Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Feet are Sore!

About a year ago I started having pain on the bottom of my feet in the morning when I first got out of bed. It would go away in a few minutes so I caulked it up to old age, cheap sneakers, those "couple" of extra pounds and maybe too much walking and hiking. It got progressively worse so I did some research and self-diagnosed plantar-fasciitis - a common condition where the tissue on the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. It's worse in the morning because the tissue tightens overnight.

I tried arch inserts and better shoes and that seemed to help - but not enough. I was having real trouble walking in the morning and it was lasting longer into the day. I did not want to give up my hiking and exercising - but that was looking like a real possibility.

About 2 weeks ago I visited "Happy Feet" - a shoe store here in Fort Myers - and met with Eric. They sell Swiss-made MBT shoes for people with plantar-fasciitis. The MBT stands for "Masai Barefoot Technology."

The sneakers are weird because, as you can see from the picture, the heel of the shoe is curved to the arch and back to the toe which causes you to walk heel first and gives your arch more support. They take some time to get used to but they work! My friend Mel tells me they are similar to "Earth Shoes" from the hippy-era (which I apparently missed) and make you walk as if you are barefoot on a sandy beach.

The other shoe in the picture - the green and white sandal - is to wear when I first get out of bed or go to the pool. At first those little green nubs hurt like heck on the bottom of my feet - but I kept with it and now they feel great. I'm wearing them now.

I still have some soreness - but nothing like before. Now the really bad news. These shoes are expensive!! The sneakers were $250 and the sandals were almost $70. Outrageous. But Bill said it's cheap if it works - and I think the price made me stick with them.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Owls, Woodpeckers, Hawks, Alligators and More - Playing Catch-Up

Bill and I have been busy since my last post. We visited Six-Mile Cypress Preserve, Fakahatchee Preserve and Boardwalk, the Burrowing Owl Festival and toured owl nesting sites in Cape Coral - so I have a lot of catching up to do!

This is a Pileated Woodpecker and being able to see and photograph this beautiful bird is a personal treasure. I've gotten glimpses before but on this trip to Six-mile Cypress Preserve there were two out in the open. These are large birds, about 18 inches tall, and have a powerful voice that sounds like Woody Woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpeckers can excavate large holes in trees looking for insects and, unfortunately, they can also do a great deal of damage to homes if they set their minds to it.

This is a Brown-headed Cowbird - a nasty parasitic bird. The "parasitic" refers to their practice of laying their eggs in other birds' nests. Since the young Cowbirds are so loud and demanding, the surrogate mother may feed them to the exclusion of her own babies - which can harm some already endangered species. These birds are everywhere here in Florida - especially in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Down at the Faka-hatchee Preserve we saw this big guy sunning in a wet area by the road.

As we were driving back along Jane's Scenic Drive, I yelled for Bill to stop as I saw this gorgeous Barred Owl sitting in a tree. The last one I saw at Corkscrew was pointed out to me - but I spotted this one without help!

We took lots of pictures and he seemed to enjoy the attention.

In one of the canals, these turtles were lined-up sunning on a log. They quickly jump into the water as soon as they detect your presence, so I had to move very slowly to get their picture.

At the end of the Fakahatchee Boardwalk was an observation area overlooking a pond. This Wood Stork was sitting in a tree overlooking the pond.

This alligator was in the pond. Behind her were three very small alligator babies - but they were too far away to get a good picture.

On the boardwalk this small brown frog (or is it a toad?) almost got stepped on.

After our walk we ate outside at a great Cuban restaurant in Everglades City. This Mockingbird sang to us during our meal so I had to take his picture.

On Saturday we went to the Burrowing Owl Festival in Cape Coral. We sat in on an educational presentation on owls. This Great Horned Owl was sitting at his station waiting to meet the audience.

Suddenly there was a great commotion outside the tent. This Red-Shouldered Hawk and his mate were not pleased to have the owl near-by and voiced their disapproval loudly. Once they decided the owl was not a threat, they moved on.

This is a Screech Owl - a small owl (7 to 9 inches tall) that eats mice, insects and sometimes other birds.

This is a Barn Owl taking direction from the speaker. All of the owls he showed and talked about had been injured and could not be released back into the wild. This one had a badly injured wing.

After enjoying the festival, we decided to drive around Cape Coral and see if we could find some active burrows. I had never seen a Burrowing Owl and was determined to find one!

These cute birds were sitting and waiting for us. Burrowing Owls are the pride of Cape Coral and the city goes to great lengths to educate the public and protect them from harm. They are small owls that nest in empty burrows all over the city - empty lots, back yards, parks and along the side of the road. Volunteers rope off the nesting sites and put up signs - which make them easier to spot.

I see why photo-graphers love these birds. They don't seem to mind people as long as you don't get too close and it's easy to take some great pictures.

Have you ever seen anything so adorable?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lots of Pictures!

Yesterday we took our friends to one of our favorite places - Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It was VERY crowded with photographers everywhere. The cameras looked liked like they were competing to be the biggest, longest and best.

Just look at these cute raccoons peeking out from a hollow tree. There were so many photographers lined up on the boardwalk to take their picture - it was a circus. Every time one moved - all you could hear were clicks. I hope they all got great shots!

This is a Barred Owl sleeping in the woods. I wish I could tell you I spotted him - but even after being told he was there by one of the naturalists, I had trouble locating him. At almost two feet tall, you would think he'd be easy to spot but he blended in very well with his surroundings.

The staff had a scope set-up to view the owl better and Bill shot this photo through the lens. (I really need to get him his own camera!)

As usual, we saw lots of White Ibis. This is a young Ibis - just beginning to turn from brown to white.

I can't decide whether I like the foreground or background best in this picture! The bird is a Great Egret - but just look at the reflections in the ripples of the water!

Pretty flower. It's hard to remember that it's winter down here.

This is a blue-gray Gnat-catcher. We saw quite a few during our walk but they are hard to photograph because they move around so quickly. I don't know if Bill or I took this shot. Most of our shots were of blurred leaves.

This is a Black-crowned Night Heron, but again, I can't decide if I like the bird or the background best! I love the blues and greens. Even the way-out-of-focus branches that look like bright spots seem right in this shot

I spotted this green Anole eating an insect. These small lizards come in two colors - green and brown. We have the brown ones by our house.

Mel was standing on the side of the boardwalk and motioned for us to look behind her. This guy was about 7 or 8 feet long and close enough that we could almost pet him!

Just look at this beautiful air plant! The blooms are exquisite - very exotic looking!

We also drove through Ding Darling on Sanibel Island. I was pleased to see the White Pelicans are still there - but the Roseate Spoonbills have moved on.

This Morning Glory looks right at home among the Sea Grape leaves.

This Tri-colored Heron was running and hopping in the shallow water looking for food.

Just a pair of friends out to dinner! The Ibis would peck in the water and the gull just hoped he would stir up more than he could eat!

This picture was taken from a gas station lot. It's kinda sad seeing this Snowy Egret sitting on trash - but it's better than not seeing him at all!!

And today is another beautiful day in paradise...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mike and Mel

Bill and I are having a great visit with our friends Mike and Mel. They arrived Friday and stayed with us until Monday when their condo in Naples was ready. They are just 17 miles south of here so we will see them a lot over the next couple of weeks.

This is Mike and Mel on the beach at Sanibel. We crossed the $6 causeway and toured Sanibel and Captiva, stopping for drinks and appetizers along the way. Mike likes lighthouses and fishing piers so we stopped at Lighthouse Beach to walk and take pictures.

This Royal Tern was sitting on the pier.

There were loads of Brown Pelicans diving for fish. I think they were having better luck than the fishermen. This guy had just caught dinner.

Over the side of the pier we watched the Snowy Egrets run and play. This bucket had bait in it and one Snowy decided it was his and did not want to share. He chased off anyone who came close.

Click on this picture for the larger version and you will see a dolphin following the "Sanibel Thriller." I think the passengers were feeding the dolphin and it followed the boat for sometime.

Today we went to Bunche Beach to walk. It's a strange beach with mudflats to the right and left of the short sandy area. This large group of Black Skimmers and Royal Terns were enjoying the calm waters. We found oyster shells of every size and shape and saw lots of live Crown Conch crawling around the flats.

These Red Knots and Sanderlings were sitting on some driftwood that was covered with barnacles. I love the browns and blues in this picture and will have to make a print with the new photo printer Bill gave me for Christmas.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Very Happy Valentine's Day

It's a two-cup of coffee morning. Our good friends, Mike and Mel, arrived on Friday evening and yesterday we had a busy, busy day. Bill is off to the flying field this morning - but the fog is thick so I doubt that he will be able to fly. Mike and Mel are sleeping in.

We took our friends to one of our favorite places to walk, Six-Mile Cypress Slough. This Small Blue Heron was looking for breakfast.

This is a Common Moorhen - also called a Mud Hen or Pond Chicken. They can certainly make a racket!

These cute baby alligators seem to be whispering sweet nothings to each other on this beautiful Valentine's Day morning.

We also saw a huge alligator off in the distance and a big snake swimming across one of the ponds. The turtles were everywhere. One of them had high centered on a log and was trying to get off - with no success. We also saw a number of Ibis pecking, pecking, pecking in the shallow water and heard the Osprey overhead shouting their need for love.

After our walk we went to Jason's Deli for lunch and a huge glass of ice tea. We've been there a couple of times and it is always very good.

Bill is recovering from a nasty cold - that I'm hoping NOT to catch - so he spent the afternoon napping while Mike, Mel and I headed to the pool. The afternoon started out with a clear blue sky - but by the time we turned into prunes, it had turned grey. It was still warm and we were chatting up a storm so we hardly noticed. After a quick dip in the hot tub to warm our core - we walked back to the condo.

Last evening Bill and I were treated to Italian at one of Mike & Mel's favorite places - Starz. They had told us about this great little Italian place just down the road - and we assumed they were referring to Il Pomadoro on Gladioulus. On what we thought was their glowing recommendation - we've been sending family and friends to the wrong place. Good thing they are both good!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Family Visit

The house is quite now after a wonderful visit with Laura, Cheryl and Zachary. Seven years ago I promised to take Zachary to Walt Disney World and I finally kept my promise. We spent two nights at Shades of Green at Disney and the entire day Friday was devoted to the Magic Kingdom.

When you first walk into the Park - with the castle ahead - you already know you are in for a special treat.

We headed to Tomorrow Land and Space Mountain to begin our adventure. Yes, I rode it and, yes, it was a hoot!!

Look closely and you will see Laura and Zachary on the Flume. Bill took this shot. Since they come down so fast, he took pictures of every boat until he got the right one - so if you were on the Flume on Friday - we probably have your picture!

While Bill and I were waiting for the "kids" one of the Disney employees stopped and took our picture. They want to make sure every single visitor has a great time (and we did!)

Mid-afternoon we secured our spot on Main Street to watch the parade.

While at Disney, every second is designed to keep you engaged. Sometimes you have to wait in lines for the rides - but there is so much to see and hear going from room to room, it goes quickly.

While we were waiting for the parade to begin, Disney people invited the children to join them on Main Street and they played games. There was no time for any age to get bored or antsy. They have thought of everything!
I love a parade! This one had all of my childhood heroes in one place and it was GREAT!

The arrival of Mickey and Minnie was a really big deal.

That night we returned to the park for the fireworks show. WOW - I've NEVER seen anything like it!

We wanted this trip to be more than Disney for Zachary so we took him to Manatee Park to see the manatees.

There were even more animals there than last time.

Manatees are mammals so they have to surface to breathe.

Laura, Zachary, Bill and me at Manatee Park. It was chilly early in the day.

We also spent a wonderful day at Corkscrew Swamp. Cheryl is an avid birder so this day was for her (and me!) I'm not sure Zachary anticipated much fun - but by the end of the walk he announced that he was a birder!

With Cheryl's help, we were able to identify many more birds than we had before. She can identify them by sight or sound, perching or flying. It was impressive.

We also saw a family of raccoons and lots of alligators. They had a special program on the Wood Storks and one on alligators (with a cute baby). There are over 600 nesting pairs of Wood Storks at Corkscrew now and you could see them flying back and forth - bringing back food. Their foraging range is approximately 30 miles in every direction. The naturalist had a stork wing - and it was amazingly light. Everyone is celebrating the return of the Wood Stork and we hope the weather cooperates for a very successful breeding season for this endangered bird.

At one of our stops we parked next to this car. Every square inch was covered with something - refrigerator magnets, stickers, statues, painted verses - you name it. Check out the license plate.

Zachary had to write a report about his trip for school. (Actually, I think he's playing Bill's flight simulator game in this picture) but the report got done. He wrote about his experiences day by day. I printed out lots of pictures and together we put together an album. The last line in his report read "...this is how old people live."

Bill took Zachary to Seahawk Park to see the planes fly. They had a great time and came home and convinced me that they had seen the endangered Burrowing Owls. I was excited - and ready to head back to Cape Coral right away - but Zachary had to finish his report. I tried to get Zachary to include them in his report - so he had to fess up and tell me it was just a joke.

Bill also took Zachary with him to the barber and they both got haircuts.

Just before we left for the airport, I got one last picture of Cheryl and Laura.

I hope they all come back soon to visit.