron as is the bird in the next image. Notice their heads. The first one had a bright yellow cap while the other bird, sitting near by, had a duller cap.

We assume they were a pair with the more colorful one being the male.

I was excited to see this Green Heron sitting close to the boardwalk so I could get a good picture.

This is a Red-bellied Woodpecker. I can't see where the name comes from!
The Great Blue Heron is a beautiful bird. This one was sitting on the railing ahead and we waited for some time before moving ahead.

He heard something in the distance, came to attention and flew off.

This is an Anhinga - the birds we usually see with their wings spread out to dry after swimming. I like this shot as you can see the white on her wings. Males have more black on their neck.

After we completed our 2.2 mile walk, we hiked back to the bird feeders as we heard a Painted Bunting had been seen earlier.

There was a lot going on at the bird feeders.
These are Goldfinches with their winter coats.

Isn't this pair of cardinals just beautiful?

Finally we were rewarded when this beautiful Painted Bunting arrived with his mate.

Bill and I filled the memory card on our camera taking pictures!

Neither of us could get over the vibrant colors! These are small birds - about the size of a sparrow.

While we were watching the buntings, a Pileated Woodpecker flew by and landed behind us. The naturalist pointed him out but we were not quick enough to get a decent picture. But, I had the binoculars and got a really good look.

There were other critters at the bird feeders.
This squirrel was not bothered one bit by the anti-squirrel cone around the rope!

And, while we were watching, these two racoons came up and started eating the seed that had fallen from the feeders. They scared the squirrel off - and most of the other birds. They looked so cute - it's sometimes hard to remember what nasty animals they really are.

We had a wonderful morning at the Sanctuary and will go back again soon.

A Different Kind of Bird

Earlier this week Bill and I went to Page Field in Fort Myers to view some vintage World War II planes. Bill had the camera and got these shots.

This one is "Betty Jane" a duel-control P-51 Mustang. They were offering rides - but it was far too expensive for our thin wallets. We did watch while a younger gentleman took them up on their offer. It was neat to see it taxi and take off. I wish I could replay the sounds!

Bill tells me this is a B-17.

And this is a B-24 Liberator named
"Witch-craft." You can click on the next image for a larger view to read about it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Plane Crash at Sea Hawks Park

On Monday, Bill crashed his RC plane at the air park while trying to do stunts. It crashed nose first onto the hard road and broke into pieces. When he came home, I wanted to take a picture of the wreck - but Bill wasn't understanding my need for photo-story opportunities!

That afternoon we drove to Naples and Bill bought a new plane - one that should be better at acrobatics. He's assembling it and parts are scattered around the house. This morning, he's off to the flying field with a plane he bought at a swap meet and fixed up to fly. I hope he has better luck.

Yesterday we went to a new beach at the end of John Morris Road. We had heard that the beach is frequented by local nudists - but we did not see any. None-the-less, it was a strange beach - in many ways.

The beach started off sandy but as we walked south, it was more mud than sand. There were live Crown Conch everywhere! In this picture, they are eating a clam (actually a Tellin - which we also saw lots of). The beach was littered with Oyster shells.

This is a small - but beautiful - Lightning Whelk. It was alive so we put it back in the surf.

And there were birds. Lots of birds. I would have more pictures, but I forgot to charge my battery after our trip to the Everglades - so, of course, it went dead.

These two pictures are for my sister - her favorite bird, the Brown Pelican. I took these pictures in at the dock in Everglades City

Isn't this picture a hoot? This is the Snowy Egret we encountered on the beach at Marco Island.

I think this picture needs a caption.

Any suggestions?

In other news, I had three of my pictures and accompanying story published in the neighborhood newspaper - a very small monthly - but still kinda exciting. I am also submitting some of my photos from Fakahatchee Strand into the Florida Park's photo contest.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Continuing our Adventure

We reached Everglades City and drove around looking for the Mullet Festival. We saw signs for Smallwood Store on Chokoloskee Island and went to investigate.

This store was build in 1906 by Ted Smallwood and served this remote community and the Native Americans that lived in the area until 1982. It bought and sold goods and served as the first Post Office. His daughters now operate it as a museum.

Just look at the wonderful merchan-dise!

This is the hide room with all sizes and shapes of pelts.

Bill and I felt like we had stepped back in time - but we had to come back to the present and find the Mullet Festival!

Back in Everglades City we stopped for lunch at a wonderful little local Cuban restaurant (whose name I forget!). We ate outside by a stone wall. These curly tailed lizards were everywhere! The waitress told me they are native to Cuba and arrived in the Everglades in 1992 along with Hurricane Andrew - one of the most powerful storms (Category 5) of the Twentieth Century.

And back in Everglades City we also found out that the Mullet Festival was in Goodland!

We took one more side trip before heading to Goodland. I wanted to see more alligators and my wonderful husband indulged me by going 7 miles in the opposite direction to a place we had been before. I knew it was home to lots of fearsome looking reptiles.

This alligator was sitting by the side of the road. I was no more than 6 feet from him.

Just to his right was another - much bigger one!

It looks like smoke or fog in this picture - but it is just dust from the road. A car had just gone by and stirred it up. I didn't want to wait until it settled to continue taking pictures as the alligators were getting restless and starting to move.

This Alligator must have been 15 feet long. No I wasn't close - he was across the canal.

After I got my fill of alligators, we finally headed to the Mullet Festival in Goodland.

Along Route 41 (Tamiami Trail) we had to pull off and get a picture of the Ochopee Post Office. It is the smallest Post Office in the country.

Click on the image for a larger version and read the interesting history of this little gem.

We found Goodland on our map. It's located on the southeast corner of Marco Island. We found the sign "Welcome to Goodland" but we never found the town or the Mullet Festival!

Instead we stopped at one of the beautiful beaches on Marco Island to walk, pick-up shells and look at the birds.

This is a Ring-billed Gull, obviously named for the black ring around his bill.

This Snowy Egret was sitting on the beach right in front of a couple who was ignoring him.

Suddenly, he heard or saw something and came to attention! Look at the feathers on his head and look at the extension of his neck. He almost looks comical.

Bill and I had a wonderful day - even if we never made it to the Mullet Festival - where ever it was. There is a Seafood Festival in Everglades City in a couple of weeks - maybe we'll go.

An Unexpected Adventure!

Yesterday we decided to go to the Mullet Festival in Everglades City. We headed south to Route 75 at o'dark thirty. At the entrance to the interstate we saw half a dozen Wood Storks waiting for the sun to come up. I knew it was going to be a great day!

Before we reached Everglades City we saw a sign for Jane's Scenic Drive in Copeland and made an unexpected right turn. The 11 mile drive is part of the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. It's like a drive-through Corkscrew - Amazon style.

We watched this female Osprey for a while while she called to another Osprey. He returned her call. They called back and forth for a few minutes.
Soon the male Osprey came flying in to mate with her. Notice how her position changed to get ready for him.

Once he was finished, he rested for just a few moments before taking off. The encounter was amazing to watch!

This Black-crowned Night Heron was quietly sitting in a tree on the side of the road. This is a large, stocky bird - standing about two feet tall.

Another shot of this beautiful bird. I took dozens of pictures but it was hard to get the proper focus with the branches in the way and I was afraid to get any closer for fear I would spook him.

A little further down the road we met this swamp native and his swamp buggy. He was on his way to the swamp buggy races. He told us he had a cabin about a mile into the swamp. That must be interesting in the middle of the summer!

At the end of the 11-mile road, we came to this canal that once was a major access-way into the Everglades. Long abandoned by people, it was now home to scores of birds and alligators.

This guy was just hanging out - and yes, I really was that close! Bill was on the other, more traveled, side of the canal - but I wanted the pictures!

Look at this gorgeous pair of Black Vultures! OK - maybe gorgeous isn't exactly the right word.

On the far side of the canal was a flock of Wood Stork. There were dozens and dozens!

We had to go back down the drive the way we came because there was no easy exit by the canal. While Bill drive slowly, I stood on the front seat and stuck my head out the moon-roof to get these pictures.

This flock of Ibis was blocking the road. It was an interesting group of mature adults (all white) and immature birds in various stages of molting from brown to white.

The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve was an adventure we hadn't expected to take - but it was wonderful! After we left, we headed down Route 29 to Everglades City hoping we weren't too late for the start of the Mullet Festival.