Thursday, February 25, 2010


The other day while we were driving past our local shopping center I caught a glimpse of a long tailed bird out of the corner of my eye. Bill was stopped at a red light and we both tried to figure out what it was. He thought maybe it was a kid's kite but I said no one would fly a kite over a grocery store! The Swallow-tailed Kites are due back any day from their winter in South America and other areas south - had they finally arrived? Or were we seeing something else - another exotic rarity? Bill was taking pictures out of the driver's window when the light changed. He drove across traffic and into the parking area to get a better look - but it had disappeared.

Looking at his pictures, we realized it was just the resident grocery store Osprey carrying a long streamer for his nest. They build their large nest on top of a light post in the parking lot - same place every year - and raise their chicks.

The flying field has been closed all week for runway repairs so several mornings this week we have been on the road at o'dark-thirty, arriving at some of our favorite birding sites at dawn. Today's pictures were taken at Six-Mile Cypress Slough, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Harns Marsh.

The Gray Catbird is more often heard than seen, hiding in thick shrubs if anything moves nearby. They are smart birds and can mimic other birds' calls, but the thing I like most about them is they do not let parasitic cowbirds leave eggs in their nests for the catbirds to raise. I wish the endangered Summer Tanagers were as smart! My Florida bird book says the Chippewa Indians named the Gray Catbird "Bird That Cries With Grief" because of its raspy call.

I've been trying to get a picture of this bird all winter! This is a Carolina Wren and their loud, melodic songs taunt me each time we go to Corkscrew. They sing year-round and can have as many as 3 dozen different song types. The image isn't the best and really doesn't show his warm brown back and bright yellow chest. It was still dusk and the light was not good - so I'll keep trying.

One of my favorite warblers - and the easiest to identify - a Black and White Warbler. It's not difficult to see how they got their name.

I know I promised no more pictures of the Great Egrets, but this one, taken at Six Mile Cypress, was so pretty I couldn't resist.

Another stumper. I think it's a Northern Parula but would happily be corrected by someone who knows more than I.

One of our favorites! There were several Painted Buntings on this trip to Corkscrew. This, of course, is the very colorful male.

If you look closely, you can see he has a band on his leg. Isn't he beautiful?

A Savannah Sparrow. This picture, as well as the next ones, were taken at Harns Marsh.

We haven't seen many Roseate Spoonbills this year - just a couple here and there - so I was delighted to be able to photograph these beauties in such a gorgeous setting.

You can click on any of these images for a larger view.

It was still a little foggy over the marsh - but taking that into consideration, I am pleased with the pictures.

My sister has been putting me to shame with her beautiful pictures of the great variety of ducks and geese in upstate New York. These Blue-winged are not as magnificent as her Oldsquaws and Mergansers - but it's what we have!

Our unusual cold weather has adversely affected the birds, fish and animals, killing many - much to the glee and delight of our huge buzzard population. The Ding Darling resident American Crocodile was recently found dead, her body washed up on the bank of the lagoon. I never did get to see her. She was old and apparently could not handle the freeze. Sadder still, our endangered Wood Storks will not nest this year, hurting their already diminished population. On a positive note, the cold also killed some of the invasive species like the Monitor Lizards on Sanibel and huge Pythons that have been flourishing in the Everglades. Guess there is a reason for everything.

Our condo in Fort Myers is finally on the market, but I am not optimistic it will sell quickly. I've packed up most of the items we will take to Ocala on Monday when we settle on our new house. Since people can arrive to look at the condo on a minute's notice - I have to keep it spotless and have all of our personal items stowed in drawers and cabinets. It's only been a couple of days - but it's already getting old - wipe the counters, close the lid, mop the floor, close the lid, clean the kitchen, hide the dirty clothes, close the lid, etc. etc. It's like living in a model home. Hopefully, it's worth it.

Tomorrow we are meeting Pamela, Orlando, Gabriel and Sebastian at Epcot and I can't wait to see my kids and grandkidlets. Later this year, we were planning to take our older grandson to Sea World to see Shamu - but I guess that's out now.

Gotta go - the Realtor called - they are showing the condo - gotta close the lids...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The cold ugly weather finally broke (along with my cold) and we have had several beautiful warm, sunny days in a row. We even went to the pool yesterday afternoon to freshen our tans. Bill is out with the boys today and I'm getting caught up with some of my pictures.

This cute little fellow was walking on the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp before jumping down to fish in the water.

Mr. Lizard was enjoying the sun as much as we were.

Just before I took this picture, this black snake had eaten a bird. Guess he was digesting. We've seen this snake before at the same location between the boardwalk and the main lake at Six Mile Cypress Slough.

I know just how she feels! This is a female Florida Soft-shelled Turtle. We know it is a girl because she is so big - 15 - 20 inches across. The males are much smaller - 6 inches across maximum. She can sit on the bottom of a pond and extend her neck almost 2 feet to reach air. I've never seen one before and I was glad there was a naturalist on the boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough to help.

I have lots of new bird pictures to share but I wanted to see if I could actually complete one blog entry without any birds. Here it is - now I'll work on another entry.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sick and Tired

I've been under the weather with a nasty cold so haven't done much birding or taken many pictures. The outside weather has been equally miserable - cloudy and chilly. The locals tell us this has been the worst winter on record with 2 straight months of colder-than-normal windy days and that famous Florida sunshine has been hiding behind clouds.

Bill and I are getting the Fort Myers condo ready to put on the market - and we have made a couple of more trips to Ocala. The home inspection went very well and we started the fun process of buying new furniture. The Fort Myers condo will be left as we found it - fully furnished and ready to move-in or rent.

This beautiful cardinal will be our new neighbor in Ocala; a delightful welcome!

Another new neighbor - a Yellow-rumped Warbler. You have to look closely to see the spot of bright yellow on his side. Other names for this bird are Myrtle or Audubon Warbles and my favorite - Butter-butts.

This is Shalom Park - a beautiful and peaceful place with many walking trails near our new house.

We are trading in our lanai with a view of the lake for this brand new and much larger Florida room. While shopping for furniture, we learned that our sales person had a new rental property she had just furnished. Unfortunately, their renters wanted it unfurnished - so she had a garage full of new items. We checked it out and purchased a custom made sofa & chair with a nice bright Florida fabric (it even has birds on it!) and a futon. She will even deliver it after settlement right along with the master bedroom set, table and chairs we got at the store.

This is Bill's new playroom - and one of the major reasons for the move - a huge 2+ car garage where he can work on his planes. Garages here in Florida often have sliding screens in addition to a regular garage door for ventilation and natural light. The washer and dryer are in the back of the garage - something I did not like at first - until Bill pointed out that if we have another flood - all the water will do is water the grass.

Now I have lots of decisions! We need new carpet in one of the bedrooms. I'm hoping the newer Berber in the living room and master bedroom will shampoo and not have to be replaced right away.

The kitchen currently has ugly felt-backed vinyl so we have people scheduled to come out and measure the area for new flooring on the day we settle - right after the carpet cleaners and right before the furniture delivery. Whew - I'm tired just thinking about it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yet Another Trip to Ocala

Well, we did it. We put in an offer for the house in Ocala at On Top of the World (OTOW) and it was accepted. The home inspection is scheduled next week and settlement will be in early March. OTOW is a very active retirement community, lots of clubs, sports - and an RC flying field.

Bill is excited about the RC club, 2-car garage and outdoor patio where he can grill. I'm excited about getting to decorate - new carpet, tile and furniture. We both will enjoy working in the yard which, at this point is an blank palette.

This is the view out back. That's one of the golf courses in the distance (there are three). We'll be adding gardens with flowers, bushes and trees along with bird feeders and some kind of water feature to attract the birds and other wildlife.

Our good friend, Mo was here all week and traveled with us to Ocala. He is an expert craftsman and offered some great advice. We hope he enjoyed his visit as much as we enjoyed having him. In spite of the much colder-than-normal weather, we were able to get in one day at the pool and another on the beach, a couple of birding trips and lots of visits to the grocery store. Both Bill and Mo like to cook so dinner was the highlight of the day.

Yesterday, Bill and I took our Toyota Camry Hybrid in to the local dealership to have the recall fixes done on the gas petal. The place was mobbed so we did not wait; instead, we decided to walk at Harns Marsh. One of the resident Snail Kites was close to the shore by the first set of ponds and I was able to get some decent pictures.

I was ready when he took to the air. In this shot you can see the distinctive white band on his tail.

He circled low before flying off in the chilly, gusty winds.

On the back side of the trail, we saw several Wood Stork. Notice the pink on their legs and bald heads. They look like a silly cross between a beautiful white heron and an ugly old buzzard.

But they are certainly all beauty in the air - graceful and light.

The marsh areas had the usual flocks of Coot swimming around and diving for small fish and insects.

We saw lots of heron, egret, limpkin and ducks, including a large group of Blue-winged Teal.

The Glossy Ibis are getting their spring colors.

Just a few of the many Coot we saw.

On one of our visits to Six-Mile Cypress Slough while Mo was here, this Red-shouldered Hawk was sitting on the boardwalk railing. He was eating what was left of a recent catch. The red on his talons is blood and raw meat.

Bill and I take frequent trips over to Fort Myers Beach to look for the illusive (and very rare) Scarlet Ibis. He was recently spotted on the bay side of the island so we had to check for ourselves. One of the residents told us he comes to the pond behind the Catholic Church every evening at 5:30 - so we will be heading back. On this trip we saw numerous Brown Pelicans.

I'm trying to get more action shots and this Pelican was putting on quite a show for the other birds - splashing in the water.

Wow - doesn't that look painful? He had just eaten a large fish - whole, of course - and was having trouble swallowing it.

After he finished his dinner, he flew off, trailing his feet in the water as he went - our cue to head on home for our own dinner.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Barred Owl and Lunch in Chokoloskee

On a recent trip down to Everglades City and the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve we saw this wonderful Barred Owl sitting in a tree along Jane's Scenic 11-mile Drive.

He watched us very closely with his huge eyes, but did not move from his perch on a tree limb by the side of the road.

Barred Owls eat small animals, reptiles and insects. I would hate to have him land on me with those claws.

The range of the Barred Owl is mostly east of the Mississippi River, but they are expanding their presence into the northwestern U.S. and Canada. Seeing such a beautiful bird is a real gift.

After our nature drive we went for lunch at the Havana Cafe, our favorite Cuban restaurant in Chokoloskee near Everglades City. Bill and his friend Mo shared a Cuban sandwich and Bill and I shared the special - grouper, black beans and rice. This place is fantastic. We ate outside but did not see any of the curly lizards we have seen there in the past. The waitress told us the hard frost killed most of them - but she has seen a few poke their heads out when it gets sunny and warm.

Sanibel Beach Day

Our good friend Mo from the Arctic Tundra (Denver) is here visiting for a week so we have been showing him the sun and sights of our little piece of paradise here in Fort Myers. On Thursday we headed over the $6 causeway to visit Sanibel, Ding Darling and the beautiful sandy beaches.

The most interesting thing we saw at Ding Darling was a Snowy Egret feeding frenzy. There were dozens of pairs of bright yellow feet flashing in the morning sunlight and jumping into the shallow water looking for small fish. An occasional Ibis and two or three Great Egrets joined them. Other than that, we didn't see anything special - a couple of Roseate Spoonbills way off in the distance - but not even one White Pelican. The earlier cold snap and hard freeze has had an effect on the Florida wildlife.

The beaches of Sanibel are wonderful. We set up our chairs, sat in the sun, waded in the surf and took a long walk up the shell-laden beach. This Willet watched as we walked in the bright sun.

Even this Snowy Egret was enjoying the day.

An industrious Ruddy Turnstone was busy turning over shells looking for any tasty morsels left behind.

Bill worked for quite some time trying to get a good picture of this beautiful Roseate Turn as he flew back and forth over the water looking for small fish.

When he spotted what looked like lunch, he dove into the water.

I wish we had a better picture showing his long forked tail and streaming feathers that were almost as long as his body. Roseate Terns are endangered in Canada and most of their range in the Northeast - but not here in Florida.

This shot leaves little question as to how the Ringed-bill Gull got his name.

One would think it is easy to identify a gull when he poses so nicely - but I find it very difficult because of the different seasonal plumages. I've decided this is a Laughing Gull with his winter coat. In the summer, his head will be all black.

The White Ibis are just starting to show their breeding colors. His bill and legs will get bright red over the next couple of months.

I had to check in all of my books to tentatively identify this bird as a Black-bellied Plover, again with his dull winter plumage.

Usually birds of a feather flock together but this Sandal-toed Plover was all by herself - soaking up the warm sun and enjoying the day. We did too.